Dear 2015: You Suck, I’m Moving On

Dear 2015: You have been the worst year of my life so far. I should have known that was going to be the case since you started with the death in the family of my, back then still, boyfriend. I was optimist enough to believe it could only go uphill from there. But, over the course of you, I have lost everything I have loved and let go of everything I had built for myself. Over the course of you, you have made me doubt myself in more ways and to more depths than any other year before you and there were few victories that did not come at a price.

Sure, you are the year I traveled to Hawaii, stood up on a surfboard for the first time and saw the magical fireworks show in Disneyland. You are the year I fought my fear of flying, saw my best friend twice and visited cities and states I never thought I would ever see. You are the year I got to enjoy countless breathtaking sunsets and dozens of beach walks. At your best, you are the year that made me realize, once again and this time for certain, what I want all years of my life to look like.

But you are also the year that leaves me with no certainty in any aspect of my life. You are the year that is making me start all over again. You are the year that has turned me into the ghost of a girl that I want to be most, to the shell of a girl that I used to know well… Heck, now you are even the year that makes me quote Christina Perri lyrics! You leave me incredibly scared of the future and pessimistic that things are going to get better. You leave me stranded, insecure and feeling like an idiot.

You might be the year I will look back at some day as the one that taught me the meaning of fighting, of not giving up, of growing. As the year that will pinpoint a remarkable change for the better, a year that will impact the rest of my life in hauntingly beautiful ways that I can’t even see from where I stand right now. But, until then, forgive me for hating you, for despising you and for impatiently waiting for you to be over. 2015, you suck, I’m moving on!

“Comparison is the thief of joy”

– Mark Twain.

A conversation I’ve recently had with my boyfriend, made me reflect a little on my life aspirations. I grew up in a family where the absence of money was always an issue, I saw how my parents really struggled to get us by and how it wore both of them down. Because of that, I was taught from early on to look at friends whose parents had more money and to understand that their families were happier than mine because of that.

And that’s what growing up entails! We all have experienced things in our childhood that put us down in some way or another and that have shaped our aspirations. Some of us want to earn a lot of money because we didn’t have any growing up, some of us want to break free and travel around the world because we’re sick of our parents telling us what to do with our lives. Some of us are put down by our skin color, through subconscious discrimination; boys by locker room conversations, girls by pictures in magazines.

So we become insecure, which leads to viewing ourselves in terms of others—their accomplishments and habits, their wealth and their happiness. We compare.

Well, let’s compare. On social media, I post about traveling to Hawaii for business or instagram a picture of a “casual Friday night team outing” where me and my colleagues just have a blast. Or that birthday party in that hip beach bar where we all look young and successful and accomplished. From the outside, it probably looks like my whole life is just one hell of an opportunity- I have my own company credit card, am traveling for business, am being forecasted a managerial position in the medium run. If others compared themselves to me based on the above, the conclusion might be that I am on a promising career path and very lucky. When I compare myself to others, I see them being happier, more fulfilled and more excited about their jobs and I get jealous.

I am starting to realize though that I can’t compare myself to others because: I’m not them. I don’t have their mind or experiences or life, so why should I care if I’m earning just as much money as them or wear the same clothes they have? Why should I envy them for being passionate about their jobs, for having projects that are a matter of heart not money, for living in the moment? The spectrum of my perception, experience and existence should begin and end with me. It shouldn’t matter what others do or what they have.

Sure, others have more advantages or opportunities than you, but that’s their life, and it doesn’t apply to yours. Sure, your life could be better, but anyone’s life could be better. And even more than that, things could be worse.

And so, instead of looking around me to make sure I’m “on track for the career” I should focus on maximizing my situation, and what I have been given in life.

Finally, on the question of the people you are jealous of—do they suffer? Are they happy? Everyone suffers. No one is perfect. Everyone loses both parents. Everyone sees something they worked towards fail. Living is going through pain. Everyone’s life is simply normal to them, and full of both happy moments and sad ones. We need to remember though that we are behind the wheel. Where we go, how fast we go and what route we take to get there doesn’t matter, as long as we go! And I’m gonna try to do just that, instead of complaining about not being where I want to be while everyone around me seems to.

 

Dear Diary,

Today, I went through my old diaries. Jeez. I think you all should meet High-School Ari:

High School Ari was awkward. VERY awkward. Her biggest issues were having neither boobs nor a boyfriend. Naturally, both these things kept her up at night. She would use phrases like “utterly handsome” to describe Robert Pattinson (here’s to all these moments she would pause Twilight only to be able to zoom in and gaze at Robert’s face in Aaw…). She would write things like “I am really slacking in school, I’ve been bringing home nothing above a B+ lately, that needs to improve” … and actually be serious about that. She would crush on a guy for 1.5 years but he ignored her and fell in love with her best friend instead. Still, she would fill her diaries with daily entries á la: “He is still soooooooooooo …. x1.000… oooooo cute. I need to make a move soon before he has a girlfriend!” I never made a move and he never became my boyfriend.

High-School Ari would also be very self-critical and much more unhappy than I remember her to be: “I am kinda the biggest loser in class. I wish the kids would stop bullying me and actually become my friends, but that’s okay. I will get good grades and make it.”

And while I felt sorry for the 13-year-old girl who wrote those lines, I mentally high-fived her, too. Because I did achieve just that. I moved abroad, I am fluent in English. Hold and beware, I even have boobs AND a boyfriend. But these past days, I also realized that these things don’t come free to us. I began to understand the trade-offs we always have to accept when going our own ways and making life choices. I am grown up now. There’s no point denying that. As much as I would like to just stay home a little longer, spend my days playing guitar, laughing with my brothers, getting fed by my granny, drinking wine with my parents, I can’t. Because there is a life waiting for me, there’s responsibilities and people relying on me and promises.

When I was 14, all I wanted from life was to grow up and move away, show ’em that I was right focusing on grades and dreams. But now, I kinda wish I wouldn’t have let myself grow up all that quickly. I wish my biggest worries would still be boys and when I would finally get kissed. Life might have been less exciting at 14 but it was more innocent and it involved less letting go of people and places you love. We all eventually have to accept that our childhoods are over and the sooner we let that go, the faster we can grab the steering wheel again. I lucked out in many aspects of life and I don’t want to complain. But I will try my best to teach my future children the art of holding on and letting go off their childhood!

 

22 Things I learned at 22

My 23rd birthday is creeping up in a little bit (and has been celebrated for a couple hours in the rest of the world) and I gotta say that my 22nd year of life was magical, challenging and beautiful. Here’s a sum-up of things that life at 22 taught me, in no particular order:

1. Sleep is vital! I mean, I knew that but actually sleeping 7-8 hours each night these days gives me such a much more productive day.

2. There is no “right path” in life. You will think you have found the right way of life or the final life goals for yourself, only to be proven otherwise a couple months down the road. You might think you know what the next years of your life are going to look like, you might feel old enough to make long-term plans but one day you might wake up and your whole world is upside down.

3. If your whole world is turned upside down, you will survive. You are young and will get over it.

4. Cooking is fun! I was a disaster in the kitchen last year around this time and considered Rice A Roni  a legit dinner
(hey, it’s warm and it requires mixing several ingrediences together!). Now, I wake up on Saturdays, feel like baking and end up with four dozen Rasberry White Chocolate Scones. True story.

5. Travel. As far and as often as you possibly can.

6. When in doubt, invest into an experience rather than into an object.

7.  It can still be official, even if Facebook doesn’t say so.

8. It’s ok to say No.

9. It’s ok to be antisocial and stay inside for four weekends in the row, binge on Netflix and Thai food and just enjoy your couch, your favorite sweatpants and GilmoreGirls.

10. Fake it till you make it. As a 22-year-old, people will start treating you like the grown eeryone seems to see in you even if you still feel like your 16-year-old self sometimes. It’s both kinda cool and pretty scary and will sometimes require you to own up to your actual age.

11. That being said though, don’t loose your inner child!

12. It feels good to start paying back student loans. Just eight more years to go, wohooo!

13. Build and/or maintain a strong support system. Family and friends are insanely important.

14. Be with yourself every once in a while. Checking in on yourself regularly is extremely helpful, in my humble opinion.

15. Invest into good shoes. I love me ma heels and boots but I feel most comfortable in my new Nike running shoes (my feet have written an Odé to them, I swear!)

16. Forever 21 is cute and super awesome for a  student’s budget. But really, after wearing the same dress three times, it will have completely lost its shape and just look kinda.. meh. It’s worth paying a little more for a bit more quality.

17. Don’t shy away from love. Ever.

18. You kinda stop caring about other people’s opinion. I mean, I’m still very sensitive to what others think of me but not being friends with the mean girls is not killing me anymore. If they don’t wanna be friends, their loss!

19. There will be many doors opening for you. Do keep as many of them as widely open as possible.

20. Applying to jobs sucks, has always sucked and will always suck but if you do it halfheartedly, it won’t get you anywhere.

21. Being ambitious does not equal being greedy. You can long for more in your life, while still being appreciative of what you have.

22. If you have a dream, freaking make it happen! There is no one to tell you what you can or can’t do or should and shouldn’t do. This is YOUR life, YOUR rules, YOUR action plan and the sooner you realize that, the quicker you can get on that bucket list of yours!

Happy Friday!

Cheers,

Ari

DON’T find your purpose in life!

We have all been there. Sooner or later, you will reach a point in your life where you will ask yourself why? Why am I here? Why am I studying what I am studying or working where I am working? Why am I in this relationship, in this friendship circle, in this city?
And it will all play into the big, overarching, nagging question… THE question:

What is the purpose in life?!

When people don’t find a clear answer to that, they often despair. Or they go out search for whatever can make them complete…a partner, a mission, a religion, a certain type of job maybe?
But I believe that this is a waste of time, especially in your 20ies. When you’re 20, you don’t have to have it all figured out, you shouldn’t either. Imagine how boring it would be if you knew exactly where life would be taking you, if you had it all planned out, had all questions answered. And I also believe it is that continuous search for the bigger, better things, the greater meanings to your daily being that actually prevents you from living. Here is a daring thought: What if the purpose of life is just to live. As good as you want, as much as you can. Just that. Life is not always fair, not always rational and definitely anything but predictable. It doesn’t always make sense, it will toss you around and take you on some detours.

But, as a famous quote says, life is simply lived forwards and understood backwards.

So all of you out there who search and ask and wonder…don’t!  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you shouldn’t have any ambitions or dreams or goals in your life. I am saying that, while you’re out pursuing those, you shouldn’t forget to live. Over the questions we lie awake at night, the plans we make and the paths we travel on, we need to remember to stop every once in a while and realize the distance we have already gone. Living in the moment might be a hard skill to acquire but once you do, you will be so much happier. You don’t need one overarching goal in life to be happy, you can create your own happiness. You take the good things that are in your life RIGHT NOW and you don’t let go of them, you focus on them until they become all that your life is really about.
And yes, maybe that is a naive 22-year-old speaking. Maybe I would think differently if a loved one had passed or I got fired from a job or I was seriously ill. Maybe then all I could wonder about was why this was happening to me, how I could possibly deserve such cruel punishments. As of now, however, I believe that life is enjoyed by the minute. The other day, while sitting next to my boyfriend in the car, driving past Victorian houses in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury at night, I realized that I have already gotten so much more out of my life than I could have ever hoped for as a teenager. I don’t need to know what the greater meaning of my life is, I am creating my own meaning. And that’s the thought that helps me sleep at night…

I am enough.

Today, I got really inspired by this article on things that happen when you live abroad.  It talks about the growth you undergo when taking a leap of faith and starting completely afresh, about how much of a personal challenge it can be and how it can help you define yourself. But the post also mentions the inner division that many people undergo when they settle for a new country, how there is always a certain feel of longing to go back to where they came from and that it’s quite difficult to find that inner balance between holding on and letting go.

The article really got me thinking and made me reflect on my current situation. I am very much in the process of finding myself. I have a great household that I am happy to come home to but they actually all have a life and I don’t (yet, we’ll talk again next week after classes have started). So, I am on my own a lot. I explore on my own, I search for my running paths on my own, I have to find friends on my own and make certain decisions based on my own judgement.
I don’t know about you guys but I have a big problem with that! I tend to not give myself the appropriate amount of credit, I don’t trust myself to be capable of much and I usually doubt that I am a worthy competition in anything. But back at home, I wasn’t forced to really tackle any of those fears. I had a routine going on, I had my niché, my friends, my place in life. Now I’m here and suddenly, there is just me. That’s a really weird feeling. Out of a sudden, I have to ask myself what I want, how I should approach the day, the month, this year and there is no one there but me to answer these questions. I am not lonely but I am on my own, there is a difference and I am currently learning and embracing it. Sure, one of my big plans for this year was challenging myself and starting all over again, closing a chapter and being completely open to the new one. Exciting, exciting and scary. What if I am not enough? What if my own resources are not gonna get me where I want to go to? If there is no one but myself responsible for the next steps, there is no one else but myself to blame for failure.
It’s quite nerve-wracking but I also feel how, even only after a week, I have become more trusting in myself, a little more so each day. It’s nice for a change not to center my day around other people but only around myself. To ask myself how I feel about things and, not being able to take the easy way out (aka “Oh, I dunno..what do you think?”). Being challenged by having to listen to myself in order to change things that don’t make me happy. And, in contrast, to embrace if I have achieved something great.
So, here are some small things I started doing in order to get into a happy relationship with myself (it’s ok if you think I went a little cray-cray….half my housemates are into Zen, it’s rubbing off):

  • In the morning, I get up, look into the mirror and say something nice to the tired, confused reflection that stares back at me. Things like: “Wow, look at your tan!” “Today is going to be a great day!” or “I think we deserve ice-cream for breakfast
  • Whenever something I did works out fine, I actually tell myself out loud (Warning! Weirdo-alert, maybe just mumble when in public…). I think it’s important to actively acknowledge the good things that happen over the day.
  • Seek the sun. Depending on your location, that might be harder or easier but there will always be some sort of bar with a fake palm tree and hawaiian music nearby. Or something along those lines.
  • Music- sing along as loud as you dare and if it’s only for one song. We all have the inner child inside of us, let it out!
  • When something goes wrong or unexpected, breathe and hesitate for a moment before acting. Ask yourself if the reaction you were about to unleash onto yourself or others is appropriate.
  • Before going to bed, look into the mirror again and either acknowledge the great things you did today or encourage yourself that tomorrow is going to be better.

So, bottomline: Starting over puts one thing into the center of your life: YOURSELF! Yes, that might be uncomfortable or unknown or scary but I believe it really is necessary. We spend so much time thinking about others and ourselves in relations to our surroundings that we tend to forget that no relationship is as important as the one we have to ourselves. Sadly though, that’s the connection we are most sloppy with. I am not saying we all should become hermits or say Screw It and move away. Heck, I can’t wait to make friends and build a social life but I am glad that I have this time to myself to realize that I am enough.

If the sky is your limit, build yourself a rocket

Today, I went to Berlin and had a great time. It’s an awesome city full of stories and today I was lucky enough to hear one:

I had split from my family to have time to myself for all the important capital errands (aka Breakfast at Dunkins’, lunch at Starbucks and dinner at Vapiano cause we don’t have any of those where I live) and, since it was an extraordinary hot day, I sat down on a park bench to rest for a while. After five minutes or so, a man sure over 70 sat down next to me and we both pretended not to notice each other (German style, chit-chat is just not the way to go here).
Suddenly though, the old man turned around, looked at me and asked: “If someone promised you that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?” That was easy enough for me to answer, I had often thought about questions like that. “Move to the States.”, I said. He nodded thoughtfully and we went back to ignoring each other….for a minute.
“Why don’t you?”, he asked further.
“Erm…well…it’s not that easy. I mean..there are visas and money and relatives here and…I mean…it’s not like I could just…go.”
“Why not?”
“Erm…because?”, I started to get a little annoyed. Who did this guy think he was?!
There was silence for a bit. Then he said: “When I was young, I wanted to do things but couldn’t. My family needed me and times were bad after the war and I was scared to jump, so I started working instead. By the time I could have done all these things, I didn’t want to anymore ’cause I had grown comfortable. Now, I’m old, it’s ok to admit that, and old people always look for young people to teach them a lesson, so here is my lesson to you: I regret not having jumped back then. How old are you?”
“21.”
“Ok. I’m promising you hereby that you can’t fail. So go!”
I laughed and he starred at me. “Why are you laughing, it’s true. You can’t fail, I promised you.”
“Yeah but…I’m sorry but I don’t know you and you know nothing about me. If you promised me I wouldn’t die if I jumped off a bridge, I wouldn’t do it either, right?”
“I’m not telling you to be stupid! I’m telling you to go after your dream.”, he snouched.
I had enough. “It’s not like I’m not trying!”, I said more angrily than I had intended but I somehow felt like I had to justify myself. “I’m working on it but it’s a pretty big dream and I don’t wanna get my hopes up.”
He looked a little happier. “Well, it’s good you’re working on it. Just always keep in mind that you can’t fail. And even if you think you have, it might just be a detour, that’s all I’m saying. I wish someone had told me that when I was 21 but now I’m telling you and that’s it.” and he got up and left.

I don’t know if I had looked particularly lost but I definitely needed that. An old man who might not be able to give me warranty on life but who did remind me of one my all-time-favorite quotes:

Always remember- Not to try is the greatest failure!

And because I found this encounter so beautiful, I thought I’d share it with you guys 🙂

Cheers,

Ari