How I Came to Have a Crush on Autumn: All the Colors Along this Long, Long Way

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This fall has been an incredible time. It’s been perhaps one of the most intense past three months I could have ever imagined. Since becoming half-sedentary, starting a new job, and experiencing lots of other things along the way, I’ve been through a turmoil of emotions and reality checks. While most of the year has been about a new awakening, dreaming many dreams, and accomplishing a lot of travel, this time of year was meant to draw me towards the beauty and calm of things here in New York. I want to share so much with you but I see that it cannot be done all at once. There are so many posts waiting, so many thoughts Read More »

Quarter Life Crisis: “Young, Insecure, and Afraid”

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” – Henry Ford

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I guess it all hits us at some point in time. The question is more of when than how or why. In the past month or so, I have been feeling very different. I’ve started feeling old. Is this part of being a quarter century old? Or is it just me who is experiencing the pressure to do something with her life?

With this peculiar sensation of age goes along an envy for those who are only 2 or 3 years younger. Does it make sense? Not really. And yet, I feel that some trains have stopped and moved out of the main hub I call My Life. Now I am panicking to catch up with all the dreams I never really had to begin with that are all of a sudden starting to surround my life. What happened to the modeling idea I toyed with when I was 20? Or the urge to become famous through performance and singing ever since the new talent shows have been dominating German and American mainstream TV? Is 25 really too old to pursue a career in acting? Do I even want to pursue a career in acting and musicals?

I am panicking to a degree that does not make sense and it all revolves around the idea of looking young and staying young – eternally. When I see my face distorted by my expectations in the mirror, a young female stars back at me. But my emotional life and turmoil inside depict a very different age. Is it possible to feel almost 40 when one is 25? Are my thoughts too bitter, my feelings too negative for someone who should be happy to currently live in the city of cities?

And then this clamping fear, almost taking my breath away when I think about such trivial things as the future. The future has to be better. Somehow. But what if I will never improve my dancing, will never be good at speaking Spanish, will never be able to dip into another passion as I have with writing and photography. I’ve been constantly working on ballet and Zumba ever since I discovered the studio courses 2 years ago. But for some reason (being inconsistent probably did not help), I still feel at the very beginning. Would better training perfect those skills? How much of my time, money, and, most importantly, patience am I willing to spend, though? So I acknowledge that some things have to change. It’s merely a matter of what exactly.

And then I think back to my late teenage years when I had friends undergoing the exact same stage I am in right now. The 26-year-old who couldn’t rise out of bed on the weekends for WEEKS. Because he was too depressed to form a single, positive thought. He then started painting and I believe has taken this hobby to another level now – almost 6 years later. Or another “friend” who complained how old he felt at the exact same age – in his mid-twenties. “You just wait until you get there!” his threatening voice still rings in my ears. “A few wrinkles here and there, it’s really no fun.” Well, I am there. I can’t detect a wrinkle – yet. Physically, I feel as young as a sprout, ready to go ahead and climb Mount Everest.

We all age at different rates, I know that now. Not everyone is as lucky as I am and blessed with good genes which will hopefully keep me young-looking until ten years from now. But what the physical appearance is lacking is what my emotional experience is making up for. How can you feel so desperate after a quarter century of your life? How can you have the urge to change your entire life from one day to another? And what exactly has been the trigger to all of this…?

My frantic new hobby in looking up everyone who is big in the news now. Seeing how old they are now, when they started to become famous and what their life has been about (I thank wikipedia for countless hours of patience). Most people start “young” – when they are teenagers. Let’s disregard the child stars. But what if you never had the interest to start out as a singer when you were 17? Least to say the opportunity because you grew up in a small village and the big sparkling city was hours away?

And then the most nagging questions of all: Will I feel truly satisfied with what life has offered me and what I have made of it when I am old-er. Say 40? Or 60? How can I possibly feel better then when I don’t feel anywhere close to being happy with life’s circumstances now? I guess this all leads back to what I’ve written back in August: Living the best life. Not being sidetracked by every day’s monotony. Trying out something new every once so often. And immersing oneself into the pain a wrong step could bring but still holding on, clutching to the hope that one day it will all be right. It has to be.

Then I also remember a child’s story, swarming around in my head. About the passionate painter Vincent Van Gogh, who never picked up painting until his late 20ies. Despite the fact that he was also mentally ill, he never actually gained popularity until after his death. If the life of such a genius artist can be characterized by so much pain, so much self-doubt and so much criticism, why can’t the life of an average person from today be? And what is better: Being happy and less successful or fulfilling one’s dreams day by day? Why can’t both come in handy? Perhaps there is a middle way to it all. And through the glamour Hollywood brings its young aspiring actors and actresses, I also see the pain inflicted on their lives. From a young Macaulay Culkin who was drug-addicted as a teenager. And other failed “stars” who were rocking the scene as a child but were never seen after that.

And somehow, as I flick through old pictures and dwell in old memories, I realize something that has not seemed important to me until this date. In my teens I wanted to be something I could never be and ultimately what I wasn’t afraid of being. In my twenties, I started being someone I would have never dreamt of being. And while I thought I had potential to be someone back then, I now have more. I have passion. And I have my thoughts, which are starting to settle, nudging me to try out new things NOW.

If you have read Goethe, you are familiar with his concept of “Sturm und Drang” (also a literally movement during that time). It is particularly manifested in his master piece “The Sorrows of Young Werther” – a book most German high schools require their students to read. Roughly summarized it is about a young chap trying to fulfill his passion for poetry & romance and also the demands of everyday life, which are nowhere close to that passion. Of course it ends badly; he commits suicide, also because he is unlucky in love with a girl.

My point is that it is hard to grasp this movement when you are still a teenager. It is not until you are older, in your twenties, when you can shape your life the way you want. Fiscal means, energy, and simply the courage to do so don’t develop until well later. It takes a bit more of maturity and stupidity to finally break off from old ideas and try to go down a way that is meant for you. Not to forget the independent mindset to say: Let’s do it!

So many articles have been written on this, but I still think an unknown creation to be beautifully phrased.

You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough. – Mae West

Procrastination- The Fear of Failure

I consider myself the perfect little procrastinator. Ever since I had the chance to push things off, I have probably done so. Perhaps I have inherited this bad habit from both of my parents. Maybe I have just come to engrain it in my daily life because of how good it feels to simply chillax while better and more important things should/could/must be done. But the truth is, this entire procrastination deal – it’s starting to bother me. A bit. Actually a lot.

I remember back in the days, maybe 3 years ago, most likely even longer, when our college assignments were given to us at the very beginning of each semester. Petty university assignments – how I long for those days now. And despite the fact that I knew 8 weeks ahead of time what our papers were to be on and how much time we had to do some research, write it up, and form a great piece of work out of it, it wasn’t until that very last week I started to become slightly nervous. Usually it even took a day and night before the due date in order for me to finally push through, do an all-nighter and write those 3,000 to 5,000 words of academic meaningfulness in less than 24 hours. I guess I’ve always been afraid of my own capabilities and what might happen if I were to fail my own expectations. So whenever I still managed to pull an A- or B+ from that cheesy assignment, I was good to go. Heck, I even thought I was one of those lucky ones who write or perform well under pressure.

I’ve always hated public speaking most likely for the aforementioned reason. Procrastination! No sense to come up with a great speech and rehearse it in less than 24 hours. Once I started preparing for a speech for 3 days straight, I knew I was really blossoming when I had the time to prepare and proofread. Of course speaking in front of a class freaked me out at first. But only by overcoming my fear of failure, I started enjoying the adrenaline rush and was able to successfully graduate the course. In a way, public speaking has taught me several things. One of the most important ones I take with is: You cannot be afraid of what you have never tried. And another: Procrastination is just getting in your way when you could do so much better by preparing.

It’s one thing to write a 20-page-paper in college within one day and night and feel you’ve really accomplished something when you get your A- the week after. But procrastinating for your own sake or rather misfortune – who needs this? Lately I’ve found myself caught in a cycle of not feeling too motivated to change things in my life and not wanting to find the time to change these named things in my life. Blogging has been one. Seeking out new opportunities another. And then of course the tedious tasks of editing my own works, be it writing or photography. Perhaps even forming a plan on how to cheaply travel the world. All of these are dreams but in order to pursue a dream, work has to be done.

Sometimes I just wonder what I am afraid of and why I cannot seem to take responsibility for my own happiness. Then I find myself caught in front of a TV show or surfing the web on a bunch of irrelevant stuff (think social networking). Procrastination can come in several forms. While two years ago I used to get out there and explore the city, I have found myself now more at home and focused but also easily distracted by petty things. Back then I was focused on social life and having fun, no matter what. Now I am focused on being focused, but not being able to stay focused once I am trying.

It’s weird, the mindsets we can be in sometimes. We want to change but we cannot change. We want to plan but we don’t have the strength to look ahead.

Perhaps my own thoughts are blocking out my ability to simply act. Whatever it is, I would like to get back on track. Especially now, with the cold air blowing in my face and reminding me that summer is another 6 months away. No lazy beach days and tanning sessions as an excuse to procrastinate. Time to write that book. Time to re-apply myself. Time to form life-changing plans in order to feel resurrected.

How do you guys deal with this moment in time when nothing feels quite right and you know it’s your fault?

Are You Happy Or Are You Content?

Last week my friend and I went to a spontaneous happy hour in Greenwich Village. While sipping on Jake’n’Ginger and Vodka Sodas, we started philosophing about life in New York and life in general. It appears that there is always a certain type of people that is attracted to this city. I am not talking about the locals – the citizens that have been here since the day they were born or the day their families moved here. I am also not talking about the temporaries – the tourists that come here and stay for two weeks or the interns that leave after 3 months at the UN. I am moreover talking about me and her – the people who have come here to start a new life or begin a changed life.

So while frustration poured over and gave room to contemplation, my meanwhile tipsy friend exclaimed that the only two kinds of people who matter are the following: the happy people and the content people. At first I didn’t know what to make of this. “I used to know this woman in her thirties. She didn’t have a high income but got up each day with her partner to work a minimum wage job and then buy herself some pot. They lived a happy life, the two of them. They were truly content.” I raised an eye brow and wondered if I had failed to miss out on the true purpose of life by rolling my own joint and working a meager-paying job. “I myself have never felt this sense of contentness,” she went on. “I have never been satisfied with what I do and have always strived for more. From an early age on. I know what it feels like to be happy. But being content? I have no idea,“ she contemplated while taking a sip of her vodka soda mix.
“So what is better, being content or being happy?” I stupidly asked, feeling all of a sudden awkward by the fact that I had not felt both in my life time. “Nothing is better. It’s just different,” she responded. “I think I am more of a happy person then,” I spoke my thoughts out loud. “If I had been content, I wouldn’t have come here to start a new life and begin adventures unheard of.” She smiled knowingly and said she thought the same. But the fact that one can never be content and happy at the same time still makes me feel at unease. Who is to say never, especially in a life time defined by so many different factors we cannot control?

So I like to revise the kinds of people from above. She calls them content and happy. I call them the people who strive and the people who do not. The people who strive are seeking a wider purpose in life. They know that the earth is not refined to a small village in Germany, a mediocre town in the States or field work in China. They know that only when they travel and experience life elsewhere, they will be able to still the innate fear of being left out on life and the beauty this world offers. The people who do not strive do not know what to do with the riches the world bears. They live their lives from day to day and are satisfied to have married a good man or woman, to have nursed a child or two, and to call a job their purpose. They might have a passion or a hobby, but they would not give up their comfortable life style in order to pursue it or to make their dream come true. They have a great life to offer from the outside, it might have everything the strivers were raised to believe in. But essentially how they make sense of the world and their life in general is hidden to someone like me and most likely will always remain a distanced truth of make-believe.

To me, it is a mystery of how you can be happy without having ventured out and had your entire life turned upside down. How you can appreciate what you have every day without having lost it for an extended period of time. It makes no sense to me to be on the steady path of studying, career, or marriage if you have not seen what else is out there. I guess I have always had this innate fear of missing out on too much had I stayed in the spot I was ten years ago. Or five years ago. I never pictured myself in a traditional job, such as a veterinary, a nurse, or a teacher, unlike many of my hometown friends.

Being raised bilingual and bicultural has opened up an entirely new universe to me in the sense of citizenship and traveling without the barrier of language so many other Germans and Americans have rubbed upon. It is impossible to redefine the mind to something smaller than it started out with, and that is very true when it comes to how my life has revolved. I sometimes really wonder if the people who have stayed in the same profession, the same town, or the same mindset for way too long do not feel that they are missing out on anything? And if yes, why are they not breaking out? Because ever since I set foot in this world by myself, ever since I boarded a plane on my own, I have had no desire to return to what I have called a safe haven. A shelter from the real life. And definitely a lot less enriching than my world has now turned out to be.

Back to the happy and content people: I believe my friend has it slightly wrong. The content people can be happy in the moment and the happy people can feel satisfied with their achievements once in a while. I guess her overall thought was that over the long run you cannot have both. Maybe a truly wise man or woman can have it both. But for now I am content with not being content. I am happy being a striver and striving for new goals to achieve every single day. Or week. Or month. Sometimes even years. However, I know that life is precious. And that it can become a burden if your freedom is restricted by what others want you to make out of it. So make sure that everything you do, you truly do for you.

Thoughts of a Humid Summer Night

Don’t you feel you want to start over sometimes? Turn back time to a few months ago? Go back in the past and make things right?
I feel like this occasionally. Today was one of the days. I was weaving through pictures from winter and spring. What hopeful visions I had then: of warmer weather, a better summer, more interaction with other people, and generally more action in my life.

Now it is already the end of July. Summer is over in a month. Unlike last year and the year before, I do not feel I have accomplished a whole lot this time around. It might have been the unusual working hours I’ve had to endure lately (more to come later) or in general being busy for a full 9 hours a day as opposed to the 8-hour-shifts I had at other jobs. Or maybe the friends who were less responsive this time then they were before. Perhaps I had also busied myself more in 2011 by actively seeking out more events and fun stuff to do. Either way, time has passed by so suddenly, it makes me gulp very hard. In order not to panic I have started writing lists over lists over lists of interesting stuff to do. Hopefully I will be able to accomplish at least half of these before the season is over.

And alas, this time I am not going home for three weeks, so September technically still belongs to my New York summer. Despite these advantages my breath shortens and my palms become sweaty. What if it’s over too soon? What if I miss out on too much? Manhattanhenge, for example, the twice-in-a-year sunset between New York skyscrapers. What beautiful shots the natural wonder would have provided for. In May, after the first chance to see it, I vowed to myself not to miss out on the second opportunity in mid-July. July 11 has long-since passed already and I am still mad at simply forgetting. And for a malfunctioning iPhone alarm.

Maybe I have also become more and more scared of the evitable change lurking in the depths of my life. It is decision-making time in many categories once again. My thoughts linger back to when I first came here and the motives that drove me. I was fresh out of college (three months post-graduation), I had no intentions in pursuing a master’s degree right away. I desperately needed a change to my life and New York brought this change upon me. But my role in bringing this change upon myself has of course been the active one. It truly is about the decisions we make in our lives that bring us to the spot we are in now. And perhaps this is what I am a little bit afraid of. Making the wrong decision, going down a wrong path.

Sometimes a slight depression overcomes me of not having accomplished enough with the resources I have at my hand. After all, I do live in New York, the city of unlimited opportunities. I am repulsed when I see locals here who’ve lived in the City for so long and take everything for granted. It might just be my foreign view of things. But I hope I will never take anything for granted in the Big Apple, will never unsee the beauty of this city.

Perhaps, lately, I have surrounded myself with too many people who have not been creative. A surprising amount of folks have a simple life here. I have never been attracted to them, I have only come to respect them. It is the artists I have started to admire, the people with an open head and dreams yet to pursue if not already in the process of pursuing. It is for these reasons I hope to stay a little while longer, in the right company, keeping my focus straight.

Bloggiversary!

It’s been a year! Already!
365 days, 8,760 hours, 52 weeks – call it whatever you want. An anniversary well deserved.

On this day 12 months ago I started this blog. My very own writing experience, my little world, my small realm of shelter. Opened up to a then still undiscovered online community. How little did I know how much fun it can be to share one’s own stories with practical strangers. Or how fascinating it can be to read about their daily lives and deepest emotions online, expressed without a feeling of shame.

One year of blogging, and the only piece of advice I have for you is: Do it! Do it now! Don’t push it off, don’t think about just doing it, simply DO it. It took me well over half a year to finally find the time and courage and interest to really start my own page on WordPress. And sometimes I wish I had done it earlier. Nothing can turn back time, nothing can express your current feelings and experiences so well than the present itself.

Inspired by these ladies, who turned their extensive roadtrip through the US into the best read of American history, I finally decided to write this time of my life down. And it was exactly what I had needed. Expressing my thoughts, concerns, and views in refreshing stories – stories found by other bloggers and commented on by like-minded or different-minded people. It has its appeal to see how your own life is being dissected and listened to by complete strangers. People I have most of the time never met but who have stuck with me throughout the year and who I still enjoy communicating with.

My life has been enriched by blogging, not deprived, as I had originally thought.

After one year, I take with the confidence I have gained in writing over the course of 12 months. I have discovered my love for word puns and I am more at ease in coming up with posts or themes.

I am also taking with a new feeling for time management, especially after having started a life- time-consuming job half a year ago and still trying to maintain this blog. Which has helped me in seeing these matters in a more relaxed way: There is no pressure to write, so when I write, I write because I want to. I am not aiming to come up with the next best post or a brilliant text. I simply want to get certain things off my shoulders and I value other readers’ opinions.

This WordPress page and its followers have helped me in setting my priorities and pursuing my dreams, even though you might not have realized this. Each one of you has motivated me in some sense or has opened up a whole different world to me, which has given me the ability to dream. Of better times, of different times, of exciting times – of adventure. All across the globe.

But also in real life this blog has helped me in various ways: In obtaining writing gigs, finding a roommate in New York, and meeting people with passion. Perhaps a shared passion: Traveling, writing, taking pictures, and simply experiencing the 1001 wonders this world has to offer. I hope it has inspired at least one person to start his or her own blog or to travel the world without the fear of being lost.

One thing it has definitely been is a very fun time. The 137 posts I’ve come up with in the past year have all been self-created, self-thought, and self-expressed.

1 year of blogging – learned so much, but taking with only the best. Thank you, fellow readers!

A Taste of the Narcissism Apple, Anyone?

“If you were to be naked and let your personality dress you, you would not wear the most beautiful dress.”

“If your character were to show on your outside, you would not be the prettiest person among others. “

Narcissism is a big thing in New York. Self-focus and selfishness, they’re all here, crowded together in one area, trying to fight love for others. The more self-centered you are, the better. Survival-wise, you could have the best premises if you display this characteristic. As already implied in the NYC Charade (re-read here), the more feathers you ruffle and the bigger the show you play, the better for you. Don’t forget, you and only YOU are the main characters in this act.

It’s okay to find your life great. But please do not let it have an effect on others if it is not in a good way. I talked to people who got very mad as soon as the subject changed from THEIR house, THEIR children, THEIR dress, THEIR WHATEVER to something that wasn’t related to this. Even worse when I tried to talk about MY things because this gave them a reason to compare and to drag my stuff through mud – and this in such a begrudging manner. As if they couldn’t just get over the fact that other people have great things which make them feel happy, too.

Some people are so sad. I’ve worked with colleagues who had nothing else to contribute to human society than to marry a doctor. Their own life being miserable enough, they tried to make other people’s life miserable, too, by talking to them derogatively or not giving them a chance to progress career-wise. If they didn’t have power over this part, they made sure they could at least make this person look bad in front of a supervisor or other boss. I guess they saw others’ happiness as an insult to their dullness, and others’ success as a threat to their nicely laid-out plan of being successful themselves. There is a lot of competition in this city, no doubt. But it isn’t carried out in a fair way or in a way that makes me want to take part in this competition. Playing dirty for what? I don’t feel like I am on that kindergarten-level anymore but rather that competing for something can be carried out in a mature way without emotionally harming anyone along the way. Maybe it is just American mentality but I have more the feeling that it is especially a part of New York than anything else.

And why do I have the feeling that the “How are you-”mentality is carried out on further topics than this? We all know that ‘how are you’ does not really refer to how you feel or how crappy your day has been or if you’ve been doing well lately (it actually does mean all of this in German culture, a fine difference!) but is seen as a simple, polite, set phrase. Which is fine. But when people ask me how my vacation was or how I spent my weekend, I do want to tell them what I did, how much fun I’ve had, and what my experiences were. I know I cannot talk to this with anyone. Aside from the selection problem, the majority of some people here don’t care to know about the good things in my life. They take it as a careless hint to tell me all about THEIR experience in that city, how much fun THEY had, and what THEY did. Mhmmm, not quite balanced here, is it? It wouldn’t bother me as much if I weren’t to see their malicious gleam in their eyes that cries out BRAGGING loudly.
I’m getting tired of it. It seems harder and harder to stay away from these fake-os. I bought a new dress at Macy’s? They have a nicer one and mine is too cheap. I bought a ticket to Europe? Good for me, I will be missing out on half of my monthly pay because of this. New shoes? They were fashionable last season…

Is it cool to only see the negative all the time and to make others feel bad about themselves? It’s quite nerve-wracking and simply exhausting to deal with these nutcases. I was well-equipped in Europe, I had my cushion of real friends I could fall onto when this bothered me. But here it is a bit dis-arming, I have to admit. It sometimes turns your values upside down, but not in a good way.

Of course I am aware that, psychologically seen, these people are mostly grown up children who have not received enough attention in their lives. Whatever they were not able to receive from their parents they are now trying to get from strangers or so-called friends. Respect, acceptance, love, and other basics. These people are not able to build up real friendships, by the way. It’s all a matter of trust and they don’t trust in anyone – not even themselves. Their quest on filling in the sometimes huge hole of whatever they are missing will be never-ending until they accomplish self-insight. But try to criticize someone who is unstable and narcissistic. You will have him/her against you in no time because you have offended this person bitterly. They are not too much into self-improvement, these people.

Beware of narcissism. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of self-love and finding yourself a valuable person. But if you came here as someone who cared for others and if you had other thoughts on your mind than your own problems over and over again, try not to fall for New York’s biggest danger. It might be hard to crawl away from it.

Birthday Bash? Not Really!

Last week was my birthday – an occasion I consider well worthy of spilling out my thoughts on!

I turned 24 – hallelujah – such a natural age. And to answer your initial question, I DO NOT feel older, nor do I experience other emotions some people seem to fight once they hit 21 or above (albeit I have to admit I have met more Europeans who are going through these age issues from an early time on as opposed to Americans).

I deeply feel that I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else at this point in life and I would have never been able to forgive myself if I hadn’t tried very hard to stay in this city. Therefore, I am glad I am still here in New York. Technically, it is my second birthday I have been attending to in the Big Apple. Last year, it was a smaller celebration, this year it was none at all. I spent the day at the beach, it was a nice premature summer day, and the ocean spared enough refreshment, making up for the heat. Overall, a very nice day. But spent by myself almost entirely.
To draw a conclusion from this, what I have come to see is that even after one year of being here it continues to be difficult to find people you can rely on. I, for example, haven’t been able to form close relationships that last longer than a few months or weeks during this entire year.
Yes, there are other factors involved, too, of course. People come here, then move away again. Other friends have changed to a degree to which I just didn’t want to deal with them anymore. Again others have distanced themselves from me.

There are many reasons. And relax, all of this sounds sadder than it truly is. My theory is that there is always a trade-off in being at a place you passionately love or having people with you who you can count upon. I am 100 percent positive that I am NOT the only person out there who has gone through this, especially in a city like New York. It is easy to meet new people – agreed – but it is hard to connect to someone here and have a deep relationship with him or her. This especially applies when you are tired of the casual small talk and shallow promises which are so prevalent in American culture.

All of the persons I can count upon are still at home, in Germany, and that is good as is. All the things I want to accomplish are here, though, and that is good in a way, too. Birthdays and other holidays just make me wish I could share it with someone I feel a deeper connection to, and that describes the situation I was in last week.
But hey, no worries, I am over it, I am not traumatized, and I am definitely not going to curse out my new year. It’s not that much of a deal to pull me down. I just hope that I will be able to spend my big 25 either with my real friends or to go to a great travel destination. Ideally, I will be able to accomplish both, but that is only to be hoped for.

So, happy birthday to myself, and off to the next year of excitement. Welcome to 24!
Tell me your thoughts on this and what you did for your 24th, it might make me feel better…?!