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


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 »

Mexico – Ahhh, Where Should I Start?

Coming back to New York has been not so … great. I’ve been here for less than 72 hours and have already gone through a financial nightmare, a fight with my love, and arguments with some unsupportive friends. Ah yes, a weird welcome to being back in New York. A city I didn’t really miss while gone.

While less than 3 days has somehow changed my initially good mood, some great memories of my trip remain in the back of my head. And a strong sense of reassurance that somewhere out there I can count on my two good Mexican chicas who helped me go through the worst and best in the past 2 weeks.

This is not a whiny post. This is a culture shock post. And a travel post: From Ajijic over Guanojuato and San Miguel to Guadalajara, from Tlaquepaque to Tequila – I’ve seen a crazy amount of this wide, vast country in only 14 days. I’ve been forced outside of my comfort zone because comfort can only be found when there is no adventure. I’ve improved my Spanish because in this part of the country no one spoke English. I’ve also been surprised at the warmth and welcoming attitude of people I hardly knew. And dumbfounded when finding out that Mexico is among one of the happiest country in the worlds.

How can a nation with so much poverty be among one of the most satisfied? 80 percent of Mexicans live in poverty. A middle class basically does not exist. And yet, you see smiling folks on the streets, people who really want to help YOU (as a foreigner, an outsider), and individuals who struggle every day to get by but keep their spirits up. A slap in the face to our industrialized countries who could cut a fair slice from this developing country and its attitude.

So yes, Mexico – where do I start? I will ponder over the weekend and have some new posts for you next week! Until then, hasta luego! Enjoy the end of the week!

Is this what your weekend will look like?
Is this what your weekend will look like?

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.

Reflecting in October

It feels like a lifetime ago since the last time I posted on here. But Friday is really only 4 days back. Many things have happened in between now and then and make it seem like an eternity. I’ve been to New Jersey for the first time in ages (since February). Then I have been busy with two photography shoots over the weekend. And lastly, but not least, I am trying to see what future holds for me here in New York.

While reflecting on my past life, a thought has recently crossed my mind: That this is most likely the first time ever since I moved to the Big Apple during which I am not pressured to look for a new apartment. My first year here I was forced to move out for December 1. And only one year back I was seeking out a new apartment once again. So right now, the two months October and November of 2012, mark a premiere in my life in the US in this category. Hopefully the upcoming one and a half months will be a lot more peaceful than I am used to at this time of year. I feel I am able to enjoy the future events a lot more this time around than I was in the years before.

For example, my friend’s birthday. Or Thanksgiving, which also means time away from work. With colder weather there usually comes a different sense of awareness to this city. Instead of dealing with one heat wave after another, outside life is becoming spare. And also more clear. Some people do not want to spend as much time in the outsides. Others want to squeeze in a sunny day before the notoriously bad winter starts. Either way, moods are different now. It is a better time to focus and to get things done. Gone are the lazy beach days. Or the hot hours spent together with a group of friends at BBQ’s and in the park. Less than 3 months are left until this year comes to a close and somehow people are realizing that a few of their crucial goals have not been fulfilled. Many of mine I have accomplished, and even more than this. But others I am still lacking in getting done. Travel-wise, 2012 has been an interesting year. As a last travel, I would have loved to go visit my friend in South-America right now, this month or next. Unfortunately, South America is not on my agenda for this year anymore.

And if you’ve read my Time to Get Out of the Comfort Zone post, you also know that this one main goal of mine has not yet been accomplished. However, I do not feel much resentment. With more experience come more opportunities. Financially speaking I have been able to afford quite a comfortable life style without being dependent too much on a budget and other outer influences. Which is a great accomplishment compared to last year. I guess life really does get a teeny bit harder as we go. More responsibility, more pressure, more mindsets hindering us to achieve what we had wanted in the very beginning. Whether or not this is a bad thing has yet to be determined.

I guess eventually we just have to be thankful for the things we can call or own. “The happiest people do not have the best of everything; they make the best of everything they have.” A wisdom that rings true the more you think about it. There should always be time to think about what you have and what you can be thankful for. It might be taken away from you sooner than you think.

The Impressions of New York

It’s always an experience to get back to this city even when gone for just a few days. Every time I witness my return differently. Mostly I am not at all pleased but sometimes I am happy to be back. Yet, coming back from Canada was different in so many ways. When I saw the skyline from far away, I was thankful at once. Away from the awful greyhound bus, away from the travel on the bumpy road. It almost felt like home to embrace a city I’ve been in for so long. Home – a very tangible word.

However, my initial euphoria changed quickly after entering the subway. First, the endless wait for an express train at 3 AM around Times Square. I had forgotten how drunken people can act on a Tuesday morning out. Being stared at by random guys when you absolutely do not feel like meanly glancing back at them until they finally look away. On top of this, of course the N-Train that decided to switch over to the R on the last stop in Manhattan. The long walk over from Canal Street to where the Q stops. Having the Q shut its door right in my face. Fidgeting around for another eternity. It takes some long 20 minutes for another train to come when it’s the middle of the night.

Looking up when an aggressive group of teenagers walks up to you and the rest of the tired commuters. Spanish yelling, waving of the arms from their side. Everyone is staring in disbelieve rather than reacting sensibly. I even got pushed by one of the fat mildly overweight Puerto Rican girls. At least she said “excuse me” after striking my upper body. I was too startled to think of much to do. I thought it rather a bad idea to pick a fight with a group of four when all I have to defend myself is my heavy bag of souvenirs. So many underage people out on the streets and of course I ran into another group of chicks on the train, once it came. This time I kept my calm. Ten minutes later I was finally home. The thought I had when falling into bed was that this city is hideous, the people have ugly personalities and I want to get out of here right now.

The next morning. A beautiful day. The people still being a bit weird but manageable. I felt more like an anonymous commuter that day than someone who has to stand up for herself in New York. Peace of mind. But the ride back home complete chaos – again. A tunnel in Brooklyn that decided to catch fire, leaving the entire subway system turned upside down. Walking down the steps to the Herald Square underground I started wondering why there were more masses than usual accumulated on the platform. The B and the D were only running to W4. Even after heading over to the N and the Q, I was in no luck. The first one stopped, spat out a chunk of evening commuters and then announced it would be backtracking straight to Times Square (42nd St). The R came and announced that 14th -Union Square was its final stop (it usually runs to Bay Ridge). No one knew what to do. I decided to squeeze into an overpopulated subway car and try my luck towards downtown. I gave up after being held in 23rd St for ten minutes straight. A crackly voice over the intercom blared that all trains were currently held in the station due to the high volume of traffic ahead of us. I was one freaking stop away! And then the conductor laughed into the speaker. He actually cracked up! It made me smile. If people can still make fun of such an absurd situation, no matter how vicious their intentions are, you still have to see the comic of the circumstances. And how ridiculous is it to be stuck in Manhattan on a random weekday? Squeezed against hundreds of other commuters? I got off and wandered the streets of the Flatiron district. Eventually I made it to the 4 and 5, which thankfully ran underground and were unaffected by the sudden fire in Downtown Brooklyn. Of course a few thousand other people had also been forced to dodge towards this alternative. I have seldom felt so happy to get off the train than during this day. Atlantic Ave was jam-packed with masses. And I’ve seen it during a normal rush hour; yesterday was three times as many people.

Today I was more confident in the way of how to handle matters. I didn’t feel like an awkward piece sticking out of the grey masses of the City trying to fit in. Today I actually did fit in. And instead of feeling frustrated as I had before this trip, a different feeling overcame me. Happiness comes when least expected. It may come when you are sitting under a roof of leaves in Madison Square Park, clutching an umbrella with one hand, writing your thoughts down with the other. It may also come when jumping from puddle to puddle, finding your reflection in one of those. It’s an abstract concept but it brings back the memory of a time when everything used to be easier.

The First Impressions: Back in New York

I know it’s not a big deal. Returning to the city you voluntarily choose to live in for a good amount of time already. But this had been my first time I had left the Big Apple for longer than a week. After more than two weeks, I had already forgotten about some things here. How to use the metro vending machine, for example. How to be patient when talking to JFK employees who are rude to you. Or how to deal with those insane stares these strange men give young girls on a crowded subway.

I’m sure you have gotten the gist of my general opinion from previous writings already. Despite many advantages and cultural events this city has to offer there are some major problems I was hesitating to deal with and which have poked out even more when coming back in September. Don’t get me wrong. I love New York. But I also despise certain aspects. While I had really thought Germany would give me a culture shock when it didn’t, I wouldn’t have imagined it would take me more than one week to adjust back to Manhattan and Brooklyn. I didn’t understand many things when I got off the plane and went through customs. For example, I took the subway, not a cab. On the subway there were these two black girls who were checking each other out and, I felt, competing with each other for something I couldn’t see. All of a sudden their loud attitude, exaggerated demeanor in pushing their way through and their looks made perfect sense to me. I don’t think I had seen two individuals who were more self-conscious than them in a while. And I also got tired of it. All the times I had to deal with these people being rude to me or showing me attitude because they feel bad about themselves. All those many times I had gotten angry about people in the train who were impolite and had almost let them ruin a perfect morning or afternoon to me, all those times I should have seen that the only problem they have is with themselves.

The way the people dress here really got to me, too. I’m not anyone who follows Fashion Week or the latest trend too closely. But Europe and Europeans seem to be well-dressed for a fact, so seeing the difference in attire after only two weeks of abstinence was hurtful. Slung-over baggie pants, torn, stained shirts – some of the clothes people walk around in here who aren’t even homeless. Where is the fashion sense? I feel that you can certainly find the best-dressed folks here but also the worst-dressed, only which one overtakes the general impression is the question.

People are more selfish here than anywhere else
, I believe. My first day, jetlagged, tired, and just wanting to get back home, was filled with thoughts on people I had surrounded myself with throughout the past one and a half years and who I consider not worthy my attention anymore. After being home in Germany, encountering friends who are actually HAPPY to see me and who greeted me in such a warm manner that I couldn’t help but blink my tears away, I sort of expected a different welcome here. I’m starting to wonder not only which path to take but who to take it with.
Only half a year ago, after not being around sane people for a while, I was increasingly blaming myself for these impressions and I had a hard time dealing with the disappointment of never being able to form close friendships here and never being able to trust someone 100 percent other than myself. But in this first week I was back, I saw it all too clear. I saw the dirt of this city, I saw the hideousness of the people’s personality, I saw the way they interact with each other because they consider themselves not worthy. Their projections of this onto yet another person who is supposed to become angry just to satisfy the deeper needs of their inner sadist.

I don’t know. I guess I don’t have too many good things to say about my first impressions in New York. To me, a city is about its people. Now New York might have many opportunities no other place in this world might have, but it can be a very lonely stay here if you decide to take on those opportunities. It’s a constant competition with everything and everyone around you.

And yet, underneath all of the confusion of a culture shock and readjustment to something I should be used to, underneath all of the pre-judgment, these harsh feelings and disappointed thoughts, underneath this all, I do have hope. A glimmer pushing itself through the darkness and desperation towards the surface. I see people being nice to me for now reason. I see people with a heart and a soul when standing in line at Trader Joes. I see the magic of New York’s random encounters when going out at night. I see the beauty of being able to do whatever you want to do. I see the ultimate freedom you can achieve in a city like this.

And so the overall phrase proves to be true once again: New York has the best of people, New York has the worst of people. Time to make my selections of who I want to surround myself with.