Sunday, May 7, 2017

A year of learning.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve talked, dear friends. I suppose there are always reasons and excuses for my blog silence. But in the end, I have to make sure you all know that I strive to not stress myself out because of a need to conform to expectations of my audience. I am so grateful to know that you are out there, reading this, whoever you may be. But my blog is a safe space for me to express the things that I suppose could also land in a diary – but in a much more structured and articulate way.

What has been going on in my life lately? Well. What a question. The last year has been one of the most developmental parts of my (semi-) adult life. I have learned, grown, changed and finally feel like I have found a place where I am happy. (I’m not talking about a physical place, more of a temporal one.) Before we get into the long story of my journey to this place, let me catch you up on where I currently am and what has inspired me to write this post.

Currently, I’m in a train (omg what a surprise) returning home from a long, successful AFS weekend. It was the Constanze – the national training event for volunteers. For me, however, it was the third of three seminars in the AFS Leadership Fellows course that I participated in. We had spent the past year learning about the possibilities within leadership as well as the ways that we as individuals prefer to lead. It was a group of incredibly inspirational people from whom there was so much to learn! The weekend was full of intense yet educational discussion and friendly snuggles – of course.

It is after weekends like this that I sit and reflect on what I have learned, who I am and what I strive for. And a few of those things are exactly what I want to share with you now. I have had so many experiences to reflect on in the last year.

A new semester:
As usual, the winter semester was in full swing by the middle of October. I was feeling strong and motivated. I was inspired by my friends and enjoyed going to class. There was so much energy in me and so much excitement to be one step closer to my degree. But as the weeks drew on, the fog around me began to grow. I felt like things were going downhill but I couldn’t identify why. I don’t think it was ever caused by one individual factor. By the time the New Year rolled around, I was exhausted from school. I was frustrated, resentful and unhappy – all of which led to a pretty darn miserable time. I had much less time for the boat and was very focused on achieving my academic goals with flying colors – not realistic when combined with all the other influencing factors.
Every semester ends in a stressful and strained few weeks of exams. And this semester was no different. I did not achieve my goals and pass all the exams I wanted to. Instead, I felt like I was surviving and struggling to do the bare minimum.

Although February always tended to be my favorite month (good skiing snow, birthdays of so many friends, spring on the horizon), it was tainted by illness. One stomach bug after cold after period kept me tied to my bed. Even now, I can feel my body struggling because of this phase of pure weakness – by which I mean that I spent so much time recovering that my body grew weaker. The end of the month brought with it the biggest change in the last three years: I moved to Berlin.
There are cities around the world with these incredible reputations of culture and vibrancy. Which is good for those of us who thrive on the bustle of the city. But I do not. I still struggle with the sheer masses of population around me. Both the variety and the commonalities overwhelm me simply because there is no escape. The power of this city is always present. But I began my time in this new subletting the room of a roommate of a friend. I had never seen the place and didn’t know the rest of the people I was living with before the day I moved in. Tired, stressed and vulnerable I started a new life.

My safe space:
As time moved on, I began to carve out my hole in the city. My little world surrounded by the energy of so many dreamers. Mid March I moved into my very own apartment: one room, bath, balcony and built-in kitchen. It takes me 15 minutes to get to work and I feel safe at home. Both emotionally and physically. The first days in my own apartment were a relief but it wasn’t until this last week that I have really begun to thrive. My apartment gives me the space to be alone and be my best me. But my work is the space where my mind can thrive and work in collaboration. I have fallen in love with my job and although there is so much to learn, I finally feel at home. I am challenged and supported; I am learning and teaching; I am creating something exciting that I am not doing out of a sense of responsibility but out of a pure desire to do so.

And what have I learned? I have learned that I am myself and no one else. And the most important part of that is that I am the only one who has any say on if I ever change who I am. There will always be people around you who judge or critique you. But do you? There will be people who want you to change. But do you want to? You are the only one who can live your life and are the only one who needs to be happy with the way that you live it. We are not on this world to hurt others but also not necessarily to support others. I believe that by being our best selves we can come together to create the best world for each of us.

If there is one thing I hope I never forget, it is that I am so thankful for the experience I have with the billions of people with whom I share this earth. But in the end, my own mind is the one that I fall asleep next to. And we must get along.

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