The little value of money

If there was one thing I learnt since having moved to Berlin – it would be that money really has very little value. Where I come from, many get caught up in their pursuit for money. After all, more money means more luxury.

Since moving, I’ve noticed that the priorities of people here are different. It’s all about what makes them happy, or what makes the community happy. In fact, the poorer the people, the more generous they are.

When I got a little raise / stopped being underpaid, it was a conscious effort to remind myself not to be stingy. What good is money if you only know how to spend it on yourself? The more generous I got, the richer I felt. I paid for a round of drinks because I felt like the company was lovely. I got the homeless chap a little snack because he deserves a break sometimes. I brought more food to parties because why not. I bought us CDs because the artists we like deserve to get paid too (and Spotify just doesn’t do that).

And I did wonder: If I won a million bucks, what would I do with the money?

I think I’d take some non-paid leave, send my family over, enjoy some fresh air together. I’d like some sunshine on my face. I’d like to go to the countryside and ride some horses (till I run out of money then I just pat them). I don’t know if there’s much more that I’d like to do, apart from have more free time with the ones I love. I’d gladly cook for them.

Of course, we all need money to survive. But dear readers, if you are in pursuit of money, I hope you know what you really are looking for.

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Watch you grow

Have you ever watched yourself grow?

Trust me; it’s possibly one of the best feelings in the world.

I’ve been reading The Happiness Project and while I think it’s a far cry from a very exciting book I completed just before, it did teach me one thing: it’s absolutely fundamental to sit back and reflect your behaviour – all the good, bad and ugly.

Often, of course, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We think we’re fat when we aren’t, we think we’re old when we hit 30, and we think true love falls from the tree and all bad behaviour means the relationship is falling apart. Myths. That’s what they are.

I constantly realise (without reminding myself) that I’m having the best time of my life right now, and it just keeps getting better.

I used to walk when completing a 2.4km sports test in school and struggle to reach my toes, but now I encourage others to join me in the 5.5km company run and am surprisingly flexible thanks to yoga.

I am a city girl who’s used to luxury and being driven around, but now I grab my backpack and trek into the woods without a problem.

I used to fear dark dodgy corners but now I keep my head up high.

I don’t dread getting older because I feel my age.

I used to hate speaking in German to my own husband but now I don’t think twice speaking in German to him, or his friends, or his colleagues.

And, the best part is – I used to dread work and look forward to the end of the day, while I now actually like that it’s a part of my day.

Feeling awesome isn’t about waiting for that one rare lottery moment that strikes you, but giving yourself credit for the effort you have put in to make yourself better.

Perhaps I hadn’t “peaked” early. And of course these moments can also be fleeting, but it’s important to remind yourself while you’re at it – that life can be pretty damn awesome sometimes.

Bang bang boom

I had one of those well-packed weekends – it came and went.

I had invited a friend over for dinner on Friday, took a long walk with another friend on Saturday morning, visited another at her place in the afternoon and spent my Sunday on a day trip in Szczecin with others.

I literally had to speed-bake on Saturday morning, race to point A with my bike and my fingers pink from the cold, spend some good time, race back with the bike, try to catch my breath, and race to point C.

We also took the train early on Sunday morning, way earlier than I was used to. On the way back, I sat next to a friendly man, as we conversed at ease in German.

In retrospect, I think I’m doing relatively well, living without H in Berlin. I’m filling up my weekends and I’m working on my German.

I truly enjoyed the weekend. It’s not that I was guilty that I had fun without him. I didn’t. I knew he wanted me to have fun here and create my own Berlin life.

But somehow, while I was thrilled to meet friends and have a good time with them, I still cannot shake off the feeling of knowing it would be just so much better if H was here. H makes everything way more fun without realising it.

If only the next 8 weeks would go by as swiftly as the weekend did.

Culture Shock and Living With It

Last weekend I travelled west to Stuttgart for an assessment center, which took place on Monday and Tuesday. Okay, so I didn’t get the job, but it was an amazing experience, where I got to meet lots of like-minded (i.e. business-minded and high-achieving) Germans and just not through S.

It was nice to be reminded that I am also a qualified person, I also seek many high-achieving dreams like these people, and my German was truly conversational. I could understand 95% of the time, and could respond in a way where my grammar was off and on right, but completely understandable. And I didn’t have to nudge S to say, hey what did he just say? Well, he couldn’t be there at that very spot with me, though he did do the big trip with me.

The city was also beautiful and quaint, with (very) German-styled architecture, yet with the view of the mountains and rivers. Apart from that, I would say the city is more similar to Singapore. The cars were fancy, the roads were clean, the people were rich and career-driven.

Returning to Berlin was a little strange. There I was, back in the capital of this country, and then I hunched back and returned into my comfort zone of jeans and sneakers. Then I went to class and met with artists (painters, directors, photographers) and spoke to people 10 years younger than me, or 20 years older than me, with their dreams of making it in Berlin – the fellow jobseekers.

The buildings are grey but the city still sparkled in an unconventional way – and it’s strange to still find it unconventional. It should be conventional now that I see it every day for seven months. It’s the city where rules aren’t rules.

It’s interesting now that I can really foresee living in both cities, it would be perfectly okay. It used to be just a catchphrase, a way to sound cool. I don’t know where I’ll be in a few months. I don’t know where I’ll live in a few years. It depends on so many things – my career for example would play a huge role. But it is a good feeling to truly be at peace with myself and say, it’s true. I can foresee myself living in a different city.

From LDR to LT (Living Together)

Having spent two years in a long distance relationship, you’d think that life is a bed of roses when you dramatically slow-jog into each other’s arms, and passionately kiss each other like each day is your last.

Not quite.

To be honest, I spent the first month getting used to living with the love of my life. Nobody said it was easy – We’ve both been warned (just days before living together) that cohabiting could make or break you. I mean, are you really sure you love the person enough to be able to stand being around them all the time? To see them and their habits in their natural habitat?

I told myself, of course – we’ve spent 24 hours X 14 days together before. I already know him. This should be no different. But it is.

In the first month, I had gone through an emotional roller coaster ride, on both sides of the spectrum. But then we weren’t on holiday anymore, and we have our lives to run. We can’t be spending every minute with each other (as we would while visiting each other during the LDR phase), and we can’t always be 100% loving as if one of us were leaving.

Having said that, one month later, I think we’re in a really good place. We’ve figured a routine that works for both of us, and we have our own lives to lead now. My social life is still not as stable as his (not in a comparative way, but living in a new city does make creating a social circle a little tough) but we’re figuring it out.

We’ve finally both understood how to savour the moments of being together while still being able to give each other space, in this same apartment we both call home, to do what we have to do.

This did take work. We’ve talked about it, debated about it, (I’ve) cried over it, and now for the past few weeks since his return (he spent 2 weeks away for work), I’ve never felt happier!

Last night we had dinner in front of the TV, switching between shows I like to watch and shows that he likes to watch. (They are different.) Then he put on some great music, ready to complete some reading he needed to do, while I needed to study for a test today. But the music was great and his dancing feet triggered a chain reaction, and we danced like it was the 80’s. Finally we put everything away while he read on the coach, and I sat on the floor by the coffee table.

It was some kind of bliss!

Wenig ist mehr (less is more)

Wenig ist wirklich mehr.

I find myself following more and more closely to this line these days, there’s so much truth to it, I’m not sure why it isn’t an actual equation.

It works in almost every case I can think of. With fashion, the floral suit from top to toe doesn’t work, but the plain top and floral pants are to die for. Diamonds from top to toe is actually an eyesore, but one sparkly rock on the finger and everyone’s talking!

With friends, it’s the small group discussions that get it going deep. It’s the few that really get you, that really care about what your life has been up to. And not the ones that say “how’s it going” without caring for the answer.

With work, it’s in the emails. I try to keep them short and sweet as much as possible, going straight to the point. I hate lengthy emails that basically tell me one thing. I mean, yes we all care for courtesy but too much is not worth my time.

With love, the fewer hours spent together, the greater it feels when you are actually together. I’m beginning to really see that now. T-91 hours.

Hopefully I can apply that to packing this Friday night. Challenge accepted…

(Errr honey, I’m gonna need to use your toothpaste, soap, towel, t-shirt…)

Long Distance Relationship (eine scheiße Situation)

This is one horrible situation to be in. This blog has not barely enough rantings about it.

In fact, I can’t tell if I’m just usually moody and cranky, or this has made me crankier/moodier than before.

It’s one thing to be apart from the love of your life. It’s another to not know when you will see each other again, when the long distance part of the relationship will end, particularly when you come from two different places with a reasonably comfortable life in your respective homes.

(Disclaimer: I suppose this has somewhat become increasingly common these days. I suppose while it’s rant-worthy and a lot tougher than couples just spending time apart knowing they’ll be back together again in their same country, it isn’t as tough as how military wives feel. Much respect to them.)

When you put long distance relationships on Google search, you read about how to keep the fire burning, how to put jealousy docked at bay, how to set boundaries, how to keep it going. But you don’t realize the emotional rollercoaster it takes you on.

I’ll admit that four years ago, when I first met S, I never thought I would ever do LDRs, though I was insanely infatuated by him. When I met him again two years later, I was still insane about him but I harboured no hope. And then things happened, and we’ve been together since. I’ll also admit that I love telling this story over and over, because it really is a great story to tell, in excruciating detail. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Then you spend months apart and decide that it’s been too long. You decide you have to see each other again. You count down for ages to that very day you will be with your sweetheart again. And you do. And it’s amazing. You spend every moment indulging in the present, happy to wake up the next day and still see him there. But then you worry about the next separation.

And it comes, of course. Your lives are separate.

When it comes, it crashes hard. You sob and bawl, you think your life is messed up. You don’t know why you put yourself in this situation. You go your separate ways (physically) and you don’t know when you will see each other again.

You wonder how you ever made it through life without that person because now it seems like an impossible task. You struggle to find your backbone, to stand tall alone, to be independent, to not need somebody lying by your side at night.

And you will. You will get used to it; you will stand tall.

Of course, the cycle repeats. You are still insanely in love, you struggle to find the next best opportunity to meet. You do, and it’s amazing. Then somebody leaves and it sucks. You’re taken away from your paradise again. You start to wonder if the three words mean anything. Words are just words. If you don’t put in enough effort, you can’t find the warmth and the love in them. It’s just cold and flat – just letters of the alphabet strung together – for what? To pretend they’re the warmth of a hug or the tenderness of a kiss? Or the light a smile brings to the room?

LDR makes you question a lot of things. Google was wrong, it is not about questioning the fidelity. It makes you question a lot more – yourself, your partner, your beliefs.

Through this relationship, I’ve learnt that most of the advice on the Internet has been crap, because as a couple, you will set your own rules. You don’t need to talk everyday, or tell each other every single detail happening in your life. You don’t need to get all the technology that allows you to text and pretend they’re with you. Often, many of these advice also forget time difference, or the fact that both of you may have jobs.

I just have two advice, if you absolutely, definitely have to be in a LDR:

  1. Set your own rules.
  2. Plan a forseeable end to the LD in LDR.

die Fremde (the stranger)

Lately I’ve been feeling like a stranger in my own country, in my own home. How did that happen?

Everything is familiar, sure. I could walk around with no sense of direction and still find what I wanted to find. But still, something is just wrong.

While things are familiar, they’re not necessarily comfortable. I’m not content. I know I’ve experienced the feeling of bliss and comfort altogether, and I’ve been unable to find it here. And I know where to get it. I know who is in that scene in my head. I just don’t know when or how to get there.

To top it off, I’ve a growing (accidental) list. A list of things that other people are doing differently from how S would. Because of the distance and the unfixed time we’ll see each other again, I like to imagine what he would do if he was here. It makes me feel better because I know how he would react. And he would do a lot of things differently – and to me (but maybe not to you), they’re different in a better sense.

Sure, perhaps all these are pushing me to reject my surroundings. But sometimes I like to give my surroundings a chance, and I feel like the rejection is mutual.

Is it possible to be growing increasingly misfitting to your environment? Can you feel like you don’t belong in a place you’ve been all your life?

Quote

“Take a job that you love. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”
– Warren Buffett

What a line.

Video

Fun – Carry On

In lieu of the recently discovered misery, I currently face a lack of many words.

Nevertheless, today I felt alive for the first time in a while. It was a day I did only the things that I wanted to do, and it felt good.

Last night, my cousin went to Fun’s concert, and called me when this song was playing. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or not, but then I got the message loud and clear.

If you’re lost and alone or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May the past be the sound of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Thanks, babe.