Open Your Door

There was a note in my mailbox yesterday: “You weren’t home when we tried to deliver your package, so we dropped it off at your neighbor’s apartment.”

This happens quite often since mailmen normally show up when I’m at work. What was different, though, was the name on the note.
A neighbor I hadn’t heard of or met yet.

When I rang, nobody answered.
I was already walking further up the stairs when the door opened.
An older man sat there in his wheelchair and invited me in.

I have lived in my apartment for three years, but I have never been in any of my neighbors’ apartments. I roughly know the names, but I haven’t really talked to anyone. Everyone seems to live their own life and is happy to enjoy quiet evenings behind closed doors.

With a heavy accent he told me about his life, how rough things have become after his leg had been amputated some months ago. His wife had died two years ago and the depression had made his whole body suffer. When his granddaughter showed up, they spoke Portuguese. He was sad about the lack of care from so many and yet wanted to enjoy living.

When I left I was deeply touched.
Here’s a story of a man, an individual behind the cold walls of my apartment building. Someone who makes it a bit more alive, more human.
And I wonder who and what else is behind closed doors, everyone with their own stories and problems. Maybe we have to challenge ourselves a bit more to look behind the scenes, to invite others into our homes, into our stories, into our lives.
Often things aren’t as shiny and happy as they seem on the outside – looking at them together might make us more alive, more human.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Why You Should Make Less Money [and Have More Life]

We have just started school last week and I am glad to be back in my routine, back with my students and colleagues. I teach a lot of the same classes with most of the same material in buildings I’m familiar with. There’s a schedule and a curriculum and all that. At the end of the month, there’ll be a pay check.
Same old, same old.

And yet, this year will be a little different.

This last year has really exhausted me. There was too much on the agenda, too many lessons, too much travel and projects on the side. Everything I wanted do for myself was pushed to the future and life seemed to be only about work.
I seemed to function during the week and try really hard to be alive on weekends and the breaks in between, which didn’t always go that well. I struggled with doubt and questions like, “What are you even doing here? Is this what life will always look like?”

Somewhere in between, a thought started to nag me.
What if you could change the way you work? 
What if you could make more time for the things besides your tasks? 

Maybe you feel caught up in the busyness of your life, trapped in people’s (or your own) expectations and long for space to breathe and create.
Maybe you question your work and doubt when and where life will actually happen. Maybe you want to change something and don’t know how.

Can anyone relate?

Rearrange your week
In order to make more time to create, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job and invest every minute in art or whatever you want to pursue. Sometimes it might just take another way to arrange your week.
In one episode of her podcast The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman mentioned a technique I’ve tried out for a couple of months with some surprising results. Creative people who have so many different things on their plates can easily get overwhelmed. We have our jobs, our passions, our projects, our friends and family…and we never seem to have enough time to do it all. Our to-do lists are endless and leave us feeling unaccomplished and unfinished because we’ll never manage all of them in one day.

Emily suggests assigning each day a category of work, may it be chores at home or a passion project or meeting a friend. That way you don’t need to accomplish everything everyday and actually feel like you did something on that day. Whenever emails or requests come in, you can sort them into the day they belong to and don’t allow them to bother you today.
I have tried this method for a while now and it’s really helped me to calm my stress level. The different aspects of my life don’t overwhelm me as much and I have the impression that the actual days have become more productive and creative. 

Live curiously 
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about creative living – which, by the way, has nothing to do with being an artist, a writer, or a rockstar. We are meant to create, to make something of our lives and to discover hidden treasures in our souls. But far too often, we don’t do anything because we’re held back by fear.
Fear of not earning enough money,
of not being good enough,
of not being successful with what we create.
We deny ourselves the joy of creation and discovery because we give in to anxiety (which is often irrational). A sentence that really hit home for me was this:

Let your life be driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
Liz Gilbert

What would change in our lives if we listened to our curiosity some more? If we became more like children sometimes who simply follow their interests instead of necessities, their passions instead of their chores? 

At the beginning of my journey I pushed these thoughts away as foolish desires and utopian fantasies: You can’t just change things, you just don’t do that. 
I wrestled with my own fear and need for financial security and a stable routine:
What if I don’t make enough and will be lost in my week? 
I listened to advice from friends and wise words from those who’ve done it before me:
You might like it and you could always come back. 

And most of all, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling, “I don’t want to regret to not having done it.” What if I wake up with fifty and realize I have functioned all my life, but haven’t really lived?

You can’t create if you don’t try 
The other day I shared my writing ideas with a friend and immediately added, “I’m not sure I should even write about it, maybe no one will read it. Who am I to think I could write something like that?” She listened and then said very firmly, “Why don’t you think you could? You’ve already proven that you can.”

For so many of us, the biggest hindrance towards change is self-doubt. We don’t believe that we have a right to do or say certain things, we hide behind other people who might be better (or pretend to be), we question our place to be here.

Well, it’s not about being always right or becoming famous with our words or deeds, it’s about showing up and giving it a try. It’s about listening to the passions and nudges deep inside of us, uncovering them and having the courage to share them with others. They will always speak to someone – even if it’s just our own timid souls. Or, as the brilliant Liz Gilbert puts it:

You will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try.
Liz Gilbert

So, this is me trying.
When the pay check comes in at the end of the month, there will be less money on it because I chose to work less hours. I have taken a step back from going to work in order to make time for being a work in progress: Listening, creating, wondering. I don’t know if it’ll work out, I don’t know if it’ll be successful – but at the end of the day, I want to be able to say I tried. 

What are some areas or aspects of your life you’d like to have more time for? 
How could you rearrange your week in order to make more time for the individual tasks? 
What keeps you from believing you’re entitled to try? 
What could be a first step towards trying and creating?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today. This goes way beyond the five minutes, but the prompt is START and it felt appropriate to share a writer’s progress.

Would You?

What would you say
if I
decided to come back?
Would you
welcome me
into your open arms?
Would you
embrace me
until I stopped
shaking?
Would you
tell me that
your love
for me
has
never
stopped
no matter
how far away
from you
I had run?
Would you
remind me
that there is
always,
always grace?
Would you
show me
what it means
to love
again,
to be in this relationship,
to believe?
Would you have
faith
for me
when I lose it
yet again?
Would you
reveal new facets about
yourself
to me?
Would you
allow me to find
you,
to know you
again?
Would you
take me by the hand
and walk with me
into this
wide space
in front of us?
Would you
show me how
beautiful
and deep
life with you can be?
Would you
teach me that being with
you
is
was
and will always be
worth it?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Inspired by a story.

For the Wanderers and Wonderers [A Deconstructionist Psalm]

I leave the safe shore behind and wade into the waves.
Through bitterness and hurt I develop critical thinking and courage to not remain silent. I face my fears and name my anger.

I am walking away and I am walking further. And I am wondering when I will arrive.
And if I do, where will I be? 

I ask the uncomfortable questions and sit a long time waiting for the answers.
I live with silence.
I open the boxes that contain my knowledge about You, the facts and stories I have been taught over the years, the things I no longer am sure of.
I take them in my hands, one by one, turn them over and examine them from all angles.
I sift through the mess that is my heart to get to the real emotions hiding in the corners.

I let go of what doesn’t carry me anymore, of false assumptions, of too small ideas of You. I reach out to others in the wilderness and enjoy our honest conversations for once.
I embrace a bigger picture, a bigger You, a bigger love.

I am walking away and I am walking further. And I am wondering when I will arrive.
And if I do, where will You be? 

I can’t deny that this journey has been painful and exhausting.
What happens after letting go?
What do I do with the remains of my faith?
I wonder if I will ever get to a point when I’ll feel whole again.
When the broken pieces have been reconstructed and transformed into something stronger and more beautiful than imagined.
When I have developed new ways to find You, to believe in You.

I am walking away and I am walking further. And I am wondering if this is what I’m meant to be – a wanderer, a wonderer, a person completely herself. A traveler who knows deep in her heart that You are the only constant on this journey. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Life Lessons

It’s been quiet around here. Maybe a bit too quiet.
I was shocked to see that I hadn’t written anything since May, but well…life happened. This school year, I took on an extra Erasmus+ project which allowed me to travel all across Europe and gave me access to historic sites, well-connected people and great learning experiences. On the other hand, it also kept me away from my life at home and time to practice my writing.

Last Friday was the last day of school and there are six weeks of no agenda and to-do-lists ahead of me.
I can’t believe how much I need this right now.

In the last lesson I asked my students what they have learned about the world, each other and themselves this year. So they wrote down facts and skills they have taken away from my class.

But what have I learned this year?

Never stop learning.
As a teacher, your job is mainly to rearrange complex facts into learning tasks and smaller steps. It is quite easy that you forget to be a learner yourself, to take time to really dig into a topic and experience that satisfaction when you comprehend something new. The project I was in taught me a lot about history and the value of modern democracy. It felt so good to be somewhere new and to discover things I hadn’t heard about before.

Self-care has to be a priority. 
It was probably my busiest year yet because I had so many things going on on the side. On the calendar it looked like a few trips and appointments that would be manageable – being in the midst of them sometimes felt like hell. There were several days when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s been a few years since my beakdown and I never wanted to let it come that far again. Well, it was close. I need to take better care of my time and allow enough moments of rest in between.

People are life’s greatest adventure. 
This year has been a lot about people. The material and schedules become less important as I grow aware of my students’ lives, personalities and challenges. In one class, students were really open and allowed me glimpses into their thoughts and emotions, which is an immeasurable gift I’ll treasure forever. I was lucky to travel a lot with the same group of students and got to know them beyond the school context. This has been enriching and life-giving.

This life is about you. So who do YOU want to be? 
However, I can’t deny that people can be exhausting and draining your energy. You give so much and often receive so little in return. If your emotional tank is depleted it can become frustrating, and sometimes I found myself angry and disappointed by so little feedback or gratitude. I discovered how much I depend on people’s appreciation and recognition. Don’t we all want to be seen and feel like we matter? I began to compare myself to friends and colleagues who seemed to be so much better and so much more loved (which is a lie, but your mind can go crazy if you don’t monitor your emotions). I had to confront my own neediness and feelings of envy – and I’m glad to have some friends who called me out on it and reminded me of the really important things in life: it’s not about the others, this is about you. Who are you and what kind of person do you want to be?

Screenshot_Instagram_20190804-174306~2.png

Find your people and share yourself with them. 
When things get tough and life tosses you around, surround yourself with people who remind you of truth in the midst of lies and light in the darkness. Be brave to share yourself with others, the good and especially the rough parts, and allow them to love you either way.

Make space at the table. 
Even though it hurts when your work goes unnoticed, I don’t want it to stop me from being generous. Instead of letting bitterness settle in my heart, I want to look out for the beauty around me and speak it. I want to notice people’s service and applaud it. I want to pull others from the shadows into the light where everybody is welcome and everyone is seen.

There was one field on the evaluation form that allowed students to leave comments. Many left it blank, but a few wrote things that warmed my heart:
“You’re a great teacher.”
“Thank you for being so patient with us.”
“Thank you for all the opportunities you gave us this year.”
“I will miss you.”

Life is probably only as dark as the way you choose to look at it and people can surprise you if you allow them to. Here’s to a beauty-filled summer break ahead!

What have you learned this year? I would love to hear from you! 


It’s been a while since I joined my friends at Five Minute Friday. Kate celebrates her five year anniversary of hosting this writing family this week – come and join the party!

My People.

So what is culture anyway?

It is the relationship between a country on the map and its people?
Is it the languages we speak or the food we eat?
Is it our skin color or the nationality in our passport?
Is it the rules we follow or the beliefs we hold?
Is it the way we see the world?

These factors might not tell so much about culture, but actually more about the boxes we like to sort ourselves and others into and our us vs. them mentality.

So what is culture anyway?

Memories come to mind of returning to my passport country and feeling totally lost even though I looked the part and spoke the language.
That weekend so long ago when I met other third culture kids for the first time and felt at home straight away.
All the jokes you don’t have to explain.
Your story that is celebrated and accepted without questions or remarks.
That feeling of being understood even though you haven’t said a word.
So many conversations that blew my mind when people took me to places and thoughts I had never imagined.
The questions you asked and then you’d stare into the starry night sky together, wondering whether you’d ever receive an answer.
That certainty when you know that your heart and doubts and questions would be held well by those who love you still.
All those moments around a table or in the middle of nowhere when we could be our multicultural, mixed up and colorful selves. 

These are my people.
This is my culture.

What is yours? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today (even on a Tuesday).
Photo Credit: Edgar Castrejon (Unsplash)

Make Your Words Count

When I was still in school, my German teacher would always tell me I didn’t write enough. While others put down eight, ten or even eighteen pages at times, I was done after three to five pages. And yet, I managed to say what I meant and was able to score good grades nevertheless.

How many words does it take to say enough?

We probably all know people in classrooms, meetings or conferences that keep on rambling even though everything important has already been in their first few sentences. They just keep repeating themselves, but more words doesn’t always mean more content.

Make your words count.

And then there are times when we just can’t say enough about something so beautiful, breathtaking, delicious, amazing. We just need ot use our words to remind ourselves and others of the wonders this world has to offer and not everything is as dark as it seems. Our words can uplift, encourage and create.

Make your words count.

And sometimes words fail us. We experience things that don’t need words. Suffering that words cannot fathom, darkness that swallows our every thought, questions too big to put into coherent sentences. All we can do is to be silent and bear witness to what is happening.

Let your Yes be a Yes and your No be a No.
Make your words count.


This is part of the Hopewriters Spring Writing Challenge. But incidentally, it also fits nicely to today’s prompt on Five Minute Friday. Come write with us!