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.

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?

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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!

Close your eyes…

… for a moment and let the week pass in your mind.
What were you working on?
What kept you the busiest?
Who have you met?
What have you talked about? 

I was quite shocked a couple of months ago when a pedagogy professor told me that in their entire school career, students don’t spend more than twenty minutes talking to their teachers outside of class.
Conversations that don’t revolve around grades or the lessons are rare.

And yet they are so needed. 

Every day, every week, we have full schedules that send us all around and keep us busy. At work, with our friends, at home, at church – we always have our role to play, our mask to put on.
We do so much, but when is there time to just be? When can we drop the masks and be ourselves? 

As human beings, we are made for connnection, and yet we take so little time to create and cultivate it.
Those times when we are truly ourselves, when we tear down the walls that life and lies have built around our hearts.
Those talks that make us sigh and breathe deep because something inside us has just been released.
Those moments when we know that there is something bigger and higher that ties us all together inextricably. 

In response, a colleague and I started to offer interviews for our students. A moment when we would meet – no longer teacher and students, just two people – to talk about life outside of school, future plans, netflix shows and hobbies. I was nervous at first because I didn’t know how students would respond to this new form of talking. 

The fifteen minutes time slots we had allocated per interview were almost always exceeded. There was just too much to talk, think and laugh about. I was left wondering, smiling and immensely grateful for the glimpses I was allowed in someone else’s life and sweet moments of connection. 

Create connection today. 

Call a long lost friend.
Take a minute to ask more than the obligatory “How are you?”.
Smile at a stranger.
Be bold and take the first step in sharing something personal. What you’ll get in return will be worth it. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Hidden in the Crowds


On Monday morning at 8 a.m., summer break was over. Six weeks of freedom and rest and quietness had come to an end.

What people outside the teaching profession don’t know: Going back to school after the big break is like turning a switch. Within one minute you go from silence to full-on noise, from solitude to crowded hallways, from rest to total chaos.

One hour in and you feel like the holidays are already light years away.

This week has been hard.
Sore feet, messed up brain, tired soul.
All I could feel, when I feel into bed at night, was exhausted.
That’s not all what I want to feel. This can’t be it.

When we are stressed, we often lose focus and overlook the really important things.

In the midst of our busyness, there are these little moments of joy.
In the hectic of our task-driven lives, there are these beautiful encounters of human connection.
In the sea of faces, there are these special people who stand out in the crowd and surprise you.
Beyond the endless to- do lists there’s the gift of Sabbath and the promise that we are not what we do.

This is it.
This is what I want to learn in this new crazy year ahead of me:
Watch out for the essentials.
Pay attention to what’s hidden in the crowds.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

This Is Not What My Life Was Supposed to Be Like (On Turning Thirty)

I turned thirty last week – a time to look back and reflect on the big things in life. 

I distinctly remember the first day at university, when I walked around campus and saw students dipping their feet into the fountains at The Square. They sat together in little groups, laughed about something and obviously enjoyed their life. I was twenty-one and had just moved to the city to open yet another chapter in my life’s story. 

And I remember imagining what the next few years would look like: I would complete my studies quickly and then move abroad for work. I would meet new people and we’d be the best of friends who make embarrassing and beautiful memories that would last forever. I would find a handsome guy and we’d get married until we started our own family around thirty. Together we would roam this planet, always in search of our next adventure. I would say later that my twenties were the best years of my life. 

Fast forward a couple of years.

Even though I was never really sure if I wanted to be a teacher, I discovered that I enjoy teaching very much and I might stay a while. So I still live in Germany, have become a full-fledged teacher and just moved into my first ‘grown-up’ apartment. I own a dishwasher and seem to be really settled.
I have graduated from university with a lot of effort and good grades, but all of this had its price. After my finals I had a burnout because I hadn’t taken care of myself. In times when I needed them the most, I had to say goodbye to a few dear friends and learn that some relationships are not meant to last.
There have been countless weddings I have attended and many happy moments when I rejoiced with friends and their kids, but with the years I couldn’t help but wonder why I am still alone. Nor the fear of always being on my own.
I have walked through the valley with friends and had to let go of seemingly strong foundations. I wrestle with questions and doubts why and how I can live my faith in this complex world.

No, this is not what my life was supposed to be like. 

As I take a walk down memory lane, different images flash before my inner eye. 

The many packed bags and suitcases that carry us from one apartment to the next and accompany us from one continent to a completely different culture. A symbol for the tension of having no real home and longing for the world that’s lingering inside of me. 

The five of us squeezed into too small cars or way too little motorbikes riding through the African jungle. Sleeping in tiny rooms and having improvised breakfasts on hotel beds. The many days and nights when we come together from all over, holding our bellies from laughing so hard and forgetting that we’re all adults by now. No matter how scattered we are: It’s always us five against the world. 

The delayed flight to Johannesburg where my twenty-year old self lives away from my family for the first time. I am culturally challenged, but gain a better understanding of myself as a TCK and my role in this world. 

Sweet memories of late nights with study friends watching movies, cycling around town and discovering what food can do for a person’s soul. 

The tiny bundle of fluff who made me a godmother and grew into such a brave, funny, intelligent boy. I can hear his chuckling laugh long after I have to leave again. 

All those weekends with my TCK family that leave all of us physically exhausted but emotionally filled to the brim. Because it’s exactly this: We have become family; people who share similar experiences and honest questions about home, identity and belonging. 

The breathtaking beauty of canyons, oceans and landscapes in all the countries I was lucky enough to travel. I have swum in all the seven seas, overcame my fear of water to go diving and climbed mountains. I got to live with people from all across the world and discovered that they are the real adventure. 

The first TCK conference I attended completely clueless only to be blessed by people who took me under their wings and taught me about the vastness and beauty of the TCK world. Together we have pulled off quite a few conferences and learned from experts all across Europe. 

What started out as a temporary student job became an unexpected learning experience when I ended up organizing a congress for several thousand people and was surprised how much responsibility people trusted me with. 

I have come to understand the necessity of saying No which enables me to say Yes to the right things and invest my time, thoughts and money into causes that really matter. I learn to treasure the beauty of admitting, “I don’t know.” 

I have learned to take better care of myself and open my eyes for the many blessings already out there. God was and is bigger than my concepts, questions and doubts. When I pay attention to it, I am overwhelmed by mundane gifts and the faithfulness of old companions. 

In times when saying goodbye to friendships and much-loved beliefs became really painful, I discovered writing as a helpful way to reflect and process. Many people blessed me with their encouragement and comments on-and offline, but I never imagined that my writing would end up in a book. 

I sense for the first time what it means to settle down at one place for a while and create a home – a feeling unknown, yes even forbidden, for a TCK. I meet the right people at the right time who challenge me to take risks, to stay and rest, to give something of myself. I can talk to friends who feel the same and we wait in this uncertainty together.

Why do I write these things? I don’t want to brag about myself and everything I have achieved. No, these stories are a reminder for myself to not lament the things I don’t seem to have, but to celebrate that my life has turned out so different from what I imagined it to be all these years ago. 

My life is full.
Full with tasks that challenge and inspire me.
Full with loving, creative and inspiring people who join me along the way and enrich my life with their presence, actions and words. 

My life is deep.
In the midst of my hunger and desires I discover gratitude that brings a new depth to my life. 

My life is rich.
Rich with experiences with and in this world.
Rich with memories of all the necessary steps that have brought me here.
Rich with dreams and excitement for what’s to come. 

My life is a collection of puzzle pieces which challenge me at times, but make everything more colorful, meaningful, beautiful. 

No, this is not what my life was supposed to be like.
But life is good. 

A Summer with No Plans

One and a half weeks until summer break.
While I am really looking forward to six weeks of no schedules, no students and no early mornings, I must admit that I’m also scared.

I’m scared that my to-do list is too full.
I’m worried that I can’t get it all done and will let people down.
I’m afraid that the six weeks will fly by and I’ll have wasted my time with nonsense. 
I need rest so desperately, and yet I somehow don’t know how. 

As I sit down and pour my heart out to you, you take me back to a familiar story.
A tale of two sisters who have a house full of guests and a long list of chores.
While one of them hustles and stresses and runs around, the other one just sits down and listens.

I identify with the hustler and sympathize with the listener, when I hear your voice ringing in my ear and heart:

Don’t do. Just be. 

The truth is so simple.
But sometimes the simple things are the hardest to practice.
I will give it a try this summer.
Thank you.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Is This My Life?

Get up.
Go to work. Teach class after class. Talk to students. Discuss with colleagues.
Go home. Quickly eat something. Grade papers or prepare for the next classes.
Look at all the emails and feel slightly under pressure: When should I do all that?
Fall into bed exhausted.

That’s what my life was like in the last few weeks.
Busy, exhausting, draining.
There’s a routine and I have no choice but to run with it.
So I functioned, but I haven’t really lived.

No matter how long we’ve been on this faith journey, it’s very easy to fall into a routine. Pray.
Go to church.
Say the right things at the right time.
Stay away from all the wrong things and people.
Keep up the facade of the perfect little Christian.
We look good, we function, but we aren’t actually thriving.

I have come to give them life. Life in abundance.

That’s what I cling to in weeks of stress and exhaustion and dullness.
Yes, our lives should have some sort of security and regularity, but it should never pen us in.
There has to be a place where we can be ourselves.
There always has to be space for spontaneity and an element of surprise.
There should always be time to dream.
There should always be time to do nothing at all and rest for a while.
There must always be time to live, live to the fullest.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.