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?


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!

[#write31days] Day 28 Set Yourself Boundaries

Welcome to Day 28 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

Okay people, it’s time to face our worst enemy. The one person we can’t get away from. Ourselves.
How do we take care of ourselves and set the needed boundaries?

Listen to Your Body
The reason why so many people suffer from burnouts and lacking boundaries is because these ‘illnesses’ are unseen for a long time.
We know we’ll be coming down with a flu when our throat starts itching and our nose running.
We know we’re seriously hurt when we feel pain or see blood.
How do we know that our soul is hurting? 
It often takes a long time for us to notice that something’s wrong, so we need to take our body serious. Our outside mirrors what is inside, the good and the bad.
So listen to what it has to tell you.
And then take action.

Whenever I get up in the morning (most of the time it’s way too early) I always look forward to going back to bed at night.
Sleep is one of the best inventions ever. 17d No better cure for heavy legs or a headache.
No better way to rest.
No better resource to restore the energy I need every day.
So don’t cheat yourself out of these precious hours of sleep. Don’t survive on five or six hours when you could really use eight. A rested body will get you through a busy day; it will be a good foundation for your restless soul and mind. 

A body can’t survive on nothing. We need sustenance to keep going, we need regular exercise to keep in shape.
When life gets stressful we cut things. Less appointments, less time for everything. And somehow we never have enough time to eat, so we either don’t eat at all or stuff ourselves with junk food because it’s available.
We’re not supposed to survive on junk. Eating is more than stuffing ourselves with food, it is taking care of ourselves and treating ourselves by picking and preparing what we eat.

Especially in the last two years I discovered how much I love cooking. Trying out new recipes with new spices or crazy looking ingredients. There are amazing flavors out there and it would be sad to just stay within the ordinary.
Most of all, though, I love cooking for and with people. Creating something new together and sharing more than a meal. We share life and a bit of ourselves. We’re all stuffed afterwards – with food, with joy, with hope, with beautiful friendship.

Fill Up Your Account

Taking care of yourself is more than food and sleep. Life and its challenges withdraws from our account day in and day out, so we need to make sure we fill up our account.
Even though our calendars might be full already, we need to make sure that not all of these appointments only withdraw from our account. Balance them out with appointments that deposit something in our account. 


Make appointments to have coffee with a friend once a week.
Some time when you can share what’s going on, what you struggle with, assure each other that you don’t walk alone.

Take an hour for a walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Go to the gym or for a run to get some stress relief in the midst of all the thinking you’ve got to do.
Make sure you book your vacation and don’t just let it go by.

Don’t be afraid to explore new things, get to know yourself a bit better. Find out what fills up your account, even if it’s unusual. Pick up a new hobby or revive an old one. Don’t settle until you find something that gives you rest. True rest for your mind, body, soul and spirit.

Don’t Fight Alone 
It’s never easy breaking out of old habits and establishing new ones. Some statistics say it takes three weeks of practice to do something new. These weeks can be tough and we often give up because we feel we’re all alone out there.
But we’re not.
If you decide to set boundaries and take better care of yourself, make sure to take people with you. Ask friends to walk with you, encourage you, pray for you.
Maybe you’ll even find some others who have gone through similar things, learn from their experiences. Meet others with the same challenges to exchange ideas and uplift each other.
Be accountable to others. Allow them to ask how things are going and challenge you to keep going. They are not there not control or punish you, but isn’t it nice to have cheerladers along the way as you start this new journey? 🙂

Take a look at your schedule. Do you have appointments in there that will deposit something into your account or only withdrawals? Is there anything you could do to find more rest for yourself? 
I dare you to explore something new this week, no matter how small it may be. Cook a new recipe, invite some friends over and experience the blessing of fellowship.