Why It’s Important to Push Each Other

It’s almost a year since I moved to this new city. Quite a crazy idea – moving during the school year when your head is definitely not in the game of making new friends and settling in somewhere. Well, sometimes work forces you to do crazy things.

A lot has happened in this almost year. 
I now know more than the way to work and the grocery store. I actually stumbled across some real beauty in my own neighborhood.
I have survived my first year of teaching and just started my second one. And I still like it. (Good because otherwise I might have a problem with my career choice…)
I have written a book which was launched two weeks ago. This is still a whirlwind of emotions and I’m enjoying every minute of this ride.

I have found people who support me.

Colleagues who have welcomed me in and made me feel part of the team. Some of them have already become friends.
Creative minds who cheered for me when I signed the book contract and encouraged me to be brave with my words.
Dear friends from near and far who have overwhelmed me with their pictures about the book, cheerful posts and warm words.
Faithful souls who have prayed and believed for me when I couldn’t.

There’s no material value in support, no visible product in the end. 
But our support can mean the world to someone else. 
A word of encouragement in tough times.
A hug.
A celebration for each other’s accomplishments.
An hour of your time.
It’s like the wind in our sails that pushes us forward on this ocean of life. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
And sorry for being absent these last few weeks. I had a book to launch… 🙂

No, You’re Not

Moving to a new city and starting a new job (the first real job ever) is quite an interesting thing. During the week I am incredibly busy preparing lessons and teachings, countless meetings and admin work.
But then there are the weekends or breaks when my schedule is empty and I have some room to breathe. It is in the quiet times when I realize how abandoned I am. Continue reading “No, You’re Not”

I Wish Someone Had Told Me This A Year Ago

It sounded so familiar.

“I am overwhelmed by everything, there is so much to do and I am so exhausted.”
” I feel like I am not good at anything anymore. Teaching is really hard and I am not sure I can do it.”
” Is it ever going to get better?”

Honest words from friends who just started teaching. They are full of exhaustion, questions, despair.
They could’ve easily been a replay of my own mind and heart just a few short months ago when I felt the exact same.
I was lost in the sea of new experiences and tasks.
I was overwhelmed by the challenges a new job brings.
I was exhausted by the new schedules that were so far from my own rhythms.
I was anxious that this would never end and I wouldn’t ever feel okay again until I retired.

Most of us have been in the situation of starting a new job. No matter if you’re a teacher or a doctor or an accountant – it’s a major step in your life and doesn’t go by without any side effects.
We struggle with new schedules and tasks. We get to know a lot of new things and people. We worry how our future will look like.

A year later I have to say that it does in fact get better.
It’s different now.
The journey from there to here wasn’t easy and took a lot of growing up.
Often, growth just takes a bit of time. But as I look back I sometimes wish that someone had come alongside me and told me a few things. Not to make everything easy, but to help me understand what was happening.

Starting a Job Is a Big Deal
When you get engaged, people congratulate you. But they also give you advice: “This is a big deal, you should take a preparation course. There’s books and premarital counseling.”

When you announce you’re pregnant, people congratulate you. But they also dish out well-meant advice and tips: “A kid will change your life forever, you should take a course. There’s books and classes.”

Life is marked by changes and transitions. Marriage or children remind us that we cannot just be the same, that we actually need to evolve and grow. That we sometimes need to lose ourselves when we’re pulled up and replanted into a completely new environment. That we need to rediscover ourselves once in a while and add new features to the old self.
Changes in life mold and strengthen us.
And it’s good to know about it and prepare for it because these changes certainly don’t come without a good deal of pain and questions and hardships.

Well, what about when you start your first job ever? When you leave behind the flexible schedule of university and submit to a routine you can’t alter? When you become independent from your parents’ or state support and need to take care of bills, insurance etc.? When you’re under pressure to do a job well because your next paycheck depends on it?
Starting a job is a big change as well.  No, you don’t have a new partner. No, there’s no child waiting for your attention. But you still cannot remain the same. So yes, it’s a big deal and you should expect challenges during the transition.

Get to Know the New ‘Culture’
I have lived in several countries and interacted with different cultures. What actually happens during such a transition?
Moving to a different country is definitely exciting as you get to experience different climate, food, languages and people. This is the ‘honeymoon phase’ when everything’s new and exciting. Take it all in and enjoy.

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There’s no fixed time, but after a while the novelty wears off and you get a peek into real life in a new culture. Things begin to annoy you, people are suddenly unnerving, and you start to miss things from home. This is the ‘depression phase’ when you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. You’ve been pulled up from your familiar place and replanted into completely new soil. Instead of excitement there’s anger and doubt and fear. All you want to do is leave.

But as you fight and struggle through the strangeness of this new life you begin to realize that you are still the same. That you can actually survive in this new environment. That people are okay and can teach you something. That it’s worthwhile to incorporate new elements into your culture. This is the ‘resettlement phase’ when all the hardships have paid off and actually led to growth in a new place.

Entering the working world is like entering a new culture. You’re still in the same country, you still speak the same language. Yet, you’re completely lost in this new environment. You have no idea how to be and behave in this new culture, the work culture. So don’t underestimate this process and rather treat it as a cultural transition. This discovery alone moved worlds for me last year because it made the following process much easier.

Take Your Time
When you move into a different culture you wouldn’t expect to be all settled in within a few weeks. Why would you expect that you could adjust to a completely new lifestyle that fast? photo-1445109673451-c511bb51bd17
Take your time to get to know the new culture and how you’re supposed to act in it. Observe how people interact and deal with things. Pay attention to the little tricks here and there that might make a big difference. Don’t judge but be willing to learn something new. Open yourself up to new people and experiences.

Allow your emotions to run high and admit that things just suck sometimes.
Permit yourself to feel lost and to make mistakes at first. No one is perfect from the start.
Take things step by step. Celebrate the little victories and move on to bigger things.
Focus on tomorrow, not next week.

Seek Help
Thousands of people have made the transition into work before, they just sometimes forget to tell us about it. Things have become so natural for them that they don’t remember how hard it was at first.
Asking for help is no sign of weakness. Often it takes just one brave person who’s willing to share how things really look like that helps others to share as well. We’re stronger together, so don’t try to keep up a straight face when all you feel is lost.
Seek the company of people who are in similar situations because they’re the only ones who know how you truly feel. Friends where you don’t have to explain or justify a whole lot.
But don’t stop there. Spend time with people outside your ‘job bubble’ to get your mind off things. Don’t allow your mind to be stuck in the ever-running/condemning spiral of ‘I still have so much work to do.’

Fight for Rest
Settling into a new culture is exhausting in every aspect. I never imagined that I would be physically tired from meeting so many new people. Similarly to babies who are worn out by getting to know the world, it takes a lot of mental and physical energy to learn new names and strategies. Our body has to adjust to new sleeping/working/eating patterns and this takes its toll.

17d

So don’t expect that you can just continue like before. Allow your body time to adjust and give it the rest it needs.
Sleep well and enough.
Eat well.
Plan your time well, so that you actually have time to rest after all the work.
Schedule in time slots when it’s all about rest. This can be very active. Find an activity that takes your mind off work and refocuses you on the really important things in life.
This really is a fight, but if you lose it or put it off (‘I can rest later’) you’ll eventually be too burned out to do anything at all.

Focus on the Truth 
There will always be people who are better at their job. There will always be colleagues who are ahead of you. There will always be others who seem to have the right to look down on you and judge you.
Yes, being a newbie does mean baby steps again.
Yes, you do make mistakes at the beginning.
Yes, there is a lot to learn.
Yes, you’ll fall down and fail.
But you are not a failure. Not.a.failure.
There are things about you that no job you do or don’t do could ever change. Don’t allow anyone to take that away from you. Don’t compare yourself to others, this won’t get you anywhere but despair.

Starting a new job is part of life and eventually we all have to take that step. There’s no recipe to make it all easier, but knowing about the transition might make it a little smoother.
What were your first steps in the working world like? How did you cope with the transition? What would you add to help newbies with the transition?

[Five Minute Friday] Share

The last year hasn’t been easy for me.
I transitioned into work life and had a lot of growing up to do. There were a lot of firsts and I had a lot to learn.

There were a lot of highs. 

 
Like when a class went really well and I actually had fun with my students.
Like when planning becomes easier and inspiration comes when you need it the most.
Like when students and colleagues are no longer strangers.
Like when I discovered that I am still myself despite all the changes.

Of course, there were also a lot of lows.
Like the pile of work that never seems to end.
Like the looming deadlines that weigh so heavy on my shoulders.
Like the few hours of sleep and the tired legs – a constant reminder how exhausted I am.
Like the expectations others and myself have.
Like the worry that I won’t pass exams and won’t get a job afterwards.
Like the fear of what comes next.

Life is a cycle of ups and downs, highs and lows.
On this journey we are not alone.
In all the craziness I am beyond grateful to have traveling companions.
People who are in the same situation and know what I truly mean when I say I’m stressed.
People who can chip in their advice because they’ve got amazing expertise and turn my twisted thoughts into something logical.
People who cheer me on and understand when not everything goes my way.

They don’t solve my problems.
They just can’t.

But they are willing to share a piece of my life, my thoughts, my heart.
They are just there.
They remind me that this is not the end.
That there is more.
That there is someone who is always there, always ready to share in all of our joys and sorrows.

Who are your traveling companions? 
May you have people who journey with you.
Who don’t make everything better, but who are willing to share a bit of your life and point you to the things that really matter.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

[Five Minute Friday] Morning

I am a morning person.
I somehow got used to getting up early and learned to appreciate its benefits. You get the gift of a beautiful sunrise and a reminder that today is a new day full of God’s grace.
I love how I can look back on everything I’ve already accomplished around lunchtime. It feels good to get things done.

There’s something special about mornings.
They are sacred moments.
They carry a certain sensation with it.

Each morning is an expectation.
A whole day ahead of me with so many hours to fill.
What will I do with these hours?
I need to get work done, obviously. But there’s always time for meeting a friend, a chat with a colleague, a delicious meal.
Mornings are the beginning of a new day and I am expectant to how it will all play out.
How do you fill your day?

photo-1431499012454-31a9601150c9

Each morning also carries a bit of fear.
So many hours of precious time in front of me.
What if I ruin it?
What if I look back on the day at night and feel like I haven’t accomplished anything? What if I waste my time?
What if something bad happens today and I wished I never lived through this day?
We can’t stop a day from happening, we have to live through.
Yes, there will be off days, but that’s okay.
Face your fears and face the day.

Most of all, mornings are an invitation.
Make plans for the day, but allow them to be changed.
By a bus you just missed.
By a friend who needs to talk with you.
By a project that needs your attention.
By the Lord who might have something better in mind for you today.
Invite spontaneity into your life.
And invite the Lord to be himself with you today.

What does your morning look like?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

[#write31days] Day 24 Boundaries at Work

Welcome to Day 24 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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We leave the house early in the morning to go to work, or we switch on the computer and work from home. We come home late at night, only to find a family waiting for some of our company or more emails requiring our immediate response. We work, we run, we press on – often more than we can handle. How do set the right boundaries to make more time for the really important people and things in life? How do we handle the seemingly overwhelming piles of work in front of us?

17cWork is NOT your Life
Choosing a job is not easy, especially young people struggle with having just too many choices. Choices and freedom are great, but with them a certain idea has been implanted in us: We are what we do.
Your work defines your value, so you better work until you’re at the top of the list.
Your performance defines who you are, so you try to outrun everyone else and make yourself indispensable. The one a company can’t do without, the name on everyone’s lips – isn’t that a great place to be?

Well, we are not what we do.
Our value has been defined  long before we ever picked up a shovel or learned how to type. I don’t need to find the perfect job which will fulfill me 100%. This is simply impossible, there’s no human being or job that will keep you happy 24-7 for the rest of your life.
Yes, find a job that makes you happy most of the time. A work you’re good at and can contribute something to. But don’t let the certificates, the work hours, or the appraisal of colleagues deceive you that this is who you are.
You are not your job.

Resting in yourself will give you the freedom from switching off the computer once in a while, locking the office door, and just leave.
It will keep your mind at ease at night when you can stop worrying about all the things not done yet, all the things gone wrong during the day. These things happen, but they change NOTHING about who you are.

There’s a life beyond work, there are people apart from our colleagues who want to spend time with us. Make sure that you enough time for them and for life itself. Life can look different for all of us, discover what restores life in you: a breakfast with your family, a few hours in the gym, a cup of coffee with a friend, reading a book just for fun, taking a vacation…live life!

Create Space
I recently read an article about the different spaces in our lives. Most people have a ‘home space’ and a ‘work space’ (except those who work from home). You work in the latter and live in the former. According to the article, this was no longer appropriate for our postmodern society. Eight to five is so yesterday; employees of today would work wherever as long as you got a notebook and wifi.

I am not sure I fully agree.
Yes, I am glad that we’re not bound to one specific space and time for work. I actually enjoy the flexibility I have with working and taking breaks.

Yet, I feel that the two spaces often overlap quite a bit, maybe even take over. Work doesn’t just stay at school or in the office; it follows me home, dominates conversations at the dinner table and has main roles in my dreams at night.

17bIf we realize that the ‘work space’ takes over and controls the ‘home space’ it’s time to set boundaries. ‘Work space’ is once again a place for work. Where I give my best at assignments, focus on tasks and interact with colleagues. Work. Only.

At a certain time I stop, switch off the computer, lock the door.

Go home.

‘Home space’ is a place for life. Where I relax, sleep, do hobbies and interact with friends and family. Life. Only.

Since these two spaces tend to overlap more and more, it is even more important for us to set boundaries. Welcome and appreciate both spaces for what they are – and create space for growth, productivity, creativity, joy. Not doing that will only limit our space and ultimately life’s quality.

Prioritize Well
Defining spaces and using them well can be quite tough in daily life. Work just piles up, colleagues are on our toes about deadlines, and we don’t know where to start.

Germans are often called organized, and since I am German I actually learned to appreciate this stereotype. I love lists. Writing tasks down and doing them one by one doesn’t only make you feel good, it also helps you to prioritize.

photo-1429051781835-9f2c0a9df6e4At first there’s only a giant pile of work, calls, demands, questions. It can easily become overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. So I write them all down and organize them according to topic and urgency.
Yes, the work is still there, but not everything is equally important. Writing things down somehow tames the unknown, the seemingly impossible is nothing more than letters on a piece of paper. Jobs and assignment, but nothing life changing that has the right to bother me during the night or disturb precious time with family and friends. Prioritizing highlights the really important things and makes the minor issues shut up.

How does your week look like? Do you separate work and life or the two spaces overlap? Are you a planner or do you feel overwhelmed by everything you have to do?

Make a list with everything you have to do today or this week and prioritize, so you’ll have more time for what’s really important.

[#write31days] Day 21 Keep Your Balance

Welcome to Day 21 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
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In the last twenty days we have covered what boundaries are, boundary problems we can have, and some of the lies we believe about boundaries. Now we tackle the last third of the month and will take a closer look at how we can set healthy boundaries in various areas of our lives.

As I have practiced setting a few more boundaries in my life during the last year I have found one image particularly helpful. It somehow serves as an analogy on your boundary journey.

Your Life Is Like a Bank Account

21dImagine your life is a bank account.You can put money in, money that will help you buy food, pay your rent, go on vacation, buy gifts for others…

In a similar way, you can ‘put money’ in your life. Things that get you through the day, that motivate you, that strengthen you. People who encourage and challenge you, who walk with you, support you.

This can look different for everyone.
I love sleep. Every morning when I get out of bed I am already excited to go back to bed at night. Sleep is a wonderful thing, it recharges your body with energy, cures sickness, and just feels good. 🙂 So I need a lot of it.
I love people. Having conversations over coffee or dinner are my favorites. Listening to their stories of what God is doing in their lives makes me excited and immensly grateful to share in His great story. Asking questions and getting challenging answers pushes me forward in my growth journey.
And I love serving others, investing my time and thoughts into their lives, giving advice and seeing someone thrive is a blessing you can’t get anywhere else. Giving someone the gift of your time or an unexpected surprise is an even greater gift to me.
But I also like to withdraw. Sometimes I just want to be alone with nothing much going on. I just want to be and remind myself that I don’t always have to do.
I need music in my life. If I don’t listen to it somewhere you’ll definitely hear me humming a tune. Sitting down at the piano and playing just for fun helps me express my feelings. Sometimes it’s soft melodies, sometimes it sounds more like I’m beating the poor thing.
I love to read. Diving into a thick novel and into a completely different world created by a genius human being. I need God’s word reverberating in my life and soul as I take a walk or simply go about my day. Knowing His presence won’t ever leave me fills me with peace beyond understanding.

Doing these things, being with these people ‘puts money’ into my life account. They refresh me, restore me, build me up, keep me going forward. 21b

In order to buy food and clothes and pay rent and whatnot, you need to withdraw money from your bank account. This is a natural thing, we do it every day.
Unless we live in a cave all by ourselves without a job and any human interaction, living life withdraws something from our life account.
It takes our physical energy to go to work and run around all day. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But you definitely know you’ve done your days work when you fall into bed at night with heavy feet. 
It takes our mental energy to plan our days and weeks and make time for everything. Of course there are things like work and meetings and church. Appointments we can’t really cancel. And of course, there are friends we want to meet, go to the gym, do another hobby…But do we plan time for yourself? Do we actually pencil ‘relax and do nothing’ into your calendar? Do we try to go to bed early and have enough sleep every night or do we stay up because there’s always more to do?
21aIt takes our emotional energy to engage with people. As I said earlier, I am a people person. And yet, somewhere in the last two years I have learned that it’s hard work to be with people.
Getting to know them and asking the small talk question is hard.
Waiting patiently until they are willing to go deeper is exhausting. Listening carefully to someone while your mind is tempted to drift off is a tough discipline to manage.
Investing in people and relationships means giving away your time, your thoughts, your love – a bit of yourself. 

Putting money in and withdrawing money from our bank account is a natural thing, we do it all the time. And normally, we don’t really think about it.
Until there’s nothing left.
Someone who has no money in his account will dread a visit to the bank because he can’t take anything out. Someone who doesn’t care and goes way over his limit will eventually drown in debt.

Giving away our energy and receiving some along the way is also a natural thing. Normally, we don’t really think about it.
Until our account is out of balance.
When we take more from others than we’re supposed to, we’ll get too comfortable, proud, and content with ourselves. Our account is about to burst and no one will share our blessings. 21cWhen we withdraw more than we have, give away more time, thought, and energy than we actually have, we will break down and eventually be bankrupt. In psychological terms, you call this a burnout. 
This is the time to set boundaries.

Think about your own ‘life account’. What are the things and people that ‘put money’ in? What are the things and people that ‘withdraw money’? Is your life balanced or are you heading towards bankruptcy?