I've been reading Gretchen Rubin lately again, the author of the amazing Happiness Project, as well as other life-aid books like Better Than Before and The Four Tendencies. Honestly, I have only indulged in the Happiness Project so far and her personal blog which you can find here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Happiness Project and have also, pretty fruitlessly so far, tried to adapt it to 2019 and make it a better year altogether.
Now, this is typical January resolutions bullshit, right? But I have felt that a change has been necessary for quite some time, as I am not happy with how my life is proceeding at the moment. Don't worry, I will not bore you down with the gruesome details of my life, and I couldn't, as it is actually not even true and pretty good overall. However, I feel constantly tired, stressed and burned out (anybody else) and wish to change that in the future. I am also not happy with my current weight (surprise, surprise), not because it is not "pretty" or because I want to be thin, but because I feel lots of the fatigue would fade if I was a bit fitter and ate better food.
Long story short, I've decided to steal Gretchen's ideas for my 2019 turnaround and will share most of it with you to keep me on track. For what better way to keep on track than your readers following your progress? Exactly.
Gretchen Rubin has shared her 19 goals for 2019 already, and not having read them yet to be influenced, I have decided to do the same. 19 goals for the year which should all be ticked off until the end of the year. I've spent some time to devise my goals and share some insights I have gained in case you want to do the same.
Much has been written on Millennials - and mostly nasty stuff that is! In short, it describes the people born between 1981 and 1996, but there is much more to it. In the past decade, much has been blamed on my generation, from laziness to munching avocados too much, all the way to Millennials are killing cereal (seriously, it was a headline).
I am currently working on a very personal project of mine which is going to be an autobiographic take on growing up and adulting (i.e., the process by which you become an adult and the boring tasks related to adulthood). I focus on disillusionment experienced by most people I encounter in my age, with an increasing unwillingness to work more than 30 hours in an office, a wish to escape consumerism while being unable to escape it at the same time, as well as a progressing paralysis of a feeling of overwhelming.
Digging through some research, I stumbled across a very intriguing article on Buzzfeed in which writer Anne Helen Petersen shares her approach to the notion that Millennials are in a perpetual state of exhaustion, being overworked and, therefore, paralysis. Wittingly, she recounts the inability to get the easiest things done - like vacuum-cleaning the car, buying groceries or getting a package mailed (as recounted by some of her friends). She writes that Millennials are in a permanent mindset of needing to work - contrary to the common belief we are lazy - and with 12-hour days on the horizon and people working more and more despite technology being able to take over in most departments already, she is certainly on to something.
I won't recount what she has written in her article, as you can (and should) see for yourself, but I will share my own insight and epiphany I've had upon reading it. Ever since my mini-burnout at the age of 17, I feel I have been struggling to regain my footing, painfully transcending into adulthood, growing more and more confused as I progressed. When I was a child, everything interested me and I was a true pro in entertaining myself. I would sit in my room all day, reading books, writing stories, redecorating, creating new choreographies - the possibilities were sheer infinite!
Today, this has changed profoundly, and everything apart from Netflixing (is this a coined term already, I don't know...), everything seems a struggle. I MUST write stories, I MUST read the latest book, I MUST do the laundry, I MUST redecorate the room. Nothing seems to come out of inner motivation, but of a dire and urgent need to get it done - or the fear to be outperformed by others. When I wrote as a child or teenager, I wrote for me, and me only. It was simply like breathing, something I did without thinking about it. Today, one main motivation to write is because I need to have a book published under the age of 30 (under 20 would have been even better, but, well that's 6 years in the past now, so what can you do...). Another incentive is because I don't want others to have more success and am in a permanent state of competition - the competition of life.
The competition of life is also a theme Anne Helen Peterson touches upon. Despite robots seemingly "making our lives easier", Millenials have to work more and more for less pay - partly because the work never gets done. Think about it: due to emails and social media, most work days can easily be pocketed and taken home. I have just received an email from an editor on a Saturday, and even though I try not to respond to emails on weekends, I know other freelance writers do, and then I might not get the gig. Being seemingly omniscient and reachable all the time has become a status quo, and it drains a lot of energy because there is no way to shut it down. Sure, switch off your phone, don't visit your social media - but then you simply dread Monday where a clogged up mailbox tells you of all you've missed while you were gone!
Petersen concludes that Millenials are in a state of burn-out, something she slowly realised in her own life, too. However, she means burn-out not in an illness to be cured by going to a spa or taking it easy for a while, but as an inevitable basic state within this society in which we have to labour and live - without the chance to escape. In the past years, getting through some days took a lot of energy and determination, and despite me not feeling I work a lot, as in hours, my mind is constantly preoccupied with what I SHOULD and MUST do, and the worst is that this trend also has taken a firm grip on spheres outside work. Think about it, meditation, yoga, veganism - they seemingly all are trends to make us feel better, but in truth they are multi-million dollar markets that take over yet another of our life spheres to which we have to aspire.
I don't only have to be good at my job anymore as a Millennial. I have to be good at my job that fulfils me through and though and with which I have to earn plenty of money, with flat and house prices rocketing and salaries decreasing. Additionally, I have to be a perfect mother, feel Zen and have mastered Yoga - ideally I do Yoga everyday between cooking something terribly healthy and writing my Insta stories, so that everyone else surely knows what a perfect life I lead.
Why are we doing this to ourselves and others? We all know the lives portrayed on Instagram are lies, or at least only snippets out of people's lives they want you to see. I cannot count the images on my Insta-feed of coffee mugs next to laptops with the caption "so happy to be back at work #solucky #lovemyjob #livingthedream", etc, etc. We put so much stress on ourselves and others by feeling the need to document every single step of it - and it stresses me because it simply becomes another thing on the never-ending list to tick off - having a worthwhile Instagram feed and blogging regularly about how to use training bras for flower pots or some other bullshit.
But let's circle back to the main topic. Over the past years, I have felt paralysed and every step I take requires huge effort and energy - because I always have to make myself go it. The thirst for creativity and curiosity has been replaced by fear, frustration, desperation and a panic of failure. Even writing, I must sadly admit, has become a source of stress and "MUST" rather than "WANT", and I have to fight for not simply plonking down on the sofa to watch Netflix every single day. I know that TV has become my drug to ease the pain, to take the stress away for a few sweet hours - yet, as it is with drugs, I don't return replenished, but more stressed out than before because this infinite list of things I MUST do and MUST be is still there, pressing, demanding, patronising, even louder than before.
In the past months, many great things have happened, and even though they have filled me with joy, the prospect of having to organise them, do them, paralyses me. My wedding, for instance. I feel I should enjoy the planning more, should want to sit down and go through innumerable Pinterest posts and so on and so forth. Probably it is exactly this process of "beshoulding" that takes out the fun, but who knows...The tiredness, exhaustion and unwillingness has touched almost any part of life, may that be work, writing, eating, planning my wedding, for God's sake, even sex! Being born into the generations of listing, I feel everything has become a chore to be ticked off - the perfect sex, day-to-day meditation, exercise, marrying, publishing a book, meeting friends - because I feel I have to play a specific role in each of these life spheres, and it drains plenty of energy and joy of life.
I want to seek a way out of this dilemma, but how is this supposed to happen if it is already considered a permanent state of society? Will I always have to force myself to do things I used to enjoy? Well, I think if there was a place in which I could to it for myself, there must be a possibility to find back there and replenish my energy. At least that is the wisp of hope I am clinging on to. Reading Petersen's article has helped me inasmuch (and I want to thank her, in case she ever reads this) because after always questioning what was wrong with me and why I felt so tired, exhausted and paralysed, her article has given me a response I can accept, and therefore work from there.
I may not suffer a burn-out in the traditional sense, but I am definitely burned out. The colours in life seem to be duller ever since I had to become an adult, and every task seems infinitely more exhausting, so let's return to the memories of happy childhood days and regain some of the positive energy that came with it. Additionally, it will be essential to cut out my drugs (sugar, caffeine, TV) in order to create a mindset where I am not constantly tired - and hopefully find the time and energy to create more and find true fulfilment. I don't want to think I won't be able to change this - and thanks to finding an explanation of my state of mind, I feel I can start on a journey to find my old self who was interested in anything and had an infinite thirst for life and the world.
A Week Without Social Media
Feeling A Fraud as An Adult
Show Me Your Dirty Laundry
To say it with Kate Rusby's words, "Christmas is past now." Whether you realise this fact with sadness or joy is entirely up to you, but I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas season and a good slide into the new year - I sure did.
Let me give you a short recount before I delve into the actual topic. I celebrated the holidays with my family in Tyrol and it was a pleasant time to say the least - including gift unwrapping, turkey and carolling. I even had a Christmas concert with my dad at his hotel on the 23rd, which settled my mood for the festivities alright!
But now that Christmas is over, I feel a ping of sadness, knowing it will be a year until we can celebrate again. Of course, there is much to look forward to (my wedding, for instance), but I simply love the fest of love and am slightly heart-broken when it is over - however, it actually is not over yet! It saddens me to see people throw out their Christmas trees already, even though the Christmas time technically lasts until the 2nd of February when Candlemas is celebrated and officially marks the end of Christmas. And even if you don't want to celebrate this long, at least leave your tree be until the 6th of January! I, for sure, will do so!
I have some gems to share with you that will keep up the Christmassy mood for a day or two longer and which invite to cuddle up in an armchair with a hot chocolate and enjoy the time of the cold months. Christmas is not only a day, it is a feeling, so let's cling on to it for a little while before grim January takes over completely.
The best way for me to remain in the Christmas spirit is by reading Christmas-related books, for which I often only find time in the holidays and they prolong this special time wonderfully. This year I bought a new book, namely the Christmas Stories by Elizabeth Clark. Surely, the stories are not new at all, Clark being a writer of the 19th and early 20th century, but they encapsulate the feeling splendidly. Be prepared for lots of religious references and Victorian values to some extent, written in excellent language and tugging on your inner child. It is also a wonderful collection to read to children, the Mrs Button stories being my favourite for children and myself.
Another great writer to help you stay in the right festive mood is Katie Fforde. The British writer sweeps you into the English countryside and charms readers with her heartwarming and festive stories. Last year I got her short story collection A Christmas Feast and Other Stories for Christmas and snuggled up with 12 short stories which are served like a menu. Some shorter stories are amuse-bouches while longer ones present the main dish. The diligent author has also written many other Christmas books which invite to linger in the Christmas mood for a little while longer.
One of my favourite Christmas books I've read in the past, which also inspired me greatly for my own projects, is Nina Stibbe's An Almost Perfect Christmas - a hilarious collection of her memories of Christmas. In the short book, she recounts of past Christmasses in the most entertaining and entertaining way, making you laugh and miss the festivities already. I can still vividly remember the story when she forgot to edit her Christmas song list and Silent Night was in it about 40 times, or her difficult relationship to turkey...
I usually hate people who shamelessly self-promote their shit, I once bought a scrap book by a guy called...well, actually I forgot his name, but he permanently talked about himself, so I tossed the book. However, talking about Christmas stories for the post-Christmas season, I simply cannot miss out on the chance to also briefly mention my own short story collection, of which I am very proud. Last year, I compiled various Christmas stories I'd written over the years and published them as an e-book called It's Christmas, After All on Amazon.com (print versions may be available in some time, but I don't feel quite ready for that yet). If you've perused the website, you already know where to get it, but by clicking here, you can find out more about it, I would love for you to read it and probably also leave a review on Amazon if you liked it.
Every year I wish I could hold on to the special Christmas feeling, the warmth and friendliness, but then life intervenes and I am back to my usual hectic schedule, but this year I am really determined to change course. I know it is a total cliche to say that in January and I can feel you all rolling your eyes, thinking, "Sure, by February she'll be sitting on the sofa, munching away Kinder chocolate and re-watching PLL on Netflix". Maybe, but in between, at least, I want to become more disciplined and feel, for the first time in my life, convinced that I can pull it off. I haven't been feeling great for some time now and feel it is high time to chance course, and what better goal to lose wait than your own wedding?
Either way, one book which has motivated me very much to pursue my plans and set sensible goals is Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I've already mentioned it in my summer vlog reading list which you can find here, and it is not only hilariously and well written, but also really helpful as Gretchen shares her personal project with us. What I like about it, is that is inspiring without dictating how to do it. We are all different and one method may be entirely wrong which is right for someone else. At the moment, I am formulating my plans and will share how it goes with you throughout the process. And if you have any New Year's resolutions, I can only recommend reading her book, if not to steal her method, at least to feel like you've got a buddy in the process.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.