Pushing forward

When I hit a wall (a mental one) I sometimes feel like banging my head against it, sliding down to the floor, and just sitting there for a while. Yes, that is the image I have in my mind.

I’m not about to give up, mind you. I am taking a break, gathering my strength, and taking the time to examine what is keeping me from continuing or why that wall is there, to begin with.

Lately, this wall has kept me from posting here. But as I mentioned yesterday, for far longer it has kept me from pursuing my creative writing.

I think one of the problems is a lack of focus. I have my job, my freelance work, my life outside of work, a desire to finally write that story (whichever it will eventually turn out to be), and to also work on this blog.

I can’t do it all at once without making sacrifices. The easiest sacrifice in my case has been to put aside my creative pursuits. In fairness, I do consider this blog a part of my creative pursuits and it is also intended to become a platform for my more creative writing instead of just musings on whatever or a place where I will eventually also write more about traveling.

In a way, this blog is currently my creative outlet whilst I am hoping to eventually get the juices flowing on novel writing.

But when I am mentally exhausted, I also end up not writing here either. And that’s when I start feeling guilty, which is idiotic. I do need breaks. We all do. I can’t feel guilty for putting something on hold whilst I gather my strength to continue pushing forward.

The wall I hit didn’t just appear out of nowhere. A part of me built it brick by brick, eventually stopping me in my tracks.

I put up the wall in an effort to stop myself. We all have our coping mechanisms. I rather not have a wall there to begin with. So, why is it there?

Because my life has become unbalanced. My job can be quite demanding and eat up much more time than the part-time hours my contract includes. Whilst I get overtime, I also become exhausted because this isn’t exactly what I want.

I have my assignments from clients to complete as well. Eventually, I am too tired to work on anything else I care about, don’t make time for my friends either, and end up on my sofa wanting the world to go away.

Since Easter, work has eased up somewhat and I have enjoyed more time with my friends and taking a bit of a mental health break from everything. Balance feels restored once more, which is also why I am back here posting.

And not just that, but also thinking of how I can improve this blog to become what I want it to be. I’m planning on re-working the current design.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been watching content on YouTube from the same group of creators and eventually ended up wondering why I am so attracted to what they are doing. It’s not just about the insights they are sharing but also about their style. All of them are minimalists in some way and/or passionate about their topics.

I called this blog ‘Story of my life for a reason, and I need it to reflect that in a way that it currently isn’t. And that means I have to put in the work.

I appreciate every one of you who continues to check in here with me. I will be honest, I do want this to be a passion project where I don’t just ramble about myself. I want to share things that are of value. I want this place to grow.

Let’s see where the journey goes as I keep pushing ahead.

A work in progress

I went to work early today to use the Internet here and get some work done. Yeah, when you have a job situation like mine, sentences sometimes sound like that. They seem to make little sense to someone outside of the situation.

I have a job at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in Hamburg. Part-time, which means I go three or four times a week.

And there is my freelance work, which I do from home. Though it seems to veer into a side hustling situation as well, so that I may diversify my income some more. Working on that. Or rather, thinking on it for the time being.

Having been offline for the last few days – more or less anyway – I have not had much opportunity to further my research.

What I did realize is that I need to work on this blog more. I don’t think I can make it quite as diverse as I initially planned or hoped to do. Oddly, these things seem to develop a life of their own and I have found myself drifting in the direction that I am currently taking. Talking a lot about personal growth and stuff.

So, my blog is as much a work in progress as I am.

Indeed, with every bit of personal growth and development, I go through, so this blog continues to develop. I share my experiences and thoughts here and you are allowed to make of that what you like.

When I started out, I wanted to make regular posts on a variety of topics that interest me. But my focus has become much narrower than that. And with everything else that’s been happening, I lost focus for a while.

Now that I have regained it, it has become narrower even than before, though I plan on widening it again somewhat.

I’d like for you to join me. I appreciate some company, thoughts, insights, whatever you wish to share. And, perhaps, your support as well.

The view from the office today

The Art of Accepting Help

Have you ever read “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer? Good book. I recommend.

I am always reminded of it when it comes to my difficulties with asking for or accepting help. Because the truth is, we can’t do it all alone. And we never have. Perhaps our most ancient almost rodent-like ancestors were lonesome creatures, only meeting up to reproduce before fighting alone for survival once more.

But we would have never made it this far if at some point down the line we hadn’t grouped together and achieved things together. That is one of our greatest strengths.

This includes asking for help, accepting help, and, of course, giving it. Our ability to cooperate like this, often without getting anything in return (not immediately anyway) or no more than thanks (which should be enough), is remarkable and we would still sit in trees without it.

So, why is it so difficult to ask for help or accept it?

I am wondering this today because I have received an offer for help which I really should not decline. A colleague who lives not far from me offered me her home with a spare room and desk as a workplace whilst my Internet is out.

My Internet is unlikely to be repaired today and it may take until at least tomorrow night, hopefully not longer. Refusing this offer would be stupid. I might only need to take it up tomorrow as I am already at work as I post this, using the public Internet available here.

I can’t rightly complain about my inability to do my freelance work without an Internet connection (unless I go to a local café) and refuse a friendly and totally selfless offer at someone else’s place where I have a quiet place and no extra cost.

I have been raised to be fiercely independent. That was my mother’s doing, who had to be independent long before she should have needed to be. It was one of the best gifts she has bestowed on me.

At the same time, she has always provided me with the support that I needed even when unwanted. To this day she does this. I don’t need it anymore. Not truly. But it has allowed me some comforts that I would otherwise simply have gone without. And I would not have been any worse off than I am now. I don’t miss what I don’t need.

Accepting help or support from other sources doesn’t come naturally to me. This is strange because I simultaneously wish for us to be more supportive of each other. I want that from my friends and anyone else I care about. I give it freely. No questions asked. I don’t expect anything in return and almost desperately hope everyone could be like this.

We are better, individually and as a whole, when we cooperate. When we support each other, help each other, and do not just seek to take from others.

Asking for help or accepting it seems oddly more difficult than providing it. To me anyway. It feels like an infraction of my independence. I can do it all alone. Except that I can’t. No one can. And that is okay.

But relying on others makes us vulnerable and, boy, do we have problems with that…

Throwback to the before-times

Do you remember the days before high-speed Internet? Like, when we only had dial-up or even longer ago, when we had no widely available Internet at all?

I’d say you have to be at least 30 to properly remember those days. I’m older than that and I do remember. Faintly.

The Internet is such a commodity, we even write it with a capital ‘I’. And I have been without it for the past five days. Hence why there have been no recent posts. Not for lack of writing, but for lack of Internet access.

Here’s what happened: the main powerline to our building was replaced and as the workmen closed up the hole after the replacement, they damaged the Internet cable going into the house. Not noticing, they closed up the hole, and now my provider and the company seeking to repair the line needs a new permit to open up the hole again, which has to be issued by the city. It’s Monday. Of course, no such permit will be issued on a weekend. Or within a day and a half before the weekend begins.

Of course, I could have used my mobile data, but that is limited to 4GB right now (no flat rates in this country). And it’s still only the 11th of the month, so I have over two more weeks to go for my allowance to last. Usually, it would be more than sufficient for my needs.

Needless to say, my frustration has been considerable.

I can’t do my freelance work (not from home at any rate). I can’t do any research. I can’t seek any distraction whatsoever online. I have no TV either, by the way (same cable). I can’t look for other jobs to do. I can’t do any online shopping.

Yet, these past few days have also been a fascinating experience. I have cleaned a lot. My kitchen is nearly spotless. I don’t miss TV at all (I have stuff on various hard drives I can watch anyway). I do miss watching the news a little bit. I have not had any chance to get lost in mindless research (if even for purchases that I won’t make). YouTube has been completely off-limits, and I have coped.

It’s been a very quiet few days at home. I have read a lot more. My mind feels quite peaceful and not overloaded. I have stayed off Insta as it also chews up a lot of data.

I’ve worked the whole weekend in my other job as well, though. So, that provided a good kind of distraction. My focus was elsewhere, I had people to engage with, stuff to do and no reason or opportunity to binge-watch the shows I have downloaded on my tablet.

Still, even on Thursday and Friday when I had off, I used my time rather differently than I would have with Internet access.

The main drawback has been the impact on my freelance work and opportunity to seek new projects to work on. That is not okay.

But the involuntary Internet detox has been good for me in many other ways. I sat in the kitchen for my meals, not in front of the TV. I decluttered many of the little things that I often put off as they are only little things.

I wasted a lot less of my time than I usually would. I enjoyed the nearly complete quiet (this includes noise coming from my neighbors, where it has also been a lot quieter these past few days).

Of course, being mostly offline like this hasn’t been my choice. I appreciate the benefits and I am wondering whether I can continue to be offline more even when my Internet is back up again. Should I set time aside when I switch off?

When I read a book, I usually do that anyway. But probably not enough.

The repairs won’t be done until at least tonight, potentially not before tomorrow evening. So, I will have to see how I deal with the situation once I have ready access to the Internet again.

I will continue to observe myself, though, and give an update in due time.

When you discover what you need

Pay attention.

I’ve been a little overworked last week and contrary to my plans totally didn’t manage to focus on writing another blog. I’m not lacking topics I want to write about, not even time is the issue. I have simply been too tired and therefore unable to concentrate on writing coherently. I am still tired, but work will ease up somewhat this week, and can put more energy into this as well.

So, I had this idea the other night as I was sleepless tossing and turning despite being horribly tired. It occurred to me in the middle of the night. I took out my phone, wrote these first few words, and managed to go back to sleep.

My idea was that it is important to discover what it is we need. On so many levels. And when we do, we must pay attention. My frustration when I had this thought was the many hours I had been putting in and the late shifts.

I considered the alternative, a 9 to 5 office job. Been there, done that. Not what I need.

More so, however, it was the fact that last week I had five shifts, which meant having to leave the house on five days, cycling to work, being among hundreds and hundreds of people, having to engage with dozens of them, and being completely drained every night.

That was the main frustration. As much as I like my job, and the social aspect is part of it, I have a limit. I am still an introvert. I cannot be out among so many people for so many days in one week. I need a break. No wonder I feel completely depleted and unable to even write.

I know what I need in that regard. I know my limits. That is the reason I only work part-time in this job, 25 hours a week. Last week it was easily 45 hours. Mind you, that is an exception – thankfully. But it was a stark reminder of why I work part-time.

The next few weeks shouldn’t be this extreme and I sure as hell don’t plan to repeat this experience. Covering someone else’s vacation or illness is a different story, but that wouldn’t just fall on my shoulders.

I’m perfectly content to be at home multiple days in a row, working from home and sometimes not even leaving the house if I don’t need anything. I don’t often do that in summer, mind you, as I love to enjoy the weather and just be outside. But in winter I may well hole up inside for days at a time.

I discovered what I needed in a job and in my work week long ago and sometimes I fail to adhere to it. Whilst I don’t make my own schedule, I can give preferences, which I do, and that works well enough, but I also tend to help out when needs must – more so than others. So, I end up with plenty of overtime.

By the way, figuring out what you need from your job or work is incredibly important to achieving a healthy work-life balance. But beyond that, we do have many other needs that we have to consider or discover and we always need to pay attention and not push those needs away in favor of work, people-pleasing, or for any other reason.

Yes, I may be a bit preachy here and I don’t want to go further into this at this point. I was mainly concerned with my job these past few days and remembering why I don’t work 9 to 5.

This may change in the future. And if or when it does, I will have to adapt.

You live for yourself first

It sounds simple. It also sounds selfish. But it is true and necessary. It is something I need to remind myself of surprisingly often.

Of course, I’m not out to promote selfishness. That’s not what this is about. The simple fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t neglect ourselves.

Today, once again, I feel tired. I have another long shift ahead of me at work, which means I likely won’t be home before 1am. That means I’m likely in bed by 2 if I don’t collapse earlier than that.

Tomorrow the same. And I have a work Zoom call in the late morning that may last a little longer than usual as there is much to discuss. Then I head out once again.

I know I’m going to be fine, probably even energized when I get to work later today. Tomorrow probably not so much anymore. But I will manage either way. The price will be paid on Friday when I will be too exhausted to get much of anything done, even though I will still have obligations.

When I feel this sort of exhaustion in my bones, though, I remind myself that I really like my job and that I have chosen this. Not usually so many shifts in a row, with so much to do and so little rest (I should also be doing some freelance work, after all), but I still like my job and it isn’t always like this. Most of the time it is not, in fact.

But yeah, the question crops up as to why I am doing this. Or the thought that I’m definitely not getting paid enough. And I’m not.

And this, inevitably, reminds me that I live for myself first. This includes taking care of my mental, physical and emotional well-being. If not looked after, I’m no use to anyone anyway.

I am allowed to say no. I am allowed to rest. I am allowed to take a break and also ask for one when I need it. I am allowed to re-evaluate the status quo, question it and ask for more because it isn’t good enough.

Saying that I live for myself first doesn’t make me selfish. Unless I act selfishly. There is a huge difference. Living for yourself first only makes you an ass if you trample on everyone else to serve your own needs.

This is not what I am talking about.

When we recognize the simple truth that we live for ourselves first, it acknowledges that we don’t need to put anyone else’s needs or demands above our own. There are times when we will do just that, of course. Especially as a parent, for instance. Or in the line of duty. But even then we shouldn’t neglect ourselves to the extent that it will impact our ability to care for or serve others.

For me today, and tomorrow, telling myself that I do live for myself first is a reminder to treat myself more gently and to say no in order to protect my energy. I like my job, but it shouldn’t leave me this exhausted and feeling that I am not compensated well enough. I can ask for more. And I should.

And then I rest.

A busy week

Last week I had no freelance work to do at all. I had a few shifts at my job, but a lot of time to myself besides that.

I sometimes struggle to make the most of my time. And I am not talking about being productive all the time. I see no sense in that and it would make my life miserable if I were to measure it in terms of productivity.

But when I find myself idle, not feeling like reading, mindlessly browsing through YouTube and getting the same five videos recommended over and over again, not watching anything in particular on TV, and just going through the motions, I do wonder how to better use my time.

I have tried to keep a schedule and appoint time slots for the things I want to do. Thus far, it hasn’t stuck. I might have to try to use an actual paper calendar, though that didn’t stick in the past either. But I really don’t want to keep checking my phone for what I had planned to do next. If anything, I want to reduce my screen time.

Whilst the schedule-keeping is not really my cup of tea, it did give me a better feeling of how much time I have every day and that I am able to use it better than just idling about and doing things when I feel like doing them.

For the longest time as a freelancer, I have kept a rough schedule, at least, and that has never faltered. Not when I have a shift in the afternoon, not during the long months of lockdown, not on my days off (unless I have a proper day off from everything).

Now, as I am also giving this blog more focus, I have to make time for it.

Today, I have written an article for my client. Now I’m doing this. In about an hour, I will head out to work, returning only after midnight.

This will be my schedule until Thursday. On Friday I will take a day off from everything. On Saturday I will at least return to this blog. On Sunday I will have a very long day at work.

In other words, I do have a busy week ahead, which I prefer to too much time to myself. Or rather, idle time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an introvert, I need me-time. Enough to balance the time I spend at my job. And then some if possible.

But I also like to have something to do during that time. If that is freelance work, great. I need to make a living and have some savings available. If I get to use that time to fall into a book, awesome. And now that I work much more on this blog, I can always sit down and do that.

Yet sometimes I don’t want to do any of these things. I might grab my phone for the umpteenth time and put it away again with a sigh as there is nothing new to discover. Sitting and not doing anything is not something that comes to me easily.

Sometimes, when I truly need it. Like those times when I sit in the window, enjoying some peace and quiet time. But when I have had my fill, I need more than that.

So, I keep busy. Not always the kind of busy I would prefer if I were financially stable or (eventually) independent. But mostly a good kind of busy.

There is the stressful kind as well, where you always rush to keep up with a schedule set by someone else. I choose the busyness on my own terms. Not on someone else’s. That’s a huge difference and something we should all strive for. It is an important step towards that work/life balance that is so often talked about.

There is no such thing as failure

How is that for a bold statement? You are probably inclined to disagree. I don’t blame you. But in this moment, I feel that it is true. There is no such thing as failure.

Failure is a mindset. The feeling that you didn’t accomplish your goal, a task, some important milestone, that you failed at life in a totally generic way. Whatever it is you consider failure, or that society might consider failure, it really is just a mindset.

Suffering a setback doesn’t mean you failed. It feels like it, sure. But only for as long as you allow it to. Are you just going to dwell on your perceived failure or are you going to try again?

Setbacks tend to be temporary. You didn’t achieve the goal that was set for you or that you have set for yourself. Okay. Noted. Now, let’s move on, shall we?

Any goal or milestone is arbitrary anyway. What does it matter if you reach the goal today or tomorrow? In the grand scheme of things, who is possibly going to care a year from now? Or even in a month or next week.

Depending on your work or whatever your daily life comprises, there are always little things that need to get done or that we need to accomplish. They can pile up and eventually may even feel overwhelming.

But do I want to live my life this way? Do I want to just go through a daily to-do list and tick things off until the next item looms? And if I fail to tick an item off (never mind the reason), does that truly need to make me feel like a failure?

Who tells me what I need to accomplish and why do I feel I need to listen to that person (even if it is myself)? What difference does it make?

Well, yes, having goals is important. It provides us with purpose, which is a good thing. It depends on the goals, though. If I had laundry on my to-do list today and for some reason fail to do it, nobody is going to care if I end up doing it tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just talking about doing chores or having a bunch of things on your to-do list that you need to achieve, complete or tick off.

Even if your goal is a bigger one, such as paying off debt by a certain date, or getting married and having children by 35, or finally changing careers to work in your dream job.

What happens if you don’t pay off your debt by August 31st? Are you going to feel awful about it? Potentially guilty, or like a failure? What if you pay off your debt by September 30th, instead? Still feeling like a failure?

Having set the date of August 31st is not the wrong strategy, mind you. It’s a good thing to have such a deadline because it does help you achieve that goal. But if you miss your target by a month or even three months doesn’t matter. It matters that you keep working at it.

Same with your desire to have a family eventually. You can’t plan life according to the age you are at. You’re not undesirable or a failure for not having managed to find a partner you want to marry and have children with by a certain age. Unless you are happy to settle for the wrong person just to achieve that goal. But keep in mind that you are likely to become rather unhappy in the long run, potentially screwing up your children and eventually divorcing anyway.

Not achieving a goal, a target, a milestone or whatever doesn’t mean you failed or are a failure. You suffered a setback. So, what next?

Are you going to try again and keep working at it? Are you going to take a look at your goals and redefine them to make them more achievable or realistic? Are you going to rethink your priorities? Are you going to learn from the mistakes you may have made along the way?

Yes, it is possible to fail. That doesn’t mean you are a failure. What you end up doing next is what matters.

Why we need to invest in ourselves

You would think this requires no explanation. Because, of course, we must invest in ourselves. We must recognize our value and act accordingly.


You may nod in agreement. You may shake your head in befuddlement. You may smile knowingly because if it were that easy it wouldn’t need repeating.

Over and over again.

Because we forget.

And if anyone is really good at not recognizing what we’re worth it’s us. We believe others over what we know of ourselves. Alas, knowing ourselves, means also knowing everything that is wrong with us, which is a lot. So, naturally, we believe every bad thing someone else tells us about ourselves, and we also believe we deserve to be treated the way they treat us.

It’s the worst of vicious circles.

So, the first thing to do is this:

Do not listen to what anyone else has to say about you – unless they offer constructive criticism in an actually helpful way.

We must remember that we cannot control what others say, what they do, how they treat us, or how they feel.

We can control what we do, in particular how we respond, how we treat others, what we say to them, and how we say it. And whilst we also cannot control how we feel, we can control how to handle our feelings.

Getting to that point takes time, though. And time is an investment. We have to recognize that sometimes our first response may not make things better for anyone. And then we need to figure out how to change our ways.

Change takes time, too. In fact, giving ourselves time is one of the best investments we can make. We are often not very patient with ourselves, especially when we are reminded of something we already know. We call ourselves a fool, beat ourselves up, and forget to be kind to ourselves.

Recognizing that being kind, giving ourselves time, and reminding ourselves of the things we already know is an investment in our mental and emotional health.

Sometimes a glass of water is the investment we need. Sometimes it is a walk, a day off, a spa day, purchasing that pair of shoes you’ve been holding out on for weeks now.

We need to figure out what works for us to keep us going. That, too, is an investment.

It is a daily task. It’s not always a pleasant one either. In fact, self-care is not just a spa day, although that does give us a moment of joy. As does the purchase of an item we’ve been having our eye on for some time.

Actual self-care is continued investment into everything that makes us whole. It is the shower we take in the morning, the stretching to keep our bodies nimble, the glass of water even though we are not thirsty. It is the budget we make to manage our finances or the breakdown of all our debts and how we plan to tackle them. It is meal-planning and making a proper schedule for our time off, and reading instead of doom-scrolling Insta.

It is the thing that makes us resilient to adverse situations and that which gives us the ability to tackle just about anything that may come our way. Taking truly care of ourselves and making this daily investment means building a foundation on which we can create the versions of ourselves we want to be and the life that we feel at home in and don’t just want to escape from.

And to tie back to the beginning, true self-care also enables us to silence that nagging voice that continues to doubt ourselves, to heed the opinions of others no more than they deserve, and to learn how to manage our own (often too emotional) responses.

There are other ways in which we can and must invest in ourselves, but we can talk about that another time.

Constant distraction

When you have little to nothing to do, it is fascinating to observe yourself seeking constant distraction.

So, I had the last two days off. On Monday, I was tired and suffering from a sleep deficit. I didn’t feel like doing much of anything and only did the bare minimum.

Yesterday, I felt much better, having rested enough, and went about my day, running errands, going for a ride, doing laundry, and whatever else one does. I didn’t work. And I didn’t really write either.

But I noticed how every distraction seemed to be welcome. The TV was on and off, I read articles about random stuff, watched the news, scrolled through social media, watched a bunch of YouTube videos, and overall felt really quite restless.

I didn’t stick with anything for very long and was somewhat annoyed with myself. None of it ultimately mattered in any way. I didn’t learn anything very useful, though I didn’t feel like my day was wasted entirely as I did do some things that needed doing and I went on an enjoyable ride.

My mind feels restless still. I don’t seem to be able to concentrate and whilst I feel like I want to just read or something to focus my mind better, my thoughts keep straying.

At least, I switched my phone off. And I have to go to work today, even though I don’t really feel like it right now. It’ll be fine once I get there because it always is, but for now, I keep feeling restless and somewhat useless.

I decided to sit down and write about it just so I have something to focus me for a little while. The thing is also that my mind feels cluttered, and I know I need a break from this constant input I’m subjecting myself to. Watching a million videos on YouTube isn’t going to help. Just scrolling through all the recommended videos is too much, really.

What I need to do is close my eyes for a moment, let this clutter go from my mind, and perhaps read a chapter of the book I’m currently reading.

I mean, what do you do when you can concentrate, and your mind seeks distraction at every turn? Stop yourself and stare at a wall? Do you force yourself to do something specific or nothing at all?

Right now, quiet should help. Because everything else is making it worse. And I really don’t need this constant distraction. I need focus and clarity.