Looking Back and Being Grateful

Last year was a harsh year for me (and I don’t mean all the dead celebrities, although I will miss Alan Rickman a bit). 2016 kicked off with a lot of unrest in Germany, Brexit happened, the US election happened, the war in Syria is still going on, various places in Germany and other European countries were targets of terrorist attacks, and Europe in general seems severely destabilized, as right-wing politics have gained ground in France, Austria, and other countries, among them Germany.

On a personal level, things didn’t go so well either.

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I lost my really sweet grandfather, lived through a tough breakup while I was working on my final thesis, had to have two minor surgeries (one of them weeks before finishing my thesis, what is it with this timing?), some of my closest friends moved away, I had to witness and support near and dear ones going through tough times, and figure out what to do with my future.

Not everything was bad, but at times it felt that way. Also, a local anesthetic will do that to your face.

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Then after I felt really drained from all the stress, I graduated in a field and market that is highly competitive. Writing job applications and going to job interviews while internally still trying to put yourself back together is decidedly not fun and I do not recommend it.  At the time, I did not feel confident or proud of my excellent grades or even remotely happy, and every minor setback took a toll on my self esteem. The entire application process sets you up for even more doubt, various cycles of hope and disappointment, and more uncertainty.

Eventually I became better at handling stressful situations (or faking it), got some of my confidence back and made it through somehow. I have found a job I am actually really excited about.

I survived 2016 and I have photographic proof!

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Despite the things that made me sad, frustrated and somewhat hopeless in 2016, and despite my relief that this year is over, I want to focus on the things that made me happier, stronger and wiser.

There is no Thanksgiving in Germany. That’s just too bad, if you ask me, because I think our society would profit from that sort of institution, especially now when everyone seems to be afraid. A day of getting together with your loved ones and focusing on being profoundly grateful for whatever is going well in your life, combined with copious amounts of food seems like a really good thing to me. I want to say thank you.

In 2016 I was very grateful for my friends.

You see, my friends are these amazing, strong people. They care a lot for others, their children, friends and families. They have helped me back up when I fell and given me so much love and support and kindness, it should be impossible. I could always talk, rant, cry and open up about anything that weighed on me at the time and they were still there. They were happy for me when things went well and celebrated my accomplishments with me. They also gave me some really great advice and a lot of hugs and sometimes a place to sleep. Some friends are fairly new, some have been around for a while, but all of them give me a sense of being in the right place and on the right track. What I appreciate most, is the fun and the banter and laughter and the taking my mind off things. With friends like that, a year like 2016 was manageable, at times even great.

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And they remind me to think of it this way… What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And life without an appendix isn’t so bad either.

Now, 2017 is going to be like this: A really big strawberry.

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It’s really big, but also a strawberry. So don’t be afraid little turtle (tortoise?)! Strawberries are best berries. In fact, strawberries are extremely good and incredibly delicious. It may look like a lot of hard work at first, but you can totally dig in and devour that 2017 strawberry. And while it may seem impossible, as long as you don’t stop believing you can do it. You will also get to be mighty proud afterwards. And if things really get too tough every once in a while, you can take a break inside your cozy shell, binge-watch some of your guilty pleasures and finish the rest of that humongous strawberry later when you feel better.

Say it with me: “It’s just a strawberry. I am a mighty dragon.”

 

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