Friday, August 29, 2014

Sooooooooooooooooo... I have a job!

Two weeks ago, I found a penny and made a wish. I wanted everything to change. Don't get me wrong, I am happy with the life I have lived but it didn't take me where I wanted it to go. First of all, I have strongly believed for 25 years now that there could be no worse place for me than Germany, yet I've been here for months now. I have also been successful in pretty much everything I ever did for 25 years until I tried finding a job in 2014. On top of that, the vast majority of my friends (and my sister, for that matter) don't live within a radius of 500 miles. In short, I live in the wrong country, unemployed, and am bored. Why would I not want to change everything? Now I didn't think that out of all wishes I made in life this one actually would come true. Boy, did the universe hear me this time! I have hoped for a lot of things in life and never got them, but the change I got: I got a job offer in Egypt!

I've spent a lot of time in Cairo so it's not an adventure like everyone is suggesting. To be honest, I probably have more friends in Cairo at the moment than in Aachen. The biggest reason for that is that everyone exceeding the age of 24 leaves this place as soon as possible. If you don't study here there is no reason to stay. So all my friends left. I'm also aware that it's a lot noisier and dirtier in Cairo which I couldn't care less about. And most importantly, dear people, I am not risking my life because unlike popular belief there are no bombs exploding in my neighborhood (anymore, or just yet). There is, however, the overwhelming advantage of escaping the rain. Lord knows that after five years of Scottish weather a break can't hurt. Also, and that is far more important, Egypt is actually willing to employ me in exchange for currency. Germany is not!

I know I can do the job. Unlike Germany, I believe in myself! I am generally confident in the field I'm going in and considering I'm a graduate with very limited work experience I think the shock will remain at a minimum. However, this particular job is actually something I would want to do, and anything I would want to do is impossible to get for me on this continent at this time. Egypt gives me a proper job, a salary, and even benefits in exchange for doing a much better job I would get here. Germany does not understand the term "transferrable skills" so it seems like they think I can't do anything. But I have a job now, and if employers who didn't even look at my CV over here saw what I do with it over there they would cry because I will beast it. I know it.

Cairo was by no means a definite goal I pursued. I guess this is the first time in my life that something just happened: my sister passed on my CV, I was told there was interest, and decided pretty spontaneously that it wouldn't even be a bad idea. Considering I never really contemplated living in Egypt this is pretty crazy. I know, I've been a few times, but I am going to live in Egypt, the same place we saw on TV a lot in the last few years, the country that has pyramids and that caused trouble for 5000 years now. I am going to live in freaking Africa. Now nothing really shocks me anymore in life but I didn't see that one coming. But at this point there is only one thing to say about it: Why the heck not? I have freakishly little to lose. I will miss a few faces but that was bound to happen. Other than that, saying Goodbye to Germany isn't just my favorite thing to do but one of the easiest tasks of my life. I'm sure acclimatizing in Cairo will be a little tougher...

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why did I watch "The Fault In Our Stars"???

I think I'm half a year behind on this post but then again, I'm not 14. Still, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life yesterday: I watched "The Fault In Our Stars"! What the heck was I thinking? I knew it was going to make me cry but I didn't see that Niagra Fall coming. That movie is not a tear-jerker, it completely ruined my life. Ten minutes in I was crying like a baby. I'm in shock this is the work of a man, not a pathetic housewife! However, I want to make a point not to focus this post on how much cancer sucks. I have seen how destructive that disease is to the affected and their families first hand and that experience, and this movie, have made me aware of how lucky I am to be healthy. I'm sure we can all learn that cancer sucks from watching that movie but I refuse to see that as the only message of it. To me, personally, the message is omnipresent, not just to sick people. And it's not just empty words like "Live every day as if it was your last"! Cancerfree or not, these themes concern all of us...

#1 Disillusionment
In "The Fault In Our Stars" the protagonists are teenagers with terminal cancer who are facing the disillusionment of life. To me that's the central theme of this movie: Life doesn't care if you like it or not. It is way more unfair to them than to me, however, I can identify with a much less destructive version of the feeling that it has not held the promise I thought it had made when I grew up. I was told I can get what I want if I try hard... LIE! I was told the world is my oyster... LIE! Kids, no matter what age, are told their life will be sweet... LIE! The most heartbreaking line of the whole movie is Hazel saying she doesn't want "this particular life". I'm 25 and healthy but I have caught myself thinking that although I do admit it's rather embarrassing to admit that given how fortunate I am. I can't think of anything worse than knowing you will die before your life really started. Even the strongest people in the world would start feeling like God is taking the piss if they're lucky enough to believe in one. We all expect to get old, having lived a happy life. The past months have shown me that that's going to be a very hard feat to achieve even without cancer. I might have more time but life surely didn't turn out the way I thought it would...

#2 Entitlement
Children, sick or healthy, are entitled to a good and reasonably long life. I was shocked too when I realized we're entitled to nothing. Entitlement is a funny principle because it turns out we deserve absolutely nothing. You would think that Hazel at least deserved to get some answers from her favorite writer since she's dying from cancer and all but he was like life, he did not care. People who believe in Karma are closing their eyes to the fact that kids with cancer are a real thing. Or millions of starving babies in Africa. None of them could possibly have done anything to deserve it. All we're entitled to is to somehow die one day. I used to think I'm entitled to a nice life full of extraordinary things, too. Instead I got quite a bit of hardship. Now life can still be great but many things I thought and did deserve I did not get. As much as I would love to say that the kids in this movie at least had each other, there are other kids with cancer who don't find love. And there's a lot of people living a long life, still not finding love. And much worse, there are a lot of people who are cruel and bad and they have both a long life and many lovers. Who really deserves anything they're getting?

#3 Pain
"Pain demands to be felt" is one of the most horrible book or movie quotes ever. The fear of pain is what hinders me to do a lot of things, most notably fall in love like those adorable kids. The difference between me and Hazel and Gus is that they think the good times are worth the pain. Boy, these kids are much wiser than me because I definitely struggle to look at life like that. Every memory of my childhood is a cruel one to me because it was so nice, and it's not so much anymore. Now I could say "at least I had a great childhood" but I often find myself thinking "if it hadn't been so great, now wouldn't suck so much" because the comparison would be less drastic. Hence, I will only be able to admit I'm in love when the chances of pain are reduced to an absolute minimum which is pathetic. I only lost my father, not my child, but I guess I know it's true there's a life with pain. However, that pain was so bad I will apparently do quite a lot to prevent it from happening again. At least after watching the movie I feel stupid about that.

So this year's equivalent to "The Notebook" and "A Walk to Remember" totally got me. I never admitted falling for a movie that targets an age group a good ten years younger than me but geez, I don't see anyone being resistant to watching kids die. The only way to stay happy is to not watch this movie. I swear to God, if I had known what the movie was about I'd chosen differently. However, although I'm not dying of cancer right now as far as I'm aware I relate to the movie quite a bit. I was eased into these enlightenments but I had similar experiences as these kids in the past year. The bottom line, and the most true sentence of this movie, or life in general, is that it's not fair. This whole post is very self-indulgent, yet I do not intend to talk other hardships down. Dying of cancer is way worse than anything I had to go through. However, I'm glad it's the little hardships in life that have taught me these lessons already. I hope I do not have to battle cancer to understand life, if there is anything to get. And we're all on that "journey"...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"#ALSIceBucketChallenge destroying our world!"

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been the highlight and lowlight of my entire week. Why it's a highlight goes without saying: millions of dollars raised for a great cause, awareness of a horrific disease raised and a lot of fun watching celebrities dump a bucket of ice water over their head. Just like the no make up selfie someone had a fantastic idea and I'm glad it caught on. Then there is the bitter off-taste of wonderful PR. No, I'm not going to say that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a waste of water. And no, I'm not going to criticize people accepting the challenge but not donating money because that's what it really is about. The difference between me and people who say that is that I don't have to hate on EVERYTHING!

When the no make up selfie became viral earlier this year all the naysayers had a much more fertile ground for criticism. Most women taking part really did have a exhibitionistic bone in their body. It was great to support charity but it was also very fun being complimented on a bare-faced picture. There were more people talking down a super innocent little PR stunt than people taking part in it. Dollar for charity or awareness for breast cancer that had been raised became secondary. How in the world could that happen from such an awesome idea? For me there is no other explanation than people being a***. I couldn't care less how stupid people make themselves look in order to raise money for charity, it's always a good idea. The Ice Bucket Challenge isn't even vain. Yet, people obviously still found a way to ruin it.

Okay, I get it, there's a drought in parts of the US and all over the world, for that matter. First of all, decades of water profusion did that and not a bucket of ice water dumped over our head (for a good cause, I might add!). It's driving me insane that people can't sit back and enjoy this fantastic idea without finding a way to bad mouth it. Everything we do is not beneficial to the world in some way or another so if we found a way to waste water and make money for charity in the process I think that may actually make it a pretty smart way to waste water. The waste of water will not cease whether people do Ice Bucket Challenges or not. Stopping ALS, however, is much more possible than two weeks ago. So I really don't see a reason why I shouldn't ask these ridiculous people to shut the hell up.

Charlie Sheen is one of these stupid people. I was really annoyed to watch his Ice Bucket Challenge in which he dumped 10,000 Dollars on himself he then proclaimed to be donating to the ALS Foundation because ice water over his head won't find a cure but those dollars might. So basically, Charlie Sheen is calling everyone who participated a hypocrite. I don't appreciate that behavior. I am thankful for every single person, from the guy at my supermarket to Gerge W. Bush, to take part in this event no matter why they do it because it helps spread awareness. People criticizing Bush for his video, saying "a murderer raising money", makes me super mad. I'd even appreciate Osama Bin Laden doing the challenge because the more people will the more money comes in, and that's a fact. Who cares who they are? Not everyone can donate money but everybody can do the Ice Bucket Challenge and continue raising awareness of a disease that is very real.

As a PR enthusiast I appreciate these challenges massively but at the same time that's maybe because I'm a person that doesn't have to criticize everything. I enjoy things for what they are without analyzing. I was entertained by the challenges and impressed they managed to do a lot of good. That's where my thoughts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge end. It's like poetry: really awesome and beautiful to be read and enjoyed, super annoying to analyze. People weren't taking action to prevent droughts last month why should it be different now. Southern Californians don't need an individual pool in their backyard and still they all have one. And that pool ain't saving lives anytime soon. So seriously, shut up! It's ridiculous and boring criticism and I'm super tired of it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Goodbye Scottish Independence

One month today and my former home country of Scotland will decide whether to be an independent country or not. After four years surrounded by Scots who despise the English in the most obvious forms possible it is hard for me to understand why the Yes to independence campaign will fail. Obviously, many people seem to believe a vote for independence is a vote for Alex Salmond and to those people I have little to say. It's stupid! I don't get to vote and the fate of Scotland is not really a concern of mine because we're talking about seceeding the United Kingdom, and not Sudan. However, this particular debate has made me aware of how politics have changed historically, and how people have become spoiled with freedom they don't realize when they're not free.

As I said a while ago, the debate between Yes and No is simply defined by how people emphasize their desire to be represented in government. A Scot that truly want his voice to be heard and elect a government that represents the will of its people will not be able to vote No as currently Scotland might as well not vote in Federal elections because Westminster does not reflect it whatsoever. Therefore, politically there is really no viable argument for "Better together". I do understand that there are other factors involved, most notably the economic future of Scotland and I do understand that people are scared to screw up. Nobody in Scotland is really doing all that badly if you compare living standards internationally. Why change that then?

The facts are that people do not seek extreme measures as long as a compromise will get them by. I am certain that the rise of the Nazis was an extreme attempt to improve worsening living conditions, or that the Americans only rebelled against the English after injustice grew to an untolerable amount. We evidently have no such scenario in Scotland. Whenever independence occurred in the past it was the result of a long struggle that affected the freedom of the oppressed. Frankly, Scots do not feel robbed of their freedoms just yet. But just as much as there were times when people died for the right to vote the times of people defining their freedom politically has ceased as well. Many people don't even vote anymore. For me it's clear evidence that people have gotten too used to freedom.

If we really think about it securing freedom is not on any of our agendas anymore. I have never faced the possibility of not having rights that are self-evident in the Western world. To me, casting a vote that may affect the course of my country is a right I've always exercised and never underestimated. It might not do much but it's a right nonetheless, and while I consider it a gift I would not be cool with that gift being taken away from me. As a historian and political person I'm incapable of understanding that the Scottish public seem to be alright with not having that gift. Not having representation does not affect the Scottish everyday life so that people are hesitant to change something about a rather good thing. I can see why they think that way but I can't understand it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why Imma read Harry Potter to my kids

I've loved Harry Potter so much I genuinely doubt my life would have been the same without him. I ended up moving to Scotland, a country I don't suppose I would have been aware of if I hadn't seen Braveheart or The Prisoner of Azcaban, and spent weeks of my life watching and reading Harry Potter, never mind the time spent on hiking through filming locations and planning my honeymoon to Harry Potter World in Orlando. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan. Just as much as I grew up with those books I can't wait to make my kids grow up with them. I'm not sure what I would do if my kid wasn't into it. At the very least I would question if it is indeed my child. However, the reason I want my children to read Harry Potter is not just to entertain their homework-free time but to learn some good old life lessons. Here's what I mean...

First of all, I would very much like for their father to be just like Albus Dumbledore (minus a few years but definitely not sans beard). In the likely event my baby daddy is not a super wise man with the right thing to say at all times I need my children to learn from Dumbledore. That man's got it! Advice like "we got to choose between what is right and what is easy" is golden, my kids need to learn that. At the same time, the possibility of them not listening to me is quite large while ignoring Dumbledore's advice is probably foolish to any kid. I also want my kids to see that caring for other people is a virtue and that being calm and collected is a very good way to be. Basically, I want them to turn out exactly like Albus. 

On top of that, it's very important to me that my children grow up to be tolerant and generous people. Who better to show them who to make friends with than Harry Potter? I think we can all agree that choosing Ron and Hermione, the poor kid and the immigrant, was a better idea than choosing Draco, the rich kid. Then Harry starts dating an Asian girl and a redhead, showing us that diversity is a beautiful thing. And even great kids like Harry Potter were bullied in school, hopefully showing my kids that there is no logic behind who gets glory and who doesn't. Harry also befriends a werewolf and an elf, both of whom would usually struggle to make friends to begin with, a gay principal and the biggest outcast in the whole school and in conclusion I'd say he made all the right choices in doing so. Despite having no family that boy is never alone. The elf nobody even wants to talk to saves his life, for crying out loud. It's a beautiful message!

This might be the nerdiest thing I could ever say but those books are highly political and educational. I would like to believe that things could play out like in the books if there was a Wizarding World. Let's face it, Voldemort is just a small scale Hitler, and I'm definitely not going to teach my kids about genocide until a reasonable age. Therefore, my children will learn about real-life political scenarios from an early age where the reality of world politics and history would probably still make the wet their pants, and consequently how to pick the right side. Another political reality in Harry Potter is the ridiculousness of the media. You can't trust the freaking papers even in this world. And look at that, politicians are delirious and clueless, what a surprise! Ya ain't have to be in the wizarding world to have that be true...

The best message of Harry Potter is that life is tough but thankfully you're not in it alone. I felt rather bad for Harry Potter a lot of times because of what he had to go through but in the end he turns out to be such an awesome guy. Hopefully my kids won't have to be orphans chased by a murderer but I do hope they learn to be strong like Harry Potter even when crap's going down. I also think that those movies are wonderful sunday afternoon family movies. I'm gonna bake cookies and make hot chocolate, we'll light the fireplace (because damn straight I'll have one) and the christmas tree and it's Harry Potter time. My kids will have a great memory. And when they're old enough I'll take them to Scotland to see where Mommy used to live and take them around my old campus and they'll feel like they're in Hogwarts. It sounds like a perfect plan to me. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams movie about himself

As I'm watching "Dead Poets Society" for the hundredth time after the death of Robin Williams I remember the first time I saw it, aged 14, in a classroom as part of our discussions about suicide preventions. Robin Williams once said it was his favorite movie out of all of his. I certainly share his feelings. To me this movie is not his best but one of the best out there all together. Now that I'm older, and certainly wiser, I see its relevance much more than I already did when I was 14. Themes like pressure and desperation are present in my life and they evidently were in Robin Williams' life as well. Even a decade ago I understood why Neil committed suicide and I know now that Robin Williams did too. Based on these horrific news this week I feel compelled to share my views on what many people believe to be a last resort. I have no power to sway anyone's opinion on it but I want mine to be out there.

One of my biggest frustrations with religions always were buried convictions that have no grounds. For many years I thought committing suicide would get me a one way ticket to hell. Funnily enough it was Robin Williams movie "What Dreams May Come" that had me scared that I would not be admitted to heaven if I was ever to end my life myself. Robin Williams was a religious man himself and he still decided to end it. There will never be a cell in my body that is able to condemn his actions. I do, however, condemn those who accuse Williams of unforgivable sin. I didn't know him or his condition and I can only imagine to be in so much pain that every hope of it ever vanishing again has ceased to exist. Clearly suicide wasn't a likely decision to make. It is not our right to assess anyone's decision. I don't want anyone to give up ever but I'm not surprised they do. If there's a God I would like to believe He does too.

Seeing the scene in which Mr Keating is urging his students to "seize the day" makes me feel uncomfortable because I realize it's Keating's own advice that Williams couldn't take anymore. How many times have I been encouraged to be positive, seize the day or make my dreams come true and was unable to do all that. Only young boys like Neil Perry and Knox Overstreet would maybe get inspired by such words but someone affected by depression would be burdened by them more than anointed. I don't have to be depressed to know that the advice to seize the day is a popular, however, utterly unrealistic one. When someone is depressed such stereotypical blablas are pressuring. I feel a hundred times worse after I speak to people about my problems and they tell me to be positive. Obviously I have tried that. Carpe Diem is a farce!

Back in the day I was the only one in my class to defend Neil's choice to end his life. I don't condone suicide but I felt for the kid and saw why he felt he had no other choice. He knew how to make himself happy but knew he would never be given the chance to do it. He wasn't looking at a few weeks of misery but a lifetime of achieving his father's ambitions he wanted nothing to do with. On the night of his suicide he knew that the best was behind him and he would be looking at a life that was leading him downhill. Strangely, I can see Williams thinking similar sentiments on Sunday night. Someone said to me this week "I'm not scared of death, living is much scarier." I suppose not all of us are strong enough to do it. If only admitting weakness was accepted in our world at least we could try to be ourselves and possibly be helped.

I can relate to problems that don't seem to be resolvable anymore. The way I look at it is that nothing is permanent, the good and the bad, because I was on the very bottom before and managed to get right back to the top again. However, the last few months I have come dangerously close to the bottom again. I am not depressed, I do not have a condition and I'm certain because I know what they look like. Still, it is very tempting to give up when all that's thrown into your path is stones. It sounds so awful being the funny man to the entire world and just feeling lonely and dark inside. Surely, he could have gotten better and suicide is not a strong way to handle situations but I suppose that's part of depression, not being able to handle situations. I therefore hope he is forgiven if it's wrong what he did in a divine context but I mainly hope he finally found peace. 

The day I ended up in the hospital

Anyone who's ever read this blog will have noticed I'm quite good with dates. A good day I will remember for the rest of my life, what I did when and, most importantly, what the date was. With bad days it happens similarly, however, obviously without enthusiasm. I revisit those moments at least once a year, on their anniversary. For example, I hardly ever think about my Dad unless it's his date of birth or death. On these days it feels like there is additional emotional baggage. August 11, will be one of those days. It is hard for me to imagine that there could be a worse day for numerous reasons. From last week on, a series of really bad events started a downwards spiral and ended... in the hospital.

Let's start on top. On Thursday I went over to a friend's house to indulge over the serious disillusionment of post-grad life. No surprises that I haven't been living the good life lately but I was pretty reasonable about it. That day I uttered the sentence "as long as we're all healthy!" What a foolish, ridiculous mistake. If life taught me anything it's that it can always get worse. The very same day I had a little bike accident that resulted in one rather large wound on my left shin. So far, no nightmare! On Friday morning, I thought it'd be best to let a doctor look at it. So I went to the hospital.

At the emergency room they found it necessary to operate right away. The wound was cut open until I could have a look at my bone. Unbelievably, the doctor jinxed it, saying "if you're unlucky it will get infected but that's unlikely!" In his defense, he didn't know he was speaking to the unluckiest person on Earth. I have never won a single dime at the casino, I have never been given anything in life without having worked for it and until this summer I had lost every single bet of my life. Winning my bets, and consequently becoming the World Champion (finally!), came at a horrible price. Looks like all the luck I had was spoiled on that one event. Although worth it, I'd say it was more of Miro Klose's luck than mine that made that happen. Long story short, I was unlucky, of course, and my tiny bike accident wound got infected.

I was back for a checkup yesterday morning, August 11, still being hopeful I might be able to pass the cup. But just like Frodo Baggins, doom had chosen me. After two hours of waiting with incredible pain they decided I had to be operated again right away. And when they said right away they meant a full 9 hours later in which I wasn't allowed to drink or eat due to anaestetics. On top of that, I didn't expect I would actually have to stay so I didn't have my phone on me to tell anyone at all what was happening or any money to even buy myself a magazine. Retrospectively, there is only one activity I fulfilled yesterday, and that was sit, sit, sit or wait, wait, wait with no clue when that pointless 20 minute operation would take place. When it finally did I was at least blessed with an anaestetist who was easy on the eyes.

I have further reasons to be pissed. Alright, shit happens but it would have been great if it stopped there. But no! Due to my insomnia I have an insurance add-on for a private room. Of course they didn't have one so no sleep. My mom then organized a stick for the internet which, obviously, didn't work. And, of course, that was the last one. But all that was minor business in comparison what else has happened on August 11 which, of course, I was not aware of without a phone or internet. Fortunately, I only found out this morning that Miroslav Klose resigned yesterday. Thank God I didn't know that on my way to the OR or else my chances of waking up without tears would have been blown out of the water. This happening made August 11 a sad day for the world and not just for me.

So next year the Timehop app might remind me of this terrible day but I won't forget this horrific date to begin with. This date epitomizes bad luck for me. One of my friends just had three accidents in three weeks and never exceeded a hospital stay of 20 minutes. How do I fall and hit something that costs me a week in the hospital and months without sports, the only thing keeping me sane. It can only be described as a series of very unfortunate events and as far as I am controlling what the universe is throwing my way this will be the end of it. I've had enough. I deserve a break, and I deserve it now. Universe, you better take note because I'm no longer available for any kind of crap. I am, however, very ready for a job, so you better start digging one out for me...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Step 1: Make Out, Step 2: Marriage... ehm, no!

It's been a tough week in my circle's relationships. I first-handedly watched the end of a relationship this week and it wasn't pleasant. Of course I am not the right person to be speaking about successful relationships because I used to know only one thing about them: how not to get into one and stay out of it for as long as possible. I have, however, been looking for a very different kind of relationship than most people around me anyways. To have a boyfriend is not a priority for me, I've done very well without one for the vast majority of my life. After I broke up with my last boyfriend I realized dating would no longer be about occupying my time or avoiding loneliness. It's not even about feelings. For me it's about finding someone you want and, more importantly, can have by your side potentially forever. Right after that I realized that dating would be the wrong strategy to find it.

I watched the new show "Bachelor in Paradise" yesterday in which Bachelor rejects get a "second shot at love". I usually watched the Bachelor series because I find it entertaining to watch people date and how they act in order to find a husband or wife rather than a hook up. I've done no such dating. I have never dated anyone in order to assess whether I saw potential for marriage. When I've dated so far it was for fun. Are they seriously talking about weddings on their first date? Let's face it: all my dates end up being about football because that's the biggest thing I have in common with most men. I have no desire to speak about relationships on a first date, nevermind marriage. Hence, when I am in dating mode I'm not looking for a soulmate. Having dinner, making out or going hinking together are not activities that will lead to the altar. I will not find out if I'm looking at a potential life partner while watching the new Nicolas Sparks movie or canoeing. Come on, Bachelors!

On "The Bachelor" they love the term "connection". I suppose we all want the spark but I also see why I'm different in that respect. To me the spark comes second to the potential. Of course I always wanted someone who I immediately find attractive, who looks me in the eye and makes my heart beat but unfortunately for the process of that ridiculous show that has nothing to do with partnership. You can love someone all you want; if they suck as a partner you will not be happy. My own experience has proven that love is by no means enough. A spouse is a companion not just the person that makes your heart beat fastest. If that was the case me and Joaquin Phoenix would have been happily married for years now. Those people on the show didn't get that. Hearing them say "Me and [insert name] have a physical connection" makes me laugh. It suddenly makes a lot of sense to me why dating won't get you hitched.

Evidently, the only way to go right is if the person you end up marrying is your best friend who you also like to sleep with. That being said, the statement maybe needs amendments because I love my best friend and I think he's cute enough too but we could never be together. We have come to the realization that super awesome friendship is all we can get out of our relationship because he would drive me insane and would probably kill me if we were more than friends. This is a mutual agreement! At the same time, every guy I ever liked was my friend first. For me it very much looks like dating experience isn't relevant in finding The One at all. You don't need to practice relationships with the wrong person. To know if someone in front of you is your soulmate will only be revealed if the person reveals all to you. I doubt they'll do that at the movies...

Monday, August 4, 2014

The 100th anniversary of Word War I and how it can't teach us much anymore

One hundred years ago today World War I took off in Germany declaring war on Russia. One hundred years have gone by and the majority of the blogosphere will argue today that nothing has changed. I am confident that, with the conflict in the Middle East looming over our heads on a daily basis, the perception will be that we didn't learn from history and still fight wars that bring nothing but destruction. As a political scientist, realist and security enthusiast I will have to disagree although my opposition speaks quite an idealist language. Everything has changed. We might still be involved in conflicts that make no sense outside of political thinking but I don't see two million German soldiers perishing anytime soon...

To start off this argument I need to look at the declaration of war on Russia first. Nobody even does that anymore. And I don't mean declaring war on Russia. True, nowadays it seems that Russia would have to actually point their WMDs at Obama's face to receive retaliation that exceeds sanctions. However, those declarations of war have ceased to exist as well. With international organizations involved in the peace process, most notably the United Nations, a country deciding to invade another because they feel like that'd be a sweet idea is of the past. Now states still act in their own interest today and do whatever they see fit even with international opposition but they have much more to lose when pissing other states off than it was the case a hundred years ago.

The fact that war still exists has merely shown that states' interests haven't changed. Self-preservation was and is a state's most central ambition. In achieving this the idealist way, namely abiding by the international sets of standards, has proven much more useful for the majority of countries. Hence, the way how to achieve self-preservation has very much changed. Even the United States, one of the only states that has made blatant unilateral decisions in the past few years, has resisted the power trip here and there to appease the international community because they realize they "can't go it (all) alone" (Thanks, Joseph Nye). Soft power is very much alive and plays a part in a system that is not directed so much by power anymore but increasingly by the economy. That was different in 1914.

A 1914 kind of conflict will not happen for many reasons. A whole book can't even give all the reasons why August 4, 1914 is nothing but a bad memory, never mind a blog post. Nobody has forgotten, and events like today with German, British, French and Belgian representatives shaking hands in Liege will make sure we won't. The main reason why 1914 will not repeat itself though is that it can't. A dispute like this with technology and the power household we have in the present day would mean the end for everybody. Invading a neutral country quite obviously doesn't trigger the same reaction as a hundred years ago anymore, or did anyone see the Brits, the Americans or the French declare war on anyone after Georgia or Ukraine? Of course not.

It's important not to forget WWI but eventually it will happen. I would almost go as far as saying that the lessons learnt from WWI can't help us too much anymore. Sure, we should remember to let diplomacy reign and not do whatever we did then but war is very different today. We don't have equal powers in Europe anymore, we have stronger weapons, and we have a whole lot more to lose but soldiers in combat. On a much smaller scale we also have much fewer authoritarian regimes and potential megalomaniacs like Kaiser Wilhelm that make decisions solely on how they're feeling. I am happy to be looking at history and realizing that the world is changing. Yes, there's still war but let's consider this: we have much better weapons today and have managed to kill a lot less people at war. Let that be the saving grace of a reality I don't ever see changing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why I said NO to my PhD

I went to university to become a journalist. At first I was just interested in politics and knew that whatever I would be able to do with that degree would be something I liked because I love politics, I love analysis and I love writing. These passions then lead down a different path because if you have them and are also very good at them sooner or later the question comes up if you even want to leave university. I was always a good student but I never expected to do as well in university as I did. Hence, doing a PhD was never on my mind until I realized that I am really freaking good at what I'm doing, and that I probably wouldn't even have to "settle" on becoming a journalist. Instead, my prospects looked like I could pull of writing on a much higher level. From that day on I had one goal, and one only: getting my PhD!

For two solid years there was no plan B. The PhD was very much in the making, and when I accepted Glasgow's offer for my MRes I had embarked on the path to my doctorate with no turning back. I had chosen Glasgow only because it gave me the best chance to get my PhD: world-class uni, the best uni in all of Europe for what I was hoping to do my PhD in and a degree path that was putting me on the ESRC shortlist. A yes to Glasgow was a yes to my future in education. I hated every second of being in Glasgow and thought about dropping out but when I got a chance to work with Prof Stephen White, one of my absolute role models, I thought it had all been worth it. Twelve months of misery seemed like a reasonable price for a chance to work with a hero in Russian Politics. Little did I know that this experience was the first step to my change of heart.

The methodology training of my Master's sucked and I started to realize what being a researcher meant. I whole-heartedly blame bad teaching for making me question whether that was still what I wanted because now that I have done my own learning after the course I know it would have been completely fine. The pivotal moment of change came when I had worked on my thesis for four month, pretty much without supervision, feeling as insecure as ever about what I had written and then something happening in International News that marked my entire thesis as irrelevant immediately. Four months out the window really hurt me, professionally and emotionally. Naturally, I began to wonder what would happen if I wrote my doctorate for years and similar things happening. I decided that I'm not a strong enough person to get over that should it occur. In fear of such disappointment my desire started to crumble.

The real reasons were of a private matter though. To this day I would love to do my PhD and I will not leave this planet without one. However, my path was leading to America where I was going to go to school. While I had always planned to return I suddenly realized that meant permanently saying goodbye to my family. I'd be able to see them again but not take part in their lives. If my sister had kids I'd never know them. I would always be working. Worse than not seeing my family was the reality that th US would have sent me back to school for at least five years as opposed to three in Europe. That automatically meant no dime to pay back a mountain of dept for at least five years, no dime to be able to get married for at least eight years and no dime for a child before the clock runs out. With that PhD my career would always have been my only priority and while it's by far the biggest part of my life I'm not willing to sacrifice everything I want for personal gain for it.

Now I will probably still end up being 35, single, poor and without a child even without my PhD but I have given myself the option of dreaming that it might go differently. I have since regretted my decision a hundred times at least, especially since my assumption that it can't be hard to find a job if they offer you a PhD in the States was completely incorrect. Unfortunately, my academic references don't transition well in the job market, especially in this country. Employers don't care I am freaking amazing at academics. I would change my mind because I still want to do a PhD just as bad as last year but the reasons that opposed it haven't changed, and now I'm yet another year older and further away from having a husband and a dog to come out of it in time to have both. So personally the PhD just wasn't right now but hopefully it will be one day. My dream of having a Dr on my tomb won't fade that easily...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

And they wonder why people lose faith in Politics?

Today, when I saw President Obama take the stage at the White House to answer some questions, I instantly had the idea and urge to write this post. The President started out talking about the American economy, praising how it had created 200,000 new jobs in July, and how he has personally tried to raise minimum wage and make the working class family's life better but was overruled (yet again) by the Conservatives. Of course Mr Obama also had to touch on immigration, shaming the Conservative Party some more. And I thought he was going to answer some questions about a breach in Israeli cease-fire, how foolish of me. There is certainly a lot to be annoyed by in politics but who actually turns away? Today, I imagine, it's an unemployed father of 4 who has to listen to his President praising progress while a Puerto Rican family moves in next door. What would all that progress be for the father?

I am, of course, in a similar situation here. During the campaign in May of this year I heard Martin Schulz raise concern about youth unemployment in Europe about a hundred times and each time I was touched because it deeply affects me. Yet, he's talked about it for years and I still don't have a job. Unfortunately, it's our own lives we use to measure success. If we're doing well our vote would tend to stick with the party that got us there, and if we're not we might seek change. What goes on in the rest of the country doesn't matter as much as the resolution of our own problems. People who have never seen politics improve their hardship are therefore likely to turn away all together. What difference can a single vote make, right? Of course that is a false assumption, however, I can see why people feel like nothing ever changes no matter how or if they vote.

I understand why people are getting frustrated with politics though. It's exactly that progress that Obama touched on once again this morning that must come as a slap in the face to all those who would love to be one of the 200,000 people with a new job. And politics is such a slow moving topic that a person with a general interest in it would probably fail to realize that things don't happen overnight. Rather, they take days, weeks or years, if at all, to actually finalize. It's because we believe in democracy and with all that freedom comes a long way for potential changes to happen. Democracy's little sister is bureaucracy and, unfortunately, hierarchy. We have closed the road on fast changes and individuals making a difference when we said goodbye to authoritariansim. While we are now free from the threat of tyranny we are also unable to push through drastic changes that some countires may require.

The disillusionment of politics comes from unrealistic expectations. Every election we expect change and does it ever occur? Bummer! We're told that democracy means that we can get involved in politics. Spreading this idea should be amended because it's not neccessarily true. Yes, we have a vote in a democratic system but it's not even too far off to assume that one vote doesn't rock the boat. Then, they say, we can all run for office but that's not true either. Social backgrounds and personality play a role. I would probably have a background now, after my studies, to successfully run for an office, however, my personality is not quite fitting as of yet. I have no experience in compromising and maybe only a mediocre talent for it. So I want to change politics but I will not have the chance. Basically, the furthest I could be involved in the decision-making process would be to vote for a party that hopefully ends up representing me. If I was relying on the idea that democracy meant policy directed by the people I'd be pissed too.

Of course I understand that politics can't work like that and as a political person I realize that democracy might be flawed, however, is still by far the best system out there. If I watch John Kerry talk to Benjamin Netanyahu and call for peace in the Middle East one more time though I'm going to throw up. The difference between me and the general onlooker is an actual degree in analyzing these problems, and realizing that there aren't solutions for it. Me and most people educated about politics, specifically the Middle East for argument's sake, know that this crisis is far from over no matter what Mr Kerry says or does. It makes virtually no difference. The resolution is lightyears away. The same goes for unemployment, better conditions for working class families and immigration. The father who still struggles despite of all of his efforts, however, will not find that consoling in the slightest...