Saturday, December 9, 2017

The simple English country life - that life they all want?

Today, I was walking in a cute Cambridge neighborhood. You've seen English movies, you can imagine this idyllic serenity. The air smelled of cookies, every front yard had fresh flowers and the look into the houses revealed a luscious Christmas tree and a motherf**ing fireplace. My company brought a dog and so me and English gentleman were walking through the smallest city in the world, looking into family homes displaying all of that insane happiness people want to see there. I was wearing a hat, he was wearing leather gloves, the sun was shining and we were living the countryside dream. Like, even a dog was there. Sounds good right? Almost perfect. Yeeeah, let's talk about that. This entire city is full of people who came here to live that dream. Most of them brought two kids. But me and doggy daddy were thoroughly unimpressed. Turns out there's two people in this town that are not living this dream.

"Would you want to live this life?", I asked him. We talked about this a lot before, quite possibly bonding over the fact we were quite possibly the only two people in Cambridge that didn't actually come here to procreate. It looks sooo good, that life. As if I didn't want a house. Or a dog. And a roast every Sunday. The truth is, and that makes it so hard to want it, what else is there? I've been in this life for almost 30 years and sooo much has happened. No year was like the other, I was very rarely bored. I then decided to take up the least boring job in the world, as had this guy, journalism, and we never did anything to get any closer to this life we saw in this street today. We were always able to change everything about ourselves on a whim. Soon he is getting on a one way plane to the other side of the world. If he had a house, a dog, this life, that would simply not be happening.

I feel like this life is the place people work for. But when you achieve that, what else do you work for? I've been looking for love for 15 years but what if I found it? I've been working on my career for ten, but what if I got a house and settled down? I've been living arguably the most exciting life I could have, but what if I had a child? I like the unpredictability of life and the fact my life today is the opposite of what it was this time last year. Once I buy that house in that street, get that dog and make that baby, that's what it will be from there on out. It's what they call "arriving". I understand everyone wants that, as do I. The idea sounds so beautiful. But the expectation sounds unlikely to hold up because expectations are rarely a good thing. This one, 30 years in the making, sounds like an epic way to feel empty very quickly. Can a simple reality, a never-changing routine, satisfy a person for 30 or more years if the previous 30 were the complete opposite? I would love if it could. I doubt it can.

So since I had these thoughts today I decided to knock myself out: I watched 'The Holiday'. I saw this movie before, needed a Christmas film, and remembered the English countryside life to be the theme of this cheese feast. Let's forget it's actually the cheesiest movie in the world, but here we have Jude Law being a rural daddy in the nicest of places with the cutest of kids. It's been 11 years since I saw it first, thinking that one day I would live that life: suburban London, working at the paper, making hot chocolate for my children. Well, not quite huh? I see Kate Winslet's house in Surrey now and find it just as appealing as in 2006, only today I know something very real: that's not me. It might never be. I see the movie, and reality, and I'm happy for everyone who found their happiness that way. I just doubt that the eventuality of that life would not scare me. Why "arrive" when you can keep traveling?

I could very well only think that because living that life is not in the cards for me right now. Then again, the fact I can't for sure say that this is what I do or do not want, means there's quite a lot left to figure out before making the decision. I feel many people haven't actually given it the necessary thought but just rolled with the expectation that buying a house, having a family and making roasts is what life is all about. It's a great idea, it's just not the only one. I sincerely hope I turn into the person at peace with herself enough to be able to live this life, maybe making more life for the right reasons, but I simply don't know yet if I will. And if I don't, I don't think that's a bad thing. There's a whole world out there, not just an English cul-de-sac.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Movember: "But wait, Sina, you cant grow a moustache!"


A few weeks ago, my colleague mentioned Movember. You know, that charity thing where men wear mustaches to raise money for cancer and stuff. I knew it from uni where November was always the funnest month, culminating in an 80s party so that all these mos could be displayed while drinking copious amounts. So yeah, that sounded fun. Amazon, hundreds of Computerfreaks with a mustache, could be worse. The idea to do it with my four colleagues, all men, quickly died. It just wasn't good enough. Two minutes later, I had created an all Amazon team, got my team members in Luxembourg and Munich on board, and prepared to make a few bucks. Another two minutes later, I had decided I would be doing this with the entire Cambridge office, they just didn't know it yet. Fast forward one month and a bit, all these people raised almost 4,000 pounds, we completely transformed the workplace and the way people talk about mental health and... I am now the president of a charities committee I didn't even know existed. But let's start up top...

The whole Movember thing was about mental health for me. Not only do I know many affected men, I lost two to suicide this year. What can be done? Raising money certainly won't do it. But I started thinking about my immediate surroundings first as I like doing when 'reaching out' with something of a charitable cause. Amazon, my workplace, hires men that like sitting at computers, seldom exercise and then get a wasabi for lunch, all while working too much because working at Amazon is actually either super demanding or super fun or both. Losing oneself in a life we live really isn't that hard. We choose it, yet we allow it to take over sometimes. And a healthy life simply looks different. Throw in a wife and two kids, and a man will definitely say no thanks to a run after work or a counselor on Saturday. So whether we want it or not, we're all part of the problem. Luckily, we're all part of the cure as well: friendship!

So I knew that the money this would make wouldn't save my coworkers' lives. As far as I was concerned, if there was one Amazonian who had ever hated their life, the fact they saw their employer take initiative in tackling mental health at the workplace would be a game-changer. I want to work for someone who cares about community and accepting people no matter what they are or what they struggle with. So I had to make my workplace that place. It would change lives, not only of those whose life was threatened. I came up with some event ideas that would bring everyone together. Sure, we'd make some money, but mainly we would get to know each other and possibly make connections that would lead to friendships someone who struggles feels comfortable enough with to seek help with. Whoever thought the office was a place we just come to because someone pays us to do it would have had a hard time getting through this month.

On day one I got a barber to shave the men, we had golf sessions on our corporate rooftop for people to make friends, a pub quiz, talks about mental health and male cancer, a lunch event in which some amazing colleagues volunteered to cook for everyone and a closing party. It sucked so much to get everyone to contribute, it was hard as f***. One guy started a book sale, some did bake sales. Most people did nothing. But woah, that's not what we came here to read. If they wanted it or not, all of my colleagues had to give male health issues at least a thought during this month. I dare say that some might even have reflected whether they are acting correctly. And then, most importantly, those silent people who possibly know that they have issues they feel alone with saw that we are all at the very least interested in helping them. If we can remains a different questions, but hopefully they know. I know people in my surroundings know I will not judge and will help where I can. And so, the mission has been accomplished.

My favorite moment was when I was talking to a new hire that said to me he enjoyed the events because it was the only time he got to meet people outside of his team. I have no trouble with this, I know the vast majority of the office, but others are not loud and do accept the nos I got for trying to befriend people, and for them to have gotten together means a lot to me. Another guy came up to me with some ideas, now he might join our committee that I was pretty much made the chair of that brings these people together. We have affinity groups for minority employees and all of them now feel empowered to actually do something to make Amazon a community and not just their job. To have had a hand in that feels really good although it cost me almost all of my free time and some of my work time. Don't tell my boss... Or do because he was on the team and gave the d'accord for this so basically I owe him a thank you. I will temporarily retire from my charity role now because damn, I'm tired, but maybe a small fire has started and this will be a catalyst for change. And at the end of the day, through all this talk maybe someone actually learned we're not immortal and we need to take care of ourselves... And each other!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving: Be Thankful, Be Happy!

Blogging doesn't come as naturally anymore as it used to. First of all, I never had secrets, now I do. Then, I usually found something to complain about because that's what blogging is all about; now I have very few problems. None to be exact. My life hasn't changed much from when I thought negativity was the way forward, only now I changed the approach. So even though I live just as good of a life as then, I just don't find shit worth talking about. Nothing is bad anymore or at least it just doesn't bother me. My deep and emotional insights are happening less frequently because I finally live by what I preach. And writing about how grateful I am about my life and it's lessons just sounds like bragging, so I stop. However, it is precisely this gratitude that got me there. I see what it does in my life. It's more than positivity because positivity isn't 100% effective. But gratitude is. And so, give me a minute to tell you how realizing that I don't deserve a thing I have is why I wake up a happy bunny every day...

We've been through it, I didn't have the easiest ride in life. And we've also been through my attitude that every single failure to launch has just made the wings much stronger. Them wings are now tough as steel and it's just easier flying with a good set of wings. It makes perfect sense. Additionally, I no longer just fly from A to B but potentially to C or D if I can. Those great wings can take me anywhere, and I know that. But anywhere doesn't have to be a place. So once you forget the destination, and just soar a bit because it was hard to get up to the sky, life is sweet. It's fucking sweet. And here's the thing: those that can't look back at the great things that unfold at our sights while soaring without a rush to get anywhere are lost, literally lost. That's why the bird is the ultimate bird expressing freedom. Not having a destination and pressure to get there is freedom; realizing that one is lucky to be flying at all is gratitude; and gratitude and freedom can only lead to one thing: happiness!

I know I'm lucky and it's easy for me to say I'm lucky and happy because despite the challenges some God was very generous to me. I can now do one of two things: want more or accepting that I already hit the jackpot. Do I live a perfect life? No! I'm not even close to as lucky as some people around me, all my friends are abroad or are leaving me, I don't swim in money and I am obsessed with heartbreak. But it's not about what I have or had, I'm most thankful for being chill about it because Lord knows I wasn't always. Wanting more will stress me out and I frankly have no energy. I'm tired alright! But I can thank God or whoever is to blame for this and hope that it lasts. And curiously enough, since I started to feel grateful nothing bad has happened. And now that I have said that I need to elaborate because that isn't even true. Bad, bad things happened this year. Truly bad things! But, for some reason I just wasn't falling apart. Hey, I'll take it. I have no explanation but there's a chance that maybe I just knew it's all part of the journey and there's nothing I can do. So I got through it and now I just soar a bit longer.

Two weeks ago, I was falling apart. I was busy at work, an emotional mess after an incredible trip to Iceland and trying to process the last three months that didn't go as well as planned. I wrote my best friend from uni to check on him that day for some reason. I told him I was good, just a few things on my mind. And sure, I could indulge, but this time I decided to refrain. He replied to me with some words only a friend could whip up, and throughout the emotional reality of this week, that guy once more reminded me that true friendship is a pretty fucking great thing to have. A message, that's all it took. The same day, I had a talk with someone about the last three months and got a reaction I didn't expect. Old Sina would have bathed in the misery, hated the fact that both of these guys are either living in Scotland or moving to Australia next month or that all this shit happened altogether. Gratitude calls for another approach: accept and say thank you. It's not a given to have such friends, understanding and comfort in your life, so if it takes bullshit for you to see that, be grateful for the bullshit.

A friend of mine died this year. His parents changed my views about everything. He was born too early, almost didn't survive his first few days. But he did, and for 30 years his parents had a wonderful child. Now they have no child. It must hurt so much. And his mother found the strength to thank God she allowed her to have him for 30 years. He didn't die 30 years ago, he died now. His life was the gift. That's gratitude to the max. Not asking why, what could have been or how happy we would be if something had or hadn't happened. Just acceptance and gratitude. With this, fulfillment is guaranteed and it turns out that's all I need for happiness. I have everything I need: relative health, a paycheck, a purpose. And I have many, many more things I don't need but want: friends, love, an exciting life and a booze cabinet. The law of attraction brings us more of what we love. That's why Thanksgiving is important. Screw the food or the offensive history behind it. If you feel grateful today, you'll feel happy tomorrow...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

#Metoo: What it means and what we can do

Incredible to think that it took me until now to have all the words ready to comment on #metoo. The truth is, I don't think I will be able to. A series of words can't possibly express the emotions that are connected to potentially life-changing events. This issue certainly changed my life. And when I say change, I don't mean the good kind that is connected to progress. I would not have lived the life I did if I was a man and how could I ever find words to describe the scope of such an emotional and heartbreaking reality. It's like talking about love: most of us feel it but only in art we sometimes get to express it. Could a file or word describe life? In the end, what is a picture, a poem or a blog going to say to make us understand love? A life of discrimination and being and feeling blamed for the shortcomings of a man just feels... bad! And so I can say: #metoo.

I have never shut up about the sexual harassment I have experienced. It didn't take the campaign for me to talk about it. What's new is that I now realize that what I had intended to just be criticism that could make things better, I was very often vilified. Behind my back I also believe there is a lot of thinking along the lines of "well, you asked for it, didn't you?". Nobody needs to tell me that's not ok. I know men would think that because why not? No human being likes to be wrong and reflecting on whether who we are is who we should be is an ability I haven't seen in many human beings in my life. What's scarier to me is my own understanding that I need to please a man. That he is better than me. He can do some things that I can't. And yes, I got that bad even though my daily actions don't mirror this sentiment. And I am not one of those people that can't self-reflect. I know it's incorrect. But since I'm alone in my reflection I know this thinking is there with not just a few, but a lot of women.

Sexual harassment and assault comes from one individual feeling superior to another. Throw in a little bit of disrespect and it's almost impossible not to experience it, whether as a victim or perpetrator. If as a man you have the chance to undermine a woman, and you have that chance a lot, you do it because you will easily get away with it. The question is what "getting away with it" entails. And for the first instance that is not the police or the man's family and friends, it's his victim. How many women believe it's their fault? How many women are paralyzed with the certainty that none of their actions will make a difference at all because they never have? Whose fault is that? On this day, the perpetrator of a sexual crime gets away with it because an entire society has had his victim believe that there is nothing she can do about it. Not on the small, not on the large scale. I never agreed, beating almost every guy that ever groped me or disrespected me. And even I, a self-proclaimed fighter, have felt taken advantage of sooooo many times. All of those times, including right now, I feel like I can't do anything about it.

For me, #metoo is about something else. Next to the obvious benefit of pointing out how big of a problem this stuff is, I was hoping that it makes women wake up. We don't talk about it, even amongst each other. Of course I've been told to not take crap from guys but I do it every day. With a movement like this, maybe we can start with ourselves and, like, stop doing that. It has actually empowered me to change the course on one of my relationships with a man. One I care about, yet one that deeply disrespected me. Hearing Amanpour say I should stop excusing why a man treats me the way he does makes me see. Even out of genuine care, I want to at least call out how disrespected I feel. It shouldn't matter if I can understand it or not and frankly I shouldn't need to understand. We're all our own person and to have respect for each other is a basic miss we see everywhere. When it happens between a man and a woman though the scope is much higher, the hurt a little deeper and the work we need to do a little tougher.

So what is it that needs to happen? Jail more men? Send them on workshops? Change our TV programming? Yo, it's so much more basic than that. It starts with the victim: stop being silent. Then we go to the people who have done wrong (and that's all of us. All of us!): Reflect. Everyone can change and the version of you that exists now is NOT the best you can be. If you make a mistake, repent. Apologize. Be strong and don't run. Apologize for God's sake. Acknowledge you made a mistake, it happens. And then, just like in school, stop making the mistake. You only fell from your bike so many times before you learned how to ride it. Why would learning how to be a respectful human being be any different? In fact, it fucking shouldn't be. You don't have time to learn, you need to know that right away. But men already know it; they just need to stop getting away with breaking the rules. So as much as I'd like to say #metoo is about empowering women, it's also making their lack of being a bitch when one needs to be painfully obvious. While we're at it, stop calling people bitches. I'm a bitch and I like it. Bitch meaning I do not take crap. So far, in society that attitude was not very popular. I don't care how we get to a society that believes that's a good thing but we have to. Men and women...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Age, age, age: Am I "Young", Young or Old?


I'm 28 years old. Some people say that's young, and I agree. It might not be as young as 27, nevermind 17, but it's still not old. If the word "young" would be an adjective people were able to disconnect from a numerical value, it would mean having opportunities, not yet being OK with being boring and waking up every day thinking "today could be different from yesterday". Only when that is gone, and the ability to do all these things with your original hip, you may accept defeat: you're old! Many people I know seem to want to get old, popping kids left, right and center. For some reason, the simple life sounds appealing to them. And yeah, not even eight months ago I thought that's what I want to. But now I know: I'm too "young" to be old!!!

There's a fundamental difference between being young, "young" and old. Our grandmas will probably call us young as long as they live, for the mere fact we are youngER! And would I, at 28, ever consider myself old? Of course not, I'm youngER than the majority of my country, in fact, the old people and their electoral behavior are ruining my future. But: I, like my old friends, can equally no longer do whatever I want. I have responsibility, a much slower metabolism, and grey hair. Like, really, I'm almost entirely grey which obviously will be hidden under a thick layer of bleach for another 28 years at least. I might not be old, but I am also no longer young. I am only "young", and whether I use the two fingers on both hands in the air connotating quotation marks now strongly depends on who I talk to, and what I want for the rest of my life.

My favorite song right now, "Younger" by Senabo, told me I'm not getting any younger. Mate, I know. My uterus is aging with every day I drink wine instead of going to the gym. If I want children, I'm getting older. If I want to spend a year backpacking, I'm running out of time. If I want to perfect a certain sport, I'm ancient. Fortunately for me, none of these desires are essential to my happiness so I'm hella young. This glass of wine I drink occasionally is the essence of my happiness and since I'm neither a mother nor broke nor a professional athlete I'm holding a set of cards that's going to make me win. Because all the things one needs to feel young are available to me and I have no ambition to trade them in anytime soon.

So now we have sufficiently talked about why I'm happy I'm young and refuse to be called anything else, it's time to look reality in the face. I'm slowly fading away and in another 28 years I'll be nearing retirement and will almost have outlived my father's age. So it would be foolish not to think about the things left to achieve because not all of them are feasible anymore. I'm way past my old idea of having four children - a desire I only had because I never met a child. I'm a little bit too old for my romantic decisions if I want to try commitment at some point. And this lifestyle of wining and dining won't prevent cancer forever so it's time to listen to my body and take it to the spa and not the steak restaurant. But OK, I suppose it would be a little too much to expect death to loom. The truth is that the drug-addict artists are probably right when they say a short, exciting life got more to offer than a long and boring life. I plan to be exciting for a very long time so that 30 looming is just not that scary.

However, I now live in a town where the hottest place on the weekend is the playground, even among 20-somethings because they're all goddamn parents. If all people around you do a certain thing, not doing it starts feeling weird. That "thing" being procreation. I'm not participating and I seem to be the only one which I'm cool with. Now. But what happens in ten years when I'm the only one left who does not have a family? I mean now, that's more normal than people my age having one already, but I can't get away with it forever. One day I won't be young and then, my mother thinks, I'll be alone. Maybe she's right. Its unlikely the absence of children will make me lonely but the absence of somebody else, anybody, doing the same, might. So even if I feel "young" at 70, I won't be. The balance between seeing the number and feeling it is a hard to get right, and I don't know how well I'm doing right now... 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The End of the American Dream?

Is THIS what they meant in there in 1776?
August 2, 2005, was the day I had waited for my entire, not-so-long life. 16 years of age, I went through to the gate at Frankfurt International to get on a one-way flight to California. Sina, the aspiring Hollywood actress, was going to America, like all the other successful people. This was, well, not very long after the Nineties, so while it sounds ridiculous now, this is the perception we grew up with over in Germany: people over there make it to the big bucks from a "dishwasher" and I was going to be one of them. This was before graduating High School, twice, and university, twice, so dreaming was all there really was when making plans for the future. So I tried the American Dream, 12 years before Donald Trump became president.

I haven't seen many accounts, including from my friends who voted for this incapable man, that actually believe his DACA decision was a good one. He took a big, fat nail and rammed it into the coffin that held the American Dream of the Nineties. It's dead! Let's start with the notion that the American dream is only for "Americans" anyways, otherwise, he would not be President today. But now, even Americans are not allowed to dream in his country anymore because their parents came in pursuit of that American Dream. Americans will now lose their homes because their parents tried to make their lives better, but not in the way President Trump would envision it 30 years later. So pathetic and so sad - so much so that one has to wonder who actually still wants to try.

Sure, Americans love America, and they will continue to seek and find opportunities. But then I look at my life and those of the people around me here in the land that isn't hailed as the "land of opportunity" and I got to scratch my head: how is it not? The fact that I once left the continent to pursue opportunities is insane now. What would I be looking for today: working long hours, being exposed to gun crime in any side street of the country, paying s***tloads on a mediocre education (or even more on a decent one)? Yo, it does not sound like the land of opportunity to me. Hard work pays off they say in the States, yet from now on thousands of hard-working young people who were part of DACA could be deported, never mind that they will be evicted from their actual birthplaces. The vast, overwhelming majority of these people are successful employees, potentially paying taxes. It doesn't even make a little sense...

At the same time, I got two Masters degrees by working hard, not because I had money because I most certainly didn't. My country helped me with the funds while covering my insurance throughout the whole process. I had to get surgery twice in the last decade, went to college for four years and traveled the world, and yet now I sit on about 6,000 Euros debt that I can pay off in one go later this year when the government calls it in. All that without a guarantee I will ever pay taxes in Germany, and lookey lookey, I never have. I now work for one of the biggest companies in the world, arguably live a rather decent life considering I can go and do whatever I want, and unless God decides I should be sick and takes me out, I will live a life so much better than anyone would deserve. And all I did for it to be reality is being ridiculously lucky... and German!

Of course, in America, all these things are possible, too. The US is far from a crappy country, and I cant avoid the double standard of realizing I work for Americans, so thank you! However, me, the average, middle-class, ambitious woman, born without parents with a sack of gold, would not have what I do in the land of opportunity. I would never have gotten my opportunities. Sure, I had to go to extensive lengths to get them, but the payout from the insanity of going to Egypt or accepting jobs I didn't even know existed, but in my part of the world, more people are born with the freedom to sacrifice all this than in the US. We are far from achieving equality, even in Berlin I was discriminated against for being a woman, but we work on creating opportunities, even for refugees, rather than deporting our own. And for that alone, we win. The land of opportunity is no longer where we once sought it to be. And so I say as a German, a European: If you are looking for opportunities, try looking here!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cheesy Truth: One Day is all it takes

I'm in awe of life sometimes. This girl tries hard to see every day for what it is: an opportunity. I have taken many, probably missed just as many or more, but I try, at least harder than most. Of course, daily life, distractions, stupidity and not being able to do what we know is the right decision for whatever reason is hard to avoid, right now I know that better than ever, but there are these days where we have done the right thing, and it completely changes everything. One of them for me was today, three years ago: the day I set off to Egypt, tears streaming down my face, nothing left to give, thoroughly NOT looking forward to any day that was to come. I changed my life. And it worked. In just one day. If life can do that, what else can it do?

How did this...
I find myself in the mindset of "It could happen, but it's unlikely" too often. Especially with potential that is put to the test, its easier to believe it's just not meant to be. But then I think back to this day, three years ago, when my life held no promise, and look at where I am now. Like literally, right now, I am sitting at my desk in my own home, fresh flowers next to me, a Yankee candle burning, a bottle of chilled Sauvignon in the fridge and Alexa playing ocean sounds. I have a job, and a great one at that, and I live in England like I had imagined it when I was 13 years old. With no effort whatsoever, for once, I was presented this life; I didn't even look for the job like the 300 others in my lifetime. I never actively tried to move to England despite thinking it'd be a nice idea before Brexit. And yet, if that day three days ago hadn't happened, I know for sure, I would not be sitting here right now.

These hard decisions are hard to make, as the name suggests. Pay offs are great though. And even the stuff that goes wrong, it takes us forward. Progress is the word. The decision to go to Egypt, the hardest one I ever had to make, was terrifying and didn't feel "good" a single day I was there. I kept remembering I had to get to a pretty shitty point in life to be forced down that route, but every day I also knew it would pay off. Eventually. I didn't think the pay off was going to be a news job at a tech giant, not even for a second, but I knew the day would come I'd say a big fat "Oh, that's why..." It would have been great to be given all these things that came out of that decision without having to make the experience itself, but that's not how it works. Those good things aren't half as good if they come easy, Id know.

...turn into this?
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is divorcing. Of course, neither of the two people would have married a few years ago if they'd considered divorce would be an option. But things happened, it didn't work out. I asked him why they didn't divorce earlier since things weren't right for a while, and the answer was expected: "I just never saw myself as a divorcee". That's why people get married, they want to be married. They love that person and don't plan to stop. But well, it happens... I never saw myself living in Egypt, writing the news for a robot to read out to people, or making poor romantic choices like I have in recent months. To all these scenarios I would have said "I would never..." this time three years ago. And the fact that I am now that person, because I had the courage to make hard decisions that went against what I thought I wanted, shows me that life can take you anywhere... if you let it. 

All these inspirational quotes, the cheesy lines, of how a day is enough to change a life, are true. My life very often didn't feel like my own because I had preconceived notions about what the words "my life" entail. I thought I'd have children, I thought I'd be a journalist covering refugees, I thought I'd live in the States. None of that has happened yet, and I sometimes walk through the tiny streets of Cambridge and think "wait, how the hell did this happen?" But it did, and I think it's legitimate to claim that's a weird, unpredictable outcome I never pursued. For the future, I learned that planning, promising and predicting is pointless. I want to be the girl that says "yes" to crazy, maybe stupid or extraordinary ideas, and the day I went to Egypt I prove I can be that girl. I got lucky, but only because I gave luck the chance to find me... 

Friday, August 4, 2017

I went for the "good guy" and only found a**holes

Although I share widely, I seldom share candidly. It's in the back of my mind all the time that I am very often hated, misunderstood, and judged based on things that are not even remotely in my heart. Everyone is, I definitely am. I never lie, but I try to portray my "impeccable" life just as much as the next girl does. And then there's heart business, and getting judged on that is too hard. So, the inevitable "I never care about anyone" is as much of a half-truth as the fact that I am always strong and can deal with anything. Of course, that's all true, I can and will, but sometimes even I don't want to be that person. So this blog very often became my outlet, made me feel better, and offered a glimpse into how a person feels, but it very rarely talked about what stuff I sincerely struggle with. Finding answers to the painful questions never had to happen that much, but when it does, like now, it becomes the space I make that happen. 

And now it's happened: after a very long time of not even a tiny dent in the road, my heart got a little crack. And - big surprise - a human being is the root cause. Once again, I met someone who vowed to be "good" - and was until the day I believed it. I am by no means stupid, give people little chance to hurt me but when I do, it's like they feel it and boom, something goes wrong. But they're the good kids, so it must be other circumstance... Now, this sounds soppy and it shouldn't because the vast majority of people are not disappointments. And even my disappointments are not due to the fact that they were disappointing people, including the latest one. But some way or another, despite trying to do exactly the opposite, these people tried hard to build my expectations, and the minute I caught myself having them is almost exactly the moment they change their mind. Despite large efforts to take care, I fail! I think that's a valiant effort not to end up being the stupid one but I still feel pretty damn stupid now.

A candid part I never shared because, well, it's one of the very rare things I deem too private, is that after my childhood, trusting individuals, especially the romantic ones, is not an easy feat. I've had many male friends in my life and although great people, many of them did not reassure my belief in "good men". Back in uni, my best friend was a d*** to women... but it was cool because he was a great guy to me. You see where the lines blur... In recent years I then found out that "good man" does not translate into "good partner": some wonderful people are bad boyfriends. A dishonest man isn't a bad man, I know that one much more than I care to admit. But I do believe I fear this too much. It's not a boycotting mechanism or the fact I am simply too damn bored and need some excitement; it's the fact that even good men are bad sometimes and that they, at some point, realize they owe me nothing, including a phone call or an apology. And then, looky looky, a good man turned into an asshole... 

This year, there's been three. After 11 years I gave up, finally, on a guy that easily convinced me he was a "good guy". I don't understand why they always try so hard to appear like one, then disrespect you (and others, in this case) without even feeling bad about it. For someone to blow it after all these years without so much as picking up the phone is, of course, a massive let down. The fact there is another girl that "meant nothing", is not that great either. Cool story! At least the time that happened to me before, the guy went on to date that girl for years. Easier said than done after solemnly believing - for over a decade - I'm looking at one of the good guys. And while this good guy is probably not a bad human being, his weakness and cowardice translated into me feeling like shit, and him not caring. Now, that's not a good guy, is it? But, but... he volunteers and buys people flowers...!! Big deal... Next! 

Number two this year I also knew for 8 years. Best guy in uni. Absolutely, what a nice guy. Great banter, nice times, never harmed so much as a fly. Well, I guess he didn't realize that ignoring me from one day to the other, probably because there was someone else on the scene, wouldn't make me feel too hot. Like, it's easy to get over obviously, but it's not a nice thing to come from a nice guy.
And then recently, a guy I know is 100% good who just doesn't believe it himself. I tried to make sure he remains the good guy and I still believe he is. Being a good guy just doesn't stop them from doing things I can't and won't believe they didn't know would hurt me, and possibly others. So, good guys do bad things, and when they truly didn't mean to do it only makes it harder to see them as the asshole that needs to be avoided. And I'm not better myself, because I, a self-proclaimed nice girl, have done some shitty things, and many, many people perceive me as a bad person (for which some have a legitimate reason, excluding everyone who claims to know me in Egypt...).

I try to look at why these people ended up hurting me, and usually, I don't see bad intentions, just weakness. I only recently learned that even an unintentional heartbreak is heartbreak, though. The good guy might not have tried to be bad, but he was and assuming that only provides an excuse. Excuse for what? Well, for the ones we love, and for our ego because who likes to claim they liked an asshole, right? I am so guilty of that: excusing the good guys who did not try to harm me. Maybe it's an attempt to wash myself clean because the easy assumption is just making me look too bad: they didn't care all along and got what they wanted/got too annoyed/found something better. That heartbreak, having been used or disrespected, feels worse than the honest one.

There is good and bad in all of us, and we all know that. Most of the time, my good guy turning into an asshole was coming from a place of weakness. Not going rogue shouldn't be too hard: in my cases here, NOT lying would have done it. Or maybe, NOT taking the relationship to a certain level when they are not in a place to do so, that would have been great. And if all else fails, at least owning up to the mistakes and maybe apologizing could have salvaged the situation. But the weak guys run, and don't confront. By the time the experience showed that the belief in such guys is misplaced, they are already in the heart at which point it's easier to tell ourselves they're great guys deep down... just not this once. It's a ridiculous farce I certainly need to drop. Right now, I'm still making excuses for the last bad "good guy"... and because he really isn't the bad guy, it will probably take a while to make me believe that!

Friday, July 21, 2017

My Ode to London


I was 11 years old when I first came to London. My parents were on the rocks, but we went, as a family, on a school trip with my sister's school class. Our city hotel had a large bathtub but was freezing, much like I would be in my four years as a Brit later on in life. I had had two, maybe three months of English class at school and thought I was setting off to see the world. That was before I knew that London was the world. Not just mine, but everyone's. At 11 years old, one does not understand that there are people from near and far that call one place their home although they were not born there. And I, myself, had never called a place I wasn't born at "home". Oh, how much life has changed. The world has become home to many, including me, and hence, London has now well and truly become "home".

I don't live in London and I spend too little time there to even remotely justify a "Londoner" tag. Maybe it is my safe distance that makes my heart blossom when my train rolls into Kings Cross. And of course, the downsides of living in an urban jungle are very much present to me so I can appreciate my current address. However, the feeling of having London "at the doorstep" means I have a friend ringing my bell. Everything I want, everything I am, everything I appreciate, has room in London. Unlike Cambridge, London has all kinds of people, not just the families. Unlike Cambridge, London makes me feel young. And unlike Cambridge, I will be able to drink an (extortionate) cocktail with complete strangers past the crazy hour of 11pm in London.

I thought I was ready for Cambridge and the life it holds. It turns out, I am not. After two years in the worst city in the world, every part of "Cambridge is a tranquil paradise" sounded good to me. Monday through Friday, that works out well for me. But when I finish a week like the one I'm about to finish, the prospect of checking out the two possibilities in Cambridge (lying in bed, doing nothing, or going to a tourist-filled market) just don't hold up. Escapism, to London. I mean, who does that? Yeah, me! I flee the boring life I have finally created and remind myself that I am exciting, able to do pretty fun things with my time and money and, most importantly, not weird for NOT being married and pregnant. Around here, only one place can make that happen...

A rather chunky early-20 Sina in the big city... 
Most people use their past experience to define a place, and I am no different. Other than my visit to London with my parents, there are moments in London that have genuinely made my life. At 18, Nina and I came back, stayed in a hostel, went partying with a footballer, and felt like we are global adults. That's a nice memory to have at that age. Being cool, in London, meant a big deal then. In 2011 my future-boyfriend Alastair came down to meet me in London after traveling 13 hours on a bus just to hang out. It was Christmas time, I was starting to be smitten, and placed my first kiss on the boy on platform 11 at Kings Cross. So many memories, some old, some young. Only a month ago I was sipping free prosecco and eating a free gin ice lolly with my German BFF at Covent Garden and won a purse. London loves me! Out of fear of these memories being tainted, my heartbroken self-canceled my trip to London in 2013 so that I would never have to be sad in London. And I managed that...

... until last week. I was walking through London, being affected by some things that have happened, and couldn't accept that my heart had suffered in London. The previous night I had been exceptionally happy, went to a West End show, walked through Soho which I love and felt, unlike so many times, rather comfortable. Then some shitty events changed the mood, and as soon as I had a chance, I left London and returned to where it was ok to feel like that. Not in London. London remains the place where I can forget. That city, hence, is a treasure where all coins are bright because I only filled the chest with the golden ones. It is because of this that I cannot commit to London long-term: life would eventually give me a black coin.

Even the sights still excite me...
Like now. This past week, the very few corners of Cambridge I already knew served as a reminder of how the very short time I have had here was misplaced. What Cambridge was for the last few months, it is no more. And additionally, Cambridge can't mend this for me right now. Dundee loved me, Cairo shattered me, Hanford supported me. My places have made me or destroyed me. And there is a place that has given me the chance to be whatever it is I want to be that day. This week, that's a person with friends who have ended up in London in great numbers. This week, that's a person who has something to get over. And London is full of these persons, and more. 200 languages spoken every day, and one of them is mine. And with that sheer number of opportunities, the chances of finding the escapism I usually need from the city are just as vast. I may end up bitter, alone and filled with darkness, like many a Londoner, but I like my chances... 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Death: just as scary at 82 as at 28

Some people (who are not me) find it hard to be optimistic in the light of recent events. I mean, let's face it, the kinds a stuff coming out of the news these days are just not encouraging. A news outlet, like the one I try to work on, that covers good news and uplifting stories, is struggling more often than not finding things to talk about. But well, I can't help it, I love this particular life right now and want to have the best time with it. When I am then confronted with stories, in which people wake up to be burning alive in their house, I can't help to spend more than my average two minutes on the thought that it could be over any minute. Literally. Nobody is ready for death but would my life be taken too early if I dropped right now? The answer to this question also goes hand in hand with why it's just so important to not think about how to live life all the time.

I am 100% not ready for death. Who is, ever? Yet some people actually do life-threatening things, and I don't mean going to Borough Market on a Saturday Night. I have many friends in the forces, saw this story of a torero today and then, of course, that guy Baumgartner who jumped from space to land in a small net on Earth. So, I can only assume that these people are quite possibly less scared of death than I am. Why, I don't know. Maybe faith. I was less scared of it when I was dead-certain Jesus was waiting for me on the other side. It consoles me knowing that some people who went too early (or even in due time) said goodbye to this life in good faith there's another waiting. But even if there is, my fear of death persists. The next life, if it exists, might not have the sun, or ice cream, or some of the people I love so much. And that would be scary.

Being a pretty brave person, there's not many things that really do scare me, but death is definitely on the list. Everybody has dreams and we all wanna see them come to life before we bow out. Me on the other hand, I wouldn't really know what these dreams are. At some points in life, I thought it'd be procreation, but I am certain now that my life will continue to fulfill me if I don't have children. Getting my PhD won't make a difference over whether I'm gonna die happy or not either. If I died tomorrow, I'd die happy although my dream of being 90 did not come true. And this might be the result of living a life in the smartest way possible. It's smart because it works: I'm happy! It's because, after years and years of working on it, I have stopped expecting, assessing and thinking about what's right. I do what makes me happy at the time in the hope it will continue to make me happy. Nothing probably will. Like myself, the things to make me happy will change, too.

That's why I am looking back at a catalog of decisions I know for a fact other people wouldn't have made. I did wrong things, stupid things, and things that would disappoint people, but in the end, the only judgement I really have to worry about is my own. So if I die tomorrow, and someone else may judge me, I may lose a few points but I made it to this day with, I feel, the best life I could have lived with the cards that were given to me. I was dealt a very fair hand, and I truly believe I couldn't have played it any better. At some points, the cards sucked, of course, but one could argue it just made me a better player. But I did 21 right, I'm doing 28 well, and hopefully, I'll get a few more to try. Fact is, at the end of the day (or all days), I will, whenever it is, have found a way to maximize the time I got.

Of course, if I die now, I won't get to experience parenthood (which is sad), I would never be a dog mamma (which is sad) and it'd just be a pity for all the things I'm no doubt gonna have fun with, but it wouldn't be too early. Because for what was available, the time was used well, and not thinking about the possibility of dying. I don't like to think about what I do; the only thought worth thinking is: will I have that chance again? So my fear of death makes me live the way I do, not thinking about tomorrow, doing whatever I want because it might be the last chance to do any given thing. So far, it's worked out for me. Despite all the weird things I've done, I have no regrets, it all worked out. And when I die, I'm sure it'll be sick, but I hope I can look back and say "way to go, that could have been way worse, Sina!". 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

100 Days of Cambridge: Love it or Hate it?


"The first 100 days“ is a thing. We all know that. What applies to presidents definitely applies to us normal folk as well. When we embark on a new path, the first 100 days are just as formative as they are in a presidential term. And so, I have now finished my first 100 days in Cambridge. I have relocated enough times to know that sentiments gathered in the initial honeymoon period have a way of corroborating longer into the stay. My first 100 days in Scotland was the happiest time of my life thus far, which ended up being the happiest period of my life all together. In addition, my beginnings in Cairo were the hardest 100 days of my life, equally setting precedents for what would become the most challenging two years of my life for probably the remainder of it. So where does Cambridge, England tie into this? I think I can see a direction… 

100 days were enough to realize that it is not what I had expected. I, of course, didn’t expect Scotland but I did think it would be a bit of a homecoming anyways. At least, I thought, it will be more Scottish than German, and with that I was wrong. England indeed isn’t Scotland and that’s a shame. There are aspects to this that are obviously less dramatic than others are, like the drinking and the lack of acceptable fish & chips in all of Cambridge, but there are the people. And that part is different. The English have a global reputation I would like to dismiss; more often than not, I have found so far, the English really are very polite and proper, but emotionally not very far-ranging. For a person like me, that is a challenge.

Additionally, I expected a student town with lots of public debate, drunk intellectuals and the diversity that comes with a university. Well, not around here. I suppose with a price tag like the one at the University of Cambridge, also known as the finest institution of higher education on this entire continent, sometimes in the world, it is a given that the majority of these kids are born into privilege. They are also overwhelmingly white or Asian. The fact this university has various colleges which equal the likes of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff in the Harry Potter universe, exclusivity is obviously a thing. Whether it’s their fancy dinners they are having in their great halls, wearing dress robes on a weeknight, or a debate about politics, engagement with “the world that is out there” is completely optional and not very encouraged. In that world, the rest of the world likely won’t have to matter anyways.

But now that I’ve pointed out my disappointment, this argument has to take a course. Although these parts of life have panned out differently than expected, the first 100 days have unveiled a large amount of positivity. Sure, the novelty is wearing off, I’m getting more bored by the day, but the prospect of staying here for further hundreds of days is a pleasant one. I was lucky to be spared the fight for friends in a new country once again because enough people I already befriended in the past ended up here or share a kitchen with me. The only downside to the quick but good connections I was able to make is that most of them are linked to another individual as part of a relationship. As a result, even when surrounded by people my age, I sometimes feel a bit old. I consider myself absolutely too young to think about “forever” and am flabbergasted that in this country so many people my age have already committed to it.

The beauty of Cambridge has so many faces, though. Sure, it’s easy to see when walking by the Cam river, watching the rowers coast by meadows hosting cows, or the stunning colleges. For me, however, this experience is so much more. The most beautiful part, to me, is being in my cozy flat, knowing that I am conducting an independent lifestyle free from many of the worries that have at times made my life rather ugly. My achievements, my money, my decisions. And for once I have various freedoms that allow me to make them. Most people my age have the desire to feel satisfied with what they have shaped their life to be, and for me it’s the essence of happiness knowing that the many, many sacrifices I made throughout my life have provided me with a living situation much better than what I even thought possible for a girl like me. Meanwhile, I need the beauty to remind me that I deserve none of this but have to enjoy it while I can. My first 100 days have started to uncover that beauty, and I’m truly curious to see what else surfaces in the coming hundreds…

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When there's a snap election, and the "Greens" invite you to campaign...

Interesting things have unfolded this month and mamma's been busy. I have a job that keeps me in the loop and a personality that doesn't allow me to leave that loop, so when the snap election was called I knew my life would momentarily succumb to news, news and news. And looky, it somehow happened. Now, I don't need to write about the snap election too much, yet, I live in Brexitland, governed by a lady who vowed to definitely, absolutely not call a snap election. And here we are, 9 days away from the snap election not even a year after the Brexit vote, and this country is going to choose this woman to lead them. Fine, I wouldn't, but cool. No such thing as a bad experience, right? Gotta learn somehow...

That's exactly what I told myself when I was offered to support the Green Party campaigning in Bristol this past holiday weekend. First of all, politics is my hobby, so a political trip is the epitome of time well spent for me. And second, I have a lot of learning to do when it comes to both a campaign and British party politics. With less than a day to prepare, I found myself behind the wheel to drive to Bristol on early Saturday morning to stay with complete strangers, walking from door to door, chatting about Green policies. Sounds like a normal thing to do? Sure, maybe, only I didn't know much about the Green Party, the terminology of a campaign and, well, my now slightly more foundational criticism of Green policies turned out to make that job a little harder than anticipated.

The people greeting us in Bristol were incredibly nice. Lord knows I love green people, I even like vegans although I'm not vegan, like environmentalists although one could argue my economic policies wouldn't put them first and prefer hanging out with lefties that teach me about positive energy and the "law of attraction". All these facts perish in my persona that appears to more of a slightly annoying Barbie than someone who wants to change the planet. That kind of vibe, that kind of people and that kind of ideology flies better with me than the one I've been constantly around since childhood: spoiled rich kids that think they deserve anything at all. I could happily have stayed in Bristol forever, gatecrashing on the vegan fun and just being altogether accepting of all kinds of people, shapes, and ideologies. Yet, there was still a campaign to run...

While the people conducting this incredible effort were fantastic, without exception, I was on the wrong campaign trip. I accepted I had come along to support the Green Party, so I didn't sabotage, but on day two I opted for a less necessary job than knocking on people's door, talking to them about the Green Party. Firstly, with little more than a day to prepare one could argue I wasn't the best to speak to people with questions, and secondly, if I was speaking from my heart I would have been saying other things. I found it hard to sell an ideology I didn't share, thus making a very fundamental experience; a friend of mine who once ran campaigns, or at least always claimed he did, often referred to his ability to run campaigns for the Republican Party while he himself wouldn't vote for them. As of this experience, I know that I can only stand behind politics if I do stand behind them. I'm a spotlight person, I can't be pulling the strings.

Additionally, I just don't believe in the Green Party manifesto. Would I vote for the Green Party over the existing government? Sure. Would I choose them out of all parties? Hell no. I didn't agree with some points so much so that my selfish desire to come to Bristol to really get to know the Green Party was fulfilled, only that it didn't capture me. The analogy that comes to mind, as always, is that of love. I've been around many fantastic people, good-looking people, smart people, and overall just massive catches. But that wasn't gonna work out. They were great, I appreciated their traits, but for a working relationship, I didn't need their traits. I like a pacifist because I oppose war, but for my kind of relationship, a pacifist can get to f***. It would never work. And that's how I feel about the Green Party: I would love to live in a world that needs this response, I just don't think I do.

And so I spent the day trying to help the Green Party run a successful campaign by resources, folding letters, handing them out, and being the administrative gem I could be. I just wasn't able to be more than that. Now we don't know if I could have pulled it off for any other party but I couldn't for this one. I did, however, experience companionship, a wonderful set of people, and politically learned more about the Green Party than I could have from a point of opposition. I even sat in a circle, on the grass, with a cuppa, with their national leader Jonathan Bartley, all while having no idea who he was because, ya know, everyone is the same. They really don't joke about that, and I love it. So my bottom line is that I wanna hang out with the Green Party but I don't want to vote for them. But since I don't vote in this ridiculous election, I guess we don't even have to have that conversation...

Monday, May 1, 2017

And then "boom"... I was in love!

I try never to look at how people look or what they do. Their mannerisms and appearance are a product of education or DNA. Chances are that any of these factors have no influence on whether this person is "for me". I keep talking about those first two minutes when you first meet a person when you decide whether they deserve a chance or not. If they're good looking, the chance appears more likely. If they smile, you're more likely to want to befriend them. And if they caught a bad day, we may walk away from them forever because we decided they suck although they could have ended up our best friend. This behavior is inevitable but foolish. I try to stay away from it. Recently I have made experiences helping me to really understand how.

During my time at Amazon so far, I have made the first contact with most of my colleague over the phone. I was interviewed off-site and then started the position in a different office from the one I am now based in. Hence, my first 2 mins with most of my colleagues were devoid of evaluations of their appearance, whether they smiled at me politely or if they possibly come off as rude. All I heard was a voice, coincidentally the medium I now work on creating. But: the judgment still had to be made. The first one I met in my interview had a beautiful voice. I suppose a voice like that makes one more appealing to people who talk to them but without having seen the guy, I felt good. I thought we hit it off. It took another few weeks until I actually met him but I did realize this was probably the first time I felt like I hit it off with a person I hadn't even seen yet. Also helped that he was offering me a job...

All my other colleagues then proceeded to introduce themselves to me in phone calls or an email. Now I had words in front of me on which I was to judge whether I would "like" these people. Lord knows I like way too many people so it wasn't a question of whether I would befriend them or not because I knew I would anyways, but who these people were without knowing. In these cases, sharpening the instincts is easier because appearances and mannerisms don't cloud the judgment. I now had to go with the gut, assess whether that eye inside saw something in these people. If my inner eye doesn't see anything that is far from being a bad thing. I just happen to believe that two awesome people won't just naturally click because they're awesome. Same goes for bad people. What's important is that it clicks, and if it does or not has nothing to do with appearance and mannerism but merely the ability of person A to flip the switch to person B. If they can, one knows within 2 minutes.

The day I properly met the guy in high school I would later hold on to for 11 years was not the first time I had seen him. He had in fact been sitting next to me in 'Government' and despite his bright orange jacket I had not "seen" him. The first time he spoke to me, that was the first instance of "Boom" I remember. It wasn't a romantic reaction then, but I just thought he was awesome. He wasn't awesome; in fact, he was sorta geeky, not in a good way. It got worse from there, eventually becoming very hurtful, and people scratched their heads left right and center why I think this guy was worth it. But he was. To me. Probably not very many others. I have yet to find an explanation. Another time, I was working with a dude who was in a foul mood when I first saw him. His pissed off attitude ruined most people's first impression; he seemed to be a negative, miserable dude. I didn't even talk to him but somehow thought he'd be cool. No idea why. Four months later, we were put on a team, properly meeting, and hit it off big time. The inner eye saw it; I refuse to believe it was the upside down smile it saw... 

In a way, I'm saying there is love at first sight, only that it's not "love" but something we see in some people and fail to see in others. I have talented, good-looking, awesome men around me, and I'm not in love with them. Why? Lord knows. Meanwhile, I had irrational crushes on people "far below my league" or who don't really suit me. All because certain radars inside of me picked up their frequency. And of course, this applies to female connections as well. Miriam, Claire, Anna and Lorna, my best female friends I wasn't born with, were instant connections, I dug them after two minutes if that. I booked a holiday with Anna after knowing her for less than 20 minutes. I knew we'd be friends. I can't even explain to myself why I like the people I like and I don't want to either. It's exciting to meet people and watch it happening when it does, it just usually doesn't. And then, when it does, it's easy to make that feeling "love" because as a foundation chemistry works preeeetttty well...

In the last few weeks that I have, once again, been unleashed on a new city where I don't know very many people, I could see the progress I've made. I ripped myself of tools of assessment and, cheesily speaking, let the heart see. That's also why online dating can be a tool, but never the reason. It's "boom" or no boom, and exterior things have no impact on that. I am craving human friendships (and dog friendships, too) and good connections as much as the next girl does so it is hard for me to accept that not everyone will automatically be a great addition, even if they're great people altogether; it's inevitable, though. This search for the "right" people rather than the "best" people is tiring and determines whether this Cambridge thing will become a success or not. That causes pressure and pressure doesn't help. It is a relief, however, to know that timing, mood and appearances will not affect a connection; they just affect the outcome of where that connection could go... 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why I Feel Brexit Is Taking My "Home" Away From Me

An entire year I dedicated to writing stories about refugees. I have no fight to fight with refugees being assimilated in my or other countries, and for a person (without a heart) looking on from afar it would be hard to gather why I'd bother at all. To be honest, I don't really know myself. Sure, I'd call myself a compassionate person that has an emotional reaction to watching scenes from Aleppo but why do I care about foreigners coming to Europe, feeling welcome, getting the same opportunities as me, when even an American wouldn't be able to? We're all human, after all. Why does one count more than the other? I've always known the answer to these questions, and most people in my generation do, too. As of this year, I have one more: I actually lived in a place that doesn't like foreigners... as a foreigner.


Is this really how we wanna see things?

You might have an immediate reaction to what I just said. Frankly, if you don't, that's fucked up. I'm a white girl, educated, no record, and interested in actually taking part in this society, including its values. Well, yeah! That much is true. Me as a German and them as the English does not make a difference if you look at our hobbies: beer and football. We also all like Jesus, I guess. We also all hate ISIS. No biggie then, I'm welcome. Even if I am, that's not what it feels like. I have not been disrespected as a foreigner in this country even once, including the four magical years I spent in the union's other gem, Scotland. Yet, not even a year ago, the people of this country voted for the doors to shut. I won't accept any other explanation. Brexit is nothing, and I mean it, nothing but a shutting of a door. Unfortunately, I feel like I'm on the other side.

I love the UK, have been nothing but happy and fortunate here but I cannot shake the feeling of no longer being welcome to try here. It's easy enough to be said by a German whose alternative is going back to possibly the best-shaped country out there but I see myself as a foreigner, not a German here. The day Brexit voters shut the doors for foreigners from Eastern Europe and the Middle East because they came to exploit them is the day I perceived the door to be shut for me, too. The choice they made, for whatever reason, was to stop cooperation. Any decision that goes hand in hand with stopping cooperation would, for me, be out of the question. But not for the majority of England and Wales. At that moment, I had no intention of coming back to the UK, but then I did, thinking that it'd be interesting to be a part of the change that's inevitably coming. Yeah, not so fun...

Maybe it really is the fact that I still perceive myself, and most likely always will, as an EU citizen before anything else, and for the longest time I was, therefore, "home" in this country. It's not quite as dramatic as being French in Alsace-Lorraine and then suddenly, well, you're not anymore. But that is what it is: my home decided it no longer wants to have me. Rejection of any kind is not a nice feeling but the people around me, for whatever reason, have decided I am in fact wrong to call this place home. It's home to the British, not me. Let's not even get into the blog post that is inevitably coming about why I am not British. I am German, I like being German, and as of now, that's what I will be here because clearly, EU citizenship means nothing to people here. It still does to me.

It's hard to predict the future. It always was, but now more so than ever. I don't know where I, personally, will be in the next few years. Come Brexit, I might not even be able to stay in the UK. However, it is hard to believe that if children are ever going to be part of my future, I would like for them to grow up here. I always thought this was the country I would like to let the roots grow a little bit, but I cannot imagine this political situation to be a sustainable environment for the child I would like to raise, nevermind the next government for me to enjoy myself. I still believe in the EU and its values, and I would want my child to grow up to be as proud of the amazing work that's coming out of that institution as I am. For many people, it is possible to live in a country that does not politically reflect who they are. For me, it is not.

Scotland, my favorite country, might actually try again to be part of the EU, and from my experience, it doesn't actually mean that much to people. If Germany left the EU, I would not accept it. I would rather be part of the EU than a union that has brought me nothing but oppression for centuries. The fact that Scots think political representation is secondary to economic prosperity is understandable but, ultimately, an opinion I don't share. If Scotland became independent and was applying to come "home" to us, I would be personally involved, I vow it. There is a place where we can sit together and make multilateral decisions. They are obviously not always 100% as good as a unilateral decision but have we never learned anything from John Nash: "let's do what's best for us AND the group" because we benefit if others do, too. Where has this gone? It's no longer here, and I maybe, neither will I come 2019. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I Would Walk 500 Miles... And Not Regret It!

Sometimes effort and success are not even slightly connected. Sometimes we try for months, with no success, and the feeling of "it's just not meant to be" creeps up. Other times, we don't try and are given ten times more than what we expected to be possible. My high school BFF told me on the phone a few weeks after I left the US that he'd fallen in love a girl he didn't even know three weeks earlier - another three months later, they had married. "When you know, you know", they said back then. Their search wasn't long, neither of them tried very hard, but a resulting marriage was absolutely unavoidable. They also happen to be the perfect couple, so everything looks like they just lucked out. So the impression I get is that it doesn't really matter how long that search takes; some things just sort of work out. Knowing all this, I sometimes wonder why people even try...

When I talk about trying, I don't just mean relationships. Effort, as a term, is getting more and more negative in connotation, and I'm starting to believe it might not be a good thing anymore. I am a true believer in things being easy if they're right, and right does not mean "The One", but right... correct... good to exist. When I try to befriend somebody, I'd say that's a pretty good thing. The same goes for giving someone a call I want to speak to. Or working hard on an assignment. Making a difference. Giving someone flowers. There are a lot of examples of putting effort into somebody or something and what I find in most cases is that it's not just a waste of time, it's also perceived as a bad thing. I'm happy to talk about this more.

I try hard with people, jobs and skills. I try to improve, try to be nice, try to communicate, and in the end, I'm tired and end up with nearly the same result I would have ended up with not trying. Putting effort into people, trying to make them feel good or anything of that sort isn't a waste; what I mean is that when something is right, that effort isn't necessary. I'm trying to befriend people in a new city right now and I'm happy to make the effort. Even if I don't end up friends with everyone, I enjoy being nice, trying to get to know people, it's not unnecessary.  Recently I've had the thought repeatedly when a co-worker was slagging me for trying to befriend him. He's my co-worker, like I'm the only one benefitting, right? My experience when doing this in the past, though, was that when I had good chemistry with people, friendship was a natural consequence of me being myself. I talked to most of my close friends for less than five minutes before knowing they'd actually be my friends. "When you know, you know". Not just with people you may marry...

Making an effort with people is fun to me and I'll never not try, yet, I need to abandon the thought in my head that sometimes things are worth the fight. Those who want me in their lives have my number, I'd never not pick up. That's the formula and everyone knows it. The inspirational quote that tells us not to fight for someone who's not worth it is incorrect; it's not wrong to do that, it just shouldn't be needed. Because those things that are comfortable, right and "meant to be" will be easy. I don't have to convince anybody to be with or around me. The door is open, most of the times all it takes is picking up the phone or answering my call. People who are trying to befriend me are lucky because I am happy to be the person who calls. Frankly, if I wasn't, some of my best friends wouldn't be in my life, and not because they don't want to be but because too many people think they're too occupied to invest effort into people...

Conor and Philipp, my two best friends of the opposite sex, have rarely ever called me. I love them, but they forget me. Oh well, two choices: I could be upset and never call them again, hence lose them, or suck it up. So I call them. When they answer though, I know they are as happy about talking to me as I am about talking to them. My effort is appreciated, and there goes that, we continue to be friends even after a decade. Being friends with these boys is super easy, it never seems hard, and I genuinely just enjoy it because I know they feel the same about it. The complete opposite of that is making an effort and getting nothing in return: feeling like the effort isn't even appreciated. I don't want to do that anymore, but I will. And trust me, trying hard for someone, even making myself look stupid just to give people and chances a last ditch effort, and getting nothing in return, is really fucking hard and disappointing. When I try, even when it seems too late, and I don't get a response (or even worse), even a tough person like me is feeling a little fragile about that. It's not nice...

I'm pretty happy to walk 500 miles but let's face it, a mile should do it... 13 at the very most!

I know I can't force stuff (didn't always know that... whoops!) but trying is a good thing. Whether, as a result to my effort, friendship or an opportunity or love blossoms, however, I have absolutely no power over. Heck, I even ended up with the job I thought I had no shot with and hence tried much less for than the other ones. I tried hard for people in the past with no success and I ended up with people I didn't try for. There is no logic to this equation so really putting in an effort is just a luxury I have and enjoy doing. And if someone would like to do the same for me, they're welcome to. The truth is, as much as i would like to tell people publicly here that I am done giving people the opportunity to reciprocate my effort or trying to make something happen that clearly isn't going to, I just don't feel like that is the right way. Duh, I will try texting someone once or twice, if they don't respond I'll get the message, but I am proud to be a person who appreciates and tries for people, chances and changes. And in the end I feel like I won't regret it. I tried. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How Social Media Has NOT Ruined Us

"Before we had Facebook and Snapchat, we actually talked to people". Ergh, this sentence makes me mad. Some people are stuck between being a millennial and a baby boomer, and it's not a great place to be. For some reason, the technological revolution that's been going on has people thinking that communication in person seems to no longer be possible. Back in the day, they say, it was playing outside, not the iPad. Or it was asking a girl out on a date instead of sending her a dick pic. I am from a generation that was fortunate to grow up right between the two, and so I played outside and have an iPad, went on actual dates and used a camera to "sext" (I just really like the word, can't say I'm an expert there). One thing is for sure: social media has definitely not destroyed my life. And definitely not my relationships.

Right now, I live in a city I know nobody in. If I only went by conventional ways, I'd know my three workmates and six flatmates. Instead, I was set up through Facebook with a girl my friend from Cairo knows, met a few people via Couchsurfing, found out that my actual former flatmate from Egypt lives in the same city, spend the weekends with friends I have from five different places in London and browse Instagram, keeping an eye on who is in London when so I can see them. Bottom line: in six weeks I was never alone! If I didn't glue myself to my cell phone I simply wouldn't know these people, or if they're here. Hence, there would be no communication. But social media hasn't just made it easy for me to make friends, it also allows me to stay friends. I haven't spoken to my good friends in California in years, but I always know what's up. There's no way I'd have more than two friends if I had to speak to them in person to stay connected since living in five countries over the past decade made that one kinda hard...

Of course, our network has become a bubble, and not a day goes by on which that's not being criticized. That argument is so lame I wonder how it causes so much friction. I don't hang out with Tories in my free time in person either, and I certainly don't hang out with Nazis. What I see on my news feed is as much a representation of the things I want to see as the life I have built around me in person. In many ways, the internet even allows me to see the lives of others I'd never be interested in, giving me insights about people I know nothing about. Tories, for example. I couldn't care less about befriending a pro-life creationist who dislikes Muslims, but since they're on Twitter, sharing away, I may get a bit of information on how they turned out to be such crappy people. There's no way I'd pursue that in person. I see the news that makes people I appreciate open their eyes, and in real life, I'd do the same; trust my friends' judgment, exchanging what I think.

My friendships and careers have very visibly benefitted, and dating-wise we're probably nearing a billion Tinder babies soon. I mean, who even meets people in a conventional way anymore? A guy these days is 10 less likely to talk to a girl at a bar. Instead, he is 100 more likely to just swipe his phone and sees if she's in the radius. The alternative would be to just not talk anymore because we all know, men these days are pussies. Girls are no better. They portray themselves on social media as if the platform was the nectar that calls for the bees. It's today's calling card. I use it as an advantage, but only because I'm not scared to admit it. Times have changed, I go with it. I try to see it as an additional way to get in touch. The one and only time someone was confident enough to call me, and even more shocking, express that he liked me, I made him mine for two years. So although he is lame on social media and goes about communication in the "old-fashioned", clearly more authentic way, it all started with a friend request. It also allowed for us to continue speaking after I had left the country, which happened to all my human relationships at some point.

The only time social media was bad to me was when I learned of various infidelities or betrayals because people are sometimes just a bit too stupid to use it, or simply don't care. I was once in a sorta kinda relationship with a guy abroad, and suddenly there was this picture of him and a girl at a party, very visibly in love with him. The moment I saw that photo, I know me and him were over. He went on to date her and still is, so that turned out ok. Not so much another time, when another guy tried to "get me back", also abroad, via Facebook, telling me "the other girl means nothing and is sooo lame!" Next day, oh look, they're on a holiday together, checking out the sights, she took 10.000 selfies of them together. When you realize you're being shat on via social media, it would be nicer to just not being able to see what your boys are up to. Then again, if it hadn't been for Facebook I wouldn't have dated either one in the first place because both weren't man enough for anything but this nonsensical attempt at human interaction via social media, meaning other than a Facebook message they produced nothing of interest, in some cases for 12 years...

As a result, I suppose not everyone has matured with the new ways of communication. I remember when the guy I just mentioned called me after we had kissed the first time, on my phone, not drunk, and I felt like that was a major breakthrough. It really shouldn't be like that. I recently called my friend to meet him for lunch. American, very busy, usually abroad. He actually didn't pick up at first, then said "wow, calling, yeah, nobody does that anymore". Having said that, I don't even remember the last time someone answered my call on first attempt. I also had that thought last week when I realized that the other guy I just mentioned literally never spoke unless it was in a message he typed on his phone. That is obviously the sad downside: some people just didn't develop the necessary balls you need to face people, like literally face them. It was too easy to get away with this pseudo-communication that might be enough to stay in touch, but definitely not to stay connected. In retrospect, I don't feel like I knew either of these above-mentioned ex-lovers because I seldom ever spoke to them, like literally spoke. And while communication is easy, and I like writing, nothing transmits feelings like a spoken word, like literally spoken.

Times have changed, and we can whine about it or use it as an advantage. I think I'm achieving the latter quite well, using my social media platforms as political platforms as well as a personal promotion tool. Barely anyone speaks to me in person but I have a way to update them on my life, my views and my progress anyways. And if they like me, they'll consume it. If they like it a lot, they can even engage with it. With people being busier, living further apart and, also, caring less, that is simply the reality we are working with, and social media is the only weapon to tackle it with. So I do. And I try, just as much as I do in person, to transmit the feeling of caring, of appreciating and of pursuing a human relationship. What needs to change is not the tool but the willingness of people to use it. Even Facebook does calls, even Instagram allows you to follow. It is then up to the person behind the screen to make an effort with people. Just like in real life. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Happy Brexit: A Divorce Nobody Should Want

A good table to sit on...
"There is no reason to pretend this is a happy day", Donald Tusk said when receiving a letter from Theresa May triggering Article 50. "We already miss you." Truer words have never been spoken. Today has been one of the most awkward days of my life. I live in the UK, yet I have never felt less connected to this country than today. I will be directly affected by this ridiculously foolish decision its people made in June, but let's not wallow in the fact this was, objectively, a disaster. The will of the people, no matter how stupid, has directed democracy, and it's democracy we believe in, so I may complain but I can't object: Brexit needs to happen. At the same time, this political event is by far the saddest one I've witnessed in my lifetime and frankly, I still can't believe it's happening.

I am a guest in this country and, just like they wanted me to love Egypt in Egypt, or love America in America, I will not agree with its decisions because of the status I have as a guest. This decision is wrong, and even as a bearer of the fruits this country brings to its citizens I cannot help but to deeply object with the one that was made here. In Egypt, I was alienated for my criticism of the country. People believed, since I had such a good life there, I shouldn't talk ill. What I thought about that attitude I can only summarize in holding up one finger, a particular one. This time it won't be different, especially since it's my status as a guest that is at risk here, and I am therefore not just somebody who is freeloading on the benefits but someone who has clearly been told by the people who feel entitled to the fruits I'm bearing here that I am no longer welcome.

Brexit is directly affecting us. As a German, I can probably relax because this uniquely ridiculous decision will probably not cost us much. The people who voted for it are most likely going to suffer the most, next to the ones who didn't vote that way but have to suffer the consequences for their less intelligent fellow countrymen. But as a German in the UK, I am no longer safe from the curse of Brexit. More so than the fear of not being able to stay it's the feeling of not being wanted that makes today so difficult. I live in a country, ultimately, that does not appreciate my contribution to its success. Not mine or anyone else's, except of those who were born here and therefore deserve the accolade of being called British. Sure, the British just wanted to be governed by their own again, but if you accepted that our mutual understanding in Europe and cooperation was something of value, we would not be sad today.

There is no other reason for Brexit other than a majority perceiving that the bad coming out of an organization founded upon the belief that two (or 27) is better than one outweighs the good. To be of that opinion is ludicrous to me. It's a bad lesson to send to our children and it's a less advantageous world for them to grow up in, too. Goodbye free education in continental Europe, British kids. Goodbye waking up in Berlin on a random night out in London, British adolescence. Goodbye shopping for the nicest goods and foods in a strong, single market, British adults. And goodbye expanding your businesses to new shores, British companies. So many people will live a lesser life because of the (wrong) perception of a few too many that Brussels is imposing on their lives, refugees are stealing their jobs and /or the money paid for universal care in a continent looking out for each other is money badly spent. It's a shame. And today, it's reality.

Out of all the things that happened in this past year that I never thought would, this one is by far the most shocking. I'm just hoping that today is not the beginning of a historical period because if today is the first step, the path we are on is one I would not like to pursue. Let us see it as an epic reminder. And I hope that the people in my own country never want to make our guests feel like I feel here: not welcome. Nobody around me voted for Brexit and I'm pretty sure they're not pissed I'm here but if a country, a whole country, has decided to say "nay" to your country's effort to shake their hand, it simply doesn't feel like friendship. And idealism is what I thought the commitment was to. After somebody leaves your house when you invite them over on that bad of a note, you won't like the next time you're over at their house either. I will miss them in our union, I regret their decision, but I'd rather see this as a warning sign that we have to work harder for our existing friendships because offering that hand is not all there is to be done; it also has to be accepted.