“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This blog post is contemplating on my 2018 end-of-the-year reflections and part 5 of my travel insights series.

At first, I wondered whether it was worth writing about it in the middle of 2020 – and then I realized, our current situation with so much time for self-reflection and change, definitely relates to this (sorry, not sorry to mention this in yet another post).

So at that time, I was in northern Brazil, thinking about how turbulent the year had been but also how incredibly grateful I was for how life turned out. I published a very vulnerable post on Facebook (part of it will be the bold sentences below) and I really wanted to reflect back on it. Here we go.

2018 * Taught me how ‘dramatic/bad’ events & experiences can make you grow the most and give out a kick in the a** to make a change ;)

Many of us want to change something in our lives, I believe. We might to even be aware of it, because when you’re comfortable and life just happens to you, why would you change it? 

Most people change when s*** hits the fan. Somehow when things are taken from you and your comfortable bubble bursts, you have no other choice but to start over or choose a different approach. 

In 2018, I felt a lot of ‘drama’ and it changed my life in ways I hadn’t expected. I went from a life that felt stable and maybe long(er)-term to backpacking around South-America, something I had never planned, yet even rejected a few months before!

That was what it looked like on the outside. On the inside, I battled the overwhelming stress I was feeling, the hopelessness, frustration and disappointment in myself and outer circumstances. 

I quickly learned that it wasn’t the circumstances I could be angry at. I couldn’t change them. They had already happened. However, what I could work on was my own attitude towards life. There are things we can improve and things we cannot. 

Accepting what we cannot change and changing what we can, namely, our beliefs, is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life. I had heard bits and pieces of it before but somehow this time it stuck. 

It has been tremendous work and it’s not been great at times. I felt like falling back to almost zero many times, but it has also taught me that I will be able to get back on track. Just like life itself.

*2018 has challenged my beliefs about life as an adult

I used to think life as an adult meant the end of fun. The end of being careless, free. The end of any dreams. Work, work, work, And I’ve been in times of life where I felt this more. The pressure to check the boxes, adults are encouraged to: a good career, partner/family, a house with a garden, a retirement plan….

And then I went traveling and ditched all those concerns and felt free!!

Well… that was not the point I was hinting at. 

I learned that I don’t have to be this way even before I went on that trip which has contributed to a lot of my future steps and the way I think about this now. At that time, I decided to get some support and talked to a life coach for a few sessions. And I learned to understand what life meant to me. If freedom is one of my biggest values, then I have to hold onto it. There is a choice and I just had to stay true to myself. This also means that there is nothing wrong with choosing ‘safety and security’ as values in life. The problem is when your attitude doesn’t reflect that ‘choice.’ Just knowing this helped to feel ‘freedom.’ It doesn’t have to be ditching everything and heading out into the jungle. There are outside circumstances you might not be able to change. How you think of your situation is what can help you feel freer. As Viktor Frankl wrote in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

And well… I’m still working on it. I stopped traveling and am now navigating my life and attitude between ‘regular’life here in Germany and my own ideas about how life should be lived. And in days when I feel frustrated about rules and regulations and how situations ‘are not fair,’ I try to remind myself of the above quote.

*2018 Made me realize that there isn’t any savior in this world to take me by my hand and save me – that my only savior will ever be me (same as my worst enemy who’ll also always be me)

* …Yet also gave me the courage to look for people, resources and a community who share their insights about personal development and nudge me to work on my own and to share my experiences regarding this. This includes people who are very different in their way of thinking and who keep reminding me to see the world from all different perspectives

*… Has made me realize my inner voice is worth more than 100 outer voices

The last one that I would get tattooed on me (with an emphasis on would). Yes, people can give you valuable advice. Yes, there are rules to follow, taxes to pay, hands to wash. On the other hand, no one lives inside your body. No one knows what’s genuinely going on inside your head (despite us wanting people to really understand you – I think that’s a utopian thought) and even your rational mind might not always be the best to listen to. Listening to yourself is something so much deeper than these motivational quotes can let you know. However, there’s not much more to be said other than you have to understand what that piece of advice means 😉 Intuition is one keyword to lead you on the way.

It is hard to follow your own voice. It’s crazy hard in a world where we are bombarded with information, messages, and advice so that we don’t even know anymore what our own opinion is and what we took upon from someone else. Everyone seems to have an idea about other people’s lives. We want others to act in a way we would, not remembering that we are not the other person and will never fully understand what they are going through. 

Also, think back to when your mother told you to eat your veggies because they would be good for your health. Did you understand at that time what that meant? Maybe once you got older, you heard that message again, or your body told you it’s time to get serious about your nutrition. Maybe this time, you understood the meaning. It might be months after you heard it the last time. But somewhere your body and mind suddenly had learned the lesson. Not because someone threatened you but because you were free in deciding about this matter. 

People had told me hundreds of times about the benefits of meditation. And it took me almost 10 years until I figured out for myself that I saw a benefit in it. People had talked about teaching English for years and I thought I would never ever work in that field. Fast-forward and I’ve been working as a teacher for longer than people told me about that profession before I started. 

and 2020?

Well so far it’s teaching me that my thoughts about 2018 were pointing the right way and that I can still dive so much deeper into this world. It has also shown me that I can work on these thoughts even when I’m not traveling, but from the comfort of my home. I am grateful that the current circumstances have given me the time I cherish so much for reflections like these <3

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