Photographed in Iceland
Valuable lessons this rather mediocre year has taught me.
I am not sure if it's a new (social media/online) phenomenon to look back at the year and claim it was... mehhh, but I have read countless reviews saying that 2018 was a year best described as mediocre. Well, not to jump on the bandwagon here but my 2018 was, in fact, mehhh. So damn mehhh, that I don't even remember big chunks of it. Of course, there also were highlights. Like moving into our new home, family time, some extraordinary road-trips and more. But most of all, my 2018 was me wasting life (and BAD weather). I lost precious time by being indecisive, procrastinating and feeling aimless. To top it all, a dream of mine got smashed to pieces right before the year ended. I should still be devastated, I guess. Luckily, I am not. Instead, I am looking forward to those 360+ blank pages that I hope I will be able to sum up to a better version of a year. Days that I can fill with, well, MORE. More camping, more hiking, more exploring this amazing country I can call my home. More laughter, more cuddles, more love and finishing the new education I started.
I could now write down all the things that went sideways last year or concentrate on the amazing moments, only. I could name every single one of my plans for 2019, my goals, my hopes, my dreams. Create an endless list of new years resolutions. But I don't want to bore you with a detailed, 3000+ words long personal recap. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the things I've learned and how those will affect my 2019. As mediocre and mehhh as 2018 was, it taught me quite a few precious lessons. About myself, others, life in general. About what matters.
1. Dreams don't always come true, and that's not necessarily bad.
I stopped blogging last year. I felt drained, ran out of things to say. Writing long articles turned into a burden. All the passion I once had for running a blog vanished into thin air. So I refocused, for months, tried to figure out what to do, instead. There I was, with no purpose, struggling, losing grip. I kept telling myself giving up blogging was the right thing for me to do. And after weeks and weeks of "what the hell am I doing here?", I finally crafted new dreams. Got super interested in clean eating, became a vegetarian, then more and more vegan. I got so obsessed over what changing my diet did for my body that I wanted to know EVERYTHING about nutrition. (And I am not talking about weight, btw.) So after five years of being self-employed, I started a second education - as a vegan nutritionist. (I already am an event manager.) I loved every bit of it, but the emptiness I still felt wouldn't go away. Not by reading book after book, not by studying, not by learning how to cook and bake. Nothing filled the void of not writing, anymore.
Then the idea of a retreat was born. I sat down with my best friend Caro, and we planned and plotted. When we had a solid concept and were confident, this could work – we went all in. Of course, pulling off something like this is cost intensive, and there was no massive budget for us to work with. So we applied to 'Startup Tourism'. It's a program that helps to establish new projects in Iceland. 128 companies handed in their application, only 25 – 30 were invited to an interview. When we got the invitation, we were thrilled, one step closer to turning this idea into reality.
We couldn't show up in person, had a Skype meeting, instead and well, to keep it short, didn't make the final cut. For a week or so I felt like drowning. I am aware of how little of a chance there was for us to make it, in the first place - but still, it was disappointing. I felt like a failure. It took me two weeks of brooding on the couch and hating on my incapabilities until I realized I was acting like an idiot. I freaking loved blogging, always did. I ran out of ideas because I never committed to writing about what profoundly moves me. I felt stuck in a loop because even though I had countless "fresh new starts" I never REALLY changed my approach.
So I grabbed my laptop and started noting down article ideas I would love to write about. It took me an hour, and I had reached 200. That's when I realized that I got it all wrong, that I had made a mistake, a massively stupid one at that. Another week of intense redesigning the website and reevaluating my ideas went by. And here we are. It's 2019, and I am back at it. So yeah, dreams don't always come true, and it sucks when they don't. You never know what it might be useful for, though. You might realize that they were merely a replacement of another dream, that you gave up on, too soon. Or that there are so many more dreams out there to be dreamt. Life never stands still, and there is no way around the fact we can't hit pause whenever we want to. So it might not be a bad thing to tell ourselves “It wasn't meant to be.” At least, that gives us room to think and then make space for something new. Or in my case, something old, that wasn't over, in the first place.
I am thrilled to be back. To write again, to concentrate on the things that I am most passionate about, to share them with you.
I suffered from chronic gastritis for around 10 years. My stomach was so damaged afterward that it never recovered. I was ill more than I was healthy and I got so damn sick of it, you have no idea. So last summer me and my husband started using a service called 'Eldum rétt' out of curiosity. It's one of those services where you get a box of fresh ingredients and recipes at the beginning of each week. We opted for vegan. A few weeks in I felt some noticeable changes. I began to dig around, got curious. Devoured book after book on clean eating, veganism and more. I've never been a massive meat eater, anyways, so it was a natural move for me to go at least meat-free. Then I cut out dairy, then white flours, then sugar. My stomach got better and better, my skin cleared up, my energy levels rose up, I even started running. It blew my mind. Since then, I am obsessed with the concept of eating yourself back to health. It does work wonders, and not only on me. My husband, too. Eating a poor western diet affects us all, in so many different ways. I am grateful to the moon and back that I made those much-needed changes. Better late than never!
Now I can't wait to share all my new knowledge and recipes with you. Tell you how I cured my gastritis, IBS, heartburn and more. How we discovered and deal with my husbands celiac disease. I am just so in love with real, colorful, tasty food! The entire process got me thinking about other aspects of our diets, as well. The way we treat animals and the environment, for example. How we ultimately treat ourselves. So even though 2018 was a mehhh year it did wonders for my health. And not only my body, mind as well. I am more aware of things we have to be more aware of. I am now educating myself on what we can do to make sure we aren't one of the last generations that can call this fantastic, beautiful, magical planet their home.
3. Living in the now is the only way to live.
If I learned one important lesson about life last year, then this is it. All those “live in the now” sayings are not some pretty Pinterest quotes - they are the ultimate truth. We do only have now; we don't know what the future holds. We can plan and estimate and hope, but it should never take our NOW away. Appreciating the little things, being human, with all its aspects, even the shitty ones - in the end, that's all there is. I've spent so much of my last year wishing for the future to come that I wasted countless potentially awesome moments. I was way too wasteful with my time. Finished too many shows on Netflix that did not add any value to my life. I didn't get out enough because I was too busy feeling sorry for my indecisive self. I've rushed through weeks doing things I don't even remember by now. You don't have to be happy every single day, you don't have to pretend that you are never mad or disappointed. It's okay if you decide to be lazy and watch that new series you think sounds cool. But it is so damn important to be AWARE of it. To not numb down and sprint through the year as if there're infinite more to come. As if those specific 365 days don't matter in the grand scheme of things. They do. When I thought about what I would write today, I tried to remember what exactly I did in 2018. It was shocking how little of it stuck with me. Never again!
So if we would talk new years resolutions – this is one of mine!
4. Being yourself doesn't mean being your best self.
How often do we say to someone that “you have to be your true self and everything will work out”? “Be yourself” is a saying we throw around like confetti. (Even though it should be kindness.) There's something severely wrong with it. Because what if “being yourself” isn't actually your best self but a shitty version of who you could be? Over the past years, I've learned that being myself means working on becoming my best self. There are so many versions of who we can be. There isn't just one we have to stick with, one that is nothing but amazing.
Read an article on how to become successful. Listen to a podcast on how to be happy. Or spend hours on a book about how to engage with others. You will come across the obligatory “Accept who you are and embrace it.” This might very well be one of the most horrible advice you can give someone. Shouldn't it be “be honest about who you are and then work on becoming your best possible self”?
To be direct, I am fed up with hearing people say “well, yeah, I know that I am a difficult person, but that's who I am'. Guess what, I used to be one of them, and in retrospective, I could slap myself for every single time I thought that way. What an arrogant, selfish, unsympathetic way of thinking. None of us is the center of the universe, and human relationships mean compromise. Today, I am thankful for every time someone tells me I am being selfish, mean, disrespectful or a straight up ass. I am hurt and angry for a while and then I start thinking about it. Wondering if I do have to act that specific way or if it is something to work on. And when I do, I end up becoming a better version of myself.
You don't have to change your entire personality, give up on your values and ethics. I'm not saying blend in or let's all be the same, but I am 100% certain that 'be yourself' is not enough. Trying to be your best possible self is. You can be emotional, rational, driven, straight-forward, goal oriented, fun loving, adventurous, spontaneous, need a lot of space to yourself, be shy or outgoing and all else there is making us unique. But if driven means elbows and backstabbing, emotional means insulted by every misplaced word, rational means not giving a damn about someone else's feelings, straight forward means never overthinking your choice of words, spontaneous means not considering someone else's schedule - then that's NOT being your best damn self.
I'm by no means perfect. Chances are, I never will be. But I am always going to make sure to listen to what others criticize about me. 2018 taught me that I still have quite some anger issues. That I am not very spontaneous. Have a hard time not to understand constructive criticism as an insult of me, personally. And can get super harsh when I find someone's opinion or behavior idiotic. (I am sure, there's more.) To me, becoming my best possible self means being honest and opinionated while always staying friendly. To be aware of the fact that I have flaws and if I am being unnecessary angry, harsh or dramatic, again - not give people shit for letting me know. To not always be so stuck in my routine and therefore need to plan things three weeks in advance. I'm striving to be caring, a good listener. Someone who is open minded, not too quick to judge, empathetic and kind.
There is so much more to write about all things self-growth but let's leave that for another article.
5. I love to wander, but even more so, I love standing still.
I've always been restless. So much so, that everyone who ever knew me was sure that I could never settle down. That I would always feel the need to move on, no matter where I tried to grow some roots. And I believed the same. All I wanted was to travel, to get out there, to explore, to test as many new hobbies as possible. To me, that was the true meaning of living bold, of living free. Then I met Iceland. Everything changed. 2018 was the year I finally realized what all that restlessness was about. It had been one massive search for a place to call home. I still love exploring and traveling. But if I would be touring this country and this country alone for the rest of my life, I'd be okay with it. What I once said I'd never want to do is now my biggest dream: to build a house. To commit. After decades of believing I would vagabond my life away I am more than ok with the fact that, well, that's not who I am.
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6. Nature makes me happier than money ever could...
Of course, that's easy for me to say. I have a roof above my head, food stocked up in the fridge, warm water and electricity ever flowing. I also have a lot of dreams that involve money. As I said, I want to build a house (a cabin, to be precise) out there in the middle of nowhere. With a little greenhouse attached so we can grow our own food. (Or well, most of it.) I dream of a small camper-van and of owning a canoe. All that involves money. What I am trying to express is, that this year I have come to understand the concept of minimalism a little better. Meaning only buying stuff that actually adds value to your life. To me, experiences add more value than things. More than a house filled with clothes, handbags and expensive furniture. A hike, camping under the stars, a morning paddle, a swim, heavy snowfall, watching the Northern lights dance. It all makes me so much happier than “stuff” ever could.
Something within me changed when I moved to Iceland. And throughout the past year, that change manifested. I reduced my clothes down to a fourth. I got rid of all the chemical beauty crap I owned. I focused on only buying what we actually need, be it food, furniture or even Christmas decoration. We didn't have a tree this year, we did not purchase any additional decor. I got one pair of snow-boots (the only pair of shoes I bought in 2018), and we didn't wrap our presents. Not because we couldn't but because we didn't want to. We bought what actually makes us happy. A new tent this summer, to be able to sleep in the mountains. A few pairs of hiking socks. Books. It gave me joy. And yet, none of those luxury add-ons made my heart sing like a sunset or a roaring waterfall or a sparkly night sky does.
7. You don't remember mediocre, you only remember outstanding.
My conclusion when looking back at 2018? There was way too much procrastinating, too little that was remarkable. One spontaneous road trip around the island, including swimming in the most breathtaking location. Cabin weekend with long conversations under the stars and the most beautiful sunrises. Visiting my grandparents in Greifswald. Having my parents over in Iceland, finally being able to cook for them and take them on my favorite hike. Having coffee with Caro, over and over, talking about the things that matter to us. Cuddling with my cats. Me and my husbands first ever camp-trip. Running my first ever 6km. Realizing that my stomach was not acting up any longer. All this I will remember. But the bigger part of the year was a wafting grey veil of ...something.
I don't expect 2019 to be one perfect day lined up after the other. I don't expect every moment to be life-altering. But I will make damn sure to be more aware of what I am doing with my time. Decide to grab a book over watching yet another dumb series. Go for a walk instead of wallowing in self-pity when there is no good reason. Go out to witness the sunset if it is exceptional. Take time to eat and not rush through the meals. Value every great conversation I am having. I do not believe in the concept of convincing yourself of being happy. But I do believe we all should take note whenever we are overjoyed. Life is what you make of it, so I plan on cutting out the nonsense and concentrate on what matters. Growing as a person, live in the now, good food, nature, health. And the occasional road-trip adventure.
the most perfect lunch, oceanside
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