Mandatory Reading: A Family History

My grandpa, who turned 90 this year, used to have a habit of reading all of the books on the “Spiegel Bestsellerliste”, which is the German equivalent of the New York Times Best Seller List. “Spiegel” is a weekly current affairs magazine, which means the lists (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) got updated weekly.

Sometimes, this led to some interesting pairings between my conservative, elderly grandpa and the book he was reading: I still remember how appalled he was about Charlotte Roche’s ‘Wetlands’ (which was on top of the list for weeks on end) and how amused I was when I saw it on his shelf.

On the other hand, however, I am still impressed by his ability to be so open as to give everything a chance, even ‘Wetlands’. I admire this and I have been thinking for a while about a way in which I, too,could widen my scope in terms of reading material and I think I have found it. Not so long ago I found out that Amitav Ghosh was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize 2015. I simply adore that man. The original Man Booker is not new to me either and many of my favourite authors were short or longlisted for it at some point.

So, here we go: From now on I shall read a work from every author

  • on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize (6 books a year)
  • on the list of finalists for the Man Booker International Prize (10 authors every 2 years)

This way, I will stay on top of what’s hot in the literary world in a manageable way (6 to 16 books a year can’t be that hard, especially considering that I might also have read some of the authors before).

Of course, as I have only just vowed not to read any books that aren’t to my liking, I don’t have to read books I really don’t want to read (after all, my grandpa never finished ‘Wetlands’), which generally includes any kind of crime fiction.

Wish me luck (please, don’t let this become yet another empty promise to myself)!

B x

Weekly Happiness Update I

Over the last few weeks I have greatly neglected my happiness project, and, surprise surprise, I am considerably miserable. To be fair, I don’t think the neglect is the primary reason for that. I’ve known myself for almost nineteen years now, and I know I’m at my best when I’m sucked up in routine. After the semester is over and the next one isn’t starting until April, I’m pretty much free 24 hours a day. On the other hand, I have driving lessons and physiotherapy during the week and have to stay here for most of the holiday.

So, yeah. Only a week after my last exams I have turned into a bit of a sloth. Of course I had great plans for my newly gained free time, but… You know how it is.

Really it is not much of a secret about how this happiness project works for me, and why reading self-help books really do work: It is not because these include life-changing advice, but because they really just remind us of what we already know. I know that not showering for days and days decreases my happiness considerably and that I feel a lot better when I drink more than two litres a day (tea, that is, not alcohol).

So, anyways, it is time I take up my happiness project again and stop being miserable when it is so easy not to be. I’ll need to update my resolutions to my current situation and then implement these accordingly. I’ll do that right now actually, after I do the dishes (Happiness Secret #482: I’m happier when I’m not surrounded by dirty dishes that stare at me guiltily.).

You’ll hear about those next Sunday!

B x

Tiny Lil’ To Do List (Just To Remind Myself)

Once my exams are over I shall:

  1. Pay more attention to my blog – finally assemble that darn editorial calendar and check out all my followers’ blogs and max out my theme and all that!
  2. Watch Broad City. Important!
  3. Read more. As in a book a day 😉
  4. Get back on track with my happiness project.
  5. Write a novel in a month.
  6. Move more (even attempt something like sports, maybe?).
  7. Cut my hair.
  8. Focus on driving lessons.
  9. Paint my nails in a pretty colour. It has LITERALLY been years since I have last done this.
  10. Spend more time checking out music and listening to music I don’t usually listen too. Discover some hidden gems.
  11. Get a proper sleep schedule, so I’ll finally stop annoying blog readers with my lack of sleep-posts (like here and here and here).
  12. Smile 🙂

B x

Success And Failure And Everything In Between

Over the last month or so I have failed continouously, a little bit every day. No doubt, I have done so every day of my life from my early attempts at legible speech and coherent motion as a small child to what could be considered a ‘normal’ day in 2014. This seems to be one of my inherent faults. I will continue to fail, every single day of my life. This means I will have to be careful not to write every day off as a failure, simply because I failed.

Ultimately, the flaw is in the semantics. I was simply taught it wrong (or I learned it wrong…): The conjunction that joins the words “success” and “failure” is not an “either, or”, it is an “and”. They coexist. They might even live in some sort of symbiotic dependence. Although this might seem like a petty detail, it is not. Don’t we all strive to be successful? Depending on our understanding of “success”, we have two very different goals. One, where “success” implies the absence of failure, is virtually impossible to attain and tends to be temporary. The meaning that I’d prefer still needs some defining. Maybe “successful” could mean that our successes are more frequent or meaningful than our failures. I’d like that very much. It would make a much better life goal.

Now, despite my trailing off into my beloved semantics, there are of course other flaws in my strive for success than just the meaning of words. When joined a new school to complete the last two years of my education before university, my dad used to mock the ‘school spirit’ that senior members of the ‘Sixth Form Management Team’ tried to inflict upon us, desinterested and distracted sixteen-year olds, during endless assemblies. My dad (who received a weekly Sixth Form newsletter) and I who had grown accustomed to the German school system (where the school and its employees seemed similarly desinterested as the students themselves, and such attempts would have been both unthinkable and reidiculous), where baffled by these attempts, however ineffective they might have been.

The reason why we, my dear reader, have strayed yet again to the land of anecdotes is this: What my dad enjoyed mocking most was the schools motto (there was also a mission statement of several pages and what I believe to have been the school’s internal equivalent of the ten commandments). And, yes, I will finally return to my actual topic of success and failure now.

“Every Student The Best They Can Be”

That was it. Pretentious and belitteling at the same time, but in the context of my school the intended meaning becomes clear quite quickly. It was a large school in a rural setting that taught students from age 12 to 19, some of which would go on to read mathematics at Cambridge and others who would become hair dressers or traffic wardens or stay-at-home mums (or dads). I don’t mean to judge any of these life choices, I’m just trying to illustrate my schools broad academic spectrum.

But when you are sitting in an assembly that is boring you to death and you have the time to ponder over the multiple meanings of this motto, you have the time to realise that this is similarly impossible as being “successful” in the conservative way is. I will never be the best version of myself and if I continuously tried to I would fail over and over again. There will always be more things I could to and things I could do better and all of that. But in the end, cursing the things I am not or did not do will make me neither more successful (in all the possible ways) nor happier.

I can warmly recommend doing a happiness project just for the sake of having these tiny realisations, as you put your ticks and crosses on your resolutions chart night after night and celebrate the successes and, depending on your mood at the time, either shrug off or contemplate your failures.

B x

Saturday DAY Fever

Blogging is all about sharing, right? I’ve shared some rather negative emotions over the last few days, so to make up for it I should also share that today I am having a genuinely great day. What’s the reason for that? I guess it’s an accumulation of different minuscule factors that add up and brighten the day.

  1. It’s Saturday. Saturdays are the bestest days. Of course if you spend the day working an 8-hour shift your opinion might differ, but for a lazy student like me, weekends are off and and Saturdays are amazing. Firstly, they are free from pressure: You’ll always have Sunday to catch up on stuff from uni (or blogging101), and even if you’re completely hung-over, it’s fine. Secondly, shops are open. Here in Germany all shops are closed on Sunday. All shops, all day. So Saturday is the perfect day to take the bus to the city centre (or better: cycle) and get that battery in your watch replaced or buy running shoes or do all those kind of things that you don’t have time for during the week. Perfect. Thirdly, does there have to be a thirdly? No, two’s enough. Next.
  2. I woke up in a good mood. This one is essential. My moods in the morning are completely random, but often it dictates the day I’m about to have. Of course, I can overcome a bad mood, but that is just so much effort, and it’s so much easier just waking up with the right mindset. Like today! Yay!
  3. Already, I have fulfilled some of my resolutions. They might be minor achievements, but they are achievements and not only do they give me the feeling of success, they also give me an extra happiness boost!
  4. I let myself be inspired. One of my resolutions is to watch a TED talk a day, because I get tired of them if I watch more than one at a time (too much idealism and enthusiasm can be tiring), but I love them and the feeling they give me immensely. This was today’s: Watch it yourself and be inspired!
  5. It’s neither raining nor dark. Maybe you guys have similar experience with the effect on weather on your personal mood, so you’ll understand that living in the north of Germany at the moment is a mayor downer: You almost never see the sun (or proper daylight, actually) and odds are that it is pissing down/hailing/snowing/about to do one of the above mentioned. So lucky day today. I’ll be able to leave the house without being assaulted by the season.

Oh, I came up with five whole reasons, not bad. Once I have finished writing this post, tagged it and all that, I’ll be even happier, because it allows me to tick yet another resolution: Blog daily.

May your Saturdays be as (if not more) cheerful!

B x

Nuns And Feta Cheese – Some More Reflections

Though I had vowed to publish a post every day during Christmas break, either something I love that you might also love following in the spirit of “sharing” or as one of Gretchen Rubin’s resolutions that I could also adopt on my own terms, I failed to fully deliver on this promise. It was Rubin’s resolutions that I neglected. Nevertheless, I still have some thoughts to share on these, so you’ll have the pleasure now.

Resolution #1: Have An Idol Ms Rubin’s answer to this challenge was an obsession with some French nun who pretended to be happy to make others happy. While I understand the central idea behind this, having the author write an entire chapter about this put me off Saint Therese (I think that was her name…). It did, however, remind me that I have a nun of my own that I admire. The first I heard of her was during an English lesson on Othello where our teacher tried to challenge our assumptions about time and opinions on women’s roles. I won’t disclose too much, but if you want to learn about her click here.  Still, while it is inspiring to read about her, I see now need to idolize or incorporate her into my daily resolutions. Next!

Resolution #2: Handle Money Wisely Most people have a difficult relationship with money. So do I. But the good thing about reading self-help (or pseudo-self-help books like Gretchen Rubin’s) is that you have obvious realizations about yourself and life in general. I realized that while I do like to have a bit of a safety buffer in my bank account, obsessive saving does not make me happy. I like to spend money on things that I use and that I love. So my new goal is not to save up or spend out, but to spend money on worthy things. So I’ll ask is it worth the money? A top that I’ll wear every week is worth  it. So was my massive winter’s coat that keeps me warm and dry every day or the daylight lamp I bought which considerably lifts my mood every time I use it (and I use it a lot). Other things that I’d definitely say are worth it are the real (and more expensive) feta  cheese made of sheep’s milk instead of the cheap discounter “balkan cheese” and the 6€ bus ticket that takes me to see my family.

Have a lovely day y’all!

B x

The Worst Time For Resolutions? – A Review

Oh dear. What is it about the new year that seems to stop us from keeping our resolutions? Unlike many others, who have drafted their resolutions on or shortly before New Year’s Eve and put them into effect the day after, I started my Happiness Project and the resolutions it entails before Christmas even. Now that it is actually the new year, I have a massive slump. There is a few things that I could blame (haven’t fully re-settled into my routine, bad weather, etc.), but ultimately it’s all just me.

Now as a supplement to my constant aspiration to be organised and gain an overview, I think it is at the time to have a pit-stop and face how it is really going with my Happiness Project. Like Gretchen Rubin, I have been keeping a Resolutions chart. Sadly, or luckily, though, I am not as obsessive as this lady (also, who doesn’t like listening to music? You weird people!), so I left the chart on days that were unusual, like Christmas or when I was staying at friends’ houses. As a consequence, only half of the chart is even filled in. After all, these resolutions are specific to improving my everyday life.

What is painful to admit is that I obviously struggle hard with some of my resolutions. One that has never been ticked so far is “Go to sleep before midnight”. Here, again, I have nothing but myself to blame: the resolution is clearly defined and concise, and I know how much a regular sleeping pattern would contribute to my happiness. Yet, somehow, it challenges me more than it should.

On the plus side, there are some that I have kept every single day, that have become natural to me. After I noticed the massive discrepancy between the time I spend on it and the joy it gives me, I vowed to stay off BuzzFeed. Turns out, it is a lot easier for me to stay off it completely than to use it moderately. My abstinence has now freed me from a lot of guilt and frustration, and it now seems almost funny now that I wasted my time determining “which Disney princess” I am and finding out whether BuzzFeed could “guess my account balance”.

My most significant success so far was achieved with the help of the “Make your bed”-resolution. As a student living in student halls, apart from my desk chair the only opportunity for sitting or lounging is my bed. In combination with my sleeping habits however, this often ended with me taking extended naps on a regular basis. This was a source of constant irritation and disrupted my routines and plans rather often. Making my bed was a quick and easy measure against the tendency. The results were astonishing. Even when I did sit or lie on my bed, it was much easier for me to resist the urge to slip under the covers. This made my days more productive and my nights more restful.

The most significant development though, in my opinion, is how sensitive I have become to areas of improvement in my life and possible future resolutions. While I write them all down, just in case, I know that for now I should focus on keeping the current ones instead of thinking ahead. In one area, however, I have decided to make an exception: Education. I have my big important Danish exam in exactly a month and could definitely use some practice. Therefore, I shall compile an extra list of resolutions specific to this subject, but more on that another day.

B x