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Back to the real world

My first day at the new old job was last Friday. So far it’s been a happy start. I’m glad I’m easing back into things with only half a week’s worth of working hours. I’m glad I’m finally going to have an income that – while way below what someone with a university degree should earn, in my opinion – frees my parents of having to financially support me. That is big, you guys. I will barely make it each month; with student loans and health insurance eating up most of my salary, I won’t be able to put anything into savings or splurge on stuff for fun. But I will be off government welfare and off my parents’ backs. I’m working a grown-up job and supporting myself, and it was about time I made it here.

One of my first projects was to write copy for an ad campaign for one of the company’s partners, Deutsche Bahn (Germany’s railway). The ads will be placed on bus and subway stops in Germany’s major cities so I’ll likely be able to see my work realized right here in Cologne soon. I’m grateful that my supervisors have enough confidence in my work to let me dive right back in literally on my first day back. It’s exciting to work on projects like this behind a desk and then to get to see the results out in the world when you leave the office.

Downtown Cologne has me back. The office is just off of the city’s main square. I’ve missed being in the midst of all the noise and the people and the colors; the tourists, the traffic, the neon signs.

The subway has me back. Morning rush hour has me back. Downtown’s lunch places have me back.

The past six months have been such a colossal waste of time that I try not to think about it. I am exactly where I could’ve been last July, and yet I suppose I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

A merry little Christmas


I’ve been home for a while now, and it’s been (mostly) perfect. No matter how little I miss home when I’m not here and how few traditions or memories I connect with this place, Christmas always feels more like Christmas when I’m with my family at my parents’ house.

This & that
We had a single day of snow over the past couple of weeks so Christmas here most certainly was not white. It was rainy and warm. We spent Christmas Eve as we always do, though: setting up the tree and decorating it in classic red and white, doing a long walk at the widlife sanctuary in the (relative) cold at dusk, and then coming back to a warm and cozy home to exchange gifts and eat good food. Instead of lamb, which we usually eat on Christmas Eve, my dad made duck and deer this year (photos to come) which was delicious!

Over the holidays we also read in our old children’s Christmas books that our parents used to read to us throughout December when we were little. We had Glühwein and fresh mint tea. We met the extended family at restaurants to eat more and promise to see each other more regularly next year (which we never do). I tried the Toffee Nut Latte at Starbucks and decided it must be their best pretentious Christmas novelty drink yet. I spent many evenings playing cards with my mom.

Material Christmas
I got some lovely Christmas presents, some of which I had mentioned to “Santa”, some of which were a wonderful surprise. I got Stephen Fry’s book “Moab is My Washpot”. It’s his autobiography and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I got obsessed with his television show “QI”. I also got a gift card to a bookstore, and a couple other gift cards. My mom gave me my favorite perfume (“Glow” by J.Lo) (don’t judge, it smells really fresh and light and soapy). And my brother, sweet guy that he is, somehow remembered that I mentioned this particular H&M sweater a couple months ago and got it for me. Oh, and San sent me a lovely handmade Christmas card that made me so happy! I love getting regular mail – thank you, San!

Meeting old friends
On Thursday I went to a breakfast meet-up at a small local café with a bunch of old girlfriends from high school. We don’t usually see each other during the year because we’re never in the same country, much less the same town. But we always meet on the day after the holidays (December 25 and 26 are Christmas holidays in Germany), when everyone is here to visit their families back in this little town that we came from. By now, our group has grown to include two husbands and a little baby girl who tag along, and it’s just- lovely. We don’t talk about the negative stuff; we skip right over all the everyday complexities of growing up and creating a life because we don’t see each other often enough to fill everyone in on the details. And so it’s nothing but old memories and jokes and banalities. Just the right thing after a Christmas spent with extended families who excel at asking exactly the wrong questions about How Your Year Has Been and Your Plans For The Future.

We did a short trip to Holland yesterday (is it odd that I mainly miss the Dutch supermarkets? I loved them most when I lived there, their selection and quality of food somehow is so much better) and hit the Christmas market again. I just made a last batch of Christmas cookies and will pack for my trip to Sweden later. Am trying really hard to enjoy all of this as much as possible!

If you celebrated, I hope your Christmas was wonderful!

Cinnamon desserts


Have been living the good life, and am working on a big holidays recap post that should be up tomorrow before I leave for Sweden on Sunday.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate) & are otherwise doing lovely as well.

Photos show caramelized cinnamon pears and a vanilla cinnamon ice cream star, both of which I indulged in over the holidays. Christmas = All The Cinnamon!

In all honesty

I have always tricked the system, in a way. All throughout high school and uni, I got away with waiting until the circumstances took difficult decisions off my hands. Sitting things out, hoping for problems to solve themselves, relying on others to turn a blind eye, lying to supervisors. In my senior year I didn’t attend a single P.E. lesson (which are mandatory in Germany) which would have kept me from graduating but the teacher, not wanting to ruin my career path this early on in life, pretended I’d shown up often enough to receive a grade. My thesis supervisor at uni all but let me skip my oral thesis defense entirely because he knew I was making up failed classes at the same time and had a lot on my plate. I didn’t get a scholarship for my stay abroad in the United States so my parents paid for it. I got into Maastricht University, the only school I applied to, because they don’t have any entrance requirements. I became an intern last-minute at the company I did because my mom had found the ad and sent it to me just at the right time when no one else had applied yet.

It always worked out in the end. I was always lucky enough. I graduated, I got just-above-average grades, things were moving forward as they should. But I never set real goals and met them because I dedicated everything I had to getting there. That you can get away with never doing more than absolutely necessary – sometimes less – because there’s always people higher up to let you pass or timetables that tell you what to do next or holes in the system to slip through is a terrible, terrible lesson to learn. It feeds into my general laziness and lack of ambition, and creates a toxic mix that led me to where I am right now: jobless, unmotivated, incapable of fixing things on my own.

I have sent out maybe ten job applications in the past three months. I should have sent out at least three times as many, and the job counselor the government assigned to me when I applied for welfare checks if I do. So I lie. I look up job ads and I print them out and I tell him I applied, even though I never did because I couldn’t be bothered to do actual research about the company and write a decent cover letter. I think we can all agree that is INSANE behavior. What kind of person does that, deny herself progress and success just to avoid putting in any effort? A person who never had to. A person who never learned that this is how life works. A person who, time and time again, discovered that the choices she’s made so far were never really her own but just happenstance. A person who always always always settled for whatever came along, for the easy way out that was always there if she just waited it out long enough.

Right now, waiting it out was good enough again. I whined and complained and did little to improve my situation – work towards a job I really want, or even figure out what I really want – and by pure chance, the company I interned for contacted me again and offered me a job. It’s a crappy job, it’s not at all what I had in mind or what I should sensibly be doing. But I didn’t line up any alternatives and so, once again, it looks like I will settle for something I just happen upon; something that’s handed to me; something that’s good enough for now but not ideal; something I forced myself into that I won’t likely be happy with.

I mentioned this in my last post already but it bears repeating: I need to break out of this strange cycle. If I make any resolutions for 2013, it has to be to take control of my life, set goals and actually DO STUFF to achieve them, make decisions and own them, be myself and be happy.

Being an introvert

My stomach is in knots over New Year’s plans right now, and I hate that. I just want to enjoy Christmas and then deal with the inevitable depression I (and many others, it seems) go through every January but not have to deal with worrying about what to do on New Year’s Eve on top of that. As things stand, I’ll be at my parents’ who will be celebrating with my aunt and uncle at home. I will tag along awkwardly, 24 years old, a party scrooge who’d rather just read or watch a movie or walk the never-ending online world every single night than socialize and get drunk. It’s just who I am. I understand the benefits of getting together with a bunch of people to ring in the new year and that it can be fun; I’m just not comfortable at typical New Year’s parties. More to the point: I don’t know any people in my hometown (not anymore) or in Cologne that I would enjoy socializing with. People who like what I like, who understand where I’m coming from when I say “I don’t like parties” without judging or patronizing me or finding it weird or different or boring. And of course that’s a huge part of why I’m upset right now. The realization that you don’t really have people around you that you want to spend time with, who get you, is sad. Painful even.

I have friends like that. But they are nowhere near me, geographically. It normally doesn’t bother me as much but right now it would be damn nice to have a couple people here at home, or even anywhere in the same country as me, that would think it’s a great idea to get together on New Year’s and cook and watch a movie and chat and have champagne and count down to 2013 and be in bed before 6am. I considered escaping to Sweden, where I have several friends who would enjoy an evening like this and where I already saw myself greeting the new year with a long early morning walk through the fresh snow, but since the idea was so last-minute, said friends already had plans. I would just hang out in my Cologne apartment but I had agreed last month that my roommate could “rent it out” to her dad and his girlfriend because I didn’t expect to be in Cologne for New Year’s.

And so mostly, I think, I’m just upset that I didn’t make plans earlier – plans I would look forward to because they’re not just What People Do On New Year’s but what I like doing. I’m upset that I actually care what my parents and aunt and uncle think when I end up spending New Year’s with them, that I already feel embarrassed about not knowing what to say when they will ask the inevitable question: “How come you’re not partying with your friends tonight?” I so badly need to work on these ridiculous insecurities, and work towards creating a life that makes me happy, rather than trying to fit whatever only acceptable mold I think exists.