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.


A morning after

I had my last day at Holland yesterday. I was there for 10 months, first as an intern and then doing freelance work – but it always felt like it was more than that and I’d been there longer than that. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The team there had become my family in a new city, I learned everything I know about my chosen field of profession from them and more about Holland than I thought there was to know. I will miss the view of the Cologne Cathedral from my desk, I will miss lunch in the surrounding restaurants, I will miss- everything. Everything.

They gave me flowers yesterday, and lovely hand-written cards from everyone, and a bookstore gift card, and a hotel gift card redeemable in all major Dutch cities. My supervisor gave me a small notebook that she got for me on her vacation to Tanzania, and I gave her a summery shawl which she loved. We had lunch at my favorite restaurant and I bought them our favorite New York style cheesecake after. I couldn’t have asked for a better last day.

I don’t think I have completely understood just yet that I will not go back there next week; that these are not just a few days off work. But I feel like crying already. I get very attached to people and memories, and I’m sad not so much for a potential job lost but because I will no longer see the people I worked with every day, and walk down the Ring in the early morning, and take the elevator up to the 9th floor, and wish the adorable old doorman a nice weekend.

My experience at Holland set the bar impossibly high for whatever job may come next for me but it was an ideal first glimpse into what work life can be when you get incredibly lucky.

I’m going to Munich tomorrow. Not the city of Munich, I should add, but their football stadium. For my dad’s birthday I scored us two VIP tickets to the (friendly) match of Bayern Munich vs. the Dutch national team. It’s been a dream of his to visit the famous Allianz Arena so even though it’s a hell of a drive (7 hours each way), I obviously couldn’t pass up on the chance when the tickets were up for grabs at work. I’ve never been farther South than Cologne so seeing so much of the country – Munich is about as far South as you can drive – shouldn’t be all bad.

Since I got the tickets through work, I will probably have to network with the agency that sponsored them and small talk as though I, or the organization I intern for, care about what they do. I’ll have to hold wine glasses the right way and pretend I know marketing and act more grown-up than 23. I’m not looking forward to that at all. But everything else, I hope, will be a fun experience!

Fewer hours, more money

Fewer working hours, more money. I had to agree to that, and am grateful that the company I intern for gave me the opportunity to stay with them another month and even changed the conditions of my contract to my benefit. Even though the work itself and the overall situation at the office have made me wish I had the luxury of declining the offer and starting a real job somewhere, my co-workers – at the end of the day – are nothing short of wonderful. They go above and beyond for their interns.

Maybe I should be happier about this solution for the month of May. I’m just a little heartbroken over still not having found a job. Heartbroken, and increasingly worried because it’s getting to be impossible to pay very basic things that demand to be paid right now. I’ll be at the office only 3.5 days a week starting May 1 which gives me ample time to intensify my search for a job. It gives me time, yes; motivation, though, is still missing. — I don’t understand why it’s so difficult.