Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year Resolutions and Past Mistakes

As the New Year is approaching, most people have their New Year resolutions. I never really have any because I know I wouldn’t keep them if I just made them up for the New Year.

At this time of the year, people start thinking about their mistakes and what they want to change for the coming year. It is said that to err is human, which it certainly is, and that it is necessary and good because that way we learn from our mistakes and know how to do it right the next time.
While I do think this makes sense, I can’t help but wonder whether we really learn from our mistakes. Don’t we make the same mistakes over and over again sometimes?
I have to confess, there is one thing I always do and I know I do it wrong. I am really bad at organizing, I am just not that structured. Every year in school I made the same mistakes again. Instead of being prepared for the exams and studying in time, in order not to have too much stress later on, I always began studying very shortly before the exams, to be more precisely, the day before they took place. Or, as my father would call it, I just lived for the moment. In school this worked for me but at university there is so much more to do and it is not as easy as school. Last semester at university was the first time I did actually learn from my past mistakes and tried to avoid that stress. I managed to be prepared for the exams and it worked really well. I have never had bad grades but this time they were actually great. Unfortunately, the current semester seems to be different again. I know what my mistake is and yet it has always been hard to change it.
And think of all the New Year resolutions people have. I bet there are thousands of people who now have the exact same resolutions they had last year and the year before and yet they don't manage to abide by them and make the same mistakes every year.
Furthermore, just look at history. Sometimes it seems like we repeat all our previous mistakes, considering all the wars or any situation where people just strive for power regardless of the results and of how insane it might be.
Unfortunately, it seems like it always takes the worst outcome to make us finally change things.
Isn’t there a saying that defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
So what does it take for us to learn from our mistakes? Do we actually really learn from them at all?
Maybe we don’t learn from history but only from our own mistakes.

As for me, I am now starting to write a paper for university, I don’t want to save it for the very last day, after all. My excuse for writing this post instead of working on my paper right now is that it has to be written in English, so this was really just a quick warm-up, of course.
 Whether or not you learned from your past mistakes, I hope your wishes for the next year come true. I wish all of you a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A trip down memory lane

I am sorry for having skipped last week’s post, I usually try to write an article every week, but this week was different. The reason is that I have to live with my family for about two weeks. Initially I thought I could just come over for Christmas and then leave again but, due to reasons that are too complex to explain here, I have to stay longer. Those of you who have been reading my posts regularly probably know a bit about the situation between my family and me, although I didn’t tell all the details. So, because of the prospect of having to stay there, I couldn’t really concentrate on writing.

Did you ever go on a trip into your past? Was it voluntarily or were you thrown into it? What were your feelings connected to it?
Or are you able to live completely in the present and never look back? I’d like to say that I do, I usually try, and I did make peace with the fact that I will never have a good relationship with my family, my mother and my brother in particular. I just decided to live my own life. I think it is good and even necessary to let the past go. But there are moments that throw me back. Lately some people keep telling me they think I am strong, but especially in these moments I am not at all. Whenever I visit my family everything changes, mainly because nothing has really changed. I hope this doesn’t sound too confusing.
Did you ever look back and realized how good it is that past is over? This is what happens to me every time I visit my family. To be honest, I hate it. Nothing feels worse than stepping over the threshold of the entry door, every time I just want to turn around and run away. I hate sleeping in my old room, in my old bed, there are too many memories. I feel anything but free when being here. This is what describes it best, this feeling of being somehow trapped. It feels like there is something pressing my chest, not letting me breathe. I wish I could say that I can forget and forgive, but every time I’m here I realize that I can’t entirely. I couldn’t sleep for two weeks before going here and when I just thought of it I felt literally sick. I won’t stay any longer than necessary.
However, I am trying to see the positive side, which is that I don’t have to live here constantly anymore. Besides, I am really looking forward to a little Christmas party I am having later in the evening with a few old friends of mine. This is the other side of my journey into the past, I really missed those friends. We went to the same school but afterwards we all chose a different university, plus I moved away for my studies, so we don’t see each other very often now. Nevertheless, when we meet, it is like nothing ever changed and we’re best friends again. So, visiting my home town really is like a trip into the past, it seems like nothing ever changes here. I like to think that by moving away I escaped this state of not being able to move forward.
Anyway, next week’s post is going to be more like my usual ones again.

I hope you all get to spend Christmas with your loved ones. Merry Christmas, or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, just have a great time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How much ambition is really necessary?

Sometimes people tell me I have to be more ambitious. But do I really always have to be best at everything?

It seems like society sees it as a sin if you don’t seize every opportunity you have, even if it concerns something that is not really important. Is it a sin to waste your talent, for example?
Are you not allowed to be happy unless you achieve more and more?
How ambitious does one really have to be? And how much ambition is too much? Can there ever be too much of it, in your opinion? I would definitely have to answer in the affirmative.

I can be pretty determined if I really want something and I do have dreams and aims in life. But this doesn’t relate to every activity in my life, I don’t feel the need to be more ambitious about certain things.
For instance, I have been doing judo for quite some time now, although I don’t do much lately, actually hardly any at all. Anyway, over the years, I participated in several competitions and I was somewhat successful, for my standards. However, I have always only done it as a hobby and refused every offer to go to a special school that would focus more on sports. Also, I didn’t want to practice every day or go to another more promising and successful club than the one in my town.
As a consequence, some people told me I’d wasted my talent. But have I really? I had a dream, I aimed to take part in the national championship just for once. When I qualified for it a few years ago, it was quite a big success for me. However, I have accomplished my goal, so afterwards I honestly lacked any ambition to achieve more than that.  And why do people think I should want that? Maybe I could have achieved more, but I never wanted to live for it and I knew that I would never be good enough to be really successful. I have always been told that I need to be more aggressive and more ambitious, but that’s just not how I am and I am not going to change with regard to this. So why waste my time, given that I want something else in life?
Moreover, my priorities have changed, they became simpler and more difficult at the same time. Although I still love doing judo just for fun, I don’t care about how successful I am concerning sports, I’d rather like to finish my studies, find a job, travel, have my own little family one day, just be happy. And if I know that living for a sport won't make me happy, I won't do it.
Is it really necessary to be ambitious in every area of life? Does it make you more successful, happier?
Is ambition the key to success? But what if you don’t want that success? What if you’re content with what you have already achieved?
Do you consider it as a waste not to seize every opportunity you have? Does it make a difference for you whether it is about a hobby or a job, for example?

I am not saying that having ambitions is bad. When I really want something, I fight for it, I don’t give up and I do everything I can to get where I want to be. But there are things I just don’t need to accomplish.
Besides, in my opinion, too much ambition can become harmful when it turns into an obsession.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I am British and Germans are Nazis...?

Of course I am not, but I would love to be British. I attended this seminar about cultural differences at the weekend which was held by a British woman who came to Germany in her thirties. She talked a lot about British and German values and the differences she noticed between British and German people. Of course you can’t say “the British” or “the Germans”, of course this is much more differentiated. But I do believe that there are certain tendencies and that some values might be more important in some cultures than they are in others.
I noticed that in a lot of areas I am more British than German.

Moreover, I am currently planning my semester abroad which will take place in less than a year and I desperately want to go to Great Britain. Unfortunately, my university has only three partner universities in the UK and there are about 500 people applying each semester and only two are chosen for each university (at least if you want to go as a Erasmus student, in that case you don’t have to pay the tuition). The reason why there are only two students to be chosen is because this is based on an agreement between the German and British universities and apparently no one wants to go to Germany. This does not only concern Great Britain but also France, for example. I can understand this somehow, if I could choose, I wouldn’t choose Germany either. Actually I would love to move to England someday in the future.

Anyway, I am really curious, how much do people (non-Germans) learn about German history? And how much do you know about Germany as it is today? What do you think about Germans (please be honest)?
This woman also talked a lot about stereotypes and told us about some of her experiences and asked us about ours. A lot of the other students told stories about how people asked them about Hitler when they were abroad and how a lot of people think of Germans as Nazis. In fact, one student had been asked (not by a Briton though) what Hitler does today. I am always quite shocked to hear that a lot of people don’t really know a lot about this and that they really associate Germany with nothing else but Hitler. Admittedly, I am not very patriotic, however Germany today is not Germany 70 years ago.
Also, as a German, it is quite unthinkable to not know about German past and you can’t imagine that other people don’t learn about it. Of course, history is inerasable, therefore we learn really a lot about it at school, mainly to prevent that such a thing can happen again. It is almost awkward to admit to be German.
Again, people shouldn’t forget about this time in history, in contrary, they should learn about it (and Germans do but I don’t know how this is in other countries) but I also think that it is important to know that it is past.

So, when you hear Germany, do you really immediately think of WWII and/or Hitler? Do you learn a lot about it at school? Do you associate Germany with anything else that doesn’t have to do with the above mentioned issues?