Monthly Archives: March 2012

Boredom kills

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There was a time not too long ago when my typical workday went something like this:
Instead of checking my e-mails first thing in the morning, I took my time preparing my breakfast in the office kitchen. Usually I always found someone to chat with, so I sat down at the table and enjoyed my nutella bread and a freshly brewed coffee. At about 9.30 I realized that it was about time to get started with work, so I wandered back to my computer.
Instead of finally checking my work e-mails for urgent tasks to take care of, I checked my private messages. And Facebook. And Twitter. And my blog stats. Running out of interesting things to check on, I finally turned to Outlook – only to find that 9 of the 10 mails I got were useless newsletters. The other one was an out-of-office message from a client. I read the newsletters anyway. By the time I was finished it was already 10.30. Time to get started, so I took a look at my to-do list.
Instead of prioritizing the tasks on the list and working them off one by one, I stared at an almost blank sheet of paper. None of the few things on the list were urgent. I had the free choice. I could start with anything I wanted. But first I had to check my e-mail. Maybe an unexpected task had just come in. Maybe a crisis had arisen and I would be the only one to turn it around. Maybe a client urgently needed a press release and I would be the only one being able to help him out. But there was nothing in my inbox.
Instead of turning back to my to-do list, I remembered that I still had to look up flights for my trip to Valencia over the Easter holidays. So I did. Finding the cheapest flight to a certain destination is a serious business. It requires a lot of thought and dedication. And time. When I was finished it was almost noon. I glanced back to my list. Was there anything on it I could finish within an hour, so I would be done by lunch time? Yes, there was. All 5 of the items on my list were actually doable in less than an hour. Even if I took my time, I would be able to finish them all by the end of the day. But I also needed something to do in the afternoon, so I decided to look up some more silly stuff on the internet instead of getting started. The afternoon wasn’t much different from the morning, though, and by the end of the day I found myself dissatisfied and with only one or two things checked off of my list.

Now some of you might say I should have been happy to have a relaxed working day that even allowed me to take care of some private stuff. But I can tell you: I wasn’t. Quiet days are fun for a little while, but for weeks on end it just leads to discontent and unproductiveness. In my job I’m usually used to work under time pressure, I need to handle lots of different things at the same time which requires an extremely strucutred way of working. And I love it that way, at least most of the time. But when that pressure is suddenly taken away, it’s like my engine stops running and it takes me 10 times longer to finish my work. Plus, a lack of work also leads to a lack of challenges and success – both of which I need to be happy.

So after these miserable weeks (or months rather), I’m happy to tell you that things have changed. The first weeks in my new job have already required me to work several 10+ hour shifts. After the first week I was so tired, I slept through almost the whole weekend. But I’m feeling so much better now than I did before. I can see that what I’m doing is making a difference, that it’s appreciated by my clients and superiors – and I can feel my flow of creativity that I’ve missed so much coming back. Considering that, I hope you understand that this post is a little behind the usual schedule :).

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A day I will never forget

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Do you remember what you were doing a year ago from today? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was my last day of work before a one week ski holiday in Austria. Packed with a huge bag, I took the bus to the train station as usual. I took the train to the city I work in as usual. I met my workmate at the station as usual. I had to get some money, so we took a detour to the bank on the way to the office. I remember how I thought what a nice early spring day it was when I stepped out of the bank. My workmate was checking the news on his phone. He looked at me and said: “There’s been an earthquake in Japan.” I knew that an earthquake isn’t unusual in Japan at all. It’s a part of everyday life. Something you get used to. You have no choice. But from the look on his face I knew it wasn’t just an earthquake. It was bad. Really bad. Just how bad, we couldn’t imagine at the time.

I quickly scanned the article on the phone. I felt like someone was pushing a knife right into my heart. Over and over again. I couldn’t breathe. What about all my friends in Japan? The people I’ve worked and shared my life with for months? I had to get to the office as fast as I could. I had to know if everybody was ok. So we ran. Instead of having my usual coffee and nutella bread, I went straight on Facebook. A lot of people had already posted updates. And they were all ok. Thank God! I was so relieved, I almost had to cry. I also checked with my friend in Paris who had worked with me at the cafe in Tokyo. She had heard from the staff and they were all ok as well.

The relief didn’t last too long, though. I spent the next hours reading through everything I could find on the topic. I watched disturbing footage from the earthquake and the following tsunami. I saw skyscrapers swaying like grass in the wind. I saw people running from the water in panic. I saw houses and trucks being swept away by the flood like toys. It was all surreal. It couldn’t be true. How could the country that I loved so much, that had been my home away from home, that I dreamt about so often be put into so much suffering? I couldn’t concentrate on work that day. I felt confused and nauseous. And above all, I didn’t feel like going on a holiday. Of course, I went, but I felt bad enjoying my life while a catastrophe bigger than we could ever imagine was unfolding. When I wasn’t out on the slopes, I was sitting in front of the TV or the computer following the news that were more and more disturbing everday. Every morning I was scared of the news that were awaiting me.

I was a kid when the Chernobyl incident happened. Even though we were living more than 1000 km away from the atomic plant, the sand in our sandbox had to be exchanged. We didn’t eat mushrooms or wild animals that were shot in the forests around us for many years. So I couldn’t help but feel that something was going very wrong in Japan. But I don’t want to get political here. Today I want to express my admiration for the strength the Japanese people showed to the world over the past year. I want to pay respect to the selfless volunteers who risked their lives, who helped rebuild the areas that were devastated by the earthquake and the tsunami, who gave hope to all the people that had lost their loved ones and their homes. We should never forget about the thousands of people who lost their lives in this tragedy – unlike the media who seems to have turned this into a mere political topic. I hope the Japanese people will keep on fighting and that the rest of the world will keep on supporting them in their healing process. And most of all I’m hoping they will never ever have to face something like this ever again. Ganbatte Nihon!

Feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comments!

 

In the city of Mainz (where I’m living) some people founded a Charity to help the victims of the disaster. They’re organizing a photo exhibition to remember this sad anniversary and to raise donations for those still affected by the aftermath. If you’re living in the area, please come and visit. You can learn more about it here.
And if you can spare some money, please donate! There are plenty of charities supporting the cause.

 

I have never… made a guitarist laugh

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I have a confession to make: I think I’m on the verge of becoming seriously addicted to concerts. It all started 3 months ago when I went to my first real rock concert. It was like that day a whole new universe opened up to me. It sucked me in and suddenly, music wasn’t just music anymore. It wasn’t just background noise. It turned into something more meaningful than I ever expected – a way to express myself, something that brought me closer to who I really am.

Understandably enough, I was looking for ways to relive that initial experience I’d had many, many more times which led to me becoming a frequent visitor of ticket sales websites – and a frequent buyer, too. Last week, it was time for the first of a row of concerts I bought tickets for – and as expected, it was amazing! The band we were about to see was Snow Patrol whose music I’ve been enjoying ever since “Chasing Cars” made its first appearance on Grey’s Anatomy in 2006. That song was a faithful companion when I was going through a phase of serious lovesickness. And it is also the first song I learned to play on the guitar (and the only one I can play properly to date, for that matter), so I was especially excited to hear it performed live.

When I arrived at the venue I was surprised to find a huge line of people waiting outside even though it was only about an hour until the show was scheduled to start. The friend I was going with was still fighting her way through Frankfurt’s evening rush hour. Having kept my body as hydrated as possible over the course of the day soon took its toll on me, so I decided to stop-and-go ahead. When I had finally made my way in, there was another huge line waiting at the cloakroom. And an even longer one at the ladies’ room. By the time I finally made it to the toilet, I wasn’t able to stand upright anymore from all the water that had accumulated in my bladder, but… ahhhhh… I had made it and didn’t have to attend the concert with wet pants. Lucky me!

When I was done, my friend had finally made her way in as well, so we went inside after a quick stop at the bar to get a nice, cold beer. It was only 30 minutes until the show was supposed to start when we first set foot into the hall. It was pretty tiny compared to the one I had been to before. This time we had standing tickets, so I quickly scanned the room for the best places to enjoy the show from. We first thought about just going to the back which promised a relaxing atmosphere while still being able to have full view of the stage. But that did seem a bit boring to me.
“Come on, let’s just see how far we can get to the front”, I said to my friend and dragged her along.
It was surprisingly easy. On the sides of the stage there were groups of people scattered here and there, some sitting on the floor, others standing around with a drink in hand. We made it to the second row on the far left of the stage from where we were sure not to miss any of the action.
“This is perfect!”, I said to my friend who didn’t seem quite convinced, but had no other choice but to give in unless she wanted to watch the show from a different spot all on her own.

When I had just finished my first beer, the support band appeared.
“Oh God, I hope they’re actually making music”, I said to my friend bitterly remembering the deafening noise mixed with occasional screams we had to listen to the last time.
But what came to my ears was a sweet melody carried by harmonically interacting instruments and a pleasant male voice.
“Wow, they are really good!”, I said to my friend after the initial surprise had faded. I started to tap my foot along with the beat, then swang my body and even danced a little which is usually a hard thing for me to do when I don’t know a song. So, well done, Ram’s Pocket Radio! I hope to see more of you in the future!

In order to shorten the wait for the main show, I got another beer. And then finally, Snow Patrol entered the stage. I have always been a great fan of Gary Lightbody’s voice and I have to say, to hear it live is even better than hearing it on the record. It hits right into my heart and it gave me goosebumps more than once that night. As I knew the majority of the lyrics, I started to sing and clap along from the moment the band had started the show. I was surprised to see that in my corner of the audience, I was pretty much the only one doing so. I glanced at my friend who was at least slightly moving to the sound of the music.
“Maybe they just need some time to warm up”, I thought to myself. It turned out that they didn’t.
When I started to clap my hands to “Take Back The City”, the mother and daughter in front of me were clinging to the barrier in front of them, not moving an inch.
When I was wildly waving at Gary who was approaching our side of the stage, they were still standing there like they were watching an animal in the zoo, solely following the show through the screens of their cameras.
And when I was jumping up and down to the chorus of “You’re All That I Have”, I didn’t care about annoying them or the people behind me who weren’t doing much either with my own little party anymore.
As soon as the band left the stage for the first time, the mother-daughter-couple left, so I was in first row for the encore. Now there was no stopping me anymore. I jumped. I woo-hoo-ed. I waved my arms in the air. I sang like there was no tomorrow. And then something amazing happened. The guitarist that had been playing in front of us all the time looked at me. And he burst into laughter. Just like that. I was confused. I turned to my friend to find her almost lying on the ground from laughing so hard.
“Did he just laugh because of me?”, I asked her.
“Yes”, she gasped, “He’s been looking over to you a couple of times before.”
“I thought so, too. But I wasn’t sure. He didn’t laugh AT me, did he?”
“No, no, I don’t think so. He probably just thought it was funny that you were having so much fun.”
And that’s what I kept on doing until the last sounds of “Just Say Yes” faded away. I had so much fun that night. And you know what, I wouldn’t have cared if Snow Patrol’s guitarist had actually laughed at me.

Please be sure to check out Snow Patrol’s amazing support band Ram’s Pocket Radio.
I purchased their EP Box after the show and also got a chance to briefly talk to them. They were really nice and I hope to see more of them in the future. Their bassist Shauna also has another project that’s worth checking out: Silhouette. I have to admit that I’m having a serious girl crush on her. Bass-playing and singing girls rule! 😉