As I am writing this, I am sitting on the corner bench at our old nutwood kitchen table, by the window. The house is quiet, just the gentle, soothing hum of the fridge and the little noises our heating makes from time to time. Phoebe is roaming the garden and will likely soon come by for her second breakfast. I have a mug of green tea beside me and I am taking this time now to reflect and look forward towards what is to come.
Back to normal? Not really!
In conversations in the past couple of weeks, I often heard people say that they are glad when this year is finally over and that they’re sure that the next year, 2021, will be a lot better. Many had written 2020 off already in spring. Some expect everything to go back to what it was 12 months ago. Others are grateful for the new opportunities that opened up for them. As much as I am known for being optimistic in my outlook on life and the universe, I don’t think that much will change in the coming months. This virus will continue to impact our lives. Still, I don’t want to go back to where I came from as an individual before the crisis and neither do I want society to mentally go back to January 2019. There are so many new insights and transitions that were made possible this year. Just naming the first that come to mind from my own, limited, point of view:
- Work: Finding out that it’s possible to work effectively from home, even with things that were previously considered as not doable online, such as team building activities and design sprints. We collectively pushed the boundaries of what is possible and got rid of limiting beliefs about what amount of travel is «necessary». I now successfully work with people I have never met in person just as well as though we had shared an office. Don’t get me wrong – of course I would not say no to a beer at the bar with some of them, given the chance, but still: I want to maintain an «online-first» approach to my consulting and facilitation work.
- Travel: Re-learning that it’s perfectly possible to get by without long-distance travel and fancy trips abroad. Realising that happiness is not something that can be hunted down in remote corners of the world, doing thrilling stuff that looks the part on social media. Or by trying to retake the same pic you saw on Instagram with your own selfie stick and then being slightly disappointed in the end with reality ‘cause the colors suck without filters and the weather is not what it’s supposed to be. 2020 came with a healthy kick in the butt for that kind of attitude – at least as far as I am concerned. I want to learn from this and limit my travel to Europe in the future and there I will be fully present and make my own, unique memories and keep more pictures in my head and heart than in pixels in a cloud.
- Consumerism: Looking at my ginormous wardrobe and these many pairs of shoes and thinking «How deluded was I to believe that I needed all that stuff? To think that if I have this one more blouse, I would feel better?». 2020 was the year that taught me that I am enough and good the way that I am. And that I don’t have to torture my skin with make-up every day. I get pimples from wearing make-up – a real viscous circle because then I need more stuff to cover up the pimples. This year, I broke that circle. I used to buy a new outfit every couple of weeks and thought that this feels good. This year, I found out that it’s all in my head and all the unspoken beliefs I hold about how things should be can be questioned and dismantled, one by one. I never want to forget that lesson. Of course, I still buy things occasionally and I don’t wear rugs, it’s just that I am more cautious and conscious now about if and what I buy.
- Standing up for democracy: Here in Germany, we have had a steep rise this year of conspiracy theorists and people who fundamentally disagree with the way the country is run. Some genuinely believe that the vaccination implants a chip and that our head of state is a reptile. I am shocked and saddened by how their own fear and feelings of being powerless, kindled and exacerbated by egoism and the notion that “someone has to be to blame” can lead people to breed and act out so much hatred. So much anger and delusion that they cannot be reached any more through conversations, sense, and exchanging points of view fairly and respectfully. I am irritated about how much space had been given to these enemies of democracy on the streets in the past months. Although they clearly had broken the rules many times before, they were granted yet another march in yet another city, and another and another. This year has taught me that common sense is not as common as it should be.
History and what we should learn from it pretty much boils down to: When one group of people stops considering another group of people as human beings, that’s when things tend to go belly-up – for all parties involved, eventually. It’s important to firmly stand up against any signs we see whatsoever of this happening. I did this in conversations online and offline – probably could have done more. And that’s why I wrote it down here.
A multitude of “firsts” this year
Apart from these four areas, I became a frist-time vegetable gardener, I learned how to bake my own bread, I shared my love of yoga, I made new friends, I created my own professional website, I kicked off the ACB project, I explored this beautiful corner of the earth and – yes, really arrived here in our new home. I am touched by how my story is inspiring and encouraging others. This year for the first time, I was invited as a guest in podcasts (here and here and soon also to go live here) and a LinkedIn live session. I recently co-hosted a live online workshop for free with more than 50 participants around the world that was all about creativity in business. I am chuffed that we pulled this off.
Speaking of pulling it off, I also enjoy my new work as a facilitator of transformations because it allows me to bring in all of my strengths while giving me room to grow and learn. 12 months ago, if you would have asked me if I was able to do what I am doing for a living now, I would probably have laughed and said “not sure, but I’d like to learn” – and that’s what I did.
There was one occasion when my internet connection got lost and the group I was in charge of just continued working on the topic for more than an hour, completely self-driven. There was more than one person who fed back to us as facilitators that this was a truly eye-opening experience, unlike anything they had ever taken part in. There was one workshop in which I shed a tear because I was so moved by the stories and the way people cared for and held each other. There are people among the participants who are shifting from “needing to fulfil the expectations of others” to becoming the authors of their own story. To have been part of making that possible – it just makes me happy and proud, and I want to do more of this.
New work, new mindset
The main change compared to how I used to work is that I have now learned to let things come and evolve, instead of forcing or steering. I give invitations, I create safe spaces where things can happen. But nothing must. The responsibility for the outcome lies with the people I serve. As I am maturing as a facilitator and as a leader, I am turning from an oak tree to bamboo. The oak is very rigid and sturdy, but quite inflexible. The bamboo is rooted firmly in a purpose and can bend around to react to a changing environment.
New business endeavours
My friend Jelena has asked me to contribute at her HR start-up hppyppl and now we are in a “test drive” phase to see how the collaboration works out. I like being part of a young and diverse team that’s eager to learn and explore. Helping to build up this business sounds and feels like a proper next adventure.
My mum is finally back home and recovering after two stays at the hospital. The family had a tough time in November and December, and I was glad to be able to spend time with them so we could go through this together and support each other. I am grateful for what we have in our little “patchwork family”. And I am becoming better at accepting the struggles. Thanks to all who reached out and sent virtual hugs. Grandpa will celebrate his 98th birthday tomorrow, can you believe? He has a new mobile and is very active on WhatsApp, so we can sing him a birthday song on this channel.
So, what shall 2021 be like?
Next year, as far as I’m concerned, shall be a continuation of all the gifts from this year plus more learning. I want to maintain my freedom and continue to set the pace of my own life:
I will carve out time for myself, for yoga, for trips to the coast, walks across the fields, hopping into the sauna when it’s cold and murky like today, cooking delicious meals, opening a good bottle of wine together, diving head-first into a book or a movie and forgetting the world around me, staying in touch with friends and hopefully also welcoming a couple of visitors here.
I am sending you lots of love and peace, wherever this may find you. I wish you much fulfilment, health, and inspiration! ❤