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December 30, 2019

Pretty much one year ago today, I felt the same motivation to tackle things, projects and my life as I feel today. So I wrote down a list of things I wanted to accomplish during the next 365 days. And then the opposite happened.

If I should sum up this year in one word, it would be “standstill“. And that’s exactly what I wrote about in countless Instagram posts.

What hurdles have I encountered?

At the beginning of the year, I was very focused on these goals, which were very much focused on studying. These goals were more important to me than anything else because I was so terribly afraid of failure. So I threw a lot of things on board that actually did me good, such as meeting friends and family, sports, meditation. My goal was to get through these exam phases – and that in a successful way. I was able to do that to a large extent, but I also broke myself.

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There was an increasing pressure on me to do as many exams as possible in the shortest time as possible. Above all, this idea was shaped by two sides: the fact that the fellow students with whom I started my studies, completed their first big state exam “Physikum” in summer, while it was difficult for me to balance health and studies.

On the other hand, I had the feeling that I was surrounded by people who had hard work as a benchmark, who glorified discipline and who always viewed personal performance as in need of improvement, instead of being satisfied with their current situation.
That’s exactly what I wrote a complete blog entry about in summer: https://fragmentsofliving.com/when-go-hard-or-go-home-doesnt-work-out

I practically sabotaged myself, because I put so much pressure on myself that my body and my mental health collapsed under this pressure. For three quarters of a year, I watches myself taking up the same fights again and again, celebrating small victories again and again and running against a wall again and again. I changed my daily routine, my structures, my behavior patterns and Bam! I hit against a wall again. As everyone progressed with their lives, mine felt like standing still.

I failed on one fundamental issue:
Taking care of myself.

In June, I was in the emergency room and in the hospital for a few days because my body wasn’t able to resist the pressure because of exhaustion.
I worked out of bed for days.
In summer I was on vacation with my family. And instead of setting up specific working hours and recovery phases, I worked non-stop for an exam. And of course, now some may say that this is exactly the thing about studying: that you work hard and prioritize your studies rather than your free time – and I agree. But you can only work hard if you recover enough from it. Within these two weeks I saw the sea exactly twice and our apartment was only a few meters from the sea. With all my strength, I ignored all the signs of my body to function. So at the end of a day, where I had studied for ten hours, I was sitting in a restaurant and started crying because the pain in my lungs became so unbearable because of the strain.

Sometimes there must be unrest, so we change something and so we develop further.

But the line between the restlessness for the moment and really being unhappy can be very narrow. And if we are not careful, this unrest will pull us a little too far, so that we fall. I had days when I couldn’t get up because as soon as I got up, I started to cry. Weeks when I just had to open a book to study, to start panicing. Nights where I couldn’t sleep because there were so many dark thoughts inside of my head. Moments when I didn’t know how to keep going, if I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do.

Breaks and development

And before I went too far, I pulled the rip cord.
I no longer had high expectationd of myself, and even though it was damn hard for me to continue watching others moving their lives forward and chasing one success after another, I forced myself to pause.


I allowed myself to feel feelings that
I have tried to suppress for a long time.

I asked myself the following questions: “What would I do if other people’s expectations of me didn’t matter? What if money wasn’t important? And what if the size of an apartment, the brands of my clothes, my monthly income and the status of my education or my job didn’t matter? ”

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 The answer is as simple as it is complicated: I would live by my own values. I would face my challenges myself and know that they could be achieved with a bit of hard work. I would do things that are good for my body and soul because my condition would be the center of my reality.
  And I found the following: Shouldn’t it be exactly like that?

Personality development

So I dealt more with personality development, with spirituality, with scientifically based sources on how I could do sustainably better physically and mentally. Not to become more efficient, but to be more satisfied. Superordinate to these topics, I asked myself:

How can I live a happy life in the most
natural form of myself?”

As humans we are complex beings. We are not only interested in satisfying our innate needs, we also want to realize ourselves. And I realized that “wanting” is not the way to acheive everything. I can’t work harder if I neglect the needs of my body and soul. I have to work with both in a team.

We are complex and everyone is so unique that you don’t make everyone happy by putting society in a box with a lable on it, demanding the same work from everyone just to achieve normative results and work. And yes, it is clear to me that we only change when something is uncomfortable. And I love changes, trying new things, etc.
 
 But that’s exactly how I believe that we are all born with different personality traits. We are all interested in different things, we all develop skills in different areas. And that is right and great, because otherwise we would all be the same and that would be boring.
 And that is why I believe that we can only move a little bit away from our “natural state”, in order to create changes that do not directly overwhelm us. And so there are changes that are so far out of our natural zone that a goal in this area would be a “torture” for that person in that moment.
 
 So for someone who is very interested in science and structre, it is difficult to suddenly find himself in a profession that is full of creativity, spontaneity and freedom.
 After all, we are all looking for a happy life in which we can grow and become stronger personalities, while also being able to remain true to ourselves.
 Yes, we need challenges. Otherwise, we would not grow. But the challenges we face are as individual as the lives we live.

Some hurdles are easier for some than others. Also the same hurdle can be insurmountable for someone else. So we are looking for ways to master this challenge, because you can achieve the same goal in so many different ways. But if these possibilities are exhausted and you hit your head with every new path and every new attempt, maybe it does make more sense to take another hurdle?

What else have I been interested in this year?

Also, I was more interested in politics, our earth, the climate, the environment, minimalism, veganism, health apart from classic medicine and social injustice. Because it is a privilege to live in this world and I don’t want to blindly succumb to consumption.
  And these issues were important to me last year, and this year they took up an even bigger part of my life. So these topics also belong to my 2019, to me, my development and my moral and ethical beliefs. After all, I have something to say on so many more topics than just about disability.

What am I proud of this year?

I have dealt more and more intensively with topics that are close to my heart, even if they could be taboo topics.

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So not only, I about the challenges in my studies, but also about the daily struggles that I face because of my chronic illness.

About what it feels like to be chronically ill while trying not to make this disease noticable.
-> https://www.instagram.com/p/B1T7LFyCIYH/
  About what I consider useful or critical in raising/educating children with congenital heart defects or comparable chronic or congenital diseases. (see last blog post)

How annoying it is that dramatic pictures, e.g. from the hospital, attract more attention than the story itself. Someone can be inspiring, even if they are not constantly between life and death, if you only read the story and do not look at the person directly and also if you do not exploit the complete private life in front of the camera.
-> https://www.instagram.com/p/B3UsDGMAbAL/

I wrote about suicide, mental health and also about death.

I have rediscovered photography for myself and I understand photography more and more as art. I try new styles and experiment with photography.
And I do that not only through the camera, but also in front of it. I uploaded my first YouTube video. I still don’t know much I want to use this platform, but I really enjoy it.

My story was published this year in two big german newspapers: the BILD newspaper and the WN (Westfälische Nachrichten). I had the chance to travel to Bonn, Cologne, Munich and Phantasialand for events where I could talk about my story, medical research and role models.

And what meant the most to me: I gave my first major motivational speech at the in Münster. There I spoke about my experience of discrimination due to my invisible disability and how I wished, how we as a society deal with people with disabilities.

What have I left behind this year and what have I particularly captured?

I included the people who belong in my life even more, visited them more often, hugged them longer and told them more often how wonderful they are.
  I’ve come closer to my spirituality.
I have abandoned social conventions and dealt more with “how we used to do things”. What is more sustainable and valuable for our bodies today – from nutrition to cosmetics to consumption. About what we should believe, what professions are recognized and what feminism is to me.

  And next year I want to trust my intuition and let go of self-doubt.

Resolutions for next year?

This year I am writing a list of goals that I want to achieve in the coming year again. And these goals should now be more of a guide for a life I’m happy with than a plan for how I can optimize myself to fit into a certain role or position in society.
  Because actually I already have everything inside of me. I just have to give myself the chance to develop my special features.
  I want to be okay with myself. I don’t want to feel bad for the days when I can’t work because my body needs rest.

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I thought about how I would feel, if I did something or refrained from doing it, only to fit into a social role. The answer is: not good. Clearly, one would not have to justify oneself, would not be exposed to great criticism and would be socially accepted.

But it wouldn’t make me happy. We are happy when we can be the way we want to be. Clearly, when we are interacting with other people, every action we take is subject to conditions and morals. But nowadays, so many of us have the privilege of living very freely. Deciding what kind of job we learn, who we love and how we want to dress. And to not live out this privilege and therefore not to be yourself, only because you are afraid of judgment from others means to limit yourself. And that’s maybe the greater pain than being strong and proud to defy these few people. And I’ve written long and wide about that too.

So I looked at where my journey is going in terms of a job perspective and also how it will continue on my blog and social media with “fragments of living”.
 
  This year felt like a standstill for a long time because I felt that everyone was moving forward with their lives as I tried to get along somehow. A bit as if success was only defined by external successes such as maks, money, vacations and not so much by internal progress.

This became clear to me: I needed these ups and downs this year. The downs to realize what is really important to me in life and the ups to show me what it is worth fighting for, living for and not giving up on.

So I’m really looking forward to the new year. Not because I believe in “New Year – New Me” or because a new decade is about to begin in 2020 and we want to get off to a successful start in order to have rewarding 10 years. Let’s be honest: 10 years ago I was almost a child. Of course, I’ve changed a lot in this decade. I went to school, graduated, got my driver’s license, moved out, etc. Did I think I would be right here today? No. And I will change just as much in the next 10 years. Because change is constant. Even if you can’t show it directly.
  Also, I can’t control the next 10 years.

So I live from year to year, from month to month, from day to day and from moment to moment. Because the time we are now too valuable to work only for “later”.

And yet I’m looking forward to the new year. Because I am glad that I am now more aware of who I am and who I want to be. And about the projects that I want to implement.

Do I like myself the way I am now?

Since I always preach self-love, “yes” would be the right answer. But not the most authentic.

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The most honest answer to the question is: I’m okay with myself. I have determined for myself what my strengths and weaknesses are, so that I can balance myself better in the future. And it would be pretty tempting to say: In order to lead a life that is as relaxed and happy as possible, I simply avoid all my weaknesses – I am just not good in this or that. This is simply an excuse. Because that’s not how I grow and life isn’t a pony farm. That won’t get me anywhere. So I have to learn to be more aware about my strengths and weaknesses and not to force myself into a role that I am not.
 And that’s exactly it: I can’t avoid anything unpleasant. As the saying goes: Many paths lead to the goal. And by adapting my goal to my expectations, the paths become more manageable for me.

I am happy that I have made such important discoveries this year and I am looking forward to everything that comes.
  Like everyone else, I’m not happy with myself every day. And again and again there will be points at which one could “improve” something or at which I want to change something about me. Whether it’s lifestyle, diet, health, appearance, relationship with yourself or others, etc.
  Perhaps we often forget to see the big picture and see only one big flaw on a certain day. We forget what we do every day and how far we have already come.
 
  I try to live more and more according to the values that are important to me and I think that then I am on the right track. So yes, I’m okay with myself and when I look back at the beginning of this year, I think I acheived a lot. And I’m happy with that.

What is my biggest learning this year?

I learned that this year I needed this standstill to fix things, set new priorities and goals. Sometimes life has to jerk vigorously so that everything comes back into its place.
 
  To be alive in this moment and with this body is a miracle. I have to take care of this gift and deal with it in the same way.

The biggest and most important lesson I’m taking from this year:

Not everything which has a place in my heart,
also needs to have a place in my life.

Take care of yourself! Have a great start into the new year.
I am very much looking forward on how this journey will continue.
In this sense: Happy new year and so much love and light to you.
– Sabrina

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Sabrina
Münster, DE

My name is Sabrina and I am living with half a heart. Living with chronic illness can be challenging. That's why I share my experiences, my learnings and moments full of real emotions, love and vulnerability. In this way, I want to encourage other people with and without chronic illness to live a life they love. I am a student, a blogger and public speaker.