Reflecting

At the weekend I went to Echternach by myself, which I previously visited in October, for a short walking trip. I did part of the Mullerthal trail up to Herborn, about 14km, but had to turn back due to forestry works, although I had intended to go further. The next day I had to abandon my planned walk entirely due to blisters, so did a short walk on the trail around Echternach lake (4km).

It was a peaceful trip, and one which coincided, more or less, with the fourth anniversary of my attempt to commit suicide, which ended up causing me to take a year out from Oxford and completely derailing my life, at least temporarily. It is, in many ways, strange to look back at that time and remember it, given how much has changed since then. There are of course many people I have never told about this (some of whom may read it on this blog and be shocked), but over time the shame and embarassment that I very keenly felt about this incident has lessened, almost in tandem with the loosening of the grip depression, anxiety and general neuroticism has held on me, so tight and for so long.

The last few weeks have been a little bit more stressful than before, but this is mainly due to my having more freelance work in addition to my assistantship. I am trying, now until June, to keep the rest of my life as simple as possible, and have resolved, as far as possible, to look after myself and keep up the hiking.

I have more or less come to a decision about what I will be doing after my stint here. On Friday I was accepted into a CELTA course, which means that in the summer I will be making a temporary return to Ireland before going on to seek out work elsewhere. Although I have been very happy in Germany, it’s become obvious that TEFL here is not a long term option, as wages relative to cost of living are about 1:1, making it very hard to save. I am thinking Spain, Italy, or Poland, or maybe even Taiwan or Korea, as going to Asia would allow me to save for a masters in TESOL, which I am feeling more and more inclined towards. In any case there is no rush to figure it out, and advise/experience is welcome.

As I said before, it is likely that my posts on this blog will become more infrequent over the next while, at least. In any case, happy Easter.

 

 

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On happiness and writing

Those of you who follow this blog will have noticed a considerable slowing down in the rate at which I post on here lately. This has come about due a number of reasons, firstly, that I have been a lot more busy than usual in the last few weeks, and secondly, that I am let prone to the kind of angsty, introspective moods which had in the past often driven me to write.

I am loathe to abandon this blog, and would like to keep it up, so don’t worry, I am not putting an end to it. However, it is likely that my posts will be less frequent in the future, certainly much less frequent than the twice a week I kept up for most of 2017.

The last few weeks have been good for me; a friend came to visit last weekend, and we had a really good time. We did some sightseeing, went to visit another town, went for a hike, and also spent a lot of time in pubs and cafes. It was good, and, although I sometimes find having visitors stressful, it wasn’t at all like that this time, and I actually felt very relaxed for most of the time he was here. Perhaps I am learning not to worry so much about the minor stressors which used to get to me in the past. Who knows.

This weekend we have been hit with a blanket of snow, following the cold weather which went through the whole of Europe last week. I am safely wrapped up at home, and waiting with anticipation some real signs of the start of spring…

Walking alone

I went for another hike yesterday, from Konz to Trier Pallien along the Moselsteig path, which makes it significantly longer than if one went as the crow flies, or along the more direct Jakobsweg which I will be walking later this year.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate over the last few years has been the ability to go walking by myself, to give myself some personal space for reflection and peace of mind. It’s something I’ve never really been able to achieve in any other activity, but something which seems to be particularly possible, particularly enabled when I go off by myself for a few hours into the woods, or up a hill. I don’t know why, but there is something about feeling alone, really alone, with yourself and with your thoughts which is appealing, and which helps me feel somehow calmer and more at peace by the time I return.

A friend of mine will also be coming to see me in Trier in a few weeks, which I am also really looking forward to, as it’s someone whom I haven’t seen in quite a while. It will be good to see him again, and I feel lucky that I am so easily able to stay in touch with my friends and family in this way.

Mannheim, Heidelberg, and thinking about life…

This weekend I went with a friend to Mannheim and Heidelberg, two cities to the south east of Trier in Baden-Württemburg. It was a great weekend, and we managed to get a lot of sightseeing done, even if the weather made it a bit difficult at times.

Mannheim was a bit of a strange place, arranged on a rigid grid pattern without relatively little of the features which make other German cities so distinctive. Heidelberg on the other hand was much more aesthetically pleasing, but accordingly far more touristic. I am glad we got to see both.

This weekend has also been marked by Karneval, which is basically a huge party celebrating the beginning of Lent. Today I got to see some of the celebrations taking place in my neighbourhood of Trier.

This week I’m looking forward to trying to get back into my normal life. I have been having a lot of thoughts about the future (as is clear from so many of my posts), and I am starting to feel now that I am getting closer to a resolution…

Fear of the Dark

My hearing is starting to come back, after having lost it apparently temporarily with the ear infection I had last week. This temporary disability induced a lot of panicked and difficult feelings in me, bringing me back in part to the time back in September and October when I thought I could have skin cancer.

It feels morbid to be so preoccupied with thoughts of death and decay, but is feels in some way unavoidable and like something which I need to keep forcing myself to confront and come to terms with. Without being too Freudian, it is becoming clearer and clearer to me how much these recurrent fears and thoughts drive my behaviour, and how much they can destabilize me and shake me out of my pleasant everyday routine.

Our culture at the minute seems to be gripped by an ever-present “fear of missing out”, which seems to be particularly adept at inducing decision paralysis in our generation, the under 25s, who are now facing their quarter life crises and grappling with the “real world”. FOMO (and its counterpart YOLO) always seem to come back to death; without death at the end the concepts don’t even make sense, and yet we are sometimes a bit shy about vocalising this.

Last week for school I taught a lesson on The Dead Poets’ Society, which is a popular choice of book for year 10s in German schools. The message of carpe diem runs throughout, but even then fear of death always seems to lurk in the background, without being given a name to or vocalized. Every so often there is an article in the press or elsewhere talking about the need for people to talk more frankly and openly about death, but the issue still weighs too heavily on most people. I often wish I could talk about this more openly in real life, but for now it will have to remain an idle thought on a Saturday afternoon blogpost.

Where and what is the future?

This question still jabs at me.

It seems like every few weeks I come to some sort of conclusion about what I want to do, and then a series of doubts start to creep in, and I suddenly want to throw everything up in the air and start over, and stop thinking about any of it. This is silly of course, but it’s a very easy, and oh-so-appealing trap to fall into.

Once again I’m caught between that ubiquitous desire for stability, vis-a-vis that part of me which wants to throw caution to the wind in the search for some kind of grand adventure. The problem is that you can’t have your cake and eat it. We all need to make money, and keep going – somehow.

There are seemingly infinite things I want to do, infinite experiences that I want to run out and grasp. I tell myself over and over again that I need to reign myself in to some extent, and try to keep a more realistic grip on things. I wonder how much of it is simply driven by an unrealistic, racing-thoughts type ideation, which is taking me on flights of fancy which ultimately will lead nowhere?

It is hard to know. We are told to follow our dreams, but I still have no idea what the dream is.

 

Getting settled

Today was my first day back at work after the holiday, and although I ended up staying a lot longer than I anticipated after school was over, it was a nice feeling to get back into my routines and get used to how things are going now that I’m back in Trier.

In the past week I have also been thinking a lot about what I’d like to achieve now that I’m back here before I leave, which will probably be at the end of July. I want to continue down the road I’m on, getting better at German, getting fitter, and gradually clawing my life back from the stressful mire I found myself in in 2017.

When I was at home in Derry I was plagued by a kind of obsessive anxiety about what I’m going to do once I leave Trier, and whether I should pursure teacher training. Thoughts (and worries) about the future have probably been occupying too much of my mental space lately, and I’ve decided that I need to give myself a breather, and let myself regain some space to think about things more seriously.

I have also realized that this blog has now been going for over a year, my first post having been written in December 2016. It’s a strange feeling to look back and think about how much has changed since then, but it is also satisfying to realize that what has changed has changed for the better, in a variety of different ways.

I have a lot of plans for the coming months, and it’s likely I will be very busy. And yet I am not feeling daunted, but rather optimistic about what 2018 is going to bring.