Can Money Buy Happiness?

I am sitting in my living room in Berlin, watching a live screening of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on German state TV as I am writing this.

I listen to the music, look at the vibrant costumes and admire the beautiful stage set up. I am flirting with the idea of returning to Milan for a weekend where I go for a stroll through town, take myself out to a nice dinner and then watch a performance at La Scala itself where I will finally have the opportunity to dress up and be fabulous. A rather costly fantasy for a simple college student.

As I finish this thought, I wonder whether money can actually buy happiness. I may not be able to give a definite answer, but looking back at the last few years, I can at least share some ideas.

Although my childhood days were humble, their memory still puts a smile on my face. I am glad to have spent most of my time playing outside with friends or checking out books and movies from the library rather than wasting money we didn’t have on buying them or wasting my time in front of glaring TV screens.

But no matter how much some of us may dislike the capitalist system we live in today, I still think that yes, money can certainly contribute to happiness. It is hard to deny the fact that being able to do groceries without having to worry about the prices, buying greatly desired books at any time and being able to meet up with friends over a cup of coffee every now and then makes life much more enjoyable. It gives us a sense of certainty. We know that we will make it to the next day and the day after that. For some people that’s all it takes to be happy.

An aspect that, as I have observed, gets neglected in this discussion however, is the fact that a person’s happiness shouldn’t depend just on one thing. Happiness is a subjective concept. I think that in a world this big, there is no way that money or modesty alone can make someone happy. It should not be about choosing one side but rather about learning to distribute one’s demands equally onto all options available. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, as the saying goes.

So can money buy happiness? Yes, it can.

Is it the only thing that can make a person happy? Definitely not!

A person who buys their books on the flea market and their clothes in second-hand shops out of habit is certainly capable of enjoying a gourmet dinner when invited. Meanwhile, somebody with a full fridge and enough savings in their bank account can enjoy a vacation that involves shabby hostels just as much as one with luxurious five-star hotels. Some people make their happiness depend on money, some on people and others feel content with the minimum.

Money doesn’t always provide happiness but in the long run, neither does modesty alone. It is up to us to find the balance between those and see what else is out there. So far that is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned.

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What Makes You Interesting?

Instead of starting this morning by reading a text for tomorrow’s seminar, I got lost in thought and ended up asking myself whether I would enjoy meeting myself in person. I figured that I most likely would indeed. It has taken me many years and many hurdles to become the person I am today so by now I can say that (while beauty is a very subjective thing), I am very likely to appear interesting to a certain type of people.

So, that got me thinking further. What makes a person interesting? What makes an interesting life? The answer(s) to this question will vary from person to person but this post is more dedicated to a few things that I have noticed.

Sometimes I hear people say to me: You have such an interesting life. I wish I could be like you, but…” It is sad to see how many people think that you need to be something special in order to be considered interesting or worth talking to. It is even more disappointing to find that somehow people think money plays a major role in becoming an interesting person.

While I feel incredibly flattered when people compliment me on my stories, I wonder if they would still be in such an awe of me if they knew how I can spend a whole day in bed, skipping breakfast, reading stuff and watching YouTube videos instead of going through my to-do list.

Over the past couple of years and after several meetups with people from Couchsurfing, lecture halls, seminar rooms, hostel kitchens etc. I came to think that what makes people interesting are their passions.

Yes, I get as excited about travel as other girls go nuts over the latest Prada shoes and yes, I manage to scratch together some money to be able to go on trips from time to time by giving up other nice things but travel is not the only thing that can enrich your life. In fact, I was almost indifferent to the beauty of travel until I met someone who changed my mind a while back.

I think that people who say they are not interesting should focus more on their hobbies and aspirations. If you say you don’t have any, then maybe it is time to find out what these could be for you. Find out what it is you love and start pursuing it and most importantly: Tell people about it. Of course, you should still think before you speak but don’t be afraid to bring up something that fascinates you during a conversation or when you are meeting new people.

Maybe you love painting and are working on a new project. Maybe you have just discovered a passion for cooking. You could also be interested in a specific topic, reading everything you can possibly find on it and watching dozens of TED talks. What if there is a cause you care about so you spend your free time volunteering?  Whatever it is, don’t hide it and keep looking for new inspiration. Keep forming opinions about the world around you. You can never have enough interests.

Not all people I meet share the same interests as me. The ones who ‘captured’ me were those who were able to speak about something that actually fascinated them, be it engineering, Nihilism or types of shoes. I could feel how much they loved what they were talking about and that is what drew me to them. Try not to shovel your views and opinions down people’s throats but rather let them in on what matters to you and share what you are passionate about once you find out what it is. You may not be everyone’s cup of tea but you sure are somebody’s flavor.

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Lessons from Travel on Human Interaction, Relationships and Marriage

Today I have decided to share with you a lesson that I have, through travelling, learned about interaction with other people, be it our dear friends or potential life partners Over the past years I…

Source: Lessons from Travel on Human Interaction, Relationships and Marriage

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Peaks and Valleys

pablo

 

If it weren’t for the sad moments in life, we probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good and happy ones.

Yet sometimes the good feelings take total control of us and sometimes the bad feelings do.

Sometimes for minutes, sometimes for an hour or two but the worst case scenario, or the best depending on the feeling, is when it takes whole days, whole weeks, whole months.

There are moments where we might think that everything is great.

That we manage so well on our own the new independent life we have just started to lead, that there is a bright future ahead of us; because isn’t every man the artisan of his own fortune? Everything will be fine. Everything has been fine up until now so why should that change, we ask ourselves.

We make plans for the future, our eyes beaming with happiness and optimism. We interpret everything the positive way. We imagine good things that are not even there yet but we are sure that this is how everything is going to happen in our lives because why shouldn’t it?

We look up to the lives of others and the people behind them and imagine to find a bit of ourselves in them. We let them inspire us, shape us and guide us into new directions we have not known before.  They bring out the best in us and at some point we think to ourselves that yes, we are great and we can achieve anything we want.

If it worked out so well for her, we say, it will be at least that good for me because life is beautiful and God loves me.

Our passions will bring us through life, we say to ourselves before we are off to sleep, dreaming of our futures that seem so bright, we look forward to any soon-to-happen aspect of it, be it marriage, children, a good job or all the exciting things we still want to do before we die.

There are moments of happiness when we think that we have finally made it. We have shaped ourselves into who we want to be and we love it.

We don’t know what the future will bring but in that moment, that is absolutely exciting. Who doesn’t like surprises after all?

Then there are the dark days. The sad moments when we feel like everything has just been an illusion. A lie.

Now we look at the lives of others not in search of inspiration but self-criticism. What does this person have that I don’t? Why can’t I be more beautiful, more outgoing, more modest, more self-assured, more serious or more carefree? More indifferent to the opinions of the rest of the world?

We think that all our previous achievements have just been a matter of luck that will end very soon.

We don’t know what the future will bring and that seems like the most frightening thing of all for uncertainty now means failure.

We ask ourselves whether our friends are really our friends or whether they just feel too sorry for us to tell us the truth about how they really feel.

The new challenges that have excited us just a few days, maybe even a few hours before, now seem unbearable because we doubt that we could handle them well. And then what shall the rest think of us once we have failed?

If this is the monotony of life, then what is the point of life at all, we wonder.

We look at the injustice and violence in the world and ask: “Where is our God now?”

We become prisoners to our negative thoughts. The prior happy days seem out of reach. Surreal, naive demons of our minds. As if we cannot move forward in life.

These are the peaks and valleys of life we could say, but every time we fall into a hole of emptiness, we shall remember that we’ve stood through even harder times and that with time we will look back at all this negativity and wonder how such little things could once have kept us from achieving greatness.

With time we shall learn to appreciate happy moments again for the sad ones are those that make their experience so great.

 

 

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20 Years of Solitude and Still Okay About It, Here’s Why

I am not so sure why I am even writing this. Probably because I am curious about how many people think the way I do and how many people disagree.

I am constantly asked about why I am still on my own. That is, after the person talking to me has finished asking me about how come I still don’t have a driver’s license.
Some people would probably say that I am too picky. That I am “too far up” or “too demanding”. You name it. You know what? Maybe I am.

I have never understood why other women my age are so focused on finding partners with big wallets. Where I originally come from, girls are taught from early on that when a man asks them out, it is the man who HAS to pay for the food or the drinks or the movie tickets. And now, this entire payment thing seems to stretch out over any type of relationship between men and women.

Men complain more and more about how their (girl) friends cost them so much money. Then, there comes my thinking, wondering about why money has to play such a central role. Why can’t you just be with someone you like without having to worry about finances?
So many girls are so obsessed with rich boyfriends that they forget about all the other things that are necessary in order to make even a simple friendship work.
Why should I want to be with someone who can buy me silver earrings but who is not capable of listening neither to me nor any other woman? I can buy my own earrings, can’t I? Why should I go through all the business of getting to know someone just so that someone is pretty much only capable of doing exactly that and nothing more? I can buy my own things. I should be able to buy my own things. There is so much more to human relationships than money after all. The idea that a person’s friendship or relationship value should be defined by money seems rather sad to me. How about we girls just start providing for ourselves? Aren’t there so many feminists who say we are all strong and independent women? Then what are we waiting for?

Why aren’t there more people out there who would appreciate someone being honest about his or her feelings? Who, if he or she does not want to talk to someone, will just gently say so directly instead of saying things like “Oh well, I am just so busy right now, there’s no way I can give you my phone number.”

Why aren’t there more people in this world who are more concerned about what they will talk about on a date rather than what to wear? Because if there would be, I probably would not have to write all of this down because people wouldn’t tell me that looks are so important, I should put that book down and spend 2 hours applying make- up instead.

People tell me to focus on looks and income while I can’t wait to meet more human beings who will just be able to spend time with me and pay attention to what I have to say so that I could do the same in return. How great would it be if people would be more encouraged to inspire and support each other rather than paying each others dinners so that they don’t feel so bad about their relationship being based on money and sex only?

I doubt that this doesn’t work out for me because I am such a difficult person. I do really have some wonderful friends after all and I am as pretty as everyone else. I think it is because the looks and money standard has managed to overshadow everything else at this point and now, when I suggest to go out for a walk and chat instead of going to some fancy restaurant, people look at me like I just have said something totally unacceptable .

I can’t say that all people are so money based and indifferent. I just think life would be much easier if all of this craze about money and status would make room for personal values and intelligence as the standard way of thinking about things.

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Jubilee Bucket List: 20 Things You Should Do in Your Lifetime

In a week I will be celebrating my second decade on this planet. So, as the day is approaching (and I only realized its closeness a day or so ago), I thought about publishing a bucket list with things that I believe a person like you and I should do at least once in his or her lifetime.

First I thought to title this post: 20 Things You Should Do Before You Turn 20 but then I realized that there is not really a point in limiting these things only up until 20 and who knows what awaits me (and anyone else) in these final days or the days after next Friday. Many people only start really doing stuff once they become legal adults and that age differs from country to country. Furthermore, I believe that it does not really matter how old you are when you do these things. If you personally care about doing them, it only matters that you do them at some point of your life.

The following is a list of things that I myself have done so far and that I personally found very enlightening and mentally or intellectually enriching. So if any of these things have already been listed on other bucket lists on the internet, I assume that is by coincidence.  I know that people are different and that maybe some of the listed things may not suit you at all or appear pointless to you, dear reader. Nevertheless I hope that you find at least something that can somewhat inspire you, regardless of your age, nationality, religion etc.

1. Travel as much as you can (especially solo at least at times)

That is definitely one of my favorite life experiences so far. Not only do you get to know and explore other places, you also learn how to budget, how to find your way around in a different city and how to interact with strangers, among many other useful characteristics you can develop. If people say that you can’t buy happiness, they probably don’t know how to spend that money correctly. If you want to bring the best out of you, travel is definitely one of the best ways to achieve that.

For more ideas on where to go in the world or what other effective thing you can do with your free time, visit Help Go Abroad.com

2. Interact with people of other cultures/ religions 

It does not matter whether you do that in your hometown or decide to visit a place far, far away. Getting to know people of other cultural or religious backgrounds, especially with today’s globalization boom, is possible almost everywhere, so why not make use of the opportunity for your own good? This can be a great way to develop a better understanding for the people around you. The more you know about cultural diversity from your own experience, the less you can be affected by the biased opinion of the media and the better you are able to make your own judgements instead of repeating someone else’s.

3. Learn a new language

Studies have shown that the languages we know affect the way we think (for my German speaking readers who are interested in this topic, I suggest to have a look at the work of Vera F. Birkenbihl for a start). So if you want to boost your creativity or even your logical thinking skills, learning a new language might be the right thing for you. Once you find what learning method works best with you, the process can be very fun and very satisfactory as you watch yourself make progress with the new things you learn (I have for example, recently started to busy myself with Arabic and I can say the satisfaction by making any kind of progress is immense though the language is difficult as hell). But even if you are not such a “nerdy” type, knowing at least the basics of any language can be a great help during international travel.

4. Live, study or work in another country for at least a year

Pretty much for the same reasons mentioned in one and two. Only this time the experience and the “lessons” gained will surely be more intense.

5. If there is something you really want to do, go ahead and do it!

Some of the people I know really like the idea of me having my own blog(s). Nearly all of them however tell me things like: “Oh I would love to have my own blog so much but I guess I am just not that talented.” You know what? I hate hearing that! Stop it! If there is anything that you are really passionate about, there is no reason why you should not go out there and live that passion! This is not just about blogging, you know? Whether you want to publish your poems (Deena, that one was aimed at you), paint something, try out a new sport or anything else there is, you should DEFINITELY give it a try before you declare yourself as untalented. If you give it up later, that is fine as long as you at least tried.

I have been quite intimidated by the world for a long time. There are a lot of things that I wish I would have done back then (learning to dance Flamenco for instance) and now that I am out of my teens, I really wish I would not have wasted my time on self doubt. Definitely have to get back to that Flamenco soon.  However, I also remember how I stood on a stage and sang in front of several people and you should know that my voice is actually quite horrible for a girl. I never did that again but only after I tried did I know for sure that I would never pass on German Idol.  I remember going to karate classes, piano lessons and also Spanish classes. Oh how much did I hate Spanish at the beginning of the course and now I can’t get enough of it. Same end result with my blogging. I decided to keep going even though no one seemed to read my short stories at first.

If you do something you always wanted to do, you may find that you just discovered a new talent or that what you are doing now is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

And in connection with that you should definitely try what the next point suggests, which is…

6. Create something of your own and let the world see your creation

7. Talk to a stranger

Never give away about yourself too much in the first moment but neither give in to the instinct of running away just because someone came up and decided to talk to you during that event in the school auditorium or while you were having a rest on a bench while on vacation. Be careful but also know that the people you meet in life, be it by coincidence or not, can make awesome friends.

8. Read a book that you would usually not read

My greatest hurdle was Huxley’s Brave New World right after Tolstoy’s War and Peace. While I was reading it in school, I was nearly dying over that book but once I actually came to the end of it due to my obligations as a student, I was pretty happy that I have read that classic (among with many others). If you try that, you may even discover a new favorite genre of books and at the same time learn something new from what you have just read.

9. Volunteer

By volunteering you not only provide help for the needy, you also gain quite a lot of positive emotions from that action yourself. Volunteering is a great way to feel useful and even gain something like working experience. Volunteering usually does not require any prior qualifications or applications or any such thing. You show up, you help, you finish feeling absolutely great.

10. Know how to be by yourself but also know what it means to be with other people

That is a very important lesson I have learned. No matter how social you are, at some point, maybe for a short while or for a long one, you may realize that your friends don’t have much time for you because they surely have their own lives, too. So in order not to freak out and think that without company your life is over, you should accept the fact that there is nothing wrong with going to the movies or any such thing on your own. The world won’t end because of it. However you should also know that in some situations it is very important to let other people into your life. Keep a balance, don’t overdo it.

11.  Learn to cook at least one dish well

Cooking is fun and as a German idiom says: love goes through the stomach.

12. Pretend to be a tourist in  your own city for at least a day

Go to museums, visit the most famous monuments, do a guided tour through the city. In my experience the effect is best when doing that after returning home from a longer journey. By doing all these things you will surely see your city with new eyes and may discover places you have never been to before. Falling in love with your hometown pretty much guaranteed and while you are at it, you can just as well…

13. Visit an abandoned place

Simple, mostly free and gives a great sense of adventure. Never do this alone though. Always bring along some friends. For people from or in Berlin I can suggest you have a look at the Abandoned Berlin Blog .

14. Try out meditation 

Helps to relax, get away from the real world, boost your energy and increase your concentration ability. There are different types of meditation. Something that comes close to it is the idea of practicing mindfulness. While doing that, you have to sit upright, close your eyes and focus on your breathing only for a couple of minutes.

15. Be nice to people, even if they are ‘a bit annoying’

Though I must warn you that people can take advantage of you for doing that, at least for a while it would be good to try to understand the people around you and instead of starting an argument immediately, it is sometimes best to just keep calm, be friendly and let the others tell you about their view on the situation. Makes dealing with people much easier in the long run.

16. Get a pet

An awesome way to learn to take responsibility. Also, with a pet you won’t feel so lonely and will have someone who is happy to see you come home. Your increasing dopamine levels will surely be fun to experience.

17. Have friends who are older and younger than you

That makes you realize that age definitely does not define maturity and that is a really good thing to know. At the same time you get to learn something new from each of them thanks to your different life experiences.

18. Teach something to someone

The best way to understand certain material is by explaining it to someone else. Help your friend and yourself.

19. Perform on stage in front of an audience

That gives quite a boost to your self esteem. Enjoy the moment and become stronger than you have been before. It might be scary at the beginning but if you keep trying often enough, your next speech/ presentation in front of an audience will be a delicious piece of cake.

20. Take part in a demonstration

Find something that you believe in and join hundreds of others for a good cause. That way you may learn sooner or later that your voice, your opinion, your presence matter.

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Guest Post: Dear Generation X

By my beloved, talented friend Deena A. 

Dear generation X,

There are about a million things I want to say to you, but I’ll only stick with 10. After all aren’t you getting a little too old for this?

  1. Ever since I was a child I questioned everything.

At 8 years old we were told that the earth’s global temperature was rising every year. I said

“ Why is no one doing anything? Everything will melt and then we’ll all drown won’t we”

She frowned eyes wide and said “yes I suppose so”

And yet, so many of you still refuse to acknowledge it’s existence

  1. The only president I grew up with was Bush Jr.
    I still feel the after effects of his “leadership” whenever I think about being an
    Arab Muslim Female
  2. The worst thing that happened to me wasn’t 9/11 but everything that followed after
  3. When I was 9 years old I wrote a letter to Bush telling him that I wanted him to stop fighting. All I could see were the tanks coming for a bunch of little children like me. I wondered how anything could make this justifiable.

Nothing ever did.

  1. The only reason My Generation is “narcissistic, lazy and all around apathetic” is because you taught us to be that way:

You told us that the good guys
always finish last
and that to get ahead we had to beat everyone down first

We were told to ask with our hands open and lips jutted.

Apathetic because you just won’t listen to us anymore.

  1. I watched every war on my television screen. Threw up at the sign of every child’s hand. When I look at the world now, my heart rips itself into shreds. Why haven’t you done anything?
  2. We are ignorant. We see no evil , we hear no evil and we speak no evil. Because you thought that not telling us about the monsters in the closet was good for us. Those of us who take off the blindfold are
    shut down.
  3. This is not teenage rebellion. We have every right to be ungrateful.
    We’ve all come to agreement that we’ll probably die of cancer. That global warming will never be solved
    that we will suffer in trying to fix the mess that you made by pretending to be chemists and leaders of the modern world.
  4. The child is blamed for their parent’s sins.
    The child is blamed for their parent’s sins.

Doesn’t this count as child abuse?

  1. The cycle is vicious and you have just contributed to it.
    but I, I will not submit.

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