comfortable ≠ happy

Comfort.

Today I was sick at home and could not help myself but to watch cheesy love movies to keep myself entertained. And I felt like I discovered what I would call the comfort problem: The young couple falls in love. They fight their way to their loved one against all odds and after some misunderstandings and complications they finally fall into each other´s arms. THE END.

This is where comfort kicks in. Now the both of them are comfortable – and will live happily ever after. And I find myself planning and striving for this kind of comfort.

That´s what many people see as the ultimate goal in life. You know, having enough money to live without worrying. For most of us that means being able to pay your bills, finding a reliable partner, that we can come home to and who loves us unconditionally. Oh and let´s top it all off with some amazing children and a friendly social circle. What could be more comfortable than that?

Dreaming the dream is more exciting than living the dream

Why do so many people including myself believe life will just be roses and teddy-bears once you´ve built up to that so anticipated level of comfort? Actually, in my case, it has often been quite the opposite. Let´s take moving into an apartment with a romantic partner. Creating the idea was – exciting! Playing around with the idea in our imagination – simply wow! Apartment hunting and furnishing the place – lots of fun! But when it came to the act of REALLY living together… that´s when things all of the sudden were not so exciting anymore. Sure, I´d give it a couple of months. We can call it the “honeymoon phase”. That´s the time when you still wake up to your spous and say things like “Honey, I am so happy to live with you. You are the best person and partner I could wish for.” or “Good morning new flatmate – what shall we do today?”. But (in my case) things quickly turned sour and conversations were more about who should be doing the dishes this time or fights about who forgot to water the cactus. (NOT me.)

Yes yes, I know what you will say. Such is life and this is just everyday routine. That´s how it is and we all have to cope with it. But guys, I am not so sure about that. Maybe it´s just our extreme high level of comfort that leads us to complain about the little things? Or are we just too bored with our lives?

Maybe comfort should not be the ultimate goal after all.

But if not comfort – What goal could there be instead? I was about to create a goal for me and my year of 2015. However, when I tried to think about goals for myself, I paniced. I did not want any of these comfortable goals. The goals I want to create for myself are way beyond what I believed to be possible for me. So I had to open my mind and think a bit differently. A goal does not have to follow the traditional way of doing things. What is it that would truly make me happy? And that´s when I realized my goal could be to stay open to different possibilities. A NOT-goal so to say. I decided not to give in to the comfort of having a little box to creep into thinking “gosh, I am happy I finally put a lable on myself”. Instead I will be out there, boxless. Or you can put me into the “other” box if you wish. I´ll keep my mind open to new ideas and possibilities in the meanwhile.

Avoiding comfort is not the solution

However, avoiding comfort in a 21st century western country is pretty unrealistic. We are born into a world where materialistic discomfort plays a minor role. It was complete chance to be born into this kind of world. And I do not take it for granted. It is luxury we live in and luxury to be thinking about all this. This article was not born out of a “simpler-life-nostalgia”. And I am not telling people to stay away from comfort in order to live some kind of Ghandi anti-materialistic lifestyle in order to reach true happiness. Nevertheless, I do encourage you to see beyond the traditional goals of comfort like paying your bills, buying a house etc. And eventually create your own goals that you truly believe in and that will guide you to become a better version of yourself.

Work – but where?

Since I became a freelancer three months ago one question kept me busy more than others. I love to work and I love my flexibility, but WHERE is the ideal spot to be productive?

I have tried many different locations and work patterns. This is what I experienced the past couple of months. What worked for me and what did not.

The home office

Being single and living by myself, the “home office” was my first go-to place to get my freelance work done. The first couple of days and weeks were great! I felt independent. Oh yes, one does not even have to get dressed and can stay in his or her pajamas throughout the whole day. Can it get any better? However, soon enough I realized that my whole life is taking place in the exact same spot. I got up from bed, moved to the kitchen for breakfast, then migrated back to my bedroom where my desk is located and then I sat on my desk for the rest of the day with long breaks for lunch and dinner. At night I would do the same migration backwards moving back from my desk into bed. Sometimes I would work from my couch which made me feel a bit too comfortable. And somehow my “research” then tended to end up somewhere on youtube with  cute cats playing the piano.

Indeed, there are many distractions at home and one has to be super disciplined to keep up good productive work for a longer period of time.

The home office is really nice every once in a while, but does not serve as a permanent office solution in my opinion. This may be different if you have a separate office room where you do your work. However, in a one-bedroom apartment working from home becomes very isolating and unproductive.

And that´s why my next step was to move to ….

The Café.

After feeling isolated, unproductive and lonely in my “home office” I decided to move to the café down the street. I thought at least there are people and that might put a bit of pressure on me to actually get work done. And sitting in a café requires getting dressed in the morning, which I thought could make for a nice change.

Working in the cafe was lovely. I was glad to see new people around me. I even had some interesting conversation with other freelancers while fighting over the only power outlet in the place. I met a couple of fiction writers and made friends with the waiters. Working in the café, I was more productive than at home.

Nevertheless, the situation was not ideal. Having to order drinks and food all the time felt like a “must” and was not easy on my wallet. And not ordering stuff, I felt bad for using up the space in the café.

The internet connection constantly broke down which was the case in many different public cafés and spaces where several people are using the same WIFI connection. This can be really disturbing – especially to people like me who have to rely on the internet to get their work done.

Cafés can get pretty noisy and screaming kids, coffee making sounds mixed with the constant smell of food and “lounge music” sometimes don´t do the trick of working more focussed.

And so I had to look for another options, and found…

…Co-working spaces

Berlin offers a big variety of co-working spaces. Co-working spaces are like office buildings for start-ups, freelancers and anyone who wants a desk in a professional setting. One can rent a desk for a fixed amount of money per month and use his/ her desk just like in a regular office. The Co-working space takes care of the facilities and makes sure things like a functional internet connection, plenty of outlets, etc. are given. Many co-working spaces in Berlin also have cute modern common areas where you can meet other entrepreneurs and have interesting conversations.

I worked my first day in a co-working space this week. I did not rent a desk, but smuggled myself into the common area where I used the internet and the more office-like vibe to get my work done. I was sitting in a café like environment with the only difference being that the place was dedicated to these laptop-staring-people.

The setting felt more professional than a regular café and more productive than my “home office”. I talked to some people who work there on a regular basis and they told me they liked working there a lot. Sometimes they say, meeting new people can get out of hand and all you want is to be alone and get your work done. Renting desks can be kind of expensive… depending on what you do for a living. But renting a desk is definitely a commitment and a constant cost in the oh so small freelance budget.

Resume

I have not found the perfect place to work yet. But having discovered the different options makes me more flexible to chose the location depending on the day. Some days I just want to be by myself and on other days I think some input from others could be great. Depending on how I feel I then move in between the different locations.

Let me know how you organize your freelance lifestyle. Do you have any questions you would like me to answer? Let me know in the comments below.

Interview with … ME! By EmpowerME.nl

Good morning! What a happy day. The interview I gave a couple of weeks ago is finally online.

Tamara Heskes from empowerMe.nl interviewed my about my view on entrepreneurship and the power within us.

If you are interested to read it, here you go:

Interview for empowerme.nl

This is what happens when you do something you love

Friday afternoon. Satisfaction has settled in. Today was the first time I interviewed someone for a big fat blogpost. I have been interviewed a couple of times before and believe I have also interviewed someone back in highschool for something… maybe the school paper?

Today was different. It meant something to me. I really wanted to get this straight. And the task seemed simple. I would meet with this designer girl – a female entrepreneur – and talk with her about her company. Then I would take some portraits of her in her office and give her a high five – or a hug. I ended up doing both. High-five followed by a hug. I am making this a ting. The high-five-hug-combination.

I was perfectly on time and the girl welcomed me with a warm cup of coffee which was much appreciated given the current Berlin nastyness (talking about the weather). She seemed nervous. I think it was the first time for both of us. But we did not talk much about it. We knew what we came there to do. So we prepared everything and jumped right into it.

I prepared her a bit talking about what I was planning on doing: Recording the interview, take portraits, publish it on a blog on http://www.wefound.org, maximal time frame 1 hour. She nodded.

The interview went smooth. The questions (I had some prepared but wanted to have an organic conversation) came quite easily and she talked about her experiences super open. And what had started a bit awkward ended quite elegantly with a short portrait shooting. Nice!

To finally get to the title of my blogpost: I felt REALLY good on my way home. The experience really brought me to a state of excitement and fun. As soon as I was home I transcribed the recording and wrapped the text up. Then I edited the pictures and everything was over way faster than I would have predicted.

Now I am left with the feeling of accomplishment. Awesome! That´s what happens when you do something you love. 🙂

Do you like to sleep in? Here is why I stopped that habit.

Monday. It´s all about priorities. I am repeating the same task over and over again and hope some day it will stick.

I keep on asking myself the same questions:

Is it what I really want?

Does it serve me and the vision of my life?

By answering these questions I am able to filter out all the distractions from my life. It allows me to let people, situations, fights and many other things go without ever looking back. I am practicing to ask these questions as often as possible. And from my experience there is always a clear answer inside of myself. My inner voice – what most people would call intuition or gut feeling – gets stronger every day. All I have to do is to listen.

I would like to give you two examples of things that don´t serve me.

Sleeping in. I know sleeping into days can be tempting. Pressing the “Snooze” button on my alarm sometimes happens without me even noticing. And suddenly it´s 10 or even 12 at noon! Sure, sleeping in and being lazy is lovely sometimes. But mostly it makes me feel like I wasted half a day. And usually when I slept until noon it gets really hard for me to get going and to have a productive day. I guess I am somewhat of a morning person. Thus, I realized there is no point in it for me. Sleeping in is cancelled – for the most part.

Getting drunk. Yes, everybody who was there at my birthday party last weekend will think “oh yes, now she has one of these *i´ll never drink again* moments”… And yeah, I have to admit. I was very drunk. And it was a lot of fun. However, I generally dislike getting drunk. It´s not only the evening that usually ends strangely. It´s also the next two days that feel unproductive and like hangover hell. The reason for not liking drunky-leska is similar to sleepin in. I feel like I am missing out on a lot of fun stuff I could be doing the following days. AND I can feel the poison in my body. Why would I do this to myself? Getting drunk – cancelled – (for the most part).

Now you might think: OMG, being focused sounds like a lot of work. And not like FUN. I don´t even feel like I am giving up on anything because the gain outweighs the couple of hours of sleep and glasses of wine by the thousand!

Porn … and why it took me longer than expected

Finally I get back to this open browser window. This post was staring at me for the past week when I started a discussion about porn on my facebook account.

I found an article called “Why women don´t watch porn” on huffingtonpost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/teresa-lee/why-women-dont-watch-porn_b_5631141.html

This article stirred up some feelings within me as well as my friends on facebook. But my facebook account was not the right place for this discussion. It´s a public discussion.

So, yeah… I started to write a blogpost about porn. Not ranting about porn and how awful it is. But more giving my perspective on porn. Me, a female who watches porn. And about my concerns and experiences with it´s influence on men as well as women. But while writing I lost my fire and was not sure anymore if I wanted to publish a blogpost about porn. After all my Blog is called “TRAVELS, PHOTOGRAPHY, FINDING YOURSELF”. How does porn fit in there?

And I believe this is the exact position of porn in society. It does not really fit in. It´s still considered a taboo even though porn has become more socially accepted over the years. But still – porn is not something you would write about without thinking it through. So instead of going into graphical detail here I´d like to share a ted talk from Cindy Gallop from 2009. She asks people to make love – not porn.

Reality is much different from what you see on your screen. We are real people. 😉

Don´t sell yourself under value

I am getting started as a freelancer. Wohoo!!

And now that I quit my job and started photography school it´s really time for this step. As many of you who have worked freelance, have hired freelancers or had a friend who worked freelance can imagine – it can be tough. You are on your own and sometimes a bit desperate for projects. I was not exactly desperate for a project. But definitely wanted to get started – Excitement!

When a client made a suggestion for a possible project together (in my mind) I nearly jumped at him, fell on my knees, kissed his shoes and thanked him for believing in me. I stopped myself. “Hold on”, I thought.

Is hiring me really something to be greatful for? Well, sure I am happy my client trust in me and believes I am the right person for the job. But the client does not do me a favour hiring me. I am hired because I have a special skillset, attitude and personality they need to complete the job. I realized this is not a master and slave relation – it´s a terminal partnership on eye level. I have the power to decide how to go into this project. Do I want to be their thankful slave, or a partner on eye level? I decided for the latter.

And when the client asked me for a full proposal for the project I re-structured the initial idea, thought it through AND changed the budget of the project to something I felt is more adequate for the amount of work I will put into it. I hit “Send” on the email.

And then the worrying began: What will they think? How will they react? Will they think I am too greedy to ask for more money? Will they maybe even tell me we won´t be able to work together at all because I am asking for more money in the first project? Again – I stopped myself and said “wait and see”.

The client replied a couple of days later saying they appreciate my offer and the thought I have given to the project. However their budget is the budget initially discussed. They would like to keep the project the way it was suggested. Phew – see Valeska! No negative outcome. I gave it a fair shot, made my suggestion and still got the job. I will do the project the way they suggested (and put less time in).

Don´t sell yourself short people. As my dad always used to say: If you sell buttons all you will ever earn is buttons.