Happy New Year! Moving to Japan, future plans, finding meaning

It’s been a little while since you last heard from me, and with good reason. Let me start by saying: Happy New Year to each and every one of you! At this point, I think we’ve all firmly arrived in 2019 and I hope that January so far has treated you well. Whether you’re still sticking to your resolutions or abandoning them completely, I hope this year brings you – all of us – happiness, excitement and many opportunities to change and grow. Growth, actually, is what I lined out as my „motto“ for 2019. And that’s also what this post is about.

A look back at 2018 – the good, the bad and the really ugly

2018 has been a challenging year in many regards. I won’t speak to the troubles we’re facing in international politics (the US and France especially managed to end the year with a bang) or the looming shadow of ecological disaster that has been clouding my mood for quite some time – not at this time.

For me, 2018 has been a year of change, good and bad:
In January, I submitted my Bachelor thesis „Twilight is not good for maidens – Dissecting the discourse on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga“, finally ending my university career.
I’ve been a university student since 2012; first studying Art and Media Philosophy, then Comparative Literature. It’s been a year since then and not going to class or working on essays and assignments still feels very foreign to me.
The question of what I was going to do became moot: pretty much immediately I’d decided to put pursuing my career on hold to wait for my long-term boyfriend to finish his Bachelor’s degree and then start our careers together.

Although I regret the decision to pause for him in retrospect, it gave me a chance to finally start working on the book I’ve wanted to write all my life. I also took a job as an online text and video editor. All in all, it wasn’t bad. That’s, however, when disaster struck.

After getting burned out on both my book and job, abandoning the first at 280 pages and getting fired from the second, everything started spiraling downwards.

At the end of the year, just a few months short of finishing his degree, my boyfriend brutally and unexpectedly dumped me. We proceeded to live together despite being broken up and pretty much fighting every day because we were both too broke to change our situation and couldn’t come up with an agreement of what to do with the cat we had adopted together a year before. While he urged me to put him back up for adoption, I wouldn’t – couldn’t – let go of what remained of the family and life I had built for myself in the last few years.
It was a chaotic, painful and all in all terrible time and I can’t say how grateful I am to now say I’m out of it.

In all this chaos, I decided I needed a radical change. I realized that, despite being an incredibly ambitious and creative person, I’d let myself get talked into standing still for a relationship that wasn’t going to last, no matter how stubbornly I held on to it. I had become idle, waiting for someone else to sort their life out so I could move on to the next phase in my life. That’s when I decided to fulfill my childhood dream – and move to Tokyo to study Japanese.

My new chapter: Moving to Tokyo

After my breakup, I’d made a terrifying discovery: in all my idleness, I’d forgotten who I was. What I wanted to do with my life. The passion I’d always had for writing, creating, theater, and so many other things had gone out like a flame.

It was scary to realize how hollow I’d become in waiting for somebody else to give me permission to live my life. What was I supposed to do with that? My personality, my ambition, my creativity had withered away like so many flowers in winter. As I stood in the ruins of what used to be my life, I knew that I had to do something drastic.

In January 2019, I uprooted my entire life to move to Japan and study Japanese at the Tokyo Galaxy Language School.
My parents agreed to adopt my cat and I donated or threw away most of my belongings. I’d spend pretty much most of my time since I was 16 working, so I found a way to scrounge together enough money to live and study in Tokyo for a few months.
My family wasn’t exactly thrilled. My mother liked to ask: You’re 25 already – when are you finally gonna start your life?

The upsetting thing was that there was no life to start. In all the hurt, I’d lost the person I loved the most, my job, most of my friends and the vision of a life I had fought for endlessly. I was tired, sad and most of all disappointed. In him, in me. I knew that moving to another city and starting a new job wasn’t gonna cut it.

I realized that I had lived most of my life on autopilot, piling on accomplishments, filling my bank account and my CV, always chasing after some abstract feeling of success I never achieved, no matter how hard I worked. I mean, what’s the point? I was never going to feel like I achieved anything. Any praise I received, I brushed off, coming off as modest when I was really just insecure. Any criticism I received, I carried around with me long after I had already redeemed myself for my mistakes, always feeling embarrassed of how much of a failure I was. It was a vicious circle that had been tormenting me for years – I just wanted it to stop. So I stopped everything.

Finding and losing a career

During that time, I started thinking about my career. I had worked all this time to ensure I’d be successful as an adult so I would find a good, fulfilling job. At the end of it all, I realized I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life.
I’d always worked towards becoming a journalist.

First, I wanted to write about the gaming and film industry. That was a plan I’d formed at 16, stubbornly pursuing it through Art School, only to realize that change is inevitable. At 20, I wasn’t who I had been at 16 – and thank God for that.

I’d always had this firm idea in mind who I’d want to be as a journalist. But when I finally got a job working for the kind of journalist I’d always wanted to become, I became scared of this vision of my future. I’d always loved working, getting immersed in my passions. But I knew then that I cared about more than my career. I cared about my family, friends and pets more than I did my career. I cared about my mental and physical health more than I did my career. I cared about being a good person more than I did my career. That’s where my dream of becoming a badass journalist turned into dust.

That was nearly 3 years ago and only a few months ago did I realize that ever since then, I had been floating, directionless and confused. When a version of yourself you’ve held onto since childhood falls apart, the impact can be shocking. I’ve been unsure of what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, ever since.

The future of vinegarandwine

All I knew was that I loved writing. Writing had been all my life, ever since I was a little kid. My unfinished book sits on my table, mocking me for my inadequacy each and every day. All the creative projects I thought up or even started, I dropped unceremoniously, too much in my own head to give it a go, even if it wasn’t perfect.
I started vinegarandwine out of a desire for instant gratification: writing a book is a long and harrowing journey and even though it was the culmination of a life dream, my perfectionism and insecurity didn’t let me enjoy a single moment of working on it.

I’d always loved travel and photography and I thought it might be a fun way to practice my writing and work on my photography skills. It was a lot of fun.
Then I burned out, once again. I didn’t like the topics I was writing about and never had the time or interest to go out to take photos or film videos. I just became stuck.

As I slowly started rebuilding myself, I started reading again, at first just to distract myself from the mess I was in. Then I rediscovered my love for words, for writing. I started taking tiny steps again, writing little essays on Instagram. I started reading about world news again, slowly emerging out of my depression bubble. I started reading more about topics I found interesting and tried to turn them into blog posts. As I researched them and started writing again, for the first time since everything fell apart, my withered flowers started blooming again. Topics I had only planned on writing short posts about turned into full-fledged exposés.
A harmless article about the ethics of travel blogging turned into an article on tourism and the political troubles of Myanmar. A rant about my disillusionment with the German health system in treating the chronically ill turned into a commentary on medical bias towards and the miss-treatment of chronically ill women.
I became immersed in researching and writing. I remembered why I had always wanted to be a journalist – to help people. To report on issues that mattered. To entertain others, but also to make them think. I rediscovered my childhood dream. I remembered who I truly was and always had been.

What does that mean for vinegarandwine? I’d branded this as a travel, (plant-based) food and mental health blog, according to my love for travel and vegetarian/vegan food and my interest in discussing and bringing light to mental health topics. I still care about these topics dearly and while I plan to change my direction, these topics still have their place on my website.

Right now, I’m working on rebranding vinegarandwine. I want to write more about topics of consequence connected to my interests instead of just about the interests themselves. I have a few articles in the works, ranging from topics such as world politics, internet culture, travel politics and so on. I don’t have a firm plan, yet, but, of course, working out huge exposés next to going to school to study Japanese and working as a freelance journalist, is a huge time commitment. I’ll be posting my new blog plan on Instagram, so follow me @vinegarandwine for any and all updates.

What I want to say is: thank you for following me on this journey. We will all face times in our lives, in which we question the path we have walked, the direction our life has taken. We will question the people we love and most of all, ourselves. Throughout all of this, I’ve held on to a quote I once read by Robert Frost. I think it perfectly encapsulates the journey each and every one of us has to take on our way to happiness. So he says:

In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.