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Egg Banking Part 3: My future kids are in a Petri dish across the border

July 31, 2017

The last few days of injections are the most uncomfortable. Four injections a day is a lot, and the skin on my stomach looks red and irritated, with a couple of bruises. My well-being is noticeably affected and I feel incredibly uneasy in my own skin, along with an all-too-familiar general feeling of hopelessness.

On days 9 and 10, I can feel extra weight in my lower stomach. There is a pulling sensation and I look several weeks pregnant. The last hormone injection is planned for Day 10 at exactly 9:30 p.m, so I set an alarm and leave a festival early. The shot needs to be administered exactly 36 hours before the surgery.

Day 11 is a Sunday, luckily. I take it very easy and, while I have to keep injecting anti-thrombosis medication, knowing that the hormone treatment is over is a relief.

On Day 12, the day of the extraction, I wake up at five. I am not allowed to eat or drink anything past midnight, so my mouth feels dry. I feel a very strong pulling sensation in my lower stomach. Everything feels heavy. I have 24 follicles inside of me, filled with fluid and egg cells, with a diameter of 2cm each. I imagine this is what a pregnancy feels like in the early stages. I manage to shower and pack everything on the list the nurse gave me. Food and drink for after the procedure. Slippers. My passport and my treatment plan.

Once I get to the clinic, everything happens very fast. I am asked to confirm that I have followed the injection plan as it was given to me and that I have not eaten or drunk anything and given some papers to sign. I scan them hastily. I am well aware this is not a sensible thing to do, but I feel anxious.

The nurse leads me to a hospital room and asks me to change into my surgery gown and to cover my hair. I change and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, shapeless gown, shower cap and all. Never looked sexier, I think to myself.

I am taken to the OR. It doesn’t look much different from a regular gynecological practice, except for the scary-looking tools near the chair that I purposely avoid looking at. No need for too many graphic details, I am worried enough as it is. The anesthetician is very nice to me when I tell her I’m a little scared. She places the needle and says “That is completely normal. Just think of a nice holiday.” I mentally teleport myself to a beach in Bali and manage to briefly ponder how truly amazing modern medicine is – the incredible speed at which anesthetics kick in! – before passing out.

I wake up in the hospital room. I feel a bit fuzzy but immediately text my best friend to let her know everything went well. I then decide to nap for a bit longer. When I wake up for the second time, I feel as good as new. I get up to go to the bathroom and a nurse rushes into the room. “You shouldn’t get up so fast”, she tells me off. She refuses to let me lock the bathroom door. I ask her when I can leave and she firmly informs me I am being kept in the clinic for another two hours. At this point, I am alert enough to feel annoyed. Two hours?! I have work I could be doing, you know.

But I quickly resign, laying in bed, leafing through magazines and happily munching on my raspberries and apple. Waves of relief wash over me. Everything feels so peaceful. I’m going to have a child. Whatever happens, I’m going to have a child.

The doctor who performed the operation comes in to check on me two hours after I wake up. “We have extracted 19 oocytes, of which 15 are healthy and usable. That is a very good number, congratulations. I hope you won’t need them, but if you do, they are here waiting for you.”

I smile at him broadly. In that moment, I am so relieved I could cry. I won’t need to save up money and go through this whole process again, 15 useable cells are more than enough for a successful fertilization. It’s as if there is a helium balloon expanding in my chest. There is so much lightness and hope.

The doctor warns me my fertility will be heightened for another couple of months and advises me to be particularly cautious if I do not wish to become pregnant at the current time. He also instructs me to continue injecting the thrombosis medication for another week, and adds it would be prudent to avoid exercise for two weeks. I feign indignance and disappointment (“Two whole weeks!? Is that really necessary?”), thank him and say goodbye.

That afternoon, I don’t do much, other than relish the feeling of certainty and freedom.

In the two weeks after the surgery, I can still feel the effect of the hormones. Once the lightness and relief fades, the dysthymia is still noticeable.

There are three particularly strong impressions that stay with me.

The first is a deep, deep feeling of gratitude towards my body. Here it is, perfectly healthy, at 24 years old, in spite of my terrible diet and exercise habits. So healthy that even high doses of hormones do not faze it, so healthy that it produces 15 egg cells on command, so healthy that an hour after general anesthesia, I feel ready to jump out of bed and get back to my everyday life. And here I am, stupid, ungrateful, brainwashed me, looking at it in the mirror every morning before I step in the shower, chastizing and criticizing and picking it apart. Hating the breasts that are going to nourish my child, and the arms that are going to carry her before she learns how to walk, and the legs that will run after her when we play. A bump here, a dent there, too much fatty tissue. I vow to do better, and over the next few days and weeks, I do. I stop checking how many calories my exercise sessions burn. I try harder to avoid sugar. I take time to moisturize my skin. I still think bad thoughts, but quickly add to them, at least I am healthy.

The second is a whole newfound appreciation of single motherhood, and my own mother by extension. Going through hormone therapy and surgery without having anyone to come home to or cuddle, without having anyone to surprise you with flowers or chocolate, without a shoulder to cry on, was really, really hard. Imagine going through a pregnancy alone. Nine months of hormone-induced mood swings, nine months of cravings, and sickness, and medical check-ups, and appointments, and forms to fill out and kindergardens to sign up for. Alongside full-time work and with absolutely no-one to lighten the burden. And then eighteen years of trying to raise a kind, respectful, caring human being, with no-one but yourself as a role model. I cannot fathom the strength this must have taken my mother. I don’t know if I have that kind of strength in me. I realize that if I want to have a child five years from now, I need to grow that strength.

The third is a much more general sense of no longer needing anyone. I feel a huge amount of tension and anxiety melt away. I stop waiting for messages and calls. I stop going on dates that I know are hopeless. I stop pondering on what people say and how they mean it. Instead, I write and sell two articles. I take a 20 hour Photoshop class and I finish a multimedia project and take an exam. I go out clubbing, just for the fun of it, and I hug strangers. I learn about cryptocurrencies and open an investment wallet. I book tickets to a conference. I send out applications, I keep my apartment clean and I make plans to sell clutter at a fleamarket. I plan and throw a birthday party. I go to workshops and meet-ups and networking events. By myself.

My mother still thinks I’m insane for putting my body through this, and spending € 3.500.

For the peace of mind alone, I would have paid twice that.

The End

 

personal

Egg banking (part 2): Needles, tears and more needles

July 5, 2017

After my first trip to the clinic, I keep the treatment plan in plain sight on my desk.

The idea is that, to prepare for the extraction, I inject hormones to stimulate my ovaries to produce a much higher number of follicles with egg cells than they normally would. All those follicles can then be punctured, drained and the egg cells extracted and frozen.

The treatment is supposed to start on the third day of my menstrual cycle, so every day, I do mental arithmetic to figure out when I’d have to start the injections and when I’d have my first check-up if I got my period today. I feel somewhat apprehensive.

As it turns out, I am four days early. I am torn between “at least we can get this over with quickly” and “I don’t want to start the injections.”

Luckily, my injections start on a bank holiday, so on Day 1, I have enough time to figure everything out and get my hands to stop shaking. I didn’t sleep well the night before and I am very aware that the medication is incredibly expensive and I only have the exact amount I need and not a drop more – if I spill anything or fuck up in some other way, I have to start over. The pen for the morning injections is surprisingly easy to handle, even though it takes me a while to get the needle to stay on. It’s thinner than I thought and it barely hurts. I assume it is similar to what diabetics would carry with them, though I have no way of knowing. The evening injections are a bit more painful and the needle is thicker. I keep track of every shot meticulously in a notebook. I am very worried I will make a mistake at some point.

The first three days of injections go by fairly unspectacularly. By Day 4, I notice a clear effect on my mood. The hormones are messing up my system and on top of that, since I decided to avoid alcohol from the first appointment onward to be safe, I can’t even have a glass of wine to take the edge off. On that day, I arrange to meet a friend to have a look at options for a Christmas getaway. We decide to go to a wine bar. I order Earl Grey and stare sadly at my mug, all the while picturing nine months plus breastfeeding time of this sober misery. My friend is the sunniest, most cheerful person you can imagine, so I feel decidedly better by the end, but it doesn’t last.

On Day 5, I go right back to my terrible mood. It probably doesn’t help that my week is as packed as ever. That evening, I have an introductory meet-up at an organization I want to volunteer for. I spend the 1,5 hours questioning whether I really want to do this and what the point of life is and pondering how annoying teenagers truly are.

Day 6 is the first day I cry. I go see a doctor during lunch for unrelated reasons, and he tells me to eat less sugar. His exact words are: “I know your type. Young, single, stressed, university graduates… you eat salad in front of people and then sneak chocolate when no-one sees.” He says this quite teasingly, but what my hormonal brain hears is: “You are a fat failure and your diet is awful and it’s no wonder you are single”. I walk back to work with tears streaming down my face.

I stay home that evening and day 7 is my first check-up. The procedure isn’t legal in Austria when there is no medical necessity for it, so I have to travel to the Czech Republic for each visit. I get up at 5 a.m. and only very narrowly catch my train.

I manage to find a cab. The driver is a balding man in his sixties who does not appear to speak English. I enunciate the name of the clinic as clearly as I can, and his face lights up. He looks at me questioningly and mimes a baby bump on his belly with his hands. I smile and nod. At least the place has a reputation around here, I think to myself.

First up is another ultrasound. The doctor says my ovaries are responding very nicely, the follicles are right where they should be, and the hormone dosage is working very well. The follicles are growing quickly and things could not be better. I mentally thank my body, remember how incredibly healthy it is, apologize for hating it so much and make a half-hearted pledge to treat it better.

After the ultrasound, I am taken to the head nurse, who explains the likely timing of the actual cannulation, which, if everything goes well, should be on Day 13 or 14.

“The day of the procedure, please have someone accompany you.”, she says. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible”, I answer, forcing myself to sound composed. The hormones are still wreaking havoc on my feelings and I feel like yelling and crying at the same time. Lady, if I had someone in my life that I could ask to pick me up from a city 130 kilometres away from home on a work day after general anaesthesia, I WOULDN’T FUCKING BE HERE.

Instead, I smile wryly. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.” The nurse looks at me doubtfully. “Well, if there is any way you can arrange it…”, she trails off, then adds “You can’t drive home, though.” At this point, surely she must be doing it on purpose?!

For the next two days, I am supposed to take four injections a day: three in the morning and one in the evening. Two hormone preparations, one injection to prevent the larger, more developed follicles from bursting prematurely and one injection to prevent thrombosis. Two of the injections consist of a powder and a saline solution that I need to mix together myself. The nurse demonstrates all of this, then administers the three shots. I want to get out my notebook and write down the exact steps to reassure myself, but I decide against looking like the huge nerd that I am.

Suddenly, in this small room with its white walls plastered in pictures of babies, even with the two nurses giving me their best encouraging smile, I feel incredibly overwhelmed and out-of-place. I can feel the little girl inside of me becoming wide-eyed and worried. Eight injections that I have to prepare and administer all by myself, and noone to help if anything goes wrong, or even just to cuddle.

To be continued

 

personal

I am having twenty egg cells extracted and frozen. Here are all the details about egg banking. (Part 1)

June 21, 2017
egg banking post - featured photo

“May I ask why you have chosen this procedure?” The doctor looks at me through his glasses. He has white hair, a deep voice, and his overall demeanor is very soothing. He pores over the notes on his screen. “You are very young. There are no medical indications, correct?”

I feel myself almost tear up, but manage to keep it together. This is not the time or place for an anxious breakdown.

“I am terrified that no one will ever love me or want to commit to me because I am unloveable at my core, and the thought of dying childless is my worst nightmare.” sounds rather psychotic. I decide on a white lie instead.“Well, I know lots of people who try to have children after age 35, 40, and they can’t.”, I say. Truthfully, I know of only one such person, but this seems like an appropriate thing to say out loud.

The doctor nods. “You are right, of course”. He reaches for a chart with colorful lines and shows me the statistics. Fertility plunges after 35, as does the number of healthy oocytes.

“Between the ages of 20 and 26, the egg cells will have the best quality. You are right. But you are still very young, not many people … There are very few women like you.”

I smile sardonically. So I’ve been told, doctor.

The sciency part

Per se, egg banking, social freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, as Wikipedia refers to it, is a fairly straightforward procedure, the doctor explains.

In a natural menstrual cycle, one oocyte ripens in the ovaries, moves to the uterus, waits to be fertilized and then develops either into a cute baby with squishy feet (if fertilized) or a really bad temper and insatiable chocolate cravings (if not fertilized). Freezing that one egg cell would not make a whole lot of sense, though, because 1 out of every 4 egg cells will display some sort of abnormality (e.g. in chromosome number, genetic material, or otherwise), some cells die at thawing, not all cells attach to the uterine wall, and so on. So, during egg banking, the patient’s ovaries are hyperstimulated using FSH (follicle-stimulating hormones), with the aim being to produce about 20 ripened egg cells. Those 20 cells are then extracted under general anesthesia using a needle, preserved in a special solution and then frozen at -200°C until such time as the patient wants them back.

That will be how much now?!

So far, so good. The doctor asks me whether I have any more questions, and I shake my head. He informs me that complications are very unlikely to arise. After the pelvic exam, he also informs me that I am in good health and we can go ahead with a relatively high dose of hormones. He calmly carries on to say that the aim is to freeze 20 egg cells, and that if this number is not achieved in one treatment cycle, he would recommend I come back next year.

And pay another €3,500? “Yes, the cost would be have to paid again in full, as this would be a whole new procedure”. I sigh and give my ovaries a mental pep talk. Come on, girls, play along. I can’t afford to do this twice.

The needles from hell

A nurse comes to pick me up. “I’m going to explain what drugs you’ll be using and show you how the injections work”, she says. It turns out that “hyperstimulation of the ovaries”, in non-medical terms, translates to “you have to jam a needle into your stomach every morning, and, because of your heightened risk for thrombosis, another, even thicker one in the evening.”

I watch the nurse’s fingers adeptly unwrap the drug vial, place it into the injection pen and screw on the needle. “Did you follow?”, she asks. I nod. My stomach lurches. When I stand up, my knees feel a bit weak.   

Two injections a day, for a week. I’ve injected myself enough times to know I hate it and it makes me feel faint. I try to pace my breathing. Suck it up, I tell myself. Being a mother is going to be a hell of a lot harder than this.

 

To be continued

 

I hesitated for a while to publish this rather personal story. In the end, I decided to do so for three reasons: For one, family planning is an incredibly important topic and also highly relevant to female empowerment. Women need to know their options and plan in advance if they are ever to “have it all”, children and a career. There is a very real biological clock that we either need to work with, or find ways to circumvent, and I believe raising awareness in this area is important. For another thing, I thought information about costs, proceedings etc. might potentially be useful to a lot of people and if you would like to know more details, please do not hesitate to ask (I believe my contact form on the blog is currently not working, but message me on Facebook or just comment). Finally, not writing about this procedure, which to the medical staff I am sure is routine but to me feels rather big, would have felt dishonest.

 

 

food for thought personal

How To Make Huge Goals Less Overwhelming

May 5, 2017

Hi lovelies ♥

Who are you?

How do you define yourself?

The only immediate answers I would give to that question are “daughter” and “sister”. Those are factual and very hard to deny.

At the beginning of this year I was doing an internship at a TV station. Once or twice during that time, I said the words “I am a reporter at a TV station” to someone, but it always came with a profoundly weird feeling. It was almost as if there was a derisive voice in my head asking: “And what on earth would give you the right to call yourself a reporter? Silly little girl.” When factually, that’s what I was doing. I was researching and editing news segments. I was doing the work of a reporter. And yet, calling myself a reporter seemed absurdly presumptuous.

I would call myself a “psychology graduate” but never a “psychologist”. I currently work in communications but I feel odd calling myself a “spokesperson”. I always say “I work in communications”. I have published a few articles but feel uncomfortable calling myself a “journalist”.

(Interesting side note: there is a condition called “impostor syndrome” that comes with very similar emotions, in which high-achieving, highly qualified people, who objectively fully deserve to be where they are, feel inadequate or do not feel like they belong. It mostly affects women, for obvious reasons.)

Per se, this reluctance to define myself through my work is not too problematic. It becomes a problem when trying to set goals. I would like to be a journalist, and even more so, I would love to be a presenter or TV host. But those feel like such crazy goals that I barely dare write them down, let alone pursue them properly. It takes such an incredible amount of luck and work, especially considering the state the media industry is in, to be a journalist, and it takes even more luck to become a presenter.

So how to set long-term, overarching goals? I’m very good at setting daily, monthly, even yearly goals. But how can one define long-term goals so that they are not too scary (“be a journalist”) or don’t hinge 80% on pure, dumb luck or set one up for disappointment (“become famous”)? “Make X amount of money” didn’t seem meaningful or motivating enough. “Work for company / magazine / publisher Y” seemed way too specific and limiting.

I had my “why”, but I needed to define my “what”.

I had a conversation about this with my good friend, Philip. I don’t know whether Philip reads my blog, but I like him either way because he’s one of the smartest people I know and he listens to my whining (which is very nice of him) and actually offers useful solutions. Philip suggested that if defining goals in terms of “what I want to be” limits me so much, why not define them in terms of what I want to do?

I thought that was a brilliant idea. So I did just that. I made a list of “Things I want to spend my ~85 years on Earth doing”.

 

list of things i wanna do

This is the list.

And there it was. After a suitable amount of brainstorming, I made the list you can see in the picture. If it’s too hard to read, here it is typed out:

  • research and write stories
  • host events, TV shows, present things
  • speak in public
  • have photoshoots
  • make the world a fairer place and fight injustice (I guess I kind of drifted off into my ‘why’ there)
  • meet people and talk about interesting stuff
  • learn about politics, history, policy making, law, international relations
  • create – take photos, make videos, blog
  • write poetry and fiction and share it with others
  • dance
  • kickbox
  • cook
  • cuddle
  • travel
  • read interesting things
  • spend quality time with friends
  • exercise (If I’m entirely honest, I added this mostly out of a sense of duty)

(I did not include “raise children” on the list, on purpose. It seemed too overwhelming – even though I am working towards raising at least one child. More on that in my next post.)

That’s it. It gave me such a renewed sense of clarity to know that if I’m spending most of my time doing things on the list, I’m on track, and if not, I need to change how I spend my time. It also removes any temptation to chase things like wealth or fame, which we are often made to believe are valuable and worth aspiring to, but which I find sort of meaningless and superficial (in and of themselves – I am not denying they can be used as means to some very worthwhile ends). As long as I am spending most of my time doing these things and I have enough money to live comfortably, everything is fine.

I just wanted to share in case making a list like this helps anyone else 🙂

Have a perfect weekend ♥

PS: If you aren’t yet, go follow my instagram @damitablogs. I post every day, and I alternate between photography and poetry/creative writing. So if you like poetry/photography/quotes and/or want to make my day, follow me 🙂 I always appreciate feedback on my writing as well.

personal

Let’s talk about failure.

January 27, 2017
There’s this common accusation that social media is harmful because we all retouch our lives so much on it. We only share the good, and then we compare our dreary day-to-day with other people’s highlight reels, and we feel less than. None of it is real.
From a whole different angle, there’s the perception that we don’t have a proper “culture of failing” in Austria or Europe, that if failure were more accepted like it is in Silicon Valley, people wouldn’t be so risk-averse and our economy would be much more innovative.
So let’s talk about failure.

I completely, utterly, entirely fucked up my first month of 2017.
I started a new job on day 2, after which I took a completely unplanned and unnecessary 4 day vacation (to Germany, of all places, which is just as cold as here), during which I could’ve gotten things done.
I then failed my practical driving exam for the second time, at which point I decided to cut my losses and just quit, which means that over the past year, I threw out €4.000 for absolutely nothing.
Then, I got sick and had to stay home for a few days. I handed in half-hearted, embarrassingly bad assignments. I spent time that I should’ve spent studying crying my eyes out. My panic attacks came right back and messed my schedule up so badly. And I sat through them, because I have learned that trying to force myself to calm down makes everything worse.
At various points this month, I seriously considered moving to a different country, taking out a loan and getting a ton of plastic surgery, giving away my cat, getting a house on the countryside, and joining a religious cult.

I spent hours just reading, and writing, and crying, when I should have been working on my task list. I didn’t do close to my best on any of my exams, or assignments, and sometimes I didn’t even do my best at work. I went to the gym a total of maybe three times in the entire month. I did count calories, but any deficit I racked up was shot right to hell this past week – anyone who has ever struggled with this knows how incredibly hard it is to function, let alone perform, while restricting.
By almost every one of my own measures, I failed.
But I managed to complete eight university courses this month alone, alongside a 35 hour work week. The standards I set myself are a lot higher than that, and I’m going to try a hell of a lot harder next month. But for now, that’s going to have to be enough.
personal

I give up.

January 17, 2017
TW: This is not a happy post.
 
It recently occurred to me that the very first date of my life would have been roughly around 10 years ago, in February of 2007. I had met a boy online on a website called Netlog (yes, that was a thing back then) and he had agreed to pick me up from school. I walked through the gate that day and saw him sitting by the closest bus stop, with a notebook on his lap, drawing the clock that was standing on the square across the street. It was a very bad drawing, but I was 14 and the artistic type was cool back then.
Ten years is a really long time to keep trying and failing at something. Of course, it’s not unheard of for people to stick with something for ten years. I’m sure there are people who have been trying to get a book published, or a band going, for longer. Kudos to those people for their perseverance. But I don’t think I have that in me. You know those completely asinine everyday moments where everything suddenly catches up with you? I was lying in bed staring at
the ceiling trying to fall asleep and my brain decided that would be a good time for a flashback.
And then I realized I can’t do it anymore. I can’t have another “so where are you from” conversation. I can’t waste another evening sipping coffee and trying to get the person across the table to say something even remotely interesting. I can’t give up any more precious reading time to swipe faces left or right on a screen. I can’t take the stress of having to make a good first impression at all costs and of forcing myself to be cheerful and I can’t waste another drop of frankly very expensive makeup on people I’m never going to see again.
And more than anything, I can’t take meeting someone I actually like and getting my hopes up only for everything to go to hell a few months later.
So I decided I want to let go.
I know I’ve probably said this before, to friends, tearfully, over a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates, but I feel like this is a much more sober, rational decision. I deleted every single dating app from my phone last night – and if you ever see me using one again, it means I downloaded it in a moment of weakness and I’d like you to take my phone and smash me over the head with it. I’m done with Disney films, and romantic comedies, and love stories, and fairy tales, and my secret Pinterest wedding board. I’m done with stopping to look at engagement rings or baby shoes. I’m done with paying attention to school ranking tables. I’m done with reading developmental psychology articles on Google Scholar and I’m done with the entire concept of happily ever after.
I give up.
personal

8 things I learned in 2016

December 26, 2016

I believe humans are nothing if not works in progress. So I think how much you learn over the course of a year is a pretty good way of measuring how successful it was. I know 2016 was an absolute clusterfuck in terms of politics and the world as a whole, but for me, it actually went pretty well.

1. I learned a bunch of stuff about myself

a. I’m not particularly good with money. I never really learned how to handle it. There was a time in my life when I was better with it, when I was constantly worried about whether or not I’d be able to finish my degree, but since then I’ve taken treating myself a little bit too far and one big resolution for 2017 is to get on top of my spending. I even found some goals to save towards so I’m optimistic.

b. I’m pretty self-centered. There are two reasons I don’t like that, one is that it’s just an unpleasant trait to have, and the other is that focusing on yourself and taking yourself too seriously genuinely makes you unhappier than focusing on work, or helping others, or building something. So that is something I want to change next year.

c. Apparently I come across as a little bit hectic. It’s always nice to know what impression you make on others. I don’t feel hectic, but I guess I’m a pretty fast-paced person and people notice that. (Note to self: take three deep breaths and make sure to be calm when wanting to be taken seriously.)

d. I have zero patience with anything or anyone and that is definitely something I need to learn before having kids.

2. I learned that I’m okay alone

Whenever someone told me it’s important to be okay alone, I always thought that was stupid. What’s wrong with being a relationship person and wanting a family?
But the thing is, if you’re not okay with being alone, if you’re in a rush to just be with someone, you’re always going to settle for less than you deserve, and you’re likelier to get hurt.

And I honestly thought I hated being alone. I travelled to Amsterdam alone when I was 19 and it was an awful experience. I got so stuck in my own head and couldn’t escape my own thoughts and anxieties and it was just downright horrible. So for Christmas, when I decided to go to the spa alone, I was expecting at least one breakdown – I imagined I would be in tears, watching “Love Actually” and stuffing myself with Christmas cookies. That did not happen (except of course I did stuff myself with cookies). I had a wonderfully relaxing trip. I’m fine alone now. Maybe next year I’ll go bigger and travel to South-East Asia alone. Who knows! The world is my oyster.

3. I think I learned that I’m enough (but probably not really though)

This one is something I still struggle with because it’s so goddamn hard. But I’ve learned that if it feels like I’ve been pushing too hard and I can’t keep pushing, it’s okay to stop pushing for a few days and just exist. There’s no point in constantly trying to be more and better and chastising myself when I get tired. It makes things worse. I still think it’s a good thing to try and be the best version of yourself. It’s healthy to want to be better than you were yesterday. But at the same time, life is so much easier when you try and believe that you’re enough. You’re skinny enough and you’re pretty enough and you’re worthy enough and loveable enough and you’ve come far enough and it’s all going to be okay. (Note to self: Learn to really believe that in 2017.)

4. I learned that friends are important

I work a lot. Not just at my job, I study a lot and I work a lot and on top of these things I’ve decided to do my driver’s license and learn how to pole dance so the bottom line is, I can be a shit friend who never has time to hang out. And then I feel lonely and guilty. I think my friends understand that I do a million things because I genuinely need to to be happy (and feel worthy – which I know is problematic), and I don’t think they hold it against me too much. Even so, I’m just happier overall when I spend time with people more. (Note to self: FINALLY remember to do that REGULARLY in 2017!!)

5. I learned what it means to believe in yourself

I think believing in yourself gets misunderstood A LOT. It doesn’t mean believing you’re special – you’re not. It doesn’t mean believing you’re entitled to anything in this life, because you’re entitled to jack shit. It doesn’t even mean believing you can do anything and everything, because clearly you can’t. Like no matter how hard I believed I could be a professional gymnast, let’s be honest, I have all the coordination and grace of a blind baby elephant, so yeah. No Olympic medal for me.

And you can work your whole life for something, morning til night, and even have the capacity to reach your goal, and life can take it all away from you. You can study your damn hardest and get a scholarship to Harvard and get through pre-med because you desperately want to be a world-class neurosurgeon and then you get into an accident and lose a hand. You can do your very best and get straight A’s in school and college and work relentlessly towards your dream job and it will go to the boss’s son anyway, because life, my friends, is a fucking bitch.

Believing in yourself means believing that whatever shit life throws at you, you will pull through, and adapt, and come out stronger, because you are not your job and you are not your relationship and you are not a number on a scale or a certificate or a paycheck. The essence of who you are is unshakeable. And I can honestly say I believe in myself like that now.

6. I learned how to drive a car (barely)

My exam is on the 9th of January. After over 40 hours of driving I have figured out what the side-view mirrors are supposed to be good for. Pray for me. (And for everyone else on the road that day.)

7. I learned a whole bunch of professional skills

The Adobe suite doesn’t confuse me QUITE as much as it used to, I’m good with Premiere, I did like, two JavaScript courses on KhanAcademy and did some writing and editing and discovered a bunch of stuff about social media and SEO and HTML and CSS. ToDo 2017: more coding, Excel.

8. I’m starting to remember who I am

2013 and 2014 in particular were pretty bad years for me. I had just finished uni and had essentially no clue what I wanted to do with my life. People talk about finding themselves, but for me, it was more a case of finding myself again. I remember who I am now. I’ve been reading and writing for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mother had to physically rip the books from my hands when it was time to eat, and yet for years I barely made time to read. I’ve always wanted to dance, but never quite dared to try. I used to take pride in my work and in being independent and achieving my goals, and over the years I stopped caring about independence, or about having things to take pride in.

I started caring more about how people perceived me rather than simply doing my best, always. I followed people’s expectations of me and worried more about what everyone would think and what everyone else was doing. And then of course I started slacking in my performance, because I didn’t really want to do any of the things that I was doing and/or generally had no clue about anything. I lost myself in the crazy world of adulthood and I finally feel like I’m back on track. And I’m gonna stay right on it next year.

Love 

Damita

personal

When grown-ups have feelings

September 27, 2016
The older I get, the more I wonder whether there even is such a thing as a grown-up. Most of the time I think we’re all just flailing about and none of us really know what the fuck we’re doing anyway.
I don’t know if I qualify as a grown-up. I mean, I may be financially independent now and I’ve learned the four P’s of marketing, but I still don’t know anything about stocks and I still don’t have a driver’s license.One way in which I do notice time passing, though, is that I don’t seem to feel things quite as intensely as I used to. It’s like someone set the transparency higher on my life, like I still see the colors but what used to be a flaming red has become an orange-tinted kind of coral and the deep blue that used to feel like I would drown in it and never resurface suddenly seems a less insurmountable shade of petrol.

 And I think that filter that seems to cover everything as you get older is perspective. When you’re older you realize that nothing matters quite as much as you feel it does. In fact, your life most likely won’t matter at all and fifty years from now you’ll be dead. That’s very sad, but it’s also a weird kind of comforting.
It’s sad because it takes more to make you feel anything at all. The moments where you feel light-headed with happiness become fewer. But when something bad happens, you know you’re not going to feel upset forever. Your stomach might still tie up into an inextricable knot and you might still not eat for a week. But you know that at some point, you’re going to walk past a kebab shop or join your friends at a restaurant that serves burgers and you’re going to be tired or a bit tipsy and for a moment you’re going to forget about whatever it is that’s making you sick to your stomach. And you’re going to eat. Maybe someone is going to make a great joke, or maybe the guy who sells you the kebab is going to compliment your smile. And so you’re going to smile again. For just a second. And then for a bit longer the week after.
Because at a certain age you understand that you’re one in seven billion people and a lot of those people have had to overcome far worse than whatever you might be facing. You become less self-absorbed. You are not special or different. You are a tiny, ant-sized spot in a giant universe where a bunch of other tiny, ant-sized spots scurry about busily. And on any given day, some of us will be facing heart-break, rejection, poverty, death, destruction, war, hunger, torture, fear, unspeakable grief. And yet a great many people find a way to be fine.
And you’re not special. And so eventually you’re going to be fine again, too.

 

books personal

This Book Helped Me Figure Out My Life Purpose

September 16, 2016
Do you know what you’re alive for?
I don’t think everyone looks for a life purpose. If you were born in poverty, or if you’re ill, you can’t afford to wonder why you get out of bed in the mornings. You get out of bed because if you don’t show up to work, you stand to lose your entire existence, and maybe that of your family too. You get out of bed because you don’t know if you’ll still be alive to do it tomorrow.
So my search for meaning is, to some extent, a luxury problem.  Continue Reading