Why I didn’t change my Facebook profile picture to show solidarity with Paris.

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If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably seen it around. The feature where you can layer the colours of the french flag over your profile picture. It’s a nice gesture. You can now show solidarity and support through a single mouse click. This might read as sarcastic, but let me clarify, I have nothing against this. In fact, I think it’s a great idea.

I do, however, feel a bit awkward about it. And this is why:

Bombings, shootings and terrorist attacks of all kinds happen every day. They happen in parts of the world that we’re so used to hearing these kind of horrid news reports from. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Then they also happen in parts of the world we mostly hear nothing about. After all, when was the last time a news outlet properly reported about the Crisis in the Central African Republic? About South Sudan?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.

And I get it. I get that this is a difference, because it happened in a country where terrorist attacks do not belong to day to day life. I get it because it’s Paris. It’s a city in a western country, peaceful, modern, beautiful. It is shocking to us because it happened in the midst of Europe, a continent that has been at peace for 70 years now. It is shocking because it could have happened to any of us. It could have been me and my family spending a nice evening in a cafĂ©. It could have been my friends at a concert on a friday night.
We feel shocked because we’re so used to this security. We don’t know what it’s like to live in constant fear. We don’t know how to react when we’re confronted with so much hate, so much brutality.

We are so incredibly privileged. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you live in a European country and don’t have to fear for your life on a day to day basis, you are privileged. We should be more aware of this fact and never, ever, take this for granted.

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I am utterly heartbroken about what happened in Paris. Of course it has affected me as well, how could it not?

However, Paris is not the only city where terrorist attacks happen.

I am not just Paris. I am Beirut. I am Baghdad. I am every city that was recently affected by senseless tragedy and bloodshed. I am every town where parents kiss their children goodnight and don’t have to be scared for them and I am every refugee camp where parents worry about what kind of future their children may have. I am everywhere safe and calm and peaceful. I am both, because I am humanity and I am the world.

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Thank you, 2014

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What a year.

No really: What. A. Year.

So much has happened, so many things that I’ve learnt, so many opportunities that arose, so many people who I’ve met.

I honestly could not be more thankful or appreciative.

I don’t even have words to explain everything that happened this year or how it changed me and helped me become the person I aspire to be.

One of the things that stood out most to me were the people I got to meet this year. I’ve made new friends all over the world. I met inspiring and hardworking people. I was fortunate enough to talk about life and get a glimpse into their view of the world and learn from them. The friendships I made in 2014 are probably the most coveted thing I take with me into the new year.
It’s also how these people made me think about the world differently, how they influenced how I feel and think about myself, how I consequently I carry myself now.

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I originally titled this post “Goodbye, 2014” but no, I don’t want to say goodbye, and thanks to all the crazy memories I will never have to say goodbye. I want to thank you, 2014, for teaching me about myself. For allowing me to be brave, for letting me do things I never had done before and for being patient and encouraging.
When I say 2014, I mean every single person I’ve met, everything I’ve done, every song I’ve heard (and obsessed over), every book I’ve read and every stranger that threw me a dirty look on the street for no apparent reason.

I have a feeling that 2015 will be different in many ways but with what 2014 has taught me, I hope it will be easier for me to navigate through the next year.

So thank you, 2014, it’s been real.

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Thoughts on life lately.

As rough as the last couple of days have been I know that whatever happens now I’ll find a way to deal with it. I have the support of my family and I know I can come out of this ugly situation stronger than I am now. I’ll take every life lesson and I’ll grow.
For now I’ll focus on the important things: like forcing myself to eat and trying to get enough sleep at night.
Things will get better. They always do and I always learn how to adapt.
I’ll try to see this as a summer storm, a necessary evil for sunny days.

 

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Balance

Thinking back at my life – and mind you, I’m aware that I’m not even that old yet, – I can’t help but think that I am an incredibly lucky girl. I was able to attend a good school, lead a quiet life in the suburbs. My school was surrounded by woods and meadows and even when I got home in the evening the first thing I often did was throw my backpack in a corner and run outside to explore the forests surrounding my house. I played there for hours. I waded through small streams, climbed trees and built snow castles. I often fell. I had dirt beneath my fingernails and scrapes on my knees.
I was also lucky enough to live close to a major city that offered everything you could ever want in terms of culture. I’ve seen great works of art, been lost in major museums, went to concerts, the opera, musicals and jazz festivals. I’ve eaten at fancy restaurants as well as enjoyed simple, homemade meals.

For me it was an ideal childhood. It is still ideal living now.

And not just at home. My parents let me tag along every trip they made. From an early age I was used to seeing sights and eating unusual food. And now, at 22, I still continue to live this life.
During the week I walk the streets of Vienna, marveling at the breathtaking architecture. On weekends I make my way through the forest, sometimes on horseback, sometimes on foot.

I travel alone to countries in Africa and Asia. I travel with friends to cities like London or Rome. I still travel with my grandparents and parents and I treasure all these moments, covet all these memories.

I marvel at the things my eyes have been allowed to see. At the sand my feet have been allowed to walk on.
Red in Togo. White in Thailand. Black in Tenerife.

I still have dirt beneath my fingernails, scratches on my arms and bruises on my legs. And yet, I wear heels as well. I put on lipstick and wear a dress to head out for a glamorous night in the city.

It never has to be either or. It can be both. Always. Life is about balance and I hope I will always be able to keep this.