What coming out taught me about tolerance

I’ve always thought of myself as a very tolerant person. I’m not a racist. I’m not scared of Muslims. One of my best friends is transgender. I could never even begin to understand how anyone could dislike a person just because of their skin colour, religious belief or sexual orientation. I told myself that there just had to be something seriously wrong with those people.

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Welcome to the minority group

And then this happened: I came out. Now, here I am, newly out of the closet and getting used to being part of a minority group. I’ve never been different from what our society considers to be the norm. Only now do I realise how easy life is when you tick all the “normal” boxes. White? Tick. German? Tick. Christian? Tick. Heterosexual? No tick here.

What happens if you can’t tick all the boxes? That’s right, all of a sudden you depend on other people’s open-mindedness. But what I’ve learnt is that for my life to work out I’m the one who has to be tolerant. I can’t change the reality that some people are homophobic. For some reason I will probably never grasp, the thought of two girls or two boys loving each other is scary, revolting and wrong for some people. I could just stay away from homophobes, you might say. Why should I waste my time and energy on those people? But what do you do if those intolerant, homophobic people are people you love?

 

Here comes the life lesson

I came to the conclusion that if I deserve tolerance, so do others and I’m as much a recipient of tolerance as I’m a giver of tolerance. So far so good – now to the tricky part. It’s all quite honourable to decide that everyone deserves tolerance. But I can tell you it’s not as easy as it sounds. I always thought tolerance comes naturally to me because it perfectly fits into my worldview. However, when I came out to one of my closest friends who happens to be very religious it was the end of easy-peasy tolerance for me.

She told me that homosexuality could be healed if only you trust in God. I don’t agree. I believe with all my heart that if homosexuality was a life choice, there wouldn’t be any gay people left on this earth. Being gay sucks. It’s complicated, scary, exhausting. So when I sat there and listened to my friend tell me about her views that go against everything I believe I realised that tolerance is painful. It’s actually not a natural and easy thing. It’s horrible and upsetting and challenges your innermost values.

 

Be brave!

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All the more reason to make an effort for it. My friend and I tried to understand each other. We failed. I don’t understand her and she probably has difficulty understanding me. But that’s OK. Because that’s where tolerance comes in and has helped us save our friendship.

Tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with things you believe to be right anyway. That’s easy – anyone can do that. Tolerance means accepting people whose values you consider to be wrong and listening to opinions you ‘despise’. It’s only natural that people struggle with that. We just have to be brave enough – or should I say tolerant enough – to try anyway.

 

 

Author and Pictures: anonymous

New year, new me

You might think it’s a bit late for a New Year article, but is it really? It’s only one month into 2017 and I don’t know about you, but I’ve already ignored half of my New Year’s resolutions at least once. If experience in the past few years is anything to go by, though, I’ll have to wait until next year to give it a go again. But there’s a way to break the trend and still achieve your goals. Yes, even today!

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Less chocolate, more sports

Judging from the commercials and articles I see around this time of the year, the top resolutions are: being healthier (including doing more sports, losing weight and downing smoothies for breakfast), as well as classics like quitting smoking. Being more organized is also a favorite, at least for me anyway. I don’t know how you feel, but the Christmas holidays, including New Year’s Eve, are (also) exceptional compared to other times of the year. So this might be the worst time to start working on goals that you want to continue to work on when you’re back in your normal routine. But that doesn’t mean
that you shouldn’t have them.

Start next Monday 

Know the feeling when it’s 3:11 p.m. and you have to study, but you just can’t because 3:11 isn’t the right time? You have to wait until 4 p.m.! I think most of us struggle with our resolutions in a similar way. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to wait a whole year to achieve your goals. There are so many new beginnings: start in the next hour, next Monday, next month – whenever you feel like it!

Small steps 

Needless to say, goals require a plan, and plans require to-do lists (written on pretty paper because that makes you more organized, of course). Instead of writing “Be a perfect student from next week on“, you might prefer “set aside fifteen minutes a day to keep track of assignments“. This not only sounds more doable and motivating, but actually ticking off things on your list will give you a good feeling.

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Help! 

Still thinking this won’t work for you? It’s time to look for someone you can tell what you’re about to do. Whenever I tell someone about my plans, I get motivated on the spot. The next time you see this person, you’ll obviously want to tell him or her about what you’ve done since you last saw each other. And answering “Hmm…nothing“ doesn’t feel too good, does it? Let’s try to achieve our goals together (in 2017, not 2018)!

Author & Pictures: Laura Annecca

Resist procrastination today … or not

I almost just submitted this article as a blank page. That’s how bad my procrastination is, or maybe it was just my sense of irony.

Everyone seems to suffer the attack of the procrastination monster every once in a while, or rather every time a deadline is drawing closer. We students are especially susceptible to listening to this sweet, sweet siren’s song and put off all our work as long as possible. There’ no one to check up on our progress after all. Learning how to just get it together and get our stuff done is arguably the most important thing we learn at university. No one likes to admit that but it can just stay between us if you want, I won’t tell.

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So why do we do it and how can we stop it? Isn’t it our only goal to achieve perfection by tirelessly improving ourselves day after day after day? The truth is striving for perfection is hard. It involves struggling with our own worst enemy on a daily basis, to resist temptation and never fail or else fall into an endless pit of despair. Once you slip up and your plans go south you might as well give up forever, or at least that’s what it feels like. The pressure of routine just increases the longer it continues.

That’s why sometimes we just need to give in. Embrace your sloth (that sounds adorable actually). Maybe this monster inside us just needs love too. Giving it a cuddle, smothering it with kindness might help. After all it is part of us. We are this monster. We know that we should be better. We try and fail and sometimesprocrastination need someone to stroke our ego. We need to just forget about our problems for a little while. What better way than to treat yourself with something you know you don’t deserve. You know you want to. Just do it. Don’t be perfect for a little while. Let your monster out of its cage. Let it rage, roar, rampage and then let it go. Calm down and give it a cuddle. Put it back in its little corner. Continue on your crusade towards becoming a better version of yourself tomorrow.

Author & pictures: Lisa Bittner

How to escape the stress of adulthood by building a blanket fort

Everyone feels stressed out sometimes. It might be because you’re getting nowhere with your Christmas preparations, exams are coming up way too fast or adulthood in general is just too much to handle right now. That’s why I decided to relax by trying something I never did while growing up: build a blanket fort. Here’s how it worked out …

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Step 1. Get a blanket fort buddy

A project like this is just plain depressing on your own, so get someone you would enjoy hanging out with for an afternoon. Someone who doesn’t annoy you endlessly while you’re building the fort. It might actually test your relationship if you’re not good at team work. I chose my brother because he is just childish enough to enjoy the project with me.

Step 2. Find a place to build the fort and make room

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I guess most of you live in a tiny flat or student hostel like me. So building it there wasn’t a real option because my roommate and I own a grand total of three blankets. That’s why I waited for a weekend at my parents’ house. Their couch area is perfect for a blanket fort because we could build around the actual couch as well as use a couple of hooks and beams that provided stability for our fort. We also had to wait for our parents to be gone for most of the day because seeing their couch like that might have irritated them just a little. Also the thought of their two grown children building a blanket fort seemed to bewilder them, for some reason.

Step 3. Get everything you might need and build away

We collected the pillows and blankets from the entire house, using the lightest ones for a kind of dome roof and the heaviest winter ones as fluffy padding at the bottom. But we still had to stop after constructing half the fort and ask our granny for more blankets. So we had about ten to fifteen blankets of different weights and varying degrees of fluffiness. To attach the blankets to each other, pegs and safety pins proved most effective. It was also important to strengthen some parts with lots of pins and the biggest clothes pegs because they carried more weight. Just get used to the idea that your fort is going to collapse at least once, it’s a process that requires trial and error. Also don’t try to improve something until you’re entirely sure what it’s attached to. You can imagine why.

Step 4. Make yourself comfortable

Put all the heaviest, fluffiest pillows and blankets in your blanket fort and add some fairy lights for atmosphere. Maybe bring a laptop and watch a movie, snuggled into all the fluffiness of your fort. Enjoy the company of your blanket fort buddy and admire your work for a bit. My brother and I spent the afternoon watching Adventure Time on my laptop, napping and jamming on his guitar … it was magical.

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Step 5. Finally take your blanket fort down

Life eventually has to continue. So after a while we had to take our fort down because our parents returned home and wanted to use the couch. My brother decided to throw himself into the fort to accelerate the demolition process (maybe only do that if you haven’t used safety pins).

Anyway, it was fantastic to be able to return to our childhoods for a few hours. Afterwards, we felt more able to face the world as adults, but most importantly – we had some fun.

Author & Pictures: Lisa Bittner

Why I’m giving up negativity during Lent

lent 1Ash Wednesday is today and that marks the beginning of Lent. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this religious holiday, Lent is a Christian holiday that lasts 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. During this time, people tend to fast or give something up, as for a lot of Christians it is a way of remembering when Jesus fasted in the desert and also a way of testing self-discipline.

I grew up in a very religious and conservative country, where people consider Lent as sacred time and even though I never really gave anything up or fasted during these 40 days while growing up I do know a lot of people who did. Personally, I never felt the need to make a sacrifice, probably because at a young age I really didn’t know what it was all about but I do remember seeing a lot of my classmates on Ash Wednesday with the cross on their foreheads really early in the morning or not eating red meat on Fridays during Lent.

I think it’s important to mention that my family was not as conservative as the rest of the families in my country and also while growing up I never really went to Church on Sundays; it was really rare if I did, not because I didn’t believe in God, but because I didn’t think it was important to leave your home when you could talk to God on your own through a prayer, which is what I usually did. All of this might sound really religious and I know it is a controversial topic, but for once I felt that the time was right for me to come clean with my story. I know that people come from different backgrounds and we have different beliefs but since I live in Bavaria now and it is considered the most conservative state in Germany I thought why not address this topic?

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Since the year started I decided I wanted to make a huge change in my life, even though I’m a happy person most of the times I do have my low points and most of them have to do with negative comments from people or rejection, which is why for this holy time I decided that instead of fasting I’m going to be giving up negativity. I think that giving this up is a bigger effort than giving up some sort of food or habit that I have and it will take me through an emotional journey of self- discovery and hopefully it will make me a better person.

The reason I chose to give up negativity is because in this day and age it is so hard to not make any negative comments about things or even be negative towards ourselves. Also because I’m a firm believer that when you have negative thoughts or are negative towards life in general, you’re only attracting more negativity and bad things to yourself that you definitely don’t need and I want to change this. I want to be a positive person and attract only positive things, and who knows, probably even inspire someone to change their mindset as well.

Have you ever had those moments where you think “I’m so dumb why did I have to do that?” or you found yourself criticizing someone by the way they look without even noticing? These are the type of things I want to battle against these next 40 days and beyond if possible.

I’m a very critical person when it comes to me, I try to do everything as perfect as I can while still having negative thoughts towards my work: what if I fail? What if my professor doesn’t like my writing? What if I never make my parents proud? This constant negativity is around every single thing of our lives and we’re bringing ourselves down without even thinking about it. Like I said before, I want to try and be a better person and make a change for me, try to finally start putting into work everything I believe in but still my doubts and negative thoughts haven’t allowed me to do yet. I want to stop gossiping about people for once or criticizing them just because I don’t like the way they look or what they’re wearing, I’m nobody to judge and people shouldn’t judge me either on any decision I make.

During the next 40 days by giving up negativity I will obviously gain something in return: I will practice patience, humility, self-discipline, things that are so common yet not everyone has the chance to put to practice. I am expecting to become a happier person, more open to the endless possibilities and overall to stop the constant nagging, complaining and whining about everything that goes wrong and finally look at it from a different perspective and grow from the experience.

I am really looking forward to the next 40 days of positivity and happiness. What are you giving up during Lent?

Author & Pictures: Roma Rodriguez