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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

How saying "Thank you" and "I am sorry" and "I apologize" and "You are welcome" every single day for the last two years changed my life - The famous "Karma tour" - Part 1.

"Well, you know. This whole karma thing of yours is amazing and such and I am very proud of you, of course, but for now, I can just be happy if you say that you have changed and I believe that you mean it. In one year from now, we can both see if this change is going to be for real". 

Old dogs don't learn new tricks, they say.
Oh well, sometimes they are right. But it depends on the dog.
What if that dog would be you?

Are you the kind of person that keeps saying like a broken record "I am like I am" or other amenities of the same kind?
Or are you the type of person that thinks to be able to change and to become the person you want to be?

If you belong to the second type of people, feel free to keep reading. I could have a story for you.
Which kind of story, you ask?
The story of how saying "Thank you" and "I am sorry" and "I apologize" and "You are welcome" every single day for the last two years of my life, no matter what, just changed everything, for me and for the people around me.

[Choose where you want to go, 
and then go all in for that.
One tiny little step at the time

Pics: Me, November 2017 
at Berlin's street art museum
Urban Nation © Radoslaw Kosiada]

Nope, it is not some kind of cheesy Hallmark production. It is real life. My own one.

You would probably never imagine that if you would meet me now, but I spent the vast majority of my life while being afraid.

Afraid to get hurt. Afraid to be taken for granted. Afraid to be perceived as weak. Afraid to get rejected. Afraid to be considered easy to get or cheap.  
I considered it not possible for people to like, accept and love me the way I am.

I was kind of blind for what people could feel for me, and I was so sure that I would be considered as something not important, that I spent my time while interpreting every clue as a proof that the person in front of me would not care, not be interested, not see me as someone worthy.
Because I was not able to do this in the first place.

I was sure that the only way to survive was being cool, distanced, not interested, not available.
And so I spent years while giving up before getting interested, running away before getting hurt, distracting myself with just another [just name it: project, job, hobby, situation, place, person] for not feeling the pain, telling myself that every person is replaceable.

Until one day, over two years ago by now, while experiencing one of the worst days of my life, I decided that I was strong enough to face my fears and to feel the pain, if necessary. That pain is one thing, and suffering is another one. Like with my tattoos, after all.

And for the first time, I didn't run away. I didn't find excuses. I didn't search for just another easy way to get distracted.

I stayed in the situation instead. I thought about how often I went away before without even trying to discuss, without listening, without giving the other person a chance, without accepting others as they were. 
I thought about how often I went away. Away from old and new friends. Acquaintances. Colleagues and ex-colleagues. Lovers. Boyfriends. Possible dates. People just met.

Until that day, even if I was already busy with a long process of self-awareness, I considered that behavior as part of myself and not something I could ever modify because it was my way to protect myself, to keep people away, to somehow deal with my fears without having to face them. 
"I am like I am".

Well, f**k that.

Because, luckily enough, I was wrong. That day, I took the last step on a long journey. And the very first tiny step on a completely different one.
I realized that I didn't want something like that to happen again.

That I didn't want to run away. That I didn't want to treat anybody that way again. That nobody should feel like shit because I was a coward and I have been not able to deal with my own fears and because I was too blind for seeing that what I do has an impact on other people's life.
That if I was so good at hurting, mistreating and fail people, I could be at least as good at helping, listening to and making people happy. That this is what I wanted.

I wanted to be the person that can turn a bad day into a good one for the people around me.
The person that can add value to the people in her life.
The person that is willing and able to make promises and to stick to them.
That this is who I wanted to be, from that day. One day at the time.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou [born Marguerite Ann Johnson, 1928-2014]

So I went to work. For real.
I worked hard on changing the way I dealt with every person in my life, one day at the time, one step at the time.

["The race is long, and in the end, it is only with yourself..."
Step by step, with breaks in between sometimes...]

And so I initiated what I then called my "Karma tour": 
I reached out, on a new level, either to new people I just met, or to people I worked and was used to hanging out with on a regular basis. And, "of course", to people from the past I was able to contact and that deserved either an apology, a thank-you note or both. 

Back then, I reached out to over four hundred people in about four months, in person, via e-mail or text, via Skype and on the phone.
Saying that I was sorry for the past and willing to share with those people a different present and to build together a better future or to give them closure if needed, or that I was thankful for what I learned that helped me to become who I am now. Or both, depending on the occasion.

Saying that I was thankful for the unique and special way each of them made a difference and had an impact on my life. That I was there for them. And accepting them just the way they are. And accepting myself just the way I am. 

I showed myself in all my beautiful imperfection and purple quirkiness without fear, for a change. I showed and I keep showing and I will keep showing them (and all the new people in my life met over time or that I don't know yet) who I really am and that I am there for them every day. 

[Ahoi, over there!
That's me. In all my beautiful imperfection and purple quirkiness.
How about you?]


That day, and while writing or delivering in person over four hundred tailored thank-you notes and apologies in my "Karma tour", I started to be the person I always wanted to be and was too afraid to be. Day by day, one day at the time. 
While knowing that it is not always going to be easy, but that I am not going to give up, because I made a commitment to myself to work hard on changing what I do, how I behave and how I treat people consistently. Not only once in a while. Not only for Christmas. Not only when the sun is shining.

I have been all in for a big change, for real.
I spent the last 780 days of my life while being me, at last. Being real. Being authentic. Being vulnerable. 
Taking responsibility for my decisions, my feelings, my behavior towards anybody.

That now famous (among people that know me) "Karma tour" has become my normal way of living and a big part of who I am. 

What does this mean to me?
Just doing my best, again and again, without giving up and making excuses. 
Just showing up day by day and showing the people around me, while living by example, that I meant what I said back then and I didn't change my mind not even once, over time.
Just supporting the people in my life and accepting them like they are, in the way they are. For what they are and are willing to give me and to accept from me.  

Because this is who I want to be.  
And these have been the most incredible two years of my life.

The funniest part, though?
How this changed everybody around me as well.
And the surprising way people reacted, both in the short and in the long run. 
Stay tuned for the next post to discover how.

This one is for E. Thanks for the flowers.

Tags: Saying thank you, Mindfulness, Self-awareness, Taking responsibility, Karma tour, Quotes, Change, Way of living

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