Dear today

Today is a travel day. Today is the day of saying goodbye to one world and then saying hello to another.

Today is the start of feeling that slight bit of nostalgia in my heart as I leave one homeland, to arrive in another.

It is having to accept that your time is over, that it’s time to say your goodbyes, time to say until next time, it was fun spending time with you.

Today I’m heading home, but with a suitcase filled more than just clothes, books, and presents.

Today I’m heading home, heart full of memories. Memories of my mum’s laughter as we’re having a snowball fight, of gingerbread men and mulled wine, of the cold seeping through into my bones. Memories of the smell of oranges, cinnamon, and cloves, memories of the taste of homemade potato dumplings.

Memories of the smell of my grandmother’s cooking, of dinners shared with friends, both old and new.

Today I’m heading home with a heart full of love.

Yours,
Sophia x

Dear 2017

Last year was a tough one for me personally.

It was a year of vulnerability, a year of losing things, a year of change. It was a year where I was diagnosed with depression, a year where my self-worth and self-confidence plummeting so low it became a year of wearing masks.

A year where it was easiest to believe in negative voices than in myself. Easiest to convince myself that because things outside my control were completely and irreversibly changed, I was worth nothing.

A year where I felt alone.
A year of darkness.

But in all that darkness, I found things again.

I found love.
I found my self-worth. I found my self-belief again.
I found light, just when I resigned myself to darkness.
I found my strength again.
I found my strength in my vulnerability.
I found strength in my words and most importantly, I found the strength within myself.

So, dear 2017, this year I am going to be vulnerable, I am going to be strong and brave.

This year, I’m going to surround myself and loved ones with love. This year, I’m going to walk a different road and grow into the person that I am. Be the storyteller that I am.

Yours,
Sophia x

Dear Stockholm

I was sitting in my hotel room talking to my boyfriend about cities. Or rather, whether or not a city could be understood via its architecture.

About how I thought I knew Stockholm, but I came to the realisation that maybe I actually don’t. You see before I set off for Stockholm, I had this plan: visit Stockholm, reacquaint myself with the city and come out with a story. After all, I’m a writer and stories are my trade. It shouldn’t be that hard? Wrong.

The more I explored Stockholm, the more the story I thought I had changed shape.

I started out with this story of minimalism, of implacably dressed Swedes in clean, sharp gray, white, black or blue tones. Of Advent candles in the windows. Of quiet, reserved Swedes. Of a cultural history shaped by a monarchy, military and powerful elite.

But then I started to get to know them. I started to look at the architecture of high ceilings filled with laughter, chatter and Christmas cheer. I started to explore the Swedish nature and fell in love with the views, openness, and freedom that it offered. I started to explore the different suburbs and discovered the different cultural, historical and economic heartbeats that all blended and colour the story I was building in my head.

When I started my visit, I thought my previous visit and the stories I heard from friends and family have a good grasp on Stockholm. But at the end of my stay, I’ve realized that I’m still learning.

That’s the story I found in Stockholm.

Yours,

Sophia x

Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas, I’m snuggled up in an armchair at my grandmothers reflecting on what to write about Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with my mother’s family in Erfurt is pretty rare, so it’s something I’m treasuring this year.

Yet despite creating memories strolling through the Erfurter Christmas market, despite creating Christmas memories with family over mulled wine and cards, I am struggling to write because my head is conflicted. My head is full dichotomies, full of different Christmas stories unlived and untold. Of moments missed, and of moments lived.

My head is full of dichotomies of those who have a lot and those who have little. Those whose Christmases are full and those whose Christmases are empty.

Of those who’ve lost their homes and those who have homes. Those who are miles away from loved ones and those whose loved ones are within an arm’s reach away.

Of Christmases filled with joy, and of Christmases void of love.

This Christmas season I’m surrounded by my mother’s family. A family that celebrates Advent, of Christmas celebrated with family.

So whilst I am surrounded by my mother’s family, I’ve been thinking a little bit about Christmas and family.

In a world where it’s easy to see the meaning of Christmas swallowed by consumerism, of having one more present than last year, I see a family stopping for a few days and enjoying the moment with themselves, loved ones, and friends.

I never quite understood why deep down I loved Christmas, until this year. Until talking about Christmas traditions with my boyfriend. I loved (and still love) Christmas because it was the loving environment my parents, my grandparents, my family created for us kids, and now it’s an environment I want to continue to create for myself, loved ones and for others.

But my head is conflicted. I see the happiness and joy in my Christmas celebrations, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone.

So in this Christmas season, I just wanted to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and I hope that your Christmas is filled with love and happiness. I hope that you can cherish your family that little bit more this season.

Yours,
Sophia x

 

Bravery, not perfection

Dear Reshna,

I watched your TED talk after a particular tough day at work. Someone had shared it on Facebook, and as you do, I clicked the link and watched it.

I’ve identified as a perfectionist for most of my life – things had to be done the right way, in a particular manner and had to look like perfect.

How many times have I sat in front of the computer, starting a blog post in a word document but then erasing the work because it wasn’t perfect?

How many times have I not applied for the job because I don’t match 100% of the criteria? Or simply because I gave into the negative voice that nagged me saying “you’re not brave enough to apply for that job despite having no qualification”?

Far too many times.

How many times have I set unrealistic goals and expectations when I’ve applied my perfectionistic mindset to how I relate to the world and then been disappointed?

How many times have I let the mantra “perfection or bust” guide my life?

Far too many times.

Part of it stemmed from a childish need for validation, and if I got perfect marks than, according to my perfectionist logic, I’d get the validation I was hoping for.

Part of it stemmed from the comfort of being able to control something when I felt unsettled and it looking perfect.

But most of it stemmed from my doubts and insecurities, hoping that if things were done perfectly, I led the perfect life and things look perfect, I could hide my doubts and not have to deal with them.

But the more I deal with my doubts and insecurities, and the more I make sure that I am not letting them rule my life, the more I realise I need to be more brave, and be less perfect.

I need to be comfortable with imperfection. But most of all I need to be brave. Brave enough to trust myself, my abilities and to trust that I am good enough. I am confident enough.

So thank you Reshna for the timely reminder to be brave, and to be comfortable with imperfection.

Yours,
Sophia
x

Forgiveness.

A letter about forgiveness, with no salutation but addressed to all.

In July 2015, I wrote a facebook caption forgiving the individual (or individuals) that broke into our car (twice).

I forgave them because I was taught to “forgive those who trespass against us.”

I forgave them, after spending several hours mulling on the problem, not just because my faith told me to but because I started to understand why my faith’s teaching focuses on forgiveness.

But before I continue with this blog post, I need to confess something – I dragged this example out of my Facebook archive not to share a pretty story but because in the conversations I’ve had over the past week, it turns out I haven’t learnt the lesson as effectively as I should have.

Recently, I reverted back to the selfish, self-righteous thinking that my forgiveness is key to the healing of others. And by doing so, my actions were hurting others.

For a while, for me, this meant forgiving others that trespass against us is all about those who hurt us. About forgiving them meant they can heal. That my forgiveness is an important, necessary part of their healing.

But I learnt that I was wrong. I learnt that following that line of logic was easier to follow because other people’s problems are sometimes easier to fix than my own.

Because, just like Prince Ea says, “people suffer when we place our views, our morals onto those living totally different worlds than us.”

“[Forgiveness] does not mean that we condone the actions of wrongdoers, or that there are no consequences, or that you should continue the relationship with an abuser. Forgiveness could mean that you have nothing to do with them ever again. Forgiveness is about your mental peace in your heart. Getting yourself out of your prison. Because forgiveness is about you, them.”

Sometimes forgiveness is a tool in breaking the violent cycle of hatred, of self-doubt and negativity. Sometimes forgiveness can make a difference to other person but most importantly, forgiveness breaks the internal, violent cycle of self-hatred to make a difference to your own mental peace of mind.

I forgave them, not condoning their actions or to say that their actions have no consequence. I forgave them because I needed rest in my heart. I needed to be at peace. Because my anger and hurt at that situation, at all of the frustrations caused by the inconvenience of leaving work early to ensure that someone was home when the RAC came by to fix the car, helped no one and caused more damage to myself and my loved ones, than to any strangers.

I learnt that my forgiveness is not the most important part of their healing. By assuming that they need my forgiveness to move on made me self-righteous, and without knowing it, I participated in a system of judgement, of anger.

I need to show grace and transformation, because just like Glen. H. Stassen wrote “Transformation and deliverance correct the vicious cycle of self-righteousness. Grace teaches peacemaking, not putting all the blame on others and building up hostility against them but acknowledging our own contribution to the problem.”

My faith teaches forgiveness, not just to ignore our own contribution, our hypocrisy towards problems, our own self-righteousness, but to include people in this community of love. It teaches us to name the wrong that occurred, facing it realistically and truthfully. It teaches us to overcome hate and the vicious cycle of vengeance, and it teaches to find empathy for the person, not the deed. In doing so, it teaches us to look at how our actions have hurt others.

But most importantly, it teaches us to establish a friendship with those who hurt us – because if we’ve excluded the person, then we haven’t learnt our lesson.

It’s a painful lesson I’ve had to re-learn over the past few months, and I can only hope to continue to walk in humble, repentant love and ask for forgiveness for the times I’ve tried to remove the speck out of my neighbour’s eye but ignored the log in my own eye.

Yours,

Sophia x

Dear World

An update letter to whoever reads this blog.

Dear world,

I’ll be honest – I’m struggling to write letters the past month or so. My best writing is when my heart is there, but lately, my writing has been for work.

But that’s not the main reason. I’m struggling because I doubt myself. I doubt my relevance, I doubt my ability to be meaningful.

Doubts that have filtered through to, well, my internal sharing filter. I hold back because I seem to have no concrete point so I ramble. Because of my tendency to ramble, I hold back in conversations.

Doubts that have me questioning my ‘right’ to share my struggles with others, because  I should be the strong person, and strong people don’t share their struggles.

Doubts that have me questioning my ‘right’ to contribute to the creative field. Despite being a creative person.

Doubts that let my inner nagging voice constantly ask me “What right do you have to contribute to this decision? You know nothing” or “Why didn’t you get this right? You should have gotten that right on the first try!”

So I did something, admittedly a while ago, that I’ve been holding back on – I started a Facebook page for this project. (It’s a bit empty, it needs a whole lot of love.) And honestly, I never fully understood the bigger reason why I felt I needed to be publishing letters on a public blog, or starting a (public) Facebook page.

Until yesterday. When I was sitting in front of the window staring out into the backyard, with my playlist of Passenger and Ed Sheeran playing in the background. When I realised that the whole “Liebe + Letters” project started from a love of writing letters, but it ended up in a journey of rediscovering myself. A journey of not letting that doubting, nagging little voice win.

Yours,
Sophia x