Initially, I did not want to write a typical year-end postcard. During the last days of the year we are all swamped with “best ofs” and reflections on the past year. I had already written a different postcard for you. One which was looking ahead – not with resolutions but a checklist for myself for 2020. When I was finished, I read it again but my thoughts started drifting away. I started to think about the past decade. At first I thought that nothing much happened over the last ten years, I did not have the feeling that a lot has changed, that I have changed at all…
10 years ago, I was just back at university as a PhD student. In autumn 2010, I finished a year-long stint at the Austrian Foreign Ministry. 2010 was a year where many things changed for me: instead of pursuing a career in civil service or even as a diplomat, I decided to go back to university and dedicate my PhD thesis to research about China. I also broke up with my long-term relationship – this was a first in my life and it was hard. Deep down I knew that I wanted to move abroad – I did not know back then that I would end up so far away. I just knew that something was ahead, I was not ready to get settled in Vienna. Already in 2010 I really wanted to found my own business. I had various ideas, but none seemed to be the right one. Furthermore, I did not have the capital to start a venture.
In the course of my PhD, I went back to China in 2011 to do research. I knew I really wanted to move to Asia, preferably Hong Kong. But as we know, life never turns out the way we plan it anyways. After my PhD, I moved to Germany to work for a multinational corporation in Finance. A great job with a lot of perks, high salary, lots of travel – and I moved to Asia. I ended up in Shanghai in 2013. I was a single girl, all on my own wherever I moved. Even though there were hard times moving on my own and being what people think about the “typical career woman” (ie. single), I loved it. I felt free and could do whatever I wanted to. I also travelled a lot on my own, learned that being on my own does not equal being lonely, was stuck at airports on my own and found my way out and learned that I would rather be single than being in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. These years definitely made me stronger and showed me that there is no reason to be scared.
When I started my job in Germany, my mentor told me that one of the biggest things I would need to learn is that sometimes, things will not work out the way I want them to. “When you are young, most of the doors open easily. But when you get older, some doors will not open. You will need to learn how to deal with it when not everything works out in your favour.”, he said. I was 25 and thought “Whatever, it has worked now, I’m young and everything will work out.” I had to learn it the hard way that I cannot force things to happen. I am a control freak and I work as hard as I can to achieve what I want. But sometimes, even with the hardest effort, things work out differently and I had to learn this over the past years.
In 2014, I left the corporate world to found my own business. Four years after I decided I wanted to move to Hong Kong, I finally made it. I worked non-stop and poured everything I had into that venture. I learned so much – I acquired skills I would have never dreamed of and I overcame barriers which seemed impossible to overcome. I worked so hard that I had to learn yet another lesson the hard way: working too hard, too many hours and pressuring ourselves too much is not the way to success. I learned that, yes, I do have to work hard to make my business work but I also need to have fun, enjoy and “mellow out”. (I hope the person who loves giving me this last piece of advice knows how big their positive influence has been on me. 😉 )
When I worked in corporate, I felt slow and not challenged enough. Looking back, I do not really know why I did not use my leisure time more effectively. I probably was too busy complaining about what I did not like instead of pouring my energy into positive and fun things. If I had applied a more positive mindset, I think I could have discovered way more interesting things. In my first year as an entrepreneur, I also started this very website – for the reason of having fun, sharing my travel advice. Fast forward to today, I am in love with this platform I created – especially when I see that you all enjoy the personal content so much. The Pink Lookbook allowed me to meet so many interesting and inspiring people, learn more about myself and where I come from and share what I have learned along the way.
During this past decade, I also had to let go of things. First and foremost, I let go of the first business I started and moved on to opportunities which have presented themselves as more promising. It is never easy to let go of your baby. I did struggle a lot with that decision but it taught me that sometimes I cannot hold on to things for sentimental reasons. I need to move on because if I hold on to them, they may keep me from doing great things. I ended up with Pelagona and seeing it grow and the impact I can have is something really incredible.
Similar to our careers, our personal life can never be mapped out in a linear way. I made many new friends, I decided to distance myself from some others. After my first longer relationship which I mentioned above, I was single for quite some time. I met nice guys, not-so-nice guys (and proper a*****s). There was a time where I had completely given up on thinking that there were any decent guys around. I was probably also not the nicest woman on Earth. But right then when we do not think about it at all, it might happen and somebody proves to us that there is still hope and that there are decent guys out there.
I find it challenging to put the past ten years into just a few words or learnings. But while I was writing down this postcard, I realised how much has changed, how much I have changed. The past decade was the transition from student, to first job, to planning a career and then completely change paths to become my own boss. If you had asked me ten years ago if I would see myself where I am now, I would have probably called you crazy. I would have answered that after a short stint abroad, I would end up in Vienna in a management position. Today, I look back at a number of moves (I think I lost count of how often I packed my things) across many countries and career decisions which may have felt random at first but turned out to be right. If I look ahead for the next decade, I really cannot tell you what will come. I wish I knew but sometimes it is just better not to and go with the flow.
Have a great start into the new year and the new decade, stay true to yourself and always make enough time to enjoy the moment!