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What bothers me most about getting older is the dwindling lightness. It’s getting harder and harder to fool around and let loose. All the more reason I admire adults who can do that. I am fascinated by parents who fool around with their children and forget everything around them. In such situations, I stand by and don’t really know what to do with myself.

Normally, children carry kilos of lightness inside them. They live each day as if it were the only one and don’t think about tomorrow or next week. Children hardly have anything to decide or do right. It was the same in my childhood. The most difficult questions back then were: Do we play soccer outside or Lego inside? Sprite or apple spritzer? Two or three servings of noodles?

At some point, however, even children get noticeably older. For me, it started comparatively early. In kindergarten, I loved playing Ace of Red with the kindergarten teacher. I liked playing school even more because I loved learning to write. Everyone predicted that I would be bored in the first grade, and they were right. In high school, I increasingly wanted to do my own thing and was therefore looking forward to university from about the ninth grade.

Studying was easy for me because my parents financed it and I had already learned how to study at school. My world was small and manageable. It consisted of lectures, university sports and university parties. Although I was now thinking a bit more long-term and spent a semester in Mexico, the real world out there still seemed very far away.

This lightheartedness lasted into my first job. This was due to the startup atmosphere and learning by doing. In addition, I was getting paid more than I could spend for relatively easy work that was also fun. That’s why I thought about retirement planning for the first time when I was 20 – an indication that I was slowly shedding the remnants of my youth.

In the years that followed, events accelerated adulthood and caused the lightness to crumble further: the first argument with the landlord, one breakup or another, various moves, and the disillusionment that one is replaceable when one leaves a company.

With these experiences in my luggage, I went to the master’s program and was one of the older students, because most of my fellow students had continued their studies seamlessly after the bachelor’s degree. Some of them seemed green behind the ears and I envied them for that. They enjoyed student life, partied and shone through absence, while I commuted, worked a lot, moved again and shared the existential fears of my partner at the time. This time could not have been easy. My manageable lightness therefore continued to dwindle. Especially during these years it evaporated as unnoticed as the water in a glass. Only when I looked again after a long time, I noticed the difference.

Compared to those days, many things are easier today. I earn my living; I no longer commute and don’t have to impress superiors. Still, I can’t turn back the clock. The lightness cannot be turned back on.

Perhaps it has never really been in my blood. Perhaps lightness is not compatible with my tendency toward depth? We introverts und highly sensitive people can at least console ourselves with this: many poets and thinkers belonged to this rather serious sort of person with a tendency to melancholy. This reminds me of a quote by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill:

It is better to be a discontented man than a contented pig; better to be a discontented Socrates than a contented fool. And if the fool or the pig disagrees, it is because they know only one side of the issue.

Not that we are all dissatisfied. But every now and then, I’d like to trade in my mind’s carousel for a dose of levity.

The disadvantages of too little lightness

The reasons are obvious: When there’s a lack of lightness, you focus only on problems and injustices. You are rarely resolved and find it hard to switch off. For example, I am a chronic worrier. When others enthusiastically release balloons at weddings, I have a predominantly bad feeling. When others are excited about fireworks, I think about the animals that are scared to death.

As a worrier, I sometimes try to convert other people, be it to eat less meat or to avoid plastic waste. Often world-weariness is a motivation for this. You think of electronic waste while others present their brand new cell phone; you see mountains of diaper waste in front of your inner eye while others are changing their babies. However, whether world-weariness is a cause of lack of ease or the consequence of it, I don’t know. What I do know from my own experience, however, is that you can no longer enjoy life when heaviness takes over.

Lack of lightness also makes one skeptical and anxious. One constantly worries or feels anticipatory grief. For example, one regrets far in advance that family members or the pet will die someday, or one mentally prepares for the possibility that someone might have an accident and that the police would then be at the door to break the news.

Fears, however, also keep us down. They make us (increasingly) less confident. We no longer climb trees lightly because we know the risks. That sounds reasonable, but risk aversion has its own risks and side effects, which are invisible by the way. For example, leaving our money in the account at zero interest feels safe. However, the value is inexorably shrinking.

The advantages of a lack of lightness

Lack of ease also has its good points – and it would be out of character for me to let them slip under the radar. For example, I’m good at thinking things through, analyzing and weighing them. I don’t get bored dissecting them and so I can dig into difficult topics. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write most of the texts in this blog and would have given up programming after two days.

On the positive side, I also save myself from nasty surprises. After all, I have already imagined the worst case scenario. While carefree people rush off, I think everything through twice. I avoid snapshots, but in doing so I also miss good opportunities.

I realize this again and again at Fuckup Nights. At these eventspeople talk about failure, whether it’s due to the wrong business idea, bureaucratic circumstances or a lack of experience. Some founders have thrown themselves into a business without any prior knowledge, which always fascinates me. It is the opposite of what I would do.

What to do for more ease?

Some people say that you can keep your childlike and playfulness as you get older. I, however, wonder how that can be done. Should I get a free wiener at the meat counter – like I used to? Or just color in the next tax form a bit?

At least a start would be for me to avoid unnecessary burdens. I can do that by spending less time on what is not within my control or none of my business. (I’ve already discussed why empathy doesn’t always help us.) An unnecessary burden is also the treadmill in which many of us are caught. They spend a lot of money, so they have to earn a lot, so they work a lot, for which they have to compensate by consuming more, etc. In contrast, if we keep our lives small and our spending low, everything becomes easier. Then we can take time off or change jobs without ruining ourselves financially.

Another burden is perfectionism. We head people should therefore listen to our gut more than trying to solve everything with our mind. After all, children know immediately whether they would rather have chocolate or vanilla or both. They follow their impulses instead of killing them off with rationality. What’s wrong with finally signing up for that guitar class you’ve always wanted to take? Following a fixed idea and getting started quickly is even typical for me. Many articles have been written that way – even if I rewrite so much in the writing process that it almost results in a new text.

But maybe I don’t lack as much ease as it seems at first glance. A friend of mine brought this up to me, and she sees it as a focus problem. In her view, one can become fixated on the serious and heavy things in one’s life . The solution, she said, is to consciously focus on the light and easy. There are enough situations of this kind, but you have to look.

I certainly overlook a lot in everyday life while I’m busy with myself, my thoughts or my cell phone. Therefore, I now try to open my eyes to light moments in my life and lo and behold: they exist. For example, when other people are surprisingly friendly, when they let me pass at the checkout or say something nice to me. Maybe it helps to keep a record of them?

In any case, my grandmother wrote down the words of wisdom that my brother and I shared as toddlers. For example, we once pondered at what age one actually became a grandma. At the age of 60, 66 or 70? How wonderful and cute this thought seems to me today!

I should also mention my weakness for cuteness. In my eyes, many things are cute: even the ugliest mongrel, a bushy plant, most animals anyway, as well as animals made of plush and other materials – and sometimes even pillows or towels in whose outlines I recognize a living being.

And n

aturally sheep. Especially sheep. When I see sheep, I react the way other people do when they bend over a baby carriage. Sheep make me

say “Oooohr,” smile and beam. They awaken the child in me.

Sheep are my little roof damage that I won’t fix. After all, it provides a dash of lightness in a sometimes heavy world.

Maybe I should think about sheep much more often. And what about you?

Maybe you have an element like that in your life that you’ve never seen in this light? Sometimes it makes a big difference if we look at things from a new angle. If you have an impulse to do so, I look forward to your comment.

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