To follow the story, I want you to make a very vivid picture of the next few words in your mind. Take as much creative freedom as you want and see if you can feel how it would be to live in that person’s shoes:
“There is a beautiful vintage building, painted beige on the outside with columns protruding towards its exterior. With a high ceiling and expensive looking interiors, it has a big maroon board outside of the building which tells the name of the Cafe.
Right across that building, there is a person living in a small apartment of just forty square meters. There isn’t much space to go around within his apartment but he has a balcony towards the front where he loves to stand in the evening with a tea in his hand and just watch people going through their days on autopilot. To the left he sees a woman running to pick up her package from the local packet station and to the right he sees a man carrying his broken bike on his shoulders to the repair shop. When he looks directly in the front, he sees tons of fancy people sitting in the Cafe with their partners or friends, laughing, smiling, drinking beers and enjoying the delicious cakes that the Cafe has to offer along with some soft Jazz music going on in the background. He takes a look at it every day and wants to go there. The distance to the Cafe from his apartment is just a hundred meters. But that’s not what’s stopping him from going out of the house and experiencing the atmosphere in that old building. The thing that’s stopping him from doing that is not having enough money to be able to just take a part in that kind of lifestyle, and hence, he stays in the balcony, continues his “peoplewatching” and waits for the day when he would be able to go to that place and use live an evening in that Cafe. A place which is so close to him but not yet achievable.”
A person like that has two options now. Either he can realize the situation he is in, assesses what dreams he has and make a path to achieve those goals and ambitions or he can just blame everything on the circumstance and the people around him believing that it’s because of them that he isn’t able to live the blueprint of that he created for his life. You really can’t do anything for the latter person and you can’t also motivate him in any way to start doing things because to be able to start taking action, you first have to own everything: meaning, taking responsibility of the circumstances in your life and believe actively that everything wrong that happened in your life happened because of you or it is still continuing to be so because of you, because unless you take ownership of the circumstances and decisions in your life, you can’t start changing them. This is the story of the first guy and how he was finally able to take out his partner this Saturday for a super nice dinner at an Italian place.
For those of you who have already read my book, know exactly why I have used the analogy of the person living right across that Cafe to my situation. Since last 2 years, I am living in Germany, a place of beautiful places and activities to undertake but the past years we have mostly just seen people do it but could never really enjoy it ourselves.
When I moved to Germany in 2016, Alina was studying and I was yet to begin my studies in two months, which meant that whatever money we had would go directly into our rents. Alina saved some money for our black days and my parents gave me some at the time when I was moving to Germany but all of that got spent really quickly and in the last week of August 2016, we had already started to cut down on our grocery list. It wasn’t that we couldn’t have asked my parents for help and that they wouldn’t have given us, heck, I was in complete favour of that! But Alina, being the independent person that she is, told me that whatever we are going to do, we will do by ourselves. We will take some side jobs, do some other things but we are not going to take help from anybody because the day we get a bit more comfortable and we have money to live a bit more comfortable, we will always remember these days of struggle and keep in our minds, how it is to not have enough money to buy a pack of cheese on one very eventful day in that year’s month of August. That sounded like a really interesting idea to me and I supported her, but not willingly.
We started checking out different opportunities, I went to the Arbeitsamt and checked if there are some part-time jobs available for me. I had C1 German proficiency and a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering, but because the construction codes and DIN Norms in Germany are entirely different than what we have in India, the Arbeitsamt couldn’t give me a satisfactory place to start working, but they gave us the option to apply for social benefits from the Jobcentre in Hamburg.
So we did. We got help from the German state for a month, but it ended as soon as I started my Masters in TUHH, the reason being that because I am a student, I can figure out something to do on my own. The job that I had secured was supposed to start in mid-November, so the months of October and November had been the toughest ones for us. I remember that Alina took out 50 Euros from her account to go and buy some shoes for work with her friends, but she cancelled that and rather bought me that Jack Wolfskin bag which you see me carry in almost every video I make. When I asked her why exactly did you come so soon, she told me that she could still use the same shoes for a while longer and when I asked about the bag, she explained, “you are starting a new phase of your life from tomorrow, so, I wanted to give you something that helps you with that.” To me, that bag had been a perfect gift! Rarely a day goes by when I don’t use it or appreciate it.
October 2016: Days before the university was going to start
University started and the first week was a complete horror for me because I thought I would understand what the professor is teaching in the class, but I couldn’t. Mainly because he was from Baden-Wüttermberg and had a “Badischer” dialect, it just made things worse and the Taiwanese-German guy sitting right next to me asked, “can you understand anything?” I was like yeah. Totally. I am having the best day of my life. At that time, I wasn’t even aware of any Indian Students Association at all or any kind of centralized Facebook groups or associations which help students in their early days because my path of coming to Germany has been different. I came through the German taught program and contact with other Indians had been minimum, so it was also a bit difficult for me to feel comfortable in the university. Although the Taiwanese-German guy and the Serbian-German colleague were a big help and we managed to screw up quite a few assignments together, but the main part was that we were having fun doing those things.
Soon, I started my job in the structural engineering firm that I had to. It was the 15th November. I worked a lot for the first 4 weeks because Christmas was coming and that means you have to buy presents for different members of the family. Around 300-400 Euros goes away just like that so it was important that whatever money we take out from our savings, also gets replenished. My first salary came on around 24th December and it was just in time to get the presents and not to be the only members in Alina’s whole family to have no gifts or presents, not that they would have minded that at all, but still. To compare this event, think about the times when you have to buy too many gifts for different relatives, friends and just other people for Diwali and it sometimes ends up ruining your entire month’s budget.
1st January 2017: Bhai ka 22nd birthday
Since things were getting a bit stressful on the university’s side and the work was also not that great, I had to find a creative outlet to take a refuge from all of this pressure. Inspired by a Facebook message I received from a junior, I started my YouTube channel on 23. January 2017 and I uploaded one video, then the next one and I am still uploading it till this day because the feeling of satisfaction that you get after reading a comment that you actually helped somebody, even if it is in the tiniest manner, tops all the efforts that you have to do to create that particular content.
YouTube also required a lot of time and I wasn’t earning anything from it till August 2017, when I get the first salary from YouTube of around 83 Euros. So, sometimes, we would even have a discussion at home, if it’s really worth it at all to invest so much time on YouTube when we clearly needed money and it would actually make more sense to go and do my part-time job than editing a video, but I still couldn’t stop with YouTube. It was fun. I was building a centralized platform where everybody who wanted to come to Germany would arrive at and also the students who already are in Germany would come together to share their experiences and answers, which turned out to be the stepping stones of the BiG Community we have today. Although, things got a bit better because Alina got a new job in January 2017 and we didn’t have to struggle from month to month but because we got legally tied up in a very bad phone contract in Germany, there were just too many expenses still to be able to live without stress. Also, Jumanji and Neela always had an impeccable timing to get sick towards the end of the month and the vets in Germany are extremely expensive. For every visit, we had to take out around 80-150 Euros from our pockets and the cat food and medicines would only increase the hole in the wallet. So, any month that we would think “Hey! Let’s go outside to that restaurant”, it had to be cancelled because of such reasons and we also personally always prioritized travelling over going out and eating in some restaurant or going to a Cafe because when you travel, you gain experiences from so many different places and people and you genuinely grow as a person.
When Nila got sick.
So, we would save money, plan a travel, cancel it and if we get lucky, we would actually do it. Quitting my job to work on my own business was also a very risky decision, but Alina and I together with our mutual understanding put our faith and took this leap. We even had to pay 1600 Euros to my health insurance company this month after a long struggle with them because they said YouTube comes under freelancing and the family insurance wouldn’t work for you, and I said I am not earning enough yet and am still a student! This amount had to be paid completely from our savings, so considering all of that right now, quitting my job doesn’t sound like a decent decision at all, but definitely a very ambitious one. Nothing feels worse than somebody trying to reach into your pocket and take some more money out from you when you don’t have anything yourself. Now, after 2 complete years of hardships and struggles, things slowly started working out with YouTube and my online-business because people started to feel more connected because they knew that they are able to gain something out of the videos and my experiences that I am sharing. That’s why they also decided to invest money in buying some of my services and products, but nothing was close to what happened this month when I brought out the online course: Complete Guide to Studying in Germany
Although over 186 students asked to be notified about the course’s release, not even 50% enrolled, but the people who were genuinely waiting for it were looking at the Countdown timer to the course release and purchased it right away. In the first 3 hours, just 4 people enrolled and we were almost starting to lose hope and were also kinda disappointed because why would you ask somebody to send you a notification about the course release when you wouldn’t want to enrol in it? So, we decided to just go out for a walk and clear our heads. Till the time we came back over 20 people had enrolled in the course and this completely blew our mind! Even when it was nowhere close to the number we had been estimating, it was still a very good start and the reviews that I got from the students were amazing! They found the course really helpful and had already gone through major portions of it over the night. Such feedback made me so satisfied and made me realize that yes, this could actually work. I could actually be able to do the things that I absolutely love to do and still manage to support the family! All I have to do is put more work inside, give people as much value as I can and start scraping out time from all other additional places where it wasn’t being utilized properly, because I remember very clearly right now: if there would have any platform like this where you could turn to and share your concerns or clear your doubts at the time I came to Germany, settling in here would have been way easier and because I am here now, I don’t want any other person to feel the same way. That’s the reason I came up with my daily schedule to connect with MY people and clear their doubts in live sessions or on Facebook groups.
This is for you if you want to catch up sometime.?
I made sure that I have time every single day to answer your questions, solve your problems or guide you in the right direction if I can’t do any of the previous two and the response had been completely amazing again! People who genuinely need some help have the opportunity to come and join and the people who just want to hang out with us, also have the choice to just tag along on my schedule once a while whenever their own time constraints permit them.
Once I ended up setting the plan, responding to the enrolled students, it was evening already and Alina had started preparing food. I went to the kitchen, took her hand and said, “Chinka, leave this today. Let me take you out for dinner. I’ve never been able to do this properly anyways in the last two years.”. She was happy, of course, because of the dinner too, but mainly because she was so content that I was able to make something work in which I had been passionately investing so much time, nerves, energy and patience.
We went to the restaurant, sat down on the table and Alina said: “My man took me to dinner”. It wasn’t an overly dramatic thing to say, but what she said filled me with utter pride and joy. I just thought to myself, that’s how it should be. I don’t want to be the person living in a small apartment across a beautiful Cafe and not being able to use it, but I want to be the one with a dog, a house, a wife and be able to provide my family with a decent life. The online course is just a starting and things didn’t absolutely overturn in one night, but the effort I am putting inside is slowly showing up. Even though I couldn’t document this beautiful event with a great photograph (please lend me your phone!), but I definitely wanted to document it with a memorable blog post.