My journey back to Copenhagen – What 2012 taught me

I’m sitting at my desk in my apartment in Amager overlooking a stunning snow covered tree. I have a mound of photo images from work on my desktop from my new job as a social media editor. I have a diary full of exciting adventures and Christmas parties with some of my favourite people.

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I never in a million years imagined myself sitting here in December 2012. And that’s where my story begins.  This is my story about 2012…the year that was.

It’s important at Christmas time I feel to look back on the year. The good the bad, the challenges, the breakthroughs and most importantly the lessons learned.

2012 was the year that I learned to never give up. Never.

In February of this year I had an amazing group of friends, an internship as a journalist that I loved and a great home. I also had a visa that was about to expire and a very very broken spirit because of that. Every friendship, every job opportunity, every church group that I had just invested 18 months of my life into was about to abruptly come to an end. I was crushed.

I had two options. I could go home and sulk about it or I could throw myself into something new in the hope that I would love somewhere just as much as I loved this place. I knew it would be hard. But I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was.

As soon as I arrived in my native NZ in February, I got a job in a backpackers in Mount Cook National Park – home to NZ’s highest mountain. I LOVED being back in the NZ nature – I feel like it’s a part of what makes me me. I loved waking up every morning and looking onto a landscape that was featured in Lord of the Rings, taking trips to glaciers after work and trips on Argos. But I was lonely.

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I couldn’t see a way to get back to Copenhagen and I had no idea what to do – all I knew was that I needed to keeping ‘moving forward’.

So I thought about making the jump across the Tasman to the lucrative shores of Australia. I applied for about 30 jobs as journalist there and after three weeks I got an interview. Actually what I got was a five hour writing test and two intense skype interviews. But I landed a job as a financial journalist in Sydney.

I was happy…but more happy about the fact that it sounded cool and people would think I was a ‘success’. Deep down I was terrified and wondered what I had got myself into.

Scoring a great position in a one of the world’s most stunning cites would make 99 per cent of people feel on top of the world. But the love I had for Copenhagen and the people here just wouldn’t leave me. It was annoying actually. I tried to block out what I felt in the hope my feelings would just fade away.

And that’s when I learned lesson number one.

The more untrue you are to yourself, the more you’ll suffer.

I wasn’t sure who I was trying to ‘prove’ things to. I think myself more than anyone else. I wanted to convince myself I was over Copenhagen and totally ready for a new chapter.

I figured that once I got to Sydney, and ‘loved it’ like everyone said I would, that those feelings would just leave me. I distinctly remember though, arriving on a raining and humid March night with two suitcases, checking into a hostel where the windows didn’t shut properly and thinking – why am I doing this again?

As people looked on enviously as this ‘amazing opportunity’ I felt bad telling them otherwise. So I kept the painted smile on.

After three weeks in a hostel I found an apartment in trendy Surry Hills. I attended Hillsong Sydney – the renowned church in all its glory and I threw myself into my work and secured an interview with the Australian Minister of Finance  (which became the first time a Minister was featured in the magazine I wrote for). On top of all that I made good money and spend weekends at the bar underneath the opera house.

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So what was I miserable about I wondered?

I now know what people mean when they say that they ‘made it to the top but were completely miserable’. As I swanned around in little dresses (even in winter) I couldn’t help but feel very very odd as I yearned to ride a bike in cold weather, hygge with some of my best friends, make random trips to other countries, re-join my ‘international klynger’, conduct restaurant reviews and pretend to be Carry Bradshaw as I wrote ‘Dating the Danes’.

This is where important lesson number two was learned.

 It’s okay to love what you love.

Since when did the world start imposing on us what we should love and what we shouldn’t. When did it become okay to think of people as odd because they love things that traditionally people don’t.  I think to love what you do and be proud of it takes a lot of strength. Strength to stand against a tide of people and say – Yea I love a city in a small country on the other side of the world that for eight months of the year is cold and dark. I like the strange language they speak and I like the fact that while they can be reserved, they are the most loyal and kind people I know.Image

I knew after five months in Sydney I wasn’t going to last. But I had no idea what to do. All I wanted to do was just get back to Copenhagen. But how?

I didn’t have a job there and everyone I knew there told me it was the worst time to try and get one! I did have great friends and contacts but was that enough? Enough to throw in a great job in Sydney and risk it all to try and make a go of in the place I love?

Even though the thoughts floated around my mind, I didn’t make the big call until I went on a seven day course in Bendigo of all places. It was a course that taught great life skills and basically how to succeed in doing what you love. It did this through using ‘truth coaches’ and showing how the Christian truth can solve nearly any problem or challenge. And at the end of the day it was just about using good old common sense. Something that the church can often lack these days.

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After being asked from Matt who ran the course, why I wasn’t going back to Denmark I realised my answer was rather stupid.

‘I’m scared I’ll fail and not find a job and it will be too hard to loose the place I love twice’.

‘But you’ll survive’ he said.

‘…And your fear of failure is just a feeling. Are you going to let a feeling stop you from getting what you desperately want?’

I couldn’t argue with that. So I made up my mind. I’m going back I thought. I’ll take a huge risk and see if it pays off. I have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

And that was lesson number three.

Don’t ever let your fears get in the way of what you want. They are after all, just feelings.

Within four weeks, I had booked a plane ticket, submitted my working holiday visa and applied for 52 jobs in Copenhagen. I was prepared to work as anything – a waitress, a cleaner, a postman. I just had to get back there. I also figured out that if you really want something you’ll do anything to get it.

On September 7th I arrived in Copenhagen. It was the weirdest feeling. I felt like I had never really left. It was underwhelming…but in a good way. Like I had just come home.

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Now I never like it when people say ‘things will just fall into place’. I feel like that’s far too passive. I feel like you should ‘put things in their place’ if you want them there. But I’ve come to realise that if you keep persisting then things do.

It didn’t feel like that though.

When I first arrived here, the job I had lined up had fallen though. The Indian restaurant I was meant to work for had hired someone else. The owner thought I was late in getting back to him. For the record I wasn’t, but he was on a different time frame.

Crap I thought. What now. It just happened though that the owner of the Indian restaurant gave me the name of a bagel shop owner. And as much as I didn’t really feel my talents lay in bagel making I was prepared to do it.

At times though, when you’re spreading cream cheese on a bagel and sharing a bedroom with your friend you do doubt your sanity.

‘I left my job as a journalist in Sydney for this’ I thought?

I concluded I was slightly insane…or maybe just ridiculously determined.

And that was lesson number four.

You need to be a little bit crazy in order to succeed. The other word for this is consistent persistence.

Thanks to my great friend Sheena, I lived in her room with her for a month. So at least I had a bed. Then my great friend David employed me for a few weeks as his personal assistant to help him move everything out of this apartment for his move to London.

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Things were working…but I wondered for how long they would work for.

I then started applying for jobs that I thought were way out of my league. The thing is that when the rubber hits the road, you’ll try anything.

I must say that that would have been lesson number five.

Nothing is out of your league unless you believe it is.

‘What have you got to loose’ I continually asked myself.

Then one day I got an interview for a job I thought I was NOT qualified for. As a corporate journalist for DHI – A job based in Denmark but involving a lot of travel to Singapore. Nice I thought.

And so began the most intense month long interview process I’ve ever encountered. An initial interview, a personality test, a five-hour writing test, an interview with the COO, and then an interview with the team in Singapore. I was hopeful throughout the process…but I wasn’t sure if ‘corporate journalist’ was really me. Beggars can’t be choosers though… And it sure would beat cutting up onions for bagels I thought. (On a side note I made it to the final two but missed out.)

At this stage I’d been here about seven weeks. Apart from the corporate journalism job, I had been rejected again and again and again from every other position. I began to have my doubts about this move.

It’s at times like that where I wonder where I’ve put God in all of this. I was trusting in my abilities but what about employing some supernatural abilities from the guy that could make anything happen. So I began to pray. Now I’ve prayed for things before but I’ve never prayed like I prayed then.

Lesson number six.

P.U.S.H – Pray Until Something Happens.

I’m pretty good at doing my part…but I often forget to let God do his part.

But as soon as I did let him…some amazing things happened.

By this point, my ‘Dating the Danes’ column had gained somewhat of a cult status in the expat community. It was rated the most highest read piece on The Copenhagen Post website and the famous right-wing Danish newspaper Information.dk picked it up and ran it.

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It was through this column that a social media marketer at a large company here read it and liked what he saw. So I got an email in my LinkedIn asking – can we meet?

To be honest that email went into my junk mail for about five days until I saw it. I thought it was just for some freelance work but two days later I met with him (he happened to be an Aussie) and got rather a shock.

“Yes we need a social media editor to create all the blog, Facebook, twitter content etc. for all our clients” (which did include some big ones).

Thinking it was all a little out of my league I sort of didn’t give it too much thought. But I was invited back to do a ‘test’.

The test involved taking a news story and making into a blog, Facebook and Twitter post and then putting a social media strategy around it,

Lesson number seven.

When you’ve got nothing to loose just give it everything you’ve got.

As my boss came in to evaluate the ‘test’ it was obvious he was flipping impressed.

‘This is great” he said…are you available next Wednesday to come and meet with this client and present them with what you’ve done here?’

Yes sure, I said…wondering what I had just dived into.

And then he added:

So…would you like the job… Oh and we’ll sponsor you with a visa to stay.

I was dumbstruck. In the space of five days I’d gone from being unemployed and without an apartment to having my foreseeable future here sealed.

That very same day as I got a job, I moved into my new apartment in Amager. A great little place with a friend of a friend.

And that leads me back to where I started. I now sit here in my room in Amager with a bunch of work icons on my desktop (that remind me just how much work I have to do). When I bike to work in the morning, past the stunning Christiansborg parliament building and through the Latin quarter of Copenhagen I continually ask myself –how did I get this lucky?

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And when I casually plan trips to Iceland, just because I can, I wonder – how did I get so lucky?

I am blessed – I know that for sure. But I also know that this supposed ‘luck’ that I have isn’t really luck at all. Because if I can live the life that I dreamed about then anyone can.

I’m no different to anyone else. I just have a few insights that others may not.

So I want my story of 2012 to serve as an encouragement to anyone who is too scared, too afraid, too worried of failing, and scared of what others make think to try and live the life they want.

Last year I did a series on the book – If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. When I preached that at the time I felt I was ‘all talk no action’. But now I know what it means to stick your foot out on the water and hope that you can walk.

What I have now is what I’ve wanted since I was 19. And I’ve been through a lot to get it. But I did.

And that’s the final lesson.

Never, ever, ever give up.

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