About franziskaschwarzmann

Grad Student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Letting Go

Lately, I have a morning routine: Yoga and Jack Kornfield meditation lectures. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile, always I feel calm afterwards.

The concepts of letting go and not being attached play a central role in Kornfield’s teaching. Basically, letting go means no longer being attached. You can be very committed to raising your children in the way you deem moral and correct. If you expect as a return your children to become lawyers with a white picket fence lifestyle, you are attached to the outcome. That’s where the misery begins.

Purpose is not derived from results.

The integrity of how you go about things is purpose. Back to the morning routine: I feel great until something throws me off. Feelings of not being valued at work or tiny things like wanting Pho in rural Germany where Vietnamese don’t live. My reactions then become pretty random, far from controlled: they range from crying to me hating everything German to me looking up flights to Boston to sucking it up and tuning into a new Kornfield: meditate, be happy, be angry. Repeat. Really, I thought, I had this letting go thing internalized.

Until this moment when Pouya got really excited about the English Garden, the city life and I happened to ask him why he never complained about rural life. His response, that he’s decided his happiness ought not to be dependent on location, made me ashamed of myself.

And then just the other day a friend who has lived in the UK, US and is now moving to Switzerland, very kindly pointed out to me how complaining about Germany is really German. She said the same happens to her, literally she said: “This is what Germany does to me.” She had a point, though. The point is that the majority of Germans are perpetually complaining about something, not seeing the absolutely amazing quality of life. I do not want to be part of that. And yet, I do not have to leave the country in order to not be part of that.

The integrity of my purpose, connecting people and advocating, should be the guiding force. All too often I get sidetracked. Where is this life leading if I am always searching for the better? What comes after this salary, after the Ironman, after the next big city? Not everything was golden in Boston, not everything is golden here. Where I live, though, is an outcome. Staying true to myself in Germany is one of my toughest challenges, and it took me a year of sad and hard feelings to get to this post. I trust my journey.

Let’s see how long the next Kornfield lecture lasts tomorrow morning 😉.

My First Olympic Triathlon Distance

1700m of swimming, 40km of biking and a 10km run. I have done these distances, individually, multiple times. It so happened that Germany is currently experiencing an unreal heatwave and we started our race at 39degrees Celsius, or 92Fahrenheit, at 1pm in the afternoon.

The Swim

Downstream on the Main, this swim was fun. Not only has the river’s water temperature reached 27,5Celsius, the stream is also fairly fast. I averaged 1:24/100yards, coming out of the water after 25Minutes. I was lucky to be a little bit before the main field of roughly 700starters because Kitzingen is a very local race and the transition zone on the river banks war packed.

The Bike

The first km were flat and I got pretty comfy in Aero. My legs felt pretty good. As always, I loved the biking. Pretty early I was able to find a group that was about my pace and went go back and forth depending on the terrain.

At km 30 I heard someone shouting from behind: “Hello Wifey, how are you feeling?”. I tried to stay behind Pouya, but I could not keep up. Very suddenly I was experiencing some harsh tummy pain that almost made it impossible to stay in aero. It made me a little worried about the upcoming run, since the same thing had happened during my middle distance in Mallorca (for which I am still owing a race report).

The Run, or: Questioning my sanity

The race strategy was to not overpace as I had consistently done in all runs, except for my best 10k where I was able to run negative splits. I started with a 6:17km / 10:11mile. It felt not great, but ok. Running in the sun was very harsh and after the first km I had trouble breathing and I experienced sharp pain in my tummy again. It forced me to go into a run/walk-mode and mentally took a lot. I kept thinking that it would be ok to quit, that I do not have to finish this if it’s hurting so much. After 4km they offered Coca Cola and I figured it would either make my pain worse and force me to give up or it would make it better. This time Coke did the job, the pain gradually went away, leaving me scared and anticipating the next wave. After the first round Juli and Matthias (who had already finished his Sprint) were cheering me up. Running by, I told them I would quit. Juli then followed me and gave me a real pep-talk; the second 5k-loop went much better, I came in with a pretty disappointing run time.

I was proud for fighting through the pain and not collapsing in this ridiculous heat.









Living the questions – some thoughts on relocation

This time last year the decision was clear that I would be leaving my job at a tech startup in Boston. Although I had always been loosely in touch with the company I work for now I had not decided to return at that point. I was open to other opportunities, thinking about finally returning to the West Coast of the US, living the beach and Ocean Cali life, or laying a focus on more mountaineering adventures in a region closer to British Columbia. The little nomad adventurer within me wanted to go do something new, Middle East, South East Asia – different cultures, different values in society.

Like a withering flower

The minute I stopped working this is what happened: I could not get out of bed and when I did I basically only waited until Pouya was off to work to return to bed. Some days, full of good intentions, I started reading a book, only to put it aside after half a page – while my eyes were reading, inside my head a totally different kind of scenario was unfolding: What if I would not find a job? How many months could I afford my life before I would be broke? What do I want? What do I stand for? How important is a career versus so many other things?

You are not your career, they say, tweet, coach. And when you have a job that annoys you you keep thinking: That’s not worth it, that is bull, I want to do something different. Well, the minute I did exactly that, I started feeling incredibly worthless. And I really did not want to admit it because in my head I was supposed to feel free, to embrace that I can do anything – when ultimately some days when Pouya returned from home I had not even managed to brush my teeth.

Rural Germany with an international partner: Nothing can prepare you for it

We made the decision to come to Germany together, Pouya and I. He really wanted to live in Europe and learn German, I really wanted to be closer to my family and see them more regularly than once a year for Christmas. I also wanted to live in a system where I have more than 24hours notice, have a contract that says how much vacation I have versus a so called “umlimited vacation contract” (that ends up being no vacation because going on vacation is interpreted as not willing to put in what is needed to succeed).

I took a plane from Boston to Frankfurt in the beginning of June, crying for the first hour because I could not believe that I am actually leaving Boston, the only place that I have ever called my home. With me I had a suitcase and my true companion, a white and pink carbon road bike that I have named Tharros – which is Greek and means courage. Back in the office that I had already worked at years before I felt excited, safe and hopeful. I buried myself in work and triathlon practice – work, work out, eat, work, sleep, repeat. The first weekend I went to my hometown because I did not want to be alone, the second weekend I stayed in Aalen – on monday morning I then realized that I had not talked to any person except for Pouya on the phone, and my friends Deepti and Maria Rita  – calls that kept me going, about world politics, personal struggles, about fitting in, about pulling through.

The third weekend I went to a friend’s birthday party; when I arrived she introduced me as the party animal – we went down memory lane for a couple of hours, entertaining everyone with our truly ridiculous stories. And then there was this one time when we arrived at 7AM at her house, opening another bottle of prosecco…or that other time when we fell asleep in the bar… The night ended with me initiating a flunky ball tournament. The next morning I woke up early, packed the car (in which at that time Tharros and bike equipment were standard) and I drove – home to Kassel again. I went out with my 17-year old sister, I spend evenings with my Mama, I camped at my first triathlon weekend with my Dad.

Mid July it was time to return to Boston to pack up everything for the move and to cheer Pouya on at his first Ironman in Lake Placid. I packed my Bank of America credit cards, my CVS card, my Boston Charlie Card and off I went, enjoying flavored coffees, Bacon Egg and Cheese Bagels, Vietnamese soups, the splendid landscpapes of the East Coast from Mass all the way to New York State. It did not feel like home anymore, it felt like a place that I belonged to, very familiar.

Honestly, I did not think of how it would be to be in Germany before I moved. And neither did I anticipate how it would be to live in rural Germany with a Middle Eastern looking man. Since last June I went through phases of disbelief, sadness, hatred, solitude to the point I am at now: A point where I have managed to find peace inside of me – at least sometimes.

There is a point at which home can only be a state within yourself, not a location

Although Germany and the United States both belong to “The West” the fundamental concept of living is absolutely different. When I was in the US I always knew that I am German. Now that I am in Germany the only thing I know and appreciate is that I have a German passport. I also understand that living in Boston is not comparable with living in the rural Southeast of Germany, so comparisons are not fair to either. What is becoming more apparent though is that the person I am right now can not live for long in a rural German area – and maybe that has nothing to do with Germany, but with the fact that it is rural.

For the first time in my life I have trouble finding friends, or even acquaintances. While the Americans are said to be superficial, my experience is that they at least make it easy to spend time with. My many attempts to try and “hang out” with people here have either been unanswered or not reciprocated. Hence, I have probably never spend more time with my family. At our training camp in Cyprus we met a lot of like-minded people – obviously you start conversing when next to each other on the bike for several hours; it felt a little like a wake-up call that things will need to change in the near future.

The other day at swim practice in Aalen one of the better swimmers told me: You sometimes are like a log of wood in the water, you should swim more. I have improved my swimming from the beginning of this winter until now by 25seconds per 100meters, I said. He said that I am still slow. Perspective makes such a difference, doesn’t it? In the US, unless you want to compete with the superheroes of triathlon Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle, and even then, the general attitude is to focus on the positive, on having fun. Focus on what works well, focus on your own journey, make the best version of yourself. The Germany I live in right now focuses on comparison, on standards, on being better than others.

Integration in rural Germany means: Assimilation. Or being lonely

A lot of nights Pouya and I have talked about the concepts of immigration versus assimilation. Being here with him, a clearly “Islamic” looking man, has opened my eyes to the fact that Germany has no concept of immigrating internationals, welcoming their cultures, co-existing. What rural Germans see as immigration de facto means assimilation. My parents in law tried to exchange Dollars to Euros the other day: At six banks they tried, none of them would give them Euros because they did not have an account. At the hospital Pouya and I went to after his bike accident the first question the lady asked was: Where are you from? The second was: Do you even work? I threatened her to get media involved if she refused to treat Pouya  and had to give here my credit card as a security. Up until this day no big bank in Germany is giving us a joint bank account. In the city are 12 bakeries with great bread and brötchen. If you want something “international” you can go to the Turkish supermarket – led probably by second generation Germans of Turkish descent. The minute people are moving to Canada, acquiring a Canadian passport, they are considered Canadian.

“Try to live all the questions” Rilke, my favorite poet, wrote. I am.

Five Lessons learned from our storytelling approach (German only, for now)


I had the honor of speaking at two content marketing conferences about ZEISS Stories, the storytelling project that I am strategizing and implementing at ZEISS. 

My talk was perceived very well and I have been asked to share it with my fellow content marketers – all trying to figure out how to work the area of “owned content”.


Ironman Training Log – The Power of Tests

When I first talked to my coach Michael Krell, he told me that I would have to do tests in all three disciplines: A 400m swimtest, 7x 1km running starting from a low heart rate to a high heartrate and, eventually, a bike test.

The first set of swimming and running tests was pretty sobering. Not only because I realized I cannot even run 1km as fast as German legendary triathlete Jan Frodeno’s average km during an Ironman, but also because these tests brought back some memories of the pain one has to go through.

That being said, this past week was test week – after another 7km on the track, another 400m in the pool I wanted to share two take-aways…


I. Have Faith in Your Training

I have put my trust into Michael and done my best to execute the weekly training plans he is writing for me (which is a strenuous adjustment to daily life: less spontaneity, better food planing because you are either starving or eating bullshit food, sleep discipline and,  by far the hardest for me, you’d better get used to a one-drink-rule because your tolerance is becoming pretty ridiculous compared to – how shall I put it – journalist & grad school times). For a control freak like me, with coaching experience in rowing, that leap of faith presented a challenge. Some days seemed so easy, some days I either felt like vomiting, did vomit or really tortured myself into training in the first place.  Besides that, I was always hungry, but tried to keep myself from eating more.

Second set of test results are in. I have increased my 400m swim-time by 45Seconds, about 10seconds per 100m. Since September, I have for the first time in my life ran a 10k race and a Half Marathon and I have been able to improve my fastest km time by 30seconds. In the Tufts Pool in Boston there was a massive poster reading “Have Faith in Your Training”. I never really understood what that meant, but now I do.


II. It does not get easier, you just get faster

As thrilled and motivated as I am about my improvements, the tests as well as the longer runs every weekend have shown me that feeling better is not part of the deal. Sure thing, I have had some gorgeous forest runs that come with a therapeutic side effect, but the body also goes through phases of protest that the mind has to counter. During my run test I felt like my legs would just give in, my lungs were exploding and I had already mentally prepared myself for worse test results. Funny enough, I found cyclist’s Greg Le Mond”s quote “It does not get easier, you just get faster” very fitting.

Ironman 70.3 Mallorca is three months away and I’ll keep you updated on the journey.

Oh, January

January is a hard to deal with month for me. I might also face a couple of intimidating thoughts right at this time and blaming the one month that usually motivates people to eat healthier, smoke less and work out more. Oh, well.

Training Log

I am not sure if I have announced it on the blog, but I have decided a couple of months ago to tackle an athletic challenge – the Half Ironman in Mallorca. That means 1.9km of swimming, 90km biking followed by a half marathon of running. We booked a house by the beach, family and friends are coming. While foggy and dark, the sun never shines-January in Germany makes me long for palm trees for the first time this month I am going through rapid mood changes with regards to this race. I woke up last week realizing that time is passing and I no longer have six months (the magic amount of time needed for preparation). I counted with my fingers multiple times only to arrive at the same number over and over again: FOUR! It is only four months away.

Never good at all three
Euphoria happens when things work out well. Naturally. My swim went well, I ran a faster km on average, my bike ride felt good. Any of these make me more confident. Here’s the thing, though: I have never had a week where I felt that I have all three sports under control…when I ran a lot, I felt like a stone in the water. When I feel like a flash on my bike, I sometimes add a run thinking I must have done my first steps more smoothly. That probably is the beauty and the beast of triathlon. At times like these in January, foggy January, no me likey!

If training is well there is always this: ZE WEDDING
Yeah, because a middle distance tri race is not enough in one year, Pouya and I have also set a date for the wedding – six weeks after the race (please laugh, that’s ok). Here is the thing: If you strongly feel about a specific date to tie the knot, I strongly advise you to reserve it roughly a decade in advance…the weddingmania has taken over Germany! Some vendors told us that women choose the date according to average weather records – as if rain or sun would matter that much. Anyways, Ze wedding.

Weddings are a great forcing function of self-reflection and understanding how others see you
My friends who have only recently gotten married will all laugh: My dear Mama, who is certainly very excited sent me three dates for wedding exhibitions last week. Wedding Exhibitions. First of all, I never even knew such a thing existed. Second, rapid thoughts overtook me: I asked myself whether I gave away the vibes of being a person who would spend a day at a wedding exhibition. Then I wondered whether this is the time in my life where I would change into the kind of person I would always make fun of: The “this will be the bestest day of my life, ever”-bride and I would commence that change with the wed-exhibit. And then, combined with some earth-shattering shivers some pretty interesting self reflective thoughts fired: I really do not care this much about my wedding as I care about the wonderful man I am marrying. For this day I am hoping that some people do me the honor and travel from near and far to spend a couple of hours with me and my family, laughing, enjoying, dancing (YES, I already have the band. NO, I do not have the dress). Since I have by now project planned about a dozen pretty great events and I know how much tedious attention to detail needs to go into it, I really do not feel like doing that for my wedding. “Perfect” is a mindset, not a measure when it comes to weddings – it took me a long time putting this into words and it feels pretty f… great right now, because you have no idea, or maybe you have, how many people have an opinion on ANYTHING and everything.

My boss told me last night: “For everyone of your guests it will have been a wedding. For you it will have been your wedding. Own it.” Writing these words seems to be the first step…

I hope I successfully expressed a good amount of sarcasm. If not, I am very well aware that this is a “first-world-problem”-blogpost and I am ending it with some impressions from the trip India which is currently being wrapped into a big India diary post:

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I have been writing so much for work that my private headlines are not really the most creative. But this one sums it up pretty well. Pouya, me, India.

Naturally, the minute I told my body I am going on vacation it went into sick-mode, not only do I have  cold, but also a nasty inflammation in my wrist, but I strongly believe in the Indian healing powers. And in Ibuprofen 🙂

So, summed up in short, this trip is means a lot to me: It will be another wedding experience, this time in Bangalore. I am very excited to see my Fletcher friend Aditya again. The younger generation of the wedding party will then move on towards Goa and beach for a bit. Moving on from the South, we will be doing a stopover in Delhi and see the couple whose wedding brought me to India this past January, Jessica and Abhishek.

And then it is time for a big item on my bucket list: Ever since I saw the Himalayan peaks from Mussorie in January I have been thinking about that place and how I felt. It is hard to explain, but I felt complete. This time, it will be a little longer. We will be doing a five day trek, in the snow, with a big backpack, lots of emergency drugs (the German doctors needed some serious persuasion to give out some of these prescriptions; a little bit of Googling has confirmed my funny jokes about how these drugs are most likely available somewhere over the counter…). I have a lot of respect for the fast altitude gain and I hope I am trained well enough. I guess there is only one way to find out…

And then it will be time for catching up with more Fletcher friends in New Delhi, eating as much Dhal, Palak Paneer, buttered chicken and drinking so much Masala Chai that I can at least stay for a little while without graving the food that is simply unavailable where I currently am.

I will try to keep you updated with lots of pictures and little stories.