Column: What drives you?

©Collage / Oriane Baud

In her newest column, Julia Knolle reflects on a bumpy return after the summer break

It’s the second day after the summer break that I’m back “in service”– as I dared to joke in some emails – and at 6:24pm I have not nearly accomplished all of what I still rather timidly wrote down in my notes as the relaunch program for the day. My early arrival in the office was clouded by the internet connection not being available. Almost a little crestfallen that I couldn’t completely jump in, but also almost a little happy not to have to go directly from zero to 180, I relocated to my home office. Two good, productive hours followed, then a lunch break, and then finally: back to the office.

The most important things are still on the list as, around 4pm, I suddenly got so tired after opening the mail (procrastination part two) that not even a third large cup of green tea helped. In an attempt to distract with a private phone call, a contrary voice that projected its own good mood gasped at me: “Can I call you back a bit later? I’ve already arrived at my next appointment.”

And then it finally dawned on me: what is actually happening here? I couldn’t have lost my motivation over a two-week compulsory vacation? Where is that overachiever Julia who even back in school would get uneasy on the last days of the summer break and would have rather gotten started sooner than later with those routine-dominating assignments.

This time it was different: somehow I didn’t want to come back at all. And it had been so nice: not setting the alarm, getting up in peace, reading the newspaper and books for hours, all without looking at the clock. Jumping into the ocean in a bikini, boat tours in 35°C (95°F) weather with a headwind, and scrambled eggs every day for breakfast. Letting loose and giving it your all during sports because you know that you don’t have to do anything big for the rest of the day, or even the next. Getting a little out of control at a dinner with friends on a weeknight and needing twice as long on Wednesday for an Aperol Spritz hangover. Suddenly, for a few seconds, I understand those people who don’t give direct, and rather only vague, answers about what they do. And so I ask myself: where has my drive gone to? Or, what drove me before and where is that now?

Parallel to that I’m looking at my counterpart, Veronika the Duracell Bunny, who actually didn’t take any real break at all and cheerfully carried on writing emails, making decisions, and filling Instagram with an exemplary dedication that somehow still looks familiar to me. And so I take a look back again: the first one-and-a-half years of this wonderful project were a crazy affair. In retrospect, a lot went really quickly and, on the other side, looking forward there’s still so much to do.

The demands on us to carry on as consistently as once planed are becoming constantly more challenging. The wheels of the machine are already in motion and delivering a tangible portfolio. The positioning, as we once introduced ourselves to so-and-so, is taking effect – and that makes it more difficult to shift or modify than it was in the beginning.

And of course I know that this is still the project of my dreams: we are our own bosses, are responsible to ourselves for taking the chances that lie before us, and of course are also held accountable for it when an idea can’t be realized. I’m especially proud of my part in the efficiency optimization – every hour is used to its best, the maximum gotten out of every week. And maybe here lies an explanation for my first question, where the drive is. Maybe my alter ego overdid it a little bit shortly before the break. The six weeks before were so intensive that maybe this roly-poly toy sagged a bit and every cell of its body was looking forward to some idleness, so that for just a few days now (and that will still be allowed) it’s a little harder to bolt upright five minutes after the alarm has gone off at 7am and to jump out of bed ready to meet the day. All this clearing work to be good to yourself should also be applied during la rentrée, as the French call it. So, let’s approach this week slowly and await with anticipation the moment when my old, motivated character wins back the upper hand.


Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.