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Halfway Thoughts | A Heck of a Year


Helen Hajjaj is a Danish-Lebanese journalist who has spent most of her life in Denmark. After stints in Beirut and Cairo, she returned home for a career in TV production. With parents from two different countries, Helen is able to see Denmark and the Danes from both sides but self-identifies as a Copenhagener.

December 28, 2013
08:03

by Helen Hajjaj


It’s December. The traditional time of year when you’re supposed to look back on the past 12 months, and ahead at what you hope the new year will bring. Normally I’m not one who gets all nostalgic come December 31. I’ve never really felt the need to throw wild parties or stand in the middle of a big square surrounded by strangers. In fact, my best New Year’s Eve thus far was one spent with my mother and two-year-old niece. She fell asleep on the couch long before the clock struck midnight. But the look on her face seeing all the fireworks earlier that evening is one I’ll never forget. However, despite being almost anti-New Year’s, I have to admit that this year has been one worth celebrating.

The year began with bad news: I was told the radio show I hosted was to be shut down. I was supposed to fulfil a different function at the radio, but my gut immediately told me that I wouldn’t be happy in the new job. The sensible thing to do in such a case (at least that’s what many people say) is to start looking for a new job, but stay in the old until something else turns up. I wasn’t sensible. I chose to stop, not knowing what I would do or where the next paycheck would come from. Today, I’m not really sure what made me make such a decision. I would never recommend it to anyone. And yet I sit here today, thinking it was probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

I only went three weeks before being once again employed. But this time it was a type of journalism I’d never worked in before. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have thought of unless I had begun to feel desperate. Yet here I am. I’ve taken responsibilities that I would never have dreamed of when working with news. I’ve worked harder and more hours than ever before. I’ve been challenged and have challenged myself in ways I thought were impossible. I won’t say I’ve loved or enjoyed every minute of it. But I’ve learned more than I had for a long time, both about producing TV and about myself.

On a personal note, this was the year I got married. When hearing of my engagement, many people were just as surprised as when I left my job. My (then) boyfriend and I had only been together for ten months when he proposed. I’ve never felt more certain about anything in my life that this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Once again, I did something that many people would think is crazy, but that has made me happier than ever before.

The television programme I’m working on is all about all the things we do in life without questioning if they’re truly right for us and what the negative consequences of them are. When it comes to work, about 20 percent of all Danes are unhappy. But that’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that about 50 percent of Danes don’t care at all. They wake up every Monday morning and only have Friday afternoon to look forward to. It scares me to think that I was close to becoming one of them. But I’m happy that somehow I found the courage to stop and think about what direction I wanted my life to go in.

So I guess that’s the most important lesson I’m taking with me from 2013: to always listen to my inner voice, even when it’s telling me to do exactly the opposite of what is expected. And if I can’t hear it, I should try to drown out some of the noise surrounding it. In 2013 it’s led me to two of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Here’s hoping 2014 will bring more of that.