Yvonne Eisenring set out to prove real-life networks are greater and stronger than virtual ones.
By Yvonne Eisenring
When I was a little girl, my parents worked part-time as teachers because they both wanted to spend enough time with us kids. Stay-at-home dads were unusual in the ’90s — very unusual — but my father didn’t care. He was happy.
In the summer of 2001 all that changed.
I was 14 years old. It was 10 p.m., and my father said I should finally switch off the computer. Five minutes later he was dead of a heart attack.
After that, while my friends were studying after school, I immediately started working. After an internship, I got a job at the biggest Swiss newspaper, and one year later, I became a TV reporter.
I attended journalism school and used my free time to write articles. I got one column, and later, a second one. Today, I’m amazed I didn’t quit sooner, but at 23, I was convinced I was on the right track. I won prizes and became newcomer of the year, so I ignored the fact that I wasn’t really happy. I didn’t have time to think about it, either.
Then, I got sick at 25. It wasn’t life-threatening — just a severe flu that didn’t want to disappear — but I was forced to stay home, and it was terribly quiet. Being stressed and driven in recent years with the hectic rush of my everyday life, I cried and cried at that loss. I was so disappointed and frustrated. I had worked so hard and fought for my success. Why wasn’t I just happy?
I asked my mom if she thought dad was proud of me. She said he definitely was — but he would be anyway, success or not. She continued: “Your father always said that the most valuable thing you have is time, and therefore, you should use your time for the things you love the most. That’s why he didn’t work full time. He loved his job, but he loved you more.”
I didn’t change careers immediately — it took me two years until I dared. I was incredibly scared of this step, and it took a while until I knew what I loved the most and what I wanted to use my time for: my friends, my family and traveling.
I finally quit my job when I was 27, and everyone declared I was crazy. “Why now?” they asked. Why when my career was doing so well? I pretended to know exactly what I was doing, but to be honest, I had no plan.
Now, three years later, I know it was the right decision. These past few years were not always easy, but I am a freelancer now, writing books and plays. I never know how much I will have in my account at the end of the month — it’s usually not much — but I only work as much as I have to in order to get through. I almost never buy new clothes and have no fancy handbags nor expensive furniture. I have started studying philosophy with an online program because I travel so much or I’m living abroad.
Still, I know it was the right decision because I’ve never been so happy — not only because I travel so much, but also because I can spend a lot of time with my friends. It’s not surprising that my personal happiness depends on it. According to a recent international study on the subject, friendships are the key to a happy, healthy life.
My story is one of the reasons why my sister and I started Yuujou, a project focused on friendship. We want to prove that the real-life networking of people is more valuable and stronger than virtual ones. And thanks to the financial support of a friend, six people from all over the world were able to travel together for 100 days in the spring of 2019.
I regret that I didn’t remember my father’s advice earlier. I should have known better because I experienced for myself how quickly life can be over. I am very healthy, but I don’t know how much time I have left. Nobody knows that. How long can you still do what you want to do? How long can you use your time for the things you love the most? Who or what gets the most valuable thing you have — your time?