Dossier: Family

Wishes for life – a discussion spanning four generations

They have their whole life ahead of them, are halfway through their life or are in the final stage of their life. We speak to four people from totally different walks of life who’ve taken different paths and have different wishes, hopes and dreams.

Text/interviewer: Christine Schulthess; photos: Kostas Maros; videos: Sebastian Doerk

We all want to live a meaningful and fulfilled life. What does this mean for you exactly?

Schaller: For me, religion – in my case Christianity – is part and parcel of a fulfilled life. It gives me guidance.

Otten: I tend more towards humanism, contact with others. I try to make sure that everything I do has a positive impact on others.

Enste: I find it fulfilling when I’m able to develop my personality and can help others to grow, too.

Kipf: That’s also the way I see it: It’s an ongoing process of learning and helping others to do the same.


“I’ve achieved what I wanted.”
Maria Schaller

Developing and helping others to develop also plays a role at work. Have you achieved what you hoped for in your professional lives?

Schaller: I’ve achieved what I wanted. I knew back in grammar school that I wanted to be a doctor. I’m an only child. My parents were unable to have any more children and they talked about adoption. This made me want to be a gynaecologist.

Otten: I originally wanted to be a goldsmith. That didn’t happen. Instead, I became a photographer with the aim of taking photos of people – especially children – in their natural environments and thereby drawing attention to their situations. Then I decided to study development aid. That’s when I learned about Buddhist economics, the complete opposite of neoliberal capitalism. I became a management consultant based on this ethos and I have advised companies that were looking to change their strategies, for example.

Enste: I was interested in technology from a young age and went on to study mechanical engineering. My dream was to be the CEO of a major company. At some point I became interested in setting up my own company, because I didn’t have enough influence in big companies. In 2011 I bought a spring factory, and my dream became reality.

Kipf: As a child I dreamed of being a draughtsman or architect, later I wanted to be a doctor. In the end I began a course in biology and I’m now doing a Masters degree in biogeosciences. I’d eventually like to work at a company specialising in ecology or for an NGO in the field of ecology or sustainability.

If you look ahead to the future, where do you see yourselves in ten years?

Kipf: I want to work to ensure that nature and people live together in harmony and that there is justice for all. Eventually I’d like to work part time, so I have time to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.

As a young climate activist, do you still dream of travelling to far-flung countries, even if it’s bad for the environment?

Kipf: Of course – I’d love to go to New Zealand, and that’s only really possible by flying. However, I’d plan to stay there and work for several months. But I’d never fly to New York for a long weekend to go shopping, for instance.

Enste: I take a broader view. I still fly, but when I do, I make a donation to a tree-planting initiative or similar projects.

Otten: Anyway, in my opinion, not flying doesn’t do the environment much good. I think it’s more important to look at what we eat and change our diet. I also dream of a new way of living together. A few decades ago, the motto “I’m stronger alone” was in vogue. Today the opposite is true: we need social networks and mutual support.

“I’d buy a little more time so I had more time for myself.”
Albert Enste

Assuming that money was no option, what would you do?

Kipf: I would then have more time to be there for others, to realise projects. I’d like to help people find their way back to nature.

Schaller: I’d like everything to stay as it is now: remain living in my parents’ house, where I have a girlfriend who supports me in everyday life, foster relationships with my godchildren and friends, and keep in touch with what’s happening in the world by reading newspapers.

Doesn’t health find a place on your wish list?

Schaller: Of course – I’m happy that there’s a drug that allows me to keep my sight, and I hope it will stay that way for a long time to come. But even if I had gone blind, I wouldn’t have lost my will to live. Five years ago I was also diagnosed with bowel cancer. Luckily I’ve recovered well from it. Now I want to take things easy and not always have to think about my illnesses.

In surveys on personal wishes, family also plays a key role. How important is family for you?

Schaller: As I spent a lot of time abroad, I never got around to starting a family. The medical practice and the people who worked there were my family. When I see how stressful the lives of working mums can be today, I’m pleased that I never had to live like that.

“At the moment I’m looking for my biological parents in South Korea.”
Monica Otten

Otten: My closest friends and my sister are my family. I have a complicated relationship with my adoptive parents. At the moment I’m looking for my biological parents in South Korea. I’ve had my DNA saved in an international database, and I hope that one day there will be a hit. I never had the desire to start my own family. I sometimes thought about adopting children.

Kipf: I’m also very close to my colleagues. We’re like a family. We look out for one another. For me, you don’t need blood ties to be a family.

Do you have any wishes specifically aimed at family life?

Enste: Yes - that children aren’t put under too much pressure. It seems they have to know what they want to do in life at the age of seven. That’s a shame.

When you look to the future, what are you most looking forward to, and what worries you?

Schaller: I’m currently having problems with my hips and would be happy if there were a pain-free solution to my arthrosis. Otherwise, I just take it day by day. And I’m always happy to be alive!

Otten: I’m looking forward to going to Rwanda. I’d like to see the gorillas there.

Enste: I look forward to the time when my children have finished their education.

“I’m looking forward to the time when life really gets started.”
Pascal Kipf

Kipf: I look forward to finishing my education, so life can really get started. However, I fear that it will not necessarily be more peaceful then, not least due to the threatened scarcity of clean water in parts of the world. I’m pretty sure we have major conflicts ahead of us.

Enste: I'm too much of an optimist to think like that. I’m sure that innovations will ensure that we survive. I really believe in technology. Either we deny people life on our earth or we find solutions to cope with the increasing numbers of people on this planet.

Kipf: But that doesn’t resolve the flaws in our exploitative system. It might control the symptoms, but it doesn’t eradicate the root of the evil: the exploitation of our resources.

Otten: People who have nothing live much more sustainably than those who have a lot or too much. The abundance in our western world creates artificial needs. That’s where our system is failing.

You have one wish. What would it be?  

Otten: … good health.

Enste: … yes, I’d also like to stay healthy.

Kipf: … that people talk and listen to one another more.