I’m in a complicated relationship with Aberdeen.

Allegedly adored by Royal Family, called the ‘Granite City’, in spikes of exaggerated marketing ‘the silver city with the golden sands’, Aberdeen has been my home for the last year. Right now, two days before my flight back home and moving out for good out of Scotland, this place calls for my comment very much.


1. Strange things happen in Aberdeen.
     I have no idea whether it’s because the city thrives on students coming from all over the world, or is it because maybe it sits on some strange power concentration point on the globe. Or maybe both. Only in here I’ve seen that many people randomly singing in the buses, walking barefoot through the streets. Or dressing up as a bunch of chicken, storming into KFC screaming over the counter, “GIVE ME BACK MA CHILDRAAAN”. The city seems to be covered in a mist, which can make it look rather gloomy and foggy, however very often the ‘fog’ smells in a way that makes me think of how one my friends once told me that this place is called the Amsterdam of Scotland as well.

2. The Granite City / The Silver City.
     Despite all effort this city has made since approximately 18th century to incorporate locally quarried grey granite, I’m sorry Aberdeen, the granite still does not silver-sparkle under rays of sunshine (oh wait, what sunshine?) after the rain.
aberdeen golden sands

3. Forget about your sleeping schedules.
     During winter around 3pm it’s as if somebody would switch off the lights. No colorful and slow sunsets for you, it gets dark immediately. The pitch dark blackness lifts up around 8am, in worst cases 9:30am.
     On the other hand, during summer you experience almost 21-hour long daylight. In June after 11pm it’s still quite bright, and sun rises around 3:00 – 3:30 am.
     And yet the students party whole year round, all day, all night.
aeeaedesfesfes

4. Holburn, Union and King Street
     are basically the whole of the city centre. Or maybe I haven’t got to know the city much and I’m just being stupid. But throughout the year I’ve seen all life of the city concentrating there. The so called ‘life’ constitutes of random parades organized by students, not-so-rare underwear runs for money fund-raising or other unknown reasons, parties, people dressed up as various creatures/animals/objects, or one time, a kettle stolen from a party, sitting on a bus stop.

5. “What does the city look like? – Like a paradox.”
     There’s the majestic-gothic-looking Marischal College right next to low-laying, identical rows of blocks. And the tall, medieval-look-alike West Tower of the Town House randomly appearing out of nowhere, scraping the sky and located right next to modern offices, and the bay with oil tankers.
     Be prepared to walk down narrow, atmospheric alleys only to end up in an industrial-look-alike district and not a single living soul there. And then, you stumble upon the chunky yellow block of flats that looks like taken out straight out of communist 1970s’ Poland.
     Outer suburbs sit around the city with all their houses identical in color, size and layout, creating a labyrinth of copy-paste small buildings that charmingly looks like a giant graveyard from an airplane window.
     Or, drive away from the city down the river Dee into natural landscapes of woods and fields, and- BAM!, there’s a modern, futuristic looking campus of the university, with a sky-scraping glass tower, most often hiding high up in dense, grey clouds.
     The city itself seems to be an architectural/design contraction, but yet it creates the vibe like no other – which is exactly what I hated it for in the beginning, only to start to love it later on.

6.  Fab life, Aberdeen
     Maybe it’s the quite small population of barely 230 thousands, or the student concentration ratio, but it seems everyone knows everyone, everyone talks about everyone. Oh, your flatmate’s friend knows that guy from marketing whose girlfriend saw your best friend on the picture from a nightclub yesterday, hugged with the marketing guy’s brother!
     Maybe this hub of students is buzzing incessantly cause apart from partying and people, honestly, I would not say there is much in here to do. People create this place, however this turns out to be its biggest advantage as it is never boring. It is even easier with an app where you post posts, anonymously. So basically everyone knows what you have been up to and where. And when there was almost full solar eclipse on 20th of March, the whole city shat its pants. Facebook profile pictures, Instagram, Twitter, even the forgotten Google Plus accounts were all buzzing, because hey, something is finally happening!
Apart from that, it seems like there’s one main topic for a conversation and a perfect escape from an awkward silence on your (Tinder) dates, and it’s the subject of the seagulls. Not only there’s heaps of them in here, massive in size, craving your food, there’s a good chance you’ll gonna be attacked by them at some point of living in Aberdeen.
aberdeen_eclipse

All of it, altogether, I must say has accounted for so many memories and random events that I genuinely, sincerely love Aberdeen, although I think I want it to burn in hell nevertheless.
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Ups and Downs

“pray I’ll never learn from mistakes I’ve made”


     Lost my friends more times than I can count. Seen how two-faced people can be. I have trusted every bit of information to whom I called my friends, only to find out how the backstab feels.
     And only due to that I’ve seen who really stands by my side. No matter what I do. Groups of people polarized out of the chaos around. Those who have seen all of my mistakes and yet, have let me repeat them again, and again, and again. And never judged me for it. I could never be more grateful to them for that.
     Only by the experience of both ups and downs, I could have the essential experience. No matter how many advices you get, no matter how many tips you hear, it is worth absolutely nothing if you do not have experience of both the good and the bad.
     Chinese philosophy of yin-yang describes how contrary forces are complementary, and interdependent in the natural world. They give rise to each other. The bad lets you feel the good and vice versa. Life is never black, or white, it’s both. It is a duality.
     So many people are so afraid to lose, they never let themselves do it. And exactly by doing that, they have no idea how much they lack in life. Succeeding in every aspect of your life, you never lose. And you go on about your life, scared of really living.
     Personally for me, life is not about reaching a certain point, which is so often defined by successful job post, house of your dreams, a car, holidays with your family every year on a nice beach in Europe. This is the laziest, most superficial interpretation of the success in life.
     If anything, success to me is to reach a point where you are no longer afraid of failure. Because this is the point when you start to actually live.

Connecting the dots.

It’s funny how the life goes. Once you switch on to the open attitude, say ‘yes’ to more and more things, give more of you to other people, follow every impulse, trust your intuition. You let go of the steer in your life and paradoxically, it gives you control. You devote your time to other people, help them and listen to them, realizing how this is the only way you can have it all.

     I’ve been seeing that on all of the events in my life recently, more and less serious or important, each and single one of them contributed to creation of the overall picture I have in my mind right now, typing these words.

“When he was turning thirty, Jobs had used a
metaphor about record albums. He was musing about
why folks over thirty develop rigid thought patterns and
tend to be less innovative. “People get stuck in those
patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never
get out of them,” he said. At age forty-five, Jobs was
now about to get out of his groove.” 

     It takes 30 days for anything to become a habit. My opinion is, you should never let that happen when it comes to your life- take risks, change, and most importantly, never let the fear dim your decisions and choke you as you’d stay in the same job you hate, same house for years even though your eyes almost bleed the moment you look at it, same and unchanged image of you yourself, unknowingly making you love yourself less. 

Don’t you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone!”

     From my very own and recent experience I can tell the image unveils to you with hindsight. You will never see the whole way home while driving at night. But you drive anyways, your headlights showing you only three meters ahead of you. Seeing this distance you go, push further, drive on and ultimately reach home. 
     And you will never see the big picture while it’s in its creation. It is only after you can connect the dots from one person to another, one place to an event, event to a catastrophe, catastrophe to a lesson, lesson to another event. The big picture emerges as you start to accept this is the one and only way you will be able to see it.
 

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,

nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”


 
     Funnily enough, when my phone has been stolen, it brought me more amusement than worry, having to write my best friend’s number on my arm with a sharpie whenever going out, convincing strangers to let me use their phones, noting down their numbers with a pen on the palm of my hand. And, actually having to remember their names, instead of finding them on Facebook right away. I stopped looking for excuses and stopped saying ‘I need to‘, ‘I should”, instead, had a multitude of sleepless nights filled with doing everything that was coming to my mind, instantly. We cooked, danced, stumbled our way to the beach to see sunrise (where we’ve been greeted by Cloudy & Rainy Sky Always, est. in Scotland of course) and done every thing that we thought of doing- just for the sake of doing it.
     Nothing could surprise me anymore at this point, I reckon, as I know ANYTHING may happen. I do not wish or hope for anything, hence everything that comes is amazing as it is. After all of it, the big picture that emerges afterwards makes me say “I love life” almost all the day, making strangers and friends to think I am perpetually drunk.
    
      And I would never wish for that image it to be revealed to me in other way.

Everything is temporary.

Learnt it the hard way, repeated couple of times just to make sure it is true. Had my friend say to me that you keep bumping onto the same people until you learn your lesson. Now, the post is the lesson.

There is a Latin adage of Tempora mutantur, advocated by Heraclitus around 500BCE in ancient Greece, by whole Protestant Reformation in 16th century Germany, and by all of the people in your life that keep telling you “people change”. It was also Heraclitus that said everything is temporary, everything flows. No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

     If you have read or watched “Eat, Pray, Love”, you also had Elizabeth Gilbert say to you that it all goes away. Eventually, everything goes away.
     The Second Noble Truth of Buddhism is the idea that there is only one cause to suffering, which is attachment. Buddha, who could be considered a brother to Heraclitus in his skeptical judgements, knew already sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE that everything is impermanent, whereas I still fall for the idea that you could meet someone to stay with you forever. Way to go, silly me.
     In fact, impermanence is embedded so deeply in Buddhist school of thought that is has become one of the main doctrines – one of the three marks of existence in this religion.
     In real life, nothing is really granted to you, neither is sure or constant. Change is the only constant in life. Every one of your days is fuelled with external influences that you could never expect. I used to say in my life that nothing ever surprises me, and right now I am coming to a point to realize how fucking stupid I was by saying that.
     Maybe you have had the Bible shout to you, by verse 4:18 Corinthians, how the things which are seen are temporal, and the things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow yet I am almost sure, and surely would bet that you had fallen for ‘easy come easy go’ at least once. Although in fact, as I think about it, Christianity seems to be fast and easy-to-use solution to the problem. The promise of eternal life and God, the Father, who loves you no matter what shit you do, no matter how many people you hurt as long you come to him? Seems like heaven. Oh wait, they even call it like that. Well guess what, I think, that is so easy. So convenient just to rely on that, hold on desperately to the promise of eternal happiness even if in real life you fail miserably and keep on praying to God to help you. Way to go. Just stand up from your knees and head tilted down, walk out of the church and face every problem you have yourself cause heaven is here, right there, on earth. And if it looks like hell, then yes, this is how it is.
     And I’ve had Pink Floyd flooding my ears with how I wish you were here, and now I think, way to go, guys. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance, which was already stated by Alan Watts in 20th century, who has also led me into reading more around Eastern philosophy. Funny thing, two of my friends pointed that out after my last rambling about integrity, yet it took hippie-looking philosopher for me to actually get interested.
     Actually, even more of the things I was saying and doing were pointing me to that, when I was “earning my Karma points” as I’ve called it, hoping for Hindu beliefs to turn out to be true, yet this Vedic theory of moral law of cause and effect has proved one more time to me that Karma is a bitch, but I am a bitch even more. Now that I think about it, ironically, I am a perfect depiction of how everything is temporary. Because who, and why picks up any activity so to ditch it barely few weeks after so to pick another, and who can barely make it up-most 3 months in a relationship, who attends three different schools in a time period of 3 months, study completely different, unrelated things in each one of them, then applies for medicine in one country, just to leave to another country and study business? Oh, wait, and studies business for 1 year there just to re-apply for another university in a different country and move there this September with whole life, starting University one more time.
     Well seems like I have earned enough of my Karma points.

The Language Advantage of foreigners

     From my own experience, I am coming to a conclusion that foreign language is one of the best tools to boost self confidence, especially in speech. Resigning on intuition-based learning of the language, which comes through childhood to form your mother tongue holds some distinctive advantages.
  1. If you learn the language from movies, series, books, you become the characters.
    That is the case of most foreigners learning English. Our vocabulary expands in directions guided by our favourites protagonists, our accents imitate favourite actors and actresses. As they have introduced as to particular phrases first, any time we use them, we can ‘become’ those people, which leverages self esteem to a completely different level.
  2. No emotional load.
    Assuming studying the language as more mature individual, foreigners are lucky to skip the awkward early teenage phase of the language. When word sex raises awkward giggle (generally anything sexually related taboo subject that causes kids to be uncomfortable), when first swearwords are scolded by parents. ‘Internationals’ are likely to operate freely in the new language just as they wish, with no memory-based background of emotions behind words. There is no undercover feeling of stupidity or some words feeling weird, awkward. Those are the people who speak their mind in most straightforward way.
  3. It forces you to become accurate in speech.
    There is a phase every foreigner encounters when studying a language; you can’t fully express yourself as in your mother tongue. It seems like there are not enough words for you; like the words you choose are close, but not exactly what you mean. As you break through this stage you suddenly find yourself accurate, specific, relevant. You are able to extract the essence of words and random statements. Risk of becoming judgemental involved as you start to interpret meaning of what one is saying. As most of your vocabulary you have learnt comes straight from books and dictionaries you have been checking multiple times, eloquence is inevitable. You have come across too many fully-fledged academic definitions so to not assess meaning of words on a daily basis.
  4. Swearing can be unpredictable.
    As a foreigner, I did not have a chance to meet with an ’emotional scale’ of swearing. There was nobody to scold me as a teenager for the very first ‘fuck’ coming out my mouth, and my teachers in this topic were random actors and singers. I do not know which swearwords are mild, which are common, which sound childish or stupid, which sound like from previous century and, of course- what combination of them all would be the absolute worst.
  5. You may experience the ‘pendulum moment’.
    One of the most interesting experiences I have had was something I like to call a ‘pendulum moment’. It is the switch, when you find yourself in some kind of a hinterland between two languages, unsure which one suits you better. When you feel equally comfortable in both of them.
    In my international high school class we used to blend Polish and English as it suited as. It felt as if we had doubled the number of options to express what we want to say. However, switching completely to a different language- your pendulum moment- can be the best personal investment in yourself, as you breach the transitional phase of struggling with a language.
  6. Idioglossia
    Pertaining to mentioned earlier blending of two languages, idioglossia is a language invented and spoken by several individuals, which often forms in international settings, created by foreigners as an attempt to make up for unknown phrases, idioms, words. Suddenly, some words are not good enough, and you may find yourself inventing new ones. It results in most interesting language alterations, hilarious mistakes, incorporation of generic Latin-rooted words, not even knowing or caring whether it is grammatically correct. It requires much intuition in guessing the whole range of meanings and feeling behind particular words, and creativity in blending them with other ones, sourcing from any languages we know. It’s like writing Finnegans Wake in real life, and most entertaining experience.
  7. You are slightly different in other languages.
    Whether it’s the difference in words used, or what exact definitions of them you know- you reason differently in other languages than in your own. Your logic can be either distorted, forcing you to skillfully navigate through meanings you are decoding, or can be more objective, free from emotional bias present in your mother tongue. One way or another, it is surely a challenge worth experiencing.

Integrity follow up.

Strangely liberating when you do not wish for anything, when you do not expect anything or hope for.

When you have nothing to wait for and the presence becomes your only reality, there’s that feeling of positive apathy, so to not to say ‘calmness’ – which would not exactly reflect what I finally, gladly, and surprisingly have started experiencing now.

Started with integrity. Cleared out everything with everyone. Let my life out in the open. Allowed all people around me to know everything about my life. Told them every bit of truth and alongside that mastered how to lie.

Started being accurate in wording and articulate in speech. Started to listen more, instead of speaking. Started asking, inquiring, remembering what people tell me.

Started doing only what feels right in the moment. I followed every impulse. Listened to intuition with my whole mind, heart, and the so called sixth sense. I made mistakes. I admitted them. Started saying sorry to people (more like ‘sorey’ as an effect of Aberdeen Scottishifying me though).

Then, “Hygge” came by itself.

They claim to walk unafraid, I’ll be clumsy instead.

– First Aid Kit, “Walk unafraid

I won’t take the easy road.

– First Aid Kit, “My Silver Lining

Every path is the right path. Everything could be everything else and would have just as much meaning.

Mr. Nobody [2009], Jaco van Dormael

The process of becoming home

Any- and I repeat, any place, even this crammed room too tiny for you and your ego, this city too dark and small, this neighborhood too unfriendly can become your dearest home. Maybe it is because you get used to it, or maybe it is more because you grow to become an integral part of this place.

You contribute to this place from the very first day your foot steps in there. By finding your ways around, modifying and molding the environment around you, you start to create it as well. By putting your heart and soul into it, by every poster added to the room, by realizing at some point that this mess near bed, stretching to the desk and chair and closet too, is actually familiar. This is your own organized chaos that says “home”, it is in all the times your bathroom floor has felt you crying, in all the exact places for exact items.

It is also defined by the distance you have traveled to this place, together with the pillow from your home, together with furniture you dragged into this apartment, together with various rules and customs that emerged by themselves as you inhabited this place fully.

It is only you that knows when and how this curtain broke, and how to open the window now without a rattle, or why is it that one door of your closet is always open, whereas other one shut down. Which shelf lacks a nail to hold it properly, and where all your shoes are hidden, what is this lonely hanger by the door waiting for, and what is in the cartoon box inside your suitcase, inside the half-closed closet.

One person once told me a thing about settling for places that seem not enough to you, when you have to lean back in your own room so to move around it, and when you buy certain items that will travel with you to new homes, so to contribute to them as well- seems like it took me one year to finally understand it (and thank you for that.)