Taking a step back

A moment of serendipity. A leap of faith. How scary is the perspective of a trifle being able to change the course of your entire life? In the past six months I have counted at least six potentially life changing crossroads. In each of them a slightest turn in my decisions could have led me to an entirely different place. Workplace, university, people, city, even countries – in past six months I’ve had three of them to live in.

Having a hard time to decide on either one of the theories of human destiny; whether your faith ultimately brings you to a place you are supposed to end up in, or is it that you are on the road, surrounded by a vast net of choices, each and every one leading to different outcomes. Eighth dimension of all the parallel possibilities in which your life could go.

 “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

– Karl Marx
The resolution that has evolved recently is one good teacher about taking a step back in order to take a step forward. By following the gut feeling, looking for the unknown, I have found myself right where I am supposed to be. I’ve seen myself taking chances as fast as they arise, knowing they are, ultimately, trifles. The choice itself is a trifle. What scares us is the aftermath that follows. The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that roughly 80% of your happiness is an outcome of 20% of your actions. Only a fifth – how scary is the perspective of a trifle being able to change the course of your entire life?
What scares us is the different reality we will never see, having made a choice.
The reality is that the first decision, the easiest solution that seems to appear for you right in front of your eyes is the best one. Had to swallow my pride in order to go with it, and at this moment I am hell damn satisfied I did. Even though the road is never straight when you wander with your curiosity and stumble on your mistakes- but man, it’s hell of a ride. Driven by curiosity for all the unknown possibilities in life. Driven by wanting to know all the scenarios, I have cracked at one point, took a step back, moved forward so much more than I thought I would have done otherwise.
“We all think that we are running away from insanity. In reality, we are all running circles in our own asylums.”
-Avinash Wandre
It’s the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore that can cause you to take a step back and set your life back again on the track.
Advertisements

Spotting the trains

        Train station in Rotterdam, Netherlands. One after another, yellow aerodynamic-shaped tubes rush into the station accompanied by typical Dutch hoarse wheezing, drawing out of the shielded speakers. Breda, Dordrecht, Vlissingen, Venlo. Spoor 1, 2, 3, all the spots here are dots connected by yellow smudges in the rain. And each of of them carries hundreds of passengers connecting their points of the journey. It’s a matrix of connections that is virtually never put much thought to. Board the train, wait, get off the train. You’re just a short line from point A to point B.
        Train station in Rotterdam, Netherlands. One after another, tall and short, fat and skinny, white and black passengers rush into the station together with distinctive conversations they are in the middle of, their voices pitching in different tones, accents, intonation, languages. Dutch, Polish, German, French. Spoor 1, 2, 3, all the people here are dots connected by grey, ground-embedded station. And each of them carries hundreds of stories, hundreds of directions to go to. A matrix of connections they do not normally think of. Board the train, wait, get off the train. Your attention spans over a short line from point A to point B.
        Get off the train. Airport. This  is the visible culture melting pot, forcing you to notice other people; no longer the meaningless dots. Where, in this moment, is the plane that departures in three hours time? How many people are carried from that place to a point where you are, waiting to exchange seats with them? Who, among those waiting, will go where? Now you have the opportunity to see the couple drinking coffee next to you direct themselves to a gate annotated with a board sign Copenhagen; spot that eccentric-looking guy in a large hoodie sitting under the board informing you, Lisbon; skim through all the faces in a queue for Manchester. Different languages, looks, clothes, shoes, bags are boarding different airlines, airplanes, times, gates.
        While my graphical metaphor of a train station is a line, airports seem to be depicted by convoluted knob of twisted lines, interweaving together as each line asks one another, Where’s Gate 4?, Excuse me, which way should I go for the information desk?, Do you need some help, Would you like some coffee, would you please direct yourself to the baggage reclaim.
        Airports are the knobs of places and stories. You can meet anyone, you can go anywhere. Suddenly, London is not that far away from Berlin. And Warsaw is just 2 hours away from Eindhoven. And the lady who served coffee to the Danish couple is French, as indicated by a placard on her shirt. Presence of ‘the everywhere’ is embedded in everyone around.

Choose a life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers… Choose DSY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away in the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself, choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”
― Irvine WelshTrainspotting

How everything falls into place, in a new place.

After being thrown into high-intensity pit of freshness and novelty, meaning a new country, I almost had to re-read my own blog in order to think clearly here. Blindly gathered one-year-old knowledge about clashing with a different culture re-emerged now in a completely new way.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of boundaries.

-Erich Fromm

  1. You need to adjust.
    2015-08-08 08.06.40
    Don’t expect to have the same habits as you’ve had in a different place. You go to Spain, you do things the Spanish way. Don’t look for your favorite cafe au lait in a first cafe that looks similar to the one from home. Take the Carajillo with best Spanish rum, learn how to make it. Maybe the culture shock people are experiencing when moving to other country, moving for good, is identity-oriented rather than pertaining to adjusting. Adjusting itself is easy, however wanting that – not so much.
  2. I’ve got a plant in my room.
    2015-08-07 11.36.45
    Sure, I’ll take care of you. I can hardly take care of myself now and I think when I was 8 years old I accidentally starved my hamster to death, but there you are, in a room I rented, moved into. Sure, no problem, you will be the priority now. Maybe a prelude to me having own mansion with a dog and white fence (still on hold though). Funnily enough, not only I started caring for the plant, but the house itself too. Hey, thanks, Plant.

  3. Race for the 4G
    2015-08-09 13.25.32
    How is it that I wanted the best (as I thought) for me, and instead got a 128kb/s internet speed only, forcing me to randomly stop on the street, waiting for Google Maps directions to home? Even worse, that is a prepaid. I wanted a contract for fast, reliable 4G mobile data speed.
    Nevertheless, I’ve seen that slow internet to push me into shoving the phone back to the bag, looking around, speaking up to people on the street. They told me how to correctly pronounce the name of my street, ‘hoarsing’ it in a typically Dutch way. I was finding my way back home by streets looking nicer than the alternatives, rather than satellite-dictated Google way. Found myself a zeer smakelijke koffie just because I was mindlessly meandering through streets and stumbled upon Simon Lévelt shop. Even better, I bought a French press, found an Irish Pub to dance in four days later with a random beardy stranger, realized the 7.50 euro deal for my prepaid SIM was literally the best.

Think I am starting to realize what Mick Jagger and Keith Richards meant by you get what you need.

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.