Thoughts on Life

cheers

Never Ever Ever Settle

I’m so over settling. Standing at a crossroad and choosing the easier option. Sitting in a comfort zone. Living the proverbial dream.

I’m over being told what to believe. Who to trust. Where to shop. What to wear. How to eat. What to cook. How often to exercise. What house to buy. What investment plan to have. Which decisions to make. What to be. How to look. How to act. How to live.

I find it hard to explain how frustrating prerequisites are. Those things that you should have all sorted by the time you’re 30. Why don’t you own a house? When are you getting married? What will your kids’ names be? Their names will be Not Now and I won’t be taking any more questions from you right now, dankie Tannie.

I recently found myself in a position at work that caused me unbearable frustration. Having skilled up and learnt the ins and outs of my position, I soon felt like each day was a churn as much as the next.

At the risk of being labelled a millennial – I worked my ass off. I gave my 110% and I worked my public holidays and evenings going the extra mile. In the end – why are you doing it if you’re not willing to do it proper. Why are you doing it if you’re not willing to push it a second mile to make it epic. Why are you doing it if you don’t care enough to ensure it is perfect? Beyond perfect.  An embodiment of the ultimate. Out of this world brilliant work that you know you are capable of.

And although it was a lovely reward knowing I was doing my utmost best, the frustration of not learning and growing travelled straight into those little fibers in those bones that feel emotion most. That feeling of being at a peak but the view isn’t quite as picturesque as you’d imagined.

What do you do when you’re sitting up there and your view is nothing more than a sea of clouds? Do you take the advice and settle and show gratitude for the job you have? Do you settle on those prerequisites and suppress your desires because you’re supposed to settle down and be grateful? Or do you do something more brave and take matters into your own hands – tactfully…

Here’s what I found to be my truth: You open your mouth and you speak the truth in you. You gather the best of words your mind can muster and you call up your boss and you discuss. You swallow your pride. You gather your confidence. You state your case. You take control of your future.

Soon enough you will find yourself in a position you love. One you believe you will thrive in. One in which you will give even 130% just because you want it so badly.

Celebrate your abilities.

There is no moving forward if you’re not willing to take control of your life.

There is no growth if you’re not willing to take the risks.

There is no shine if you’re not willing to polish some rocks.

There is no contentedness if you’re not willing to do any of the above.

Seeking advice doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be constructive. Sometimes it’s necessary to trust your own answers to your own questions. You know you. You get you.

You have no control if you don’t decide to shove the criticism aside.

The “don’t show your weakness”

The “don’t be too ambitious”

Shove that old school shit where it belongs.

I refuse to settle.

I will not be mediocre.

Rising into Mediocre Bliss

I’ve never been one for missed adventures. I like to be where the action is. I like living by the idea that the day I’ve just survived brought me something new – a new experience, a new friend, new knowledge or some sort of new outlook on a part of life.

The sad realisation is that not each day has all of this to give. At some point, every new morning really is just another morning. Lunch is pretty much the same. Work is work. Routine is routine. And before you know it, you’re lying in the same bed at the same time weeks later wondering what day it is.

This all kind of got me thinking:

I want everything. But I also want nothing. I want the award of happiness. But I want the bliss of being happy without needing anything.

I want to not always want more.

I used to attribute a lot of value to events. I think this is something most of us do. We look forward to the show. We wait for the weekend. We live towards our next holiday. We need something to look forward to because the idea of just doing nothing forces some sad notion into our heads that our lives are lame. There’s no time to chill. There’s only time to get busy and do shit.

How exhausting is it to keep expecting of your life to be more exciting. How terribly tiring to the mind to have to project some sort of fairytale-ised concept that what is now is not enough and what is next is everything. When I was younger I used to write about running from the chains of routine and the unfulfilling poisons of a responsible life plan and towards the prospect of an impulsive choice leading to a magnificent life. Dramatic, yes. Mind you, I DID make those impulsive choices and they sure led to some unforgettable adventures.

But as something different, what I’ve been doing for the past 3 months is a blissful pot of nothing. Most days are wasted away reading books, cooking weird new things, working out, eating a lot of broccoli, and going to bed at 20:30. No, I’m not your grandmother. I’ve simply never been this healthy, rested and well-read since I was a hadn’t-yet-discovered-beer student.

It has become all the more apparent that we feel happiness or despair based on how our minds compare our external environment and experiences to our expectations.

I’m not saying it’s greedy to look forward to the weekend. Or that being busy and making a lot of plans is too much. I’ve simply come to appreciate the bliss and the contentedness that a little touch of mediocrity gifts the soul.

Tomorrow I’ll drive the same route to the same job. I’ll come home to the same house with the same routine and I’ll end my day switching off the same light before closing my eyes and waking up to a new day.

My life is pretty average.

And for once, I’m pretty damn happy with that.

Shut your eyes and see

It took me three years to realise that I was wrong.

For a really long time, I believed that the most important things in life are captured by the eye. It’s kind of like a window to the soul thing in which your eyes allow for you to discover the world and read people and learn things and expand horizons. I thought that you could feed your soul through feasting your eyes on amazing and beautiful places and things and people.

But I was wrong.

It has been almost three years since I first read James Joyce’s Ulysses. There was a sentence that stood out as if it were being shouted at me…

“Shut your eyes and see.”

I re-read it at least fifteen times before my brain was able to wrap itself around the confusion.

Shut your eyes and see.

I’ve been wrestling with it ever since…

What I see through my eyes are signatures of all the things I have been placed on this planet to read. But somehow there is a limit to that. There is a limit to what can be seen. Limits to discovery. Once you’ve seen it all, you are done. It is done. You have done it. You’ve seen it.

You’ve travelled to Germany and you’ve seen their giant pretzels and now you can tell everyone about it and show them the pictures when you get back home.

But really you did so much more than that.

There is something bigger than seeing everything.

There is something to which there really is no limit.

Something you can never exhaust.

Because there is no limit to what can be felt.

And that is why, when you shut your eyes, you really see.

You discover more. You delve deeper. You understand better.

You comprehend.

That is why, when you shut your eyes and allow yourself to experience and to feel, I imagine you create the most powerful of memories.

It is huddling around that table in the freezing cold enjoying a glass of Glühwein with people who speak in your native tongue.

It is standing in the rain in Amsterdam with a friend you only met twelve weeks ago, but who somehow has become a soul more connected to you than even some of your lifelong friends.

It is climbing trees in the Gooise forest with the sound of summer hissing from the treetops.

It’s not about where you go or where you’ve been or what you’ve been taking pictures of.

It’s about the one thing no-one can take away from you.

It’s the memories.

It’s eating a bowl of bitterballen in a restaurant in Utrecht not because you’re hungry, but because they have heaters that will help bring back the feeling in your hands.

It’s listening to Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 – the saddest classical symphony of all time – over breakfast with friendly strangers in Belgium.

It’s stroking your fingers across the rough sand of the North Sea.

It’s dancing so joyfully the soles of your shoes tear off.

It’s cycling against gale force winds in aggressive rain and complete darkness through the narrow paths of ‘s-Graveland.

It’s falling off bicycles.

It’s thinking about the people you loved when you were home.

It’s the nostalgia when listening to that song from that drive to the ocean that day.

You must remember this.

It was all I had.

All I’ve ever had.

The only currency.

The only proof that I was alive –

Memory.