Monday, August 12, 2019

Autopilot Holiday

This week, I am on my annual weekly summer vacation in Klagenfurt. As I spent the first eighteen years of my life here, I am of course still very familiar with the town. Last week I was in Nice for the tenth time (not counting my first visit passing through with my parents as a child). In autumn, I will be in Sydney for the fourth time. After Vienna, Sydney is probably my favourite city and thanks to a three-months work stint there, I have fond memories as I do of other places I have visited several times. 
Everybody understands that I come back to my birthplace where, after all, my parents live. Definitely not everyone understands why I am so keen on visiting Nice in the heat of summer or spend hours on planes to visit Australia, that many Europeans regard as a destination you visit once in your lifetime and then you're done.
For me, returning to places I have already been to (provided I liked them in the first place, that is) is a form of luxury and I relish the feeling of moving around like a local after a while. 
It is exciting to discover new places and to get to explore new destinations, but it is just as exciting not to have excitement, in the sense that there are no sights you feel obliged to tick off, no must-see places to take pictures of and most important, you can just navigate the city on autopilot, knowing exactly where you want to go. Despite that, you still discover new corners and get to witness gradual changes over the years, but you don't need a map. 
In a sense, I am addicted to this autopilot feeling and I also love being able to show other people my favourite spots like I did in Sofia, where I visited for the 25th time this June.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Craving

>>> COMPLETE RANDOMNESS ALERT <<<

For most part of my adult life I absolutely despised cucumbers of the raw variety. I loved pickled ones in the form of gherkins, but I really, really gave cucumbers a wide berth, painstakingly removing them from Greek salad and elsewhere. In short: cucumbers and I just did not get on with each other. Until, suddenly, about two years ago, I started craving these baby ones I kept seeing in supermarkets and I have since often bought them as a snack for the pool or lake in summer. I am still not a fan of the big old cucumbers with thick skin, but can also eat these now.  Isn't it weird how our tastes change as we age and we suddenly enjoy something we used to hate? And it's not that I had never tasted cucumbers before and just decided I didn't like them like I am with sea creatures with tentacles or some Austrian traditional food of the very "rustic" variety (black pudding for example) that I won't even taste. Even weirder, when I met up with l'Italiana who was possibly an even worse cucumber-hater when I had last seen her, it turned out that she, too, now really loves them. What next?!?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Yesterday

Last week I went to see the film "Yesterday". The original plan had been to watch it with the Mermaid, but she unfortunately fell ill on the day and I was itching to go out anyway so went ahead without her. Impatient old me. I promised the Mermaid to see the film with her once more, though. She was the obvious choice for company as even though we grew up when the Beatles had long gone their separate ways, their songs were the soundtrack of both our (pre)teens. I have written about the day I became a Beatles fan here before.
While everyone was into 80s bands that have since fallen into oblivion, such as Shakin' Stevens, the Mermaid and I were into the Beatles big time. I owned two volumes of "songbooks" aka books containing the lyrics to all their songs and with the seriousness of a pubescent teenager determined that one of their songs would be played at my funeral. The fact that the Mermaid also favoured Eleonor Rigby as her funeral theme song didn't go down to well, until we decided to see it as just another sign that we were destined to be friends.
These days none of my playlists contain Beatles songs and the Mermaid and I have drifted apart as well since she moved away from my neighbourhood and even more so since she became a mother.  I still love both the band and my childhood friend, needless to say. To me, this video with its staggering more than 44 mio views and counting is one of the best videos to be found on YouTube and I am in happy tears every time I watch it. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Memory Lane Without GPS

Last week, in a strange twist of fate I caught up with two people from my past that are somehow connected even though they have never met. I saw one of them in person and exchanged e-mails with the other. The latter was somebody whom I have a very passionate and emotionally-charged history with. He had been more or less "dead" to me for years, then re-emerged about 2 years ago and just as I had learnt to trust him again and contemplate a happy ending, disappeared once more last spring. It came as a blow even though I was determined to behave like a mature grown-up for once and not spiral down the drama route. I managed quite well at the time and happily took advantage of any distractions that offered themselves but it turned out I had kept a lot of emotions bottled up. Recently these all re-emerged. I decided to swallow my pride and reach out, expecting a certain reaction and subsequent course of events. As a former colleague once said: "When women are upset, they want a hug, not arguments." Part of me bristles at such a generalisation and cliché, but, yep, I am SO that woman, every time. Despite heavy hinting that I really wanted the hug, I got all the arguments. Burnt again. Ah, well.
Way happier and just as predictable as I had hoped was my reunion with an old friend of mine whom I had not seen for 11 years. We met in Milan this past weekend and had about 30 hours to catch up and take up where we had last left off. Which we did...seamlessly! About 13 years ago she in fact had been the one who encouraged me to follow my heart and try my luck with the person I was talking about above. Back then, she lived in London and was one of a few people who knew how torn and conflicted I felt. In a nutshell, it was very complicated. I described to her that what I felt had turned "lukewarm" in my long-term relationship felt "hot" and alive with him and I realised I was sick of lukewarm. She encouraged me to take a jump and go for the hot, not knowing that I would end up burning myself not once, but several times. I have nobody else to blame, but myself, but I would have given myself the same advice and would still tell anyone to follow their hearts even though you unfortunately cannot calculate what the other person's heart - assuming they have one - tells them to do.
Every time I am in London I am reminded of the fun and carefree weekends I spent there being hosted by l'Italiana who back then had a fancy career and did cool things, such as take a whole year off to go travelling with her best friend from work. London weekends just aren't the same without her, but we might make weekends in Milan or elsewhere in Italy a new tradition. My friend now lives in the USA, is married with two kids and our lives could not be more different. We still have that same connection we used to have, fortunately, and in our core are still the same people we were when we met on UCD campus in Dublin 26 years ago when I was there on an Erasmus year.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Oversharing

also known as "spilling the tea"

Recently, I had a conversation about different coping mechanisms with stress or rather, about the fact that some people get physically ill when under stress. When I reflected on this loudly and said that I was not really prone to these reactions myself, my friend replied "that's because you just post on Instagram"...which really is a good explanation! Take this blog, for example. Since 2005, back in the heyday of blogging, this has been a good, semi-anonymous (now most of my very few readers actually now me in person) platform for venting, self-pity (yes, we have had plenty of that here) and pep-talks to self. Now, Insta Stories (well, hello, #storytime) has become my favourite outlet. So far, I have never regretted (over)sharing even if it happened without having slept over it before. 
Back in 2015, when I took a 3-months leave from work I began writing a book. I deliberately told lots of people (who mostly have politely refrained from asking about progress a long time ago) I would start writing a book to put some pressure on myself and I actually finished 9 chapters rather quickly. However, I soon realised that unlike my social media posts this actually would have been something with the potential to find very #cringe in the very near future that I would want to disassociate myself from quickly. As I did not want to become known for an #epicfail I just put that project aside and decided to not berate myself about the aborted project. In retrospect, I see it as a therapeutic measure that contributed to gradually getting over very bad company that had emotionally drained me at that time. It now feels like a century ago and I have actually been quite proud of myself for some pretty "adult" behaviour lately. I have also learnt to deal with some things with myself and to quietly high-five myself for them without feeling the urge to communicate it to the world. For the little daily joys and frustrations I'll gladly enjoy my 5 seconds of Insta-"fame". #sorrynotsorry
Unrelated, but even more effective: not using your work phone as your private one as well no matter if your employer sponsors it. Unless you're a heart surgeon or head of state, that is. Since I am neither of these two, switching off my work mobile and stressing in my OOO-reply that I am not available until my return (sounds obvious, but is the exception in my company) is a great stress buster.

Monday, July 08, 2019

School's Out or Second Hand Summer Break

It is no secret that water is my element and I spend a lot of time in pools, lakes, rivers and the sea any chance I get. Swimming and (responsible) sunbathing aside, I really enjoy the communal aspect of it and actually don't mind the noise of squealing children and smell of sun lotion mixed with deep-fried snacks in the least. This soundtrack and scent put me in an instant summer vacation mood. As soon as the school summer holidays begin (=first Monday of July) I am infected by the summer break vibe. Buses have longer intervals but are less crowded in the mornings. There are lots of free parking lots in my neighbourhood. My teacher friends are mostly MIA and it will be a few weeks until they begin pitying themselves that they only have three, two, one week(s) to go before the school year begins again. Yeah, you guessed it, my pity is minimal. I am slightly envious but don't begrudge them their summer break since I enjoy it in a second hand way and Vienna in summer actually makes everyone feel as if they were on vacation a little bit...

Monday, July 01, 2019

Hedonist and Proud of It

Last week there was a terrible explosion in Vienna where a huge hole was torn in a building and some people even lost their lives. After I had read about the incident on my way to work I suddnly remembered that I knew someone who both lived and worked in that very street. I messaged her to ask if she and her husband were alright and she immediately replied that they were, but "isn't it incredible how soon everything can change, which is why we should all live with a carpe diem mindset". My sentiment exactly! 
You really don't know if you will be hit by a truck, be left by your partner, learn that you have a terminal illness or lose your job the next day. Therefore: make sure that today is as pleasant as possible. Treat yourself and your loved ones if you can afford it with time and/or money and enjoy what you have. I really don't believe in depriving myself (and others, for that matter) of things that make me happy.
The older I get, the more this hedonistic attitude is also reinforced by the fact that I don't have anyone to "pass things on to", i.e. there's no point in saving money or things for generations after me. I might as well enjoy life and what the money I earn can afford me while I can. This does not mean that I want to have everything all the time, as I would not be able to appreciate and enjoy it anymore. If every day was a holiday, or even a Saturday, these days would not feel special any more. Just try to enjoy life as best as you can and treasure what you have. Every day. 
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