I have no idea what this will be about, I just feel like writing. It seems like I’ve gone through some major emotional and mental changes these past two weeks, seeing things from a different perspective, thinking differently, questioning my beliefs, strong opinions, even my fears. I have been doing quite some reading lately and watching Ted Talks about all sorts of things and I also started talking to random people.
I am looking for some answers although I cannot still phrase the exact questions, so I guess I am “floating in the lost feeling” a phrase I picked up reading the milkthepigeon blog where it said “If you find yourself floating in the lost feeling, know that you are in fact in a great position. The feeling comes from entering a life phase that has no structure or guided direction.” and I find this suits me perfectly!
There’s a whole ‘community’ of like-minded people, that keep searching for something they still can’t define precisely, but share that feeling of knowing that there is so much more out there than what you are doing at the moment. With all the ‘cookies’ and magic stuff going on on the internet, the more I look for positive reads and inspiring people, the more I land on websites that are interesting in different ways and inspire me to think out of the box (for a change).
So the statements and questions I bump into most frequently are “Find what it is you love doing, and make a living out of it” and “How do you define ‘success’ in life?” that’s a lot of food for thought right there. Getting into the digital nomad lifestyle has made me evaluate things differently, has changed my priorities in life and has boosted my self-awareness. There are so many FB groups full of travelers (still haven’t found a CrossFitter though!) exchanging tips and ideas and helping each other and it is that willingness and eagerness to help that strikes me the most; the fact that someone will spend his ‘precious’ time to write to a stranger and help him in any way possible. I mean, of course I, too, would help someone whenever given the opportunity, but I had not thought of offering my help without someone asking for it; and here I am, surrounded by people that will go out of their way to help a person they don’t even know, either by giving some tips on travelling requirements, visas, accommodation, sightseeing, safety issues… Kind of relieves some of the stress and makes me want to be such a person myself.
Which brings up the question of what it is I consider a ‘successful’ life?
The more I travel and the more people I meet, I realize the significance of cultural influence. The first time it hit me was when I moved to the Netherlands. Given my Greek background and upbringing, my goal in life was to become a good housewife, have a family and a husband and take care of them. Any personal career plans were secondary – at least in our house. The way these things used to go in Greece was (in an ideal world): girl meets boy, they fall in love, they get married, they buy a house, they have a family. At least in the pre-crisis Greece, that was the rule. This is how I grew up dreaming of a long white dress, a small chapel by the sea and a few friends to share the day with; then have babies – at first I wanted 3, then when I saw people around me having babies I went down to 2 and then 1. Now none of that is in the picture anymore 🙂
It was a cultural shock for me talking with some of my dutch friends, complaining to them that I am not yet married and they would give me that look like “Why on earth would you want to get married? You can live with your partner and have a family without ever getting married!” – aha, yeah, in the Netherlands 😉
Then I started realizing that, had I been born in NL, or anywhere else for that matter, I would be probably thinking in the same way as my friend, I wouldn’t need a marriage to give meaning to my existence, it might be a stop in my journey, not the end of it. I am writing all this and I don’t even recognize my old self, but that is who I was and there’s no denying it.
In the past months, I met people that had a huge impact on me. I had deep conversations and shared moments with people so much different than me and, thankfully, my mind was open to the new stimuli. I somehow managed to let go of my stereotypes, experiment and try new things and finally to take the leap. And here’s where I ‘landed’. Leading a new kind of life, not better not worse. Different. Completely different. A life that’s more meaningful to the person I am today. I have managed to let go of most of my material needs and invest in relationships with people, in myself and in trusting that our world is by default good. I chose to believe that because this is what I see every day. As my friend, Annemarie, once told me “It’s like standing at the edge of a cliff thinking of jumping in the sea. You take one step, then back off, then try again, but still are too afraid to jump. But when you jump, that’s when your life changes”. Annemarie, I jumped!
It’s not a road paved with roses and butterflies, of course; it’s not being in a constant vacation mood either, but it is worth the jump. It is worth to allow yourself to be vulnerable and dependent. Mind you, this comes from a person that never, ever, wanted to be dependent on anyone for anything. If I had to walk 10 miles to avoid asking for a favor, I would (and I was not crossfitting then!). Angeliki, my bestie, would definitely agree to this. Maybe I should have her write a ‘guest blog post’ hehe! After all, she knows more about me than I do! She is the best source of objective information I can get about myself.
Getting side-tracked here, but, well, there’s no specific point in this article either.
There was this one time when Angeliki and I travelled to Budapest. It was a long weekend, her first time out of the country and our first weekend away together. I don’t have many memories of my younger years, but this one is like a mind-tattoo, nothing can take it off. We had such a lovely time! I wanted it to be so perfect, I had arranged a nice dinner for us on a floating restaurant on the Danube, a night at the Opera with Romeo & Juliet… Great weekend… Anyway, one of the things that have been carved in my mind from that trip was a moment when, wandering around the city we got lost. I remember we were crossing the street and had to wait for the green light in the middle. There was a middle-aged man standing next to us and I turned to him wanting to ask for some directions. So I asked him if he spoke English. I will never forget his response. It was the simplest of things “How can I help you?” but it was not what I expected nor what I would say myself. I guess I would just say “Yes, I do” and wait for the question. And, yes, by all means I would be keen to help a tourist, but his response… well, I will just never forget it.
Lately I get a similar reaction from people, be it members of the CrossFit community or travelers. People offer their help even without me asking for it and I am learning to accept it. I am working on being a part of the human chain rather than creating a chain of my own where no one is needed. Just a few hours ago, I responded to a post on FB of a random person in Brazil that just returned home after 5 years of travelling and was looking to meet people. The first message I received was “Let me know if I can be of any assistance”. I ended up chatting for an hour, got valuable information about Natal, contact to that person’s family in Natal with an option to rent a room, information about safety… At the end of the chat, I thanked him for all his help and his response was “I have been helped quite a lot over the past 5 years, I’m only doing what others have done for me”. If that is not heartwarming, I don’t know what is.
So, in defining what a ‘successful life’ is for me, the first thing that comes to mind is I want to be that kind of person. I will have succeeded in life if I am able to inspire people, help in any way I can, give positive vibes, motivate people. For me, that is simply beautiful. I want to be able to give back the love and I have come to realize that in order to give it back, I must learn to accept it, to appreciate it.
If you’re following my posts, you have seen how much love and positive energy I’ve so openhandedly received from the people I crossed paths with, for which I am so thankful. But in order to get that, I had to first allow myself become ‘weak’, allow myself to accept their help. I had to let go of my guards.
In only 3 months I feel I have lived a life that is more full than the 35 years I’ve spent on this Earth already.
A few days ago I read this in an article “Ask yourself: what is a cool position to be in down the road… and permanently say “bon fucking voyage”, once and for all to all the rest”. What would be a good position for me to be in down the road? Similar to the cliché “where do you picture yourself in 5 or 10 years from now” but also different. ‘A cool position’! That is the difference! Not just your expectation on the basis of your life so far, or on the basis of what you have been taught to believe is good for you or meant for you. What does your heart want? If I’d answered this question last year, I’d probably said I will be in NL, married, maybe pregnant and living a well-planned life, knowing exactly what will my every step be from 7am to 11pm. Look at me. I’m in Milano, soon traveling to Brazil, meeting beautiful people along the way, doing CrossFit and not knowing what will happen tomorrow or where I will be next month. And it is still ok.
There was a study Harvard published on Ted Talks recently which I’d like to share with you. A study about happiness. Can it be measured? What makes people happy? It could be the most wisely spent 13 minutes of your month, to say the least 🙂
I should also mention another eye-opening (for me at least) Ted Talk I watched to which I absolutely related and which made me feel better about all my wrong decisions in life so far – for which I used to blame myself all the time and could not get over the fact I am not good enough. You know, like the same thought most CrossFitters share “Oh, I would’ve been such a better athlete had I only started CrossFit earlier!”. Yes, my life would’ve been very different had I chosen different paths in the past, but would it had led me to where I am today? Would it have brought Jackie, Matthias, Josefa, Meggi, Sandra, Christina, Sasha, Licia in my life?
Kathryn Schulz couldn’t have worded it better.
“We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.”
A constant work in progress. Still thankful for my ‘wrong’ decisions in life so far.