Motto: “whatever does not kill me makes me stronger” (seems that it was Nietzsche who wrote it first / ‘Twilight of the Gods’)
Today is the French National Day, the anniversary of the day when the French revolutionaries took over “La Bastille”, back in 1789. For me it is more than it. It is the one-year anniversary of my arrival in Vienna, for a new start.
I was trying to remember my first-day feelings from one year ago, all day long. I can remember strange combinations – pessimism with optimism, fear with courage, hope with despair, freedom with entrapment, all covered in a coating of enthusiasm and respective adrenaline. It seems only natural now when I look back, as I was experiencing at the same time an end and a new beginning. And mixed feelings were only doomed to haunt me, just like the classical half-full-empty-glass.
I was constantly watching the clock, as I have planned the following 4 days very carefully. My dearest friend was with me, to help me see things go 'as planned', as by the end of July 16, everything in the apartment was supposed to be perfectly in place. On July 17 (Sunday), we were going to relax all day long, before the start of another adventure for me – the new job. Useless to say it did not happen, it took me months to put on some curtains and still (after one year) I do not have proper light bulbs in place. Coming back to my first day, I was running between the hotel and the apartment, like a kid that got out in the world alone for the first time.
I could recognize that feeling very well, as I actually experienced it when I was a kid. I left from the kindergarten without waiting for my parents to pick me up (I got bored, every other kid went home already and I was the only one still waiting…). Of course I got home safe and sound, but then I realized the immense enormity of my action and the potential consequences and got stuck at the gate, without any courage left in me to enter the yard. I was secretly looking at my mother from behind the fence. She was in the courtyard, talking to someone. I was too scared to show myself in the presence of those strangers. Therefore, I waited quietly until my mother came to the gate to show her visitors out. And then she saw me there. I cannot remember exactly her reaction, as I was too busy looking the other way, but I can imagine now that her legs must have softened and her heart must have stopped for a couple of seconds.
That was probably the first time I understood what ‘consequence’ means. Coming to Vienna showed me a new chapter of the same lesson. Because now, when I look back on the succession of events that followed that July 14, 2010, I realize once again that life has its own way of taking you to places, introducing you to people, slapping you in the face with one hand and caressing you gently with the other. Just like a loving mother. And this is purely metaphorical, because as far as I can remember, my mother never touched me with anything but love. Whenever punishment was used to bring me back on track, it was either by looking at me in a certain way or by telling me things in a certain tone of voice. The sadder the look or the lower the tone, the worst I felt. Of course I think of her every day and I would like to believe she would be happy to see me today in my apartment in Vienna, after one year of adventure. I have however absolutely no idea how her look or her voice tone would be, if only I shared with her a few stories. But that is another story.
Coming back to present times, a few days ago a good friend from back home told me “please don’t change”. It was the second time I heard this kind of request. First time was around 10 years ago. Back then I took it as a compliment. However I did not respond, as I knew already that I could not keep such a promise. This recent request felt both as a compliment and as a little knife to my heart. Because I realized that he was thinking of “me” as I was one year ago. Or even two years ago (as in the last year before leaving home I did not see him that much). And I asked myself “Would he still like this ‘me’? Or did I change that much?”. Answered almost instantly to the second part – “What a stupid question, of course I changed”.
Am I better or worse? I cannot say. I can say only that I am one year wiser. I have learned lessons of patience and impatience, fairness and unfairness, acceptance and rejection, tolerance and intolerance, diplomacy and harshness, sincerity and deceit, generosity and selfishness, admiration and envy, sweet encounter and painful depart, love and hate, family warmth and loneliness, true leadership and bad management.
I have become more determined and at the same time more hesitant, stronger and softer, colder and warmer. I have my fair share of positive and negative thoughts, feelings and outspoken words throughout the day. And, probably most important of all, I have improved my looking weaponry and voice tone molding, and have learnt to act like a lady whenever I feel like a stray dog (actually I get a lot of compliments for my looks on my worst days, which reminds me of Gioconda, please don’t ask me why…).
Every day I wake up, wash, think, eat & drink (healthy & deadly stuff), get dressed, think, work, think, speak & laugh, think, read & write, think, eat & drink and work and etc. (again!...), then walk and… enjoy myself and… change a bit. Then the weekly or monthly activities come along – such as cleaning, shopping, going to concerts or movies, meeting friends, travelling, chatting and dancing, laughing and crying, hugging and kissing and other things and… change another bit.
I would say that on Maslow pyramid of needs, the ‘change a bit’ is a basic one. It has to do with survival and evolution, but also with pure human nature. I see a car accident and that changes me a bit. I hear some nasty word and that changes me another bit. I read good news and change. I read bad news and change again. Change comes in small, immeasurable bits, slowly but surely. If you do not realize, then you can say confidently enough that you have not changed. But you change anyway. It is just easier if you do not plan to change, but just live and accept that change comes anyway. We tend to see the physical changes in us and around us easier than the other changes, but this is only self-deceit. There is not a single line of our faces that does not have counter-party on our souls - happy lines and sad lines.
That is why today I felt like celebrating this first Vienna anniversary with a glass of wine and a wish to all of you, from the bottom of my heart: “Do change, and be happy with (and thankful to) what you are set to become!”