Ever since I’ve come back from Europe, I constantly get questions about Europe. I expected this, but it’s still challenging to keep both myself and my friends amused, especially because my most important stories are.. well.. the same every time I tell them. I get bored telling the same thing over and over again, even though my memory keeps me on my toes by leaving some things out every time.
Here’s the SparkNotes version:
I did hang-gliding. I surfed. I stayed out all night and found bars with new friends where we met even newer friends. I danced the night away in Sevilla (and Lisbon… Lagos, Chamonix, Naples, and Florence). I galloped across the sun-soaked hills of Emilia-Romagna on a little horse that I thought I almost killed. I ate real mozzarella di bufala (food memories are plenty). I learned a little bit of Italian, forgot a little bit of Spanish, and basked in the glory of German polyglots. I was terrified of Naples, and then I was in love with Naples. I never really liked Valencia, except for the agua de valencia, which is a certifiably quick way to get drunky-pants in the morning.
But when people ask me, “isn’t it a bummer to be back?” I have to say no. It’s fantastic to be back. I missed my family, my friends, yadda yadda yadda. I missed them with my whole everything when I was away, and I learned to treasure their company while away. And yet of course I miss Europe now that I’m back. This is what is problematic about traveling;
you want to be everywhere, and when you’re everywhere you want to be home.
I soaked in as much as I could in Europe, and frankly, I was impressed. Sure they have a ton of unemployment and their toilets could use some work, but people there seem much more composed. Maybe this is coming from a 1 1/2 generation immigrant kid with resurgent anxiety issues, but even the young Europeans seem to be okay with not having shit figured out. Maybe it’s because they can’t thanks to the economy (ie. good luck getting a job in any field, nevermind in the one you studied for), but they aren’t overextending themselves. They work a lot. Everyone works a lot. And it’s been said a million times that Europeans “work to live, not live to work”, as opposed to North Americans, but there is something to be said about shooting a few ducks down instead of wasting all your bullets.
I can’t even begin to explain to you why that was the metaphor I went with, but it’s true. Being jobless this past month and a half at home, recuperating from the constant travel, dealing with my new bum knee, reconnecting with people, I realized that I totally changed my perspective on work while in Europe. When I was in university, come every September, I would pile on a job, a writing gig, a full course load and some internship on my plate. I was so eager. I still am eager. It’s the same problem I felt when I had to pick a university program – Why can’t I just take a little from each? I want to take some of everything. I want to try everything and do everything and my mind races about all the things I can’t possibly do in 5 lifetimes. I’ve already packed in a boatload, and still, I see people around me doing more more more more more!
But when I look back on all that time I spent cramming things into half-hour time slots, I don’t recall enjoying a whole lot of it. I remember reminding myself constantly that “this is all for the future, this is all for future success”, and it very well could be (I like to remind myself that 24 is not yet exactly THE FUTURE). But. It could all be for naught. My biggest regret (despite the very liberal notion of not believing in regrets) about university is not interacting more meaningfully with my campus and with my friends. I focused so much on school and on future worklife success that I missed what could have been happening. I tried to do too many things, and yes, my life is still great and I don’t regret working hard.
I believe it is humbleness when you expect to work for your greatness. I am smart, and committed, and talented, but I am not perfect. I want teachers, mentors, and supportive friends, and most importantly, I want to give them my love and my attention. I want theirs, of course, but I want meaningful engagement with my small society. I also want to be good. Really good, but at a few things, not all of them. Even now, hanging out, playing Sims 4 and exploring the magic of Spotify at home while my family rushes off to jobs, to school, to the multitude of after-school lessons that my sister attends, I feel like I’m trying to do too much.
Let me explain. Before I moved out of my house (I am now back), I didn’t do a whole lot to help out around the house. I was a lazy asshole, basically. Now, I’m doing the dishes, I’m cooking, I’m cleaning – all without anybody nagging me around the clock. I’m doing it because it’s now important to me to add value/ take away strain from the household. Along with that, I’m writing, I’ve agreed to help out the social media for a fantastic artistic event in Markham, researching a business venture, getting heavily into healthier eating & yoga, seeing friends, and applying for jobs. Oh, and it’s September, so I’m going to be starting knitting soon.
It feels like too much. Social media. Writing. Digital marketing. Health. Food. Yoga. Rumi. Jobs. Volunteering. Communications. Knitting. I know these are all different realms of my life, but I wish I could just focus on like, JOB, HOBBY, HEALTH. And yet I’d probably be bored, especially because this crazy clusterf*** is how I grew up and grew into greatness.
So what I miss about Europe is having my little tablet with me, with a ton of unread books (they’re still unread because now I’ve also borrowed books from the library… sigh), and a journal and hours upon hours of free time. To wander. To write. To read. To watch life happen. Simple, simple, simple.
Maybe life is supposed to be this complicated so that it feels full. Maybe I’m just having a hard time readjusting. But maybe I need to trim some of these fledgling branches. I won’t have time for everything, and doing everything (see: writing) half-assed is not something I want to keep doing forever. I’ve got to invest – diversify, yes, but invest.