La vie

There is that moment in Gad Elmaleh’s latest show. “Life is hard, and at the end you die.”

How these words resonate – what they mean to me, in this moment, is hard to describe. But they hit deep. The joke, and the reality of it.

Life is hard. It really is. It’s also extremely beautiful, extremely joyful. But it’s hard. And like all lucky kids born in a peaceful country, in a peaceful family, I am only realising this little by little.

It’s all of it – the pain, the suffering, the small disappointments and the heart-breaking losses.

It’s the daily battles, the struggle to keep going, to keep working, to keep performing. It’s the big questions, the whys, the wheres, the whos.

It’s the realisation that there is no other time than now. The rare reminders are not so rare anymore – the shit has hit the fan. But the shit is in equal parts good and bad. Would I appreciate the good without the bad? I think I did, in smoother times. But with the bad, I’ve also gained perspective, and I’ve become grateful for that.

Is ignorant bliss real happiness anyway? Not that you get to choose your circumstances. But I’d be happy, deeply happy, with resisting the test of life and triumphing with laughter, wisdom – and some French sarcasm. Because yes, this life I adore, this life I devour, is hard. And at the end you die.

La vie

Thousand days

Next week, it will be three years since I’ve moved here.

Next month, it will be two years since I’ve met you.

For all of the struggles, all of the battles, it’s the peace of having found my place, our place, that I feel most of all.

You never know when you will find it, this place, this feeling. I had no idea this would be it. Step by step, elements fitting in together, a sense of belonging slowly developing.

The snow, the rain, the mountains – unsettling at first, slowly becoming familiar features. Exotic moments turned rituals, rough words finally understood.

It’s taken a while to get there, to feel that way. Every winter ride, every summer night – they’ve helped build it. And maybe it’s this time that gives it its certainty, maybe it’s the time spent exploring, spent searching, that makes home, home.

When you had no idea where you would land, no idea what would be next, but the days dug roots for you anyway.

It’s taken a while. In fact, it’s taken three years. Thousand days.

Thousand days

The traveller’s paradox

I’ve always loved travelling. All of it. The logistics, the sensations, the discoveries.

I love packing. It’s a process I take an unreasonable pride in. Very few things compare to a well-packed bag, I think.

I love the actual departure. Planes taking off are a childish joy, trains leaving stations a romantic bliss.

I love the peace that comes with doing nothing while being on the move. A moment to read, watch, listen, eat. And drink bad coffee.

I love the internal reboot that comes with new customs and new languages. Every belief of mine challenged by a new place, every habit questioned, every flavour appreciated.

But there’s been a shift lately. It’s happened a few times now. That last trip to Asia for example – to the Olympic Games. It’s not that I didn’t want to go – of course I was raring to go, I couldn’t believe my luck. The Games!

But the moment I closed the door and left, I felt a bang in my chest. My heart, dreaming of exploring but begging to stay cuddled on the sofa. A desire to discover while still waking up in that little flat of ours.

It’s a strange paradox, the traveller’s one. You’ve been restless; you’ve been ready to go. But when the time comes, the nostalgia of home is like a perfume you put a bit too much on, overwhelming and ever present.

It’s a strange paradox, a dilemma that’s painful at times. But it’s also what gives you a reason to come home.

The traveller’s paradox

Toughen up

I want to be good; I want to be kind. I want to work, chat, dream and be myself.

But how do you make it through life like that? How do you make it through your professional life like that? In most worlds, the sharks call the shots.

I get it, but I don’t find it easy. I don’t find it easy to be taken seriously and not lose my personality, my sensibility. My loyalty. The stronger I act, the better I hide my weaknesses. It works. But I don’t like it, really. I drift.

I stop myself from writing “sorry” in emails; I stop myself from joking, from sharing. I stop myself from goofing around, from admitting flaws.

Maybe that’s what growing up is about. I’m not sure. Shouldn’t it be about knowing what you believe in, taking advice, picking your influences, and moving forward in a direction you chose?

Shouldn’t sincerity be the overall rule, rather than playing roles to progress, advance… climb?

Sometimes we let a role define us when it should be the opposite. I know I have, to some extend. I’ve let myself take things seriously; I’ve forgotten why I chose that life in the first place.

A journalist I like, Géraldine Dormoy, recently wrote about modern jobs, big companies, and the doubts that often come with them.

“Consultant or baker […], whatever our professional life is, what matters is to be yourself in it,” she said.

Maybe that’s the key. I can’t change the order of things, the politics or the strategies. But I can decide of who I am around it, of how I evolve with it. I can toughen up, knowing it’s only a thicker skin.

Toughen up

The football stadium

“Where are you from, what’s your name, where are you going?”

The bus taking us to the airport is empty – it’s just him and I. That guy, who insists on talking while all I want is to SLEEP FOREVER.

Can’t say hi, can’t chat, can’t focus. Can’t rack my brain for yet another conversation. This new life this new country this new everything. The trips the stories the events the meetings the calls the emails. It’s been intense. I’m very tired.

“Wait, I’m going to sit next to you so we can chat.”

He insists. He talks, talks. Tells me his name, speaks of his family. Asks me where I come from, where I’ve lived, what I’ve done. Keeps on talking.

When the bus driver takes a break near the Allianz Arena in Munich, he wants to go see it “up close” and asks me to take a picture of him in front of the building.

“I’m a big football fan,” he says. He smiles a lot.

He – a 60+ man with a long career, two sons to take care of, a retirement plan to think of.

A senior, someone who’s lived twice longer than me on Earth, yet looks at that stadium like a kid seeing snow for the first time.

A man 30 years older than me, yet 30 times more enthusiastic, more animated. 30 times more alive.

Shortly after the bus dropped us at the airport. We said goodbye, he smiled some more, and that’s when I realised I was done with being tired. I hate this grumpiness anyway, and it’s not actually fun to act like you’re overwhelmed. From now on I want to look at all things the way Angel, 60 years old, looked at that football stadium on a Thursday afternoon.

The football stadium