lifestyle

Shoes and Prejudice

Well educated, not as much formally as informally when it comes to hobbies, foreign languages, exploring other cultures and wast interest in popular culture in general. These are the self confessions of a snob. Never the materialistic, fashion label obsessed kind, but the more subtle, equally annoying specimen. Lurking from the dark, sitting in a semi comfortable seat of an old art cinema, reading Le Mond and Le Nouvel Observateur in public transport, having coffee and initiating discussions on existentialism, judging you for your ‘too mainstream’ way of wearing Docs and rolling eyes so hard it hurts when someone proclaims their love for Starbucks.

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Huhhh, try typing and then saying all of it in one breath, it was as exhausting on paper as much as it is in real life! And it’s just the tip of an iceberg. The persona behind the mysterious description is me, of course, but it’s not a post only about me. There are many ‘me-s’ around me: educated, somewhat intelligent young people who are often subconsciously looking down at different lifestyles and interests. At the same time, we will be the first ones to raise our hands when asked if we believe in diversity, tolerance and acceptance through breaking the mental and physical borders that our world is constructed on, but fail to lead with an example in our closest surroundings.

The unusual part of this millennial paradox is that, unlike in case of other flaws and misconceptions, I’ve noticed it in my own behavior on many occasions before even thinking of looking for it in other people first.

Living In a Bubble

I know I keep returning to this topic, no excuses, it’s because I feel this has been a problem of mine for a long time. The simplest way to function in every aspect of life would be surrounding ourselves with people who are similar to us. Similar background, habits, level of education, interests, whatever. Everything similar, not too many surprises. We are drawn to that concept, mostly led by past experiences and the usual, just go with the flow of what is already close to us attitude.

No matter how much time and effort you put into creating that firm bubble of safety, there will be a time when you’ll just have to break it and step out of it. Or life will break it for you just because it can. Luckily.

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All of this is closely connected to the overused but true ‘it is important to step out of your comfort zone’ mantra. What I’ve learned from my humble experience is that people are the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part that comes with the discomfort zone. The range of emotions, both good or bad, can’t be overpowered by any experience that doesn’t include dealing with people.

The Rule Book

I used to have rules. No, that’s a lie, I still have them, but some of them are fading away. Not strict, army type rules, but more like a list of details that served as an elimination system in meeting new people. The places people like to go out, music they listen to, movies they watch, the way they dress (shoes are the biggest deal breaker for me), how much make up a girl wears, what school did they go to, etc. Those are all either visual or superficial traits you can check by scrolling through someone’s Facebook profile for a second.

‘No way I’m hanging out with him!’ In under 10 words it’s done like it’s a no big deal, like there may not be any missed opportunities behind it. The number of times I’ve jumped to conclusion combined with the number of times someone didn’t want to have anything to do with me based on the first impression leads to….  a pretty big number I guess. But anyways, that’s not the truly sad part, what sucks is never realizing how inefficient our personal scanning machines are.

Becoming more opened towards people with different tastes and thoughts about how to live a life doesn’t mean forcing an introvert into turning into a very loud, outgoing person or abandoning your firmest beliefs and passions. The trick is letting the guard down, at first by focusing on it until it finally happens spontaneously. New experience begins with letting other people’s ideas come in and out again, like taking deep breaths while trying to relax.

What’s the worst thing that can happen? I can only think of not liking and completely disagreeing with someone’s way of thinking and it’s totally alright,  as long as it’s respectful.  I like to remember situations where I had to collaborate with different individuals which led to a pleasant surprise, making the grumpy old me admit I learned something new and useful from the horrible shoes wearing people.

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The Ultimate Satisfaction

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true!

It’s exciting to daydream about future plans, but it can get a bit too exciting when all of a sudden it seems like it may actually come true. I want to do that… one day! If I had a penny for every time I said it, I would be moderately wealthy by now. Daydreaming in general is my safe place, it can be completely devoted to details like someone’s shoes and socks combination, or it can lead to making up hilarious scenarios in my head. The leading roles sometimes belong to people I know like friends and family, sometimes it’s random strangers or even completely invented personalities.

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It’s all about the Fear

I do feel like there was a certain change in my mindset, though. I no longer follow the familiar routine:

I’m not ready yet, I’ll do that after I’m done with this thing, and then I have to finish that other thing, and then I’ll go for what I have always wanted.

Solving the step by step puzzle becomes exhausting and in the end I’ll lose the primary goal from my focus and that’s that, until the next time when I start it all over again. What lies beneath it all is the fear that derives from two sources – the natural fear of failure and more complex and contradictory – the fear of success. Overthinking is the mother of all failures, it is even bigger than actual failure because it stops you from trying in the first place and that is when you feel unhappy. Overthinking is the opposite of the best Instagram filters – it brings out only the flaws and worst case scenarios, creating scary endings in our minds before we have even reached the beginning. It takes a lot of time to learn how to wrestle with the ‘overthink’ demon and finally pin him to the ground. We all have this image of our ideal self in mind, it can be more or less realistic depending on our ability to be an objective observer,  but the more you stray away from that image, the bigger the frustration.

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Never Complain, Never Explain

The best way of living a calm, fulfilled life comes from not comparing your own status, abilities and achievements with others. Sounds simple, but we all know it’s not always THAT simple, right? I suppose it was easier to achieve in the pre-Internet era, but when it comes to emotions and ambition, people weren’t that different 20, 30 years ago after all. Just the other day I had an interesting discussion with a friend that made me think about the absurdity of the social media persona most of us have created. It doesn’t mean we are all ‘selling’ that filtered image with a goal to become a brand and attract audience, but even the intimate moments serve as a representation of something we are trying to emphasize. What we seek with it, to be more precise, what our online persona looks for is approval. Approval of our life choices, looks, boyfriends, girlfriends, jobs, careers and lifestyles. The next step, if possible, is causing admiration and, although we are reluctant to admit it, jealousy. Just for a day, or maybe only for a couple of magical moments that are captured and enhanced through the lenses of our super smart phones, we are the winners. Yes. Look at me, I love life and it loves me back.

Don’t Follow Leaders

I don’t know what I think about it now, it used to annoy me much more before, I guess I’ve learned to deal with it. Also, I follow the imaginary line that gives me a ‘warning’ when someone crosses is it. My closest friends never cross that line of overly exposing themselves while begging for approval and I am very grateful for that. It makes me feel at peace and destroys the anxiety from its roots.

During our conversations we got to the conclusion how real satisfaction is achieved. I call it a ‘modern-day ultimate satisfaction‘. The recipe? I get goosebumps only writing about it, yet it’s so banal. When something (or someone)  special happens to you, you don’t immediately share it with the rest of the world. Maybe later,  but here’s a crazy idea,  maybe never.  You jealously keep that information for yourself and cherish the intimacy, there are no Facebook check-ins, photo albums  Instagram posts, screenshots,  etc.  Whether it’s just a shiny detail that made your day or grand life achievement that’s going to make a bigger impact,  don’t spill the beans just yet.  There is something so appealing in a dose of mystery, compare it to a sexy outfit that can be revealing, but it’s not really showing too much. This feel good experience can’t be overshadowed by any amount of attention. When it comes to making plans, I heard smart people conclude that the more you talk about your goals and dreams,  it is less likely they will come true.  So, once again,  be careful.

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My Coffee Addiction and Why I Love It

Finding photos to accompany this post will be the easiest task in the world. The small piece of visual heaven is made with a perfect arrangement of a nice, round cup filled with hot, dark, bubbly beverage surrounded by ‘casually’ placed books, blank sheets of paper or recently turned on laptop waiting for you to start getting shit done. Even though I am aware those photos are staged (I mean, who reads 5 books at the same time and aligns their markers by the shade of their colour?), I love them and can’t stop looking at them because they make me feel at peace.

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I sometimes imagine I am the one who just took that alluring photo, although my current surroundings are nowhere near that photogenic. I know that everything I plan on doing will have to wait just a few moments longer until I take at least a couple of sips of my morning/afternoon coffee. I take mine dark, unfiltered with a couple of drops of milk or cream, this is what I consider to be ‘a real cup of coffee’. Everything else that is prepared with too much milk and sugar is coffee for babies,  tasty but doesn’t have the ability to get creative thoughts flowing or giving me a clear perspective and focus.  If I’m alone, it is a ‘wake up’  peace and quiet morning coffee, while another cup much later in the day is closer to ‘work’ coffee most of the times, meaning I expect from myself to start or finish something I’ve been thinking about, it’s often something to write about or coming up with new ideas. Or at least try to, make notes and sketches, sometimes only starting something without finishing, but nevertheless, a necessary energy boost.

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An ancient ritual vs. modern age

Wikipedia taught me that coffee first appeared and was prepared as a beverage we know today in 15th century Yemen and a century later started its journey towards Persia, Turkey and Africa. Europe didn’t stand a chance, people got hooked, everyone started to talk about this magic potion and the rest is history.

The preparing process is a ritual of its own, after brewing it, as we all know, coffee can be made in numerous ways according to individual taste and culture it derives from. It’s funny how a banal detail like a single cup of coffee can differ from country to country, for example I learned a long time ago that according to classic Italian recipe espresso needs to be served with a slice of lemon. I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t judge in advance, but if Italians say so, it should work, right? I found a short, informative article with some other specificities, for example, I am not so excited about the coffee + garlic combination, but this Moroccan ‘grinding a mixture of spices — including sesame seeds, black pepper and nutmeg — together with ordinary coffee beans produces an unusual, but a very strong drink’ is now on my ‘to try’ list!

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This multicultural coffee spirit is something that should be protected from corporations like Starbucks who are limiting the creativity and imposing the same products on worldwide markets. Commercial success of well-known brand seems to create an approval among us, the customers, making us feel like buying an overpriced pumpkin white chocolate mocha latte is totally worth it. Some countries feel like their national identity and tradition are so strongly connected to coffee consuming culture they look at Starbucks and similar companies as a threat to their core values. Ok, we can all relax and agree that those companies are not really about the coffee, of course that is not a first place you will look for an espresso, but still it feels like a small earthquake that is about to leave its mark.

Coffee is not JUST a product. You can spend a looong time in company of a one cup or you can finish up your small espresso in two seconds, in both cases it is a ritual because it gives context and meaning to different  social encounters.

 

Cigarettes and coffee, man. That’s a combination.

Jim Jarmusch won my heart once again with his 2003 classic  starring legends like Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Bill Murray, Roberto Benigni.  What he did was show the series of conversations around a table while drinking coffee. Couldn’t be simpler, but yet so complex because the range of topics is unlimited and unpredictable, just like in real life. The film embodies what I’m basically trying to say here, but in a much more coherent way.

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In my country, when you want to invite someone to hang out and talk about serious stuff or just to relax, you say:

‘Let’s go and have some coffee!’

Notice the use of verb ‘have’ instead of ‘grab’ or ‘take’, it’s not about taking two coffees to go and chat while walking down a busy street like Seinfeld characters would do. No, sitting in a  café bar having a cup of coffee can be a therapy session, a date, a trip through memory lane, political discussion, you name it… The point is, it can last for hours. Some say it is decadent and call it a deliberate waste of precious time due to laziness, but I call that a great time investment, a custom that needs to be preserved at all costs.

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How many clicks per minute are you worth?

Click count, it has become a constant expression in everyday life of anyone working as a community manager or journalist, actually those two branches have intertwined to such extent they go along hand in hand. No matter how much you plan the time, circumstances or work on content you’re posting, if the post reach is not big enough, it’s all in vain. If not enough people have seen your work, if there’s no thumbs up reaction followed with a couple of comments and shares, it’s like you haven’t really done anything.

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Let’s take a step back from public arena to personal use of Facebook or Instagram where it seems that more and more younger people present themselves in terms of a brand, marking their opinions, clothes or lifestyle as part of the puzzle which represents their lives as a whole. Carefully selecting what’s ready for publishing, as if they’re working for a celebrity or haute couture designer whose image on the internet equals the earned income.

The point of it all is to show only the best parts of life, or camouflage the unattractive parts to make them look attractive, as well. Even when it’s all about presenting the ugly, it happens in a controlled environment with an ironic element. That’s how todays marketing mechanisms work – perfection on one side, aesthetic of ugliness which is more popular than ever on the other.

The problem with obsession with clicks in journalism is obvious – there is a disproportion between quality of content and public engagement. Why is that? A search for a quick fix of fun and distraction, maybe? Uninterested, stupid public who doesn’t deserve more than reading about reality show personas and their idle existence? I don’t think so, I prefer to think the six major media corporations and their collaborations with sponsors who finance the media content are to blame.

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I believe that this evaluation form most of us submit ourselves to voluntarily through social media can lead to strong feelings of insecurity and constant fear of being observed and judged from head to toe. That may seem like a personal, banal problem, but it actually affects social connections – relationships, friendships and people’s interests because in many cases they will choose to eat well or visit a special place in order to post a photo of it on some of the platforms. That way, more users will learn about you having fun and enjoying life, experiencing nice things among a small circle of closest people is just not enough anymore. The example of rich and famous whose egos go beyond anything imaginable show us the primitive core of human nature. The need to keep feeding the public with perfectly staged moments that should’ve been kept secret due to their intimate nature is unexplainable. All I see here is the need to remain in the centre of attention.

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Similar scenarios happen among ‘the normal’ people, but on an incomparably smaller scale, of course. With just a little effort and time invested into creation of ‘visual identity’, it is easy to get the necessary approval from strangers. The thing is, people won’t give you compliments so directly in real life situations and we’re lucky it is so,  just imagine strangers telling you how they like your hair, shirt or eyebrows. Creepy.

Becoming internet famous has become a real thing, it’s not just a South Park dark satire material anymore. Producing content with no meaning, lack of any kind of goal except to be liked and followed. Followed where? I don’t know.