Here I am

Many of you have been asking me what’s going on with my blog. 

What’s going on with my blog? 

We’re used with things coming out and about whenever we want them to. In this day and age, if something good is going on, it means we want more of it, and we want it now. We’re not living in an age of instant gratification and immediacy just to not receive things whenever we want, right? Andreea, give us bloooog!

It’s been 8 months since I last published something – it feels like it’s been 8 days. I haven’t stopped writing, though. It’s just a matter of being ready to share things publicly, to allow myself and my thoughts to be known and invaded by other’s opinions and thoughts in return, whether they’re positive or negative. I started things, I finished others, some fictional, some inspired by “real” situations. Bits of text that were too personal to share or too controversial to even write about, bits of text that had more than one main character that often ends up not being in my life anymore. Characters come and go, lessons are learned or forgotten, you grow or you stay the same. 

I am on a journey of self-discovery.  

Never in my life have I been more aware of myself. 

Never before have I been more confused as to who I am. 

Never in my life have I been more conscious of the people around me and their beings. 

Never before have I known so much about culture.

‘Are you ok, Andreea?’

A while ago, someone passed by me on the way to his destination and, for some reason, he asked me this question. No prejudice, no assumption, no tone. Just the weight of those words floating in the air, connecting the unknown between us. What does one do when faced with such a dilemma? 

In my mind, the classic cliche unfolded. No, I’m not ok. I’m stressed and tired, lost and confused, longing for that which I cannot have and pushing away that which I do have. I entertain myself with mindless distractions and engage in the endless illusion of money and its power over the opportunities in my life. I’m stuck in the misery of the modern lifestyle while the urban environment is constricting me from breathing gulps of fresh mountain air. Is it still fresh when half of its trees are repurposed for farming? Is it still fresh when the layer above it is contaminated by airplane chemtrails? Is it still fresh when the waters are flowing through streams of pollution?

Forest with green trees and a grass field and blue skies

Of course, it’s all about perspective. Some would find my situation to be the best compared to others – I do eat every day and I can afford all the necessities. Yet, I find myself imprisoned with the need for money in order to survive, as I’ve never lived in the wild and natural resources are too out of reach in the city. I could give up money and everything that comes with it, but I’m too comfortable to reach into the unknown. Nature has become the unknown nowadays, providing for yourself and surviving the threat of a physical death is something our ancestors had to worry about.

Things have changed. We’re under the threat of an intellectual and conceptual death. What does it matter that our bodies decay, if our legacy lives on? What does it matter that we destroy everything around us, as long as there are still people around to talk to about it? Concepts and imagination push each other aside to win over the mind. We’ve come very far on the evolutionary scale and established ourselves as “superior” to all the rest, even those amongst our own species. Speech and fantasy are what brought us evolution – the intellect, the mind, the synapses whose work still remains a mystery to solve. 

What’s most baffling to me is how two humans, two fundamentally similar beings, can be so different when it comes to aspects of the mind and “human” conduct, aspects technically developed through the commonality of speech. Ethics, morality, and beliefs determined by culture, education, experience… there’s not one overarching element. Relationships last forever or they break with screams, all because of our minds and the craving for the physical. 

It’s assumptive of me to blame it on culture or evolution. Blame it on the people. Blame it on the individual. Blame it – 

“Andreea, you need to be more positive, dear.”

‘Yes, I’m good. And you?’ I answered. 

‘Yes… Why are you smiling?’ 

‘Because not a lot of people ask me that question. Thank you’.

The meaning of his words was more than a casualty thrown out of the sake of courtesy or the sake of social interaction. That’s when you feel that a person becomes valuable to you and you develop a relationship of care and trust. Sadly, we betrayed each other’s trust in the meantime. We come into each other’s lives, we make mistakes, we learn lessons, we move on. Is he a bigger person for doing things I don’t agree with? Am I a bigger person for believing I am right based on my morality and ethics, my culture and education? Who’s to say – God, who doesn’t even say much?

Not sure what the point of this post is (this seems to happen often). People, culture, the self, self-sufficient millennial ramblings that run through my head? Maybe I’m writing only when I’m trying to convince myself of certain things. By encouraging others, I’m subtly sending my brain and ego signals convincing me that I have to follow my own advice. What’s clear is that I’m suffering a culture shock, especially with myself. I try to be less of who I am and more of who you all want me to be. 

But what does that help me with? 

New year, Old habits.

We interrupt your New Year’s resolution with a horrid statement: time is an illusion. 😮

Let’s say my NY resolution is to reach a new level in my romance zone – the switch from British to French boys should evolve to a new zip code and personality trait. But you can’t reset what you feel as easily as you mechanically reset a machine (rumour has it machines will soon start feeling as well so maybe this is not the most accurate comparison but at the same time hey the future is near A.I. will take over aaaaahhhhhh we’re getting distracted).

New Years’ and birthdays, things I’ve always been ambivalent to. Call me a hater or a sad person that doesn’t want to celebrate the privilege of being born and experiencing the passing of time.

Standing on the cold tile of my new flat’s balcony and watching the fading of a sunset sky, I contemplated the ephemeral nature of time. As I was gazing in the distance, the colours played in rosey gradients, reconstructing the glass and concrete silhouettes that gave shape to a modern skyline. The contour of the mountains in the background turned darker and darker, along with the minutes floating into the evening.

I became aware of time.

Barcelona sunsets, sunsets in Barcelona

It’s a strange feeling, that moment. Being so present makes you oblivious to how time moves with you. A 15 minute change in environment felt like an eternal second. It made me ponder on how humanity started defining temporal concepts in order to make sense of the greatest aspects of our lives: time.

We categorize and think about it ‘all the time’ – we’re running out of it, we have too much of it, we think too much of either what was or what will be, and our perception of its flow is constantly changing depending on the activity that we’re doing. Hours turn into days and days turn into seconds.

The only way is forward and we can’t undo what’s already been done – this is basic, common knowledge, yet we ‘always’ seem to forget. I like to believe that I stopped thinking about the past as much, but how can it be possible when I keep longing for certain aspects of it to be part of my present and future?

No one wants the entirety of the past assaulting us at every thought, yet the past is what represents us best and it’s why we’re so attached to it. Without it, we would not be able to communicate, have personality traits, be… us, with our individualism and uniqueness, differentiating us from the others. As you grow up, you evolve and take in experiences that ‘make you’. The past ‘makes’ us. We ‘make’ the future. The present’s just chilling in the corner.

We keep track of time to assess how much the past has changed us and how much we shall evolve in the future. We want to assess how meaningful our lives are by analyzing our mistakes and setting positive goals for the future. What a great year 2018 was, let 2019 be even better! And for some reason we keep forgetting that there’s today as well.

I think setting resolutions and being self-aware is the bread and butter of a good breakfast – sorry, I meant living a life that won’t make your mind swirl around in circles with regards to life’s meaning and the philosophical disposition of being. The problem is that we don’t keep track of time to know who we are in this exact moment, right now.

Far back in history, people used to follow the sun: it was the arbiter of the flow of time. Nowadays, society forgot about the sun – it’s too busy burying its nose deep in some phone clocks or expensive wrist watches. In the 16th Century, Galileo measured motions using his pulse. Today, we’re barely aware of our heartbeat unless it’s under stress and sending our brain terrified signals to… feel.

The time you do something doesn’t have to be in 2019 or 2024 and it doesn’t have to be about things you could’ve done or could do. The time to make a change is now. The moment you’re present is when you’re actually experiencing time. Now is the only moment you’ll ever have. Now is the moment to change, evolve, create, explore, become the best version of yourself, as you want it to be.

So, my 2019 resolution for us all is the following: don’t wait in order to effect change – especially since, from an environmental point of view, we only have a decade left to set things right. Be conscious of your thoughts, your body, your voice. Listen. Do things at your own pace and set goals based on your own perception of time and ambition, without the pressure of the outside world or societal organizations of time – well, don’t come to work at 12 p.m just cause you’re not taking standard clocks into consideration anymore.

But, most importantly, start now. Live now. Be now.

Barcelona

I want to talk about a city that changed my life.

Well, all the places and spaces that we flow through have a sort of influence on ourselves, our behaviours, our hobbies. Lancaster helped me develop as a student and set the stepping stones into adulthood. Manchester was the bridge between a life in a small town to a cosmopolitan one. Hah. I suppose size does matter… when it comes to the space you’re living in, of course. Bigger cities mean less time to do basically anything because of the endless possibilities to do everything.

Barcelona is the best city
Barcelona rooftops

Barcelona is all the personalities you could think of in one. Its saturation and complexity surprise you on a daily basis – you feel something new every day. The more you interact with the city, the infinity of smells, the pollution, the colours, the thieves, the heavy, humid breath, the love… the more you want. Barcelona lures you into its charms and hugs you in its strong arms. It wants you to know that whatever you need, it’s there for you – from technological advancements to creative flares and fresh tans.

Barcelona sings with the never-ending international and local chatter, the piercing motorbike exhaust pipes, the rattle of cutlery and plates, the sound of the waves, the squeaky or husky barks, the muffled techno bass in the background… At night it dozes off in a dreamless sleep, perpetually interrupted by groups of loud drunk party-goers and garbage trucks. In the morning, it breathes in combinations of sea salt, exhaust fumes, olive oil and garlic (sometimes dog shit or pee as well because not everything is dreamy).

Barcelona is social, you’re in constant communication with either people, the sun, buildings, narrow streets or marble floors. The good and the bad of the city merge together to create a conflicted relationship within yourself. So many of the people I’ve met told me they’re in awe every day: ‘I can’t believe I live in Barcelona’, ‘It’s amazing to be here all the time’. I smile and nod, thinking that as true as that is, as amazing, inspiring, and breath-taking this city is, it can often make you feel lonely. You’re surrounded by people and interactions, yet rarely do they become substantial enough to be meaningful. This is a result of an industrialised, commercial lifestyle. Never before have we felt so alone in a sea of people.

It’s impossible to feel like that for a long time – when you have an infinity of options regarding activities, work, and play, how could one? Barcelona is your parent, sibling, and friend, it can guide you through its narrow romantic streets or through its wide modern boulevards towards old or new passions and achievements. It nurtures you as you worship its godly self. Unfortunately, as with most things humans tend to love and admire, we start to destroy what matters most to us.

Barcelona is scared. Its sense of identity is shifting and it cries out in pain for all the theft, abuse, pollution, and illegality tainting its walls. During hot summer days, its concrete pavement suffocates from all the petrol and human waste while the flustered sea brings countless bits of trash to the shore. Its neighbourhoods are often disturbed by intensified screams and creepy stares. Barcelona is hurt, yet it constantly strives to BE better, to achieve MORE.

Barcelona is my mentor. Its complexity, visual aesthetics, and strength inspire me while the way it loves and celebrates life fills me with a constant desire to enjoy every moment of it. Maybe in a few years, it won’t feel like that anymore. Maybe in a few years, I will move on to new spaces. Yet, its beauty will forever remind me of how it helped me grow and frame my identity.

I am Barcelona. We all are.

belong, be part of, fit in, exist, reside

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who accessed, skimmed through, or even read my previous post. It looks like over 170 of you saw the post, and I really appreciate your interest (much love, many hearts). I will definitely tackle on the topic of relationships, ghosting, dating etc. in the future, as these are aspects that every single one of us goes through, and they often become part of our identity.

And speaking of identity, it’s a topic that will be discussed today. I spent a lot of time thinking what to write about next. There are so many thoughts and opinions that go through my mind, or that I listen to, that sometimes I wish I’d have a ‘pensieve’ (like in Harry Potter), where I could take all my memories and put them in a bucket and then sink into the bucket of abyss (well I’m just blabbering now so let’s get down to business).

A couple of years ago, in my third year of university, I remember taking a course on nations and migration, as well as intercultural identities. One of the many interesting subjects we debated then was a ‘sense of belonging’, or what we mean when we talk about ‘home’. I recollect how a lot of us wanted to make the differentiation between ‘home’, as in where our family lives, and ‘home’, as in our student accommodation at the time. A home doesn’t only refer to a physical space where you grew up in, but also to your country, culture, understanding of the world. I believe that the most important aspects of making a ‘home’ is culture and… objects. Things. The realm of the physical.

We are so attached to things that it came to a point where we are characterised by them. We don’t feel comfortable in a new space unless we fill out that space with bits and pieces that we think represent our selves. When we move into a new house, it does not become a home until we’ve spread around our personal photographs, clothes, books, computer, decorations… everything that we hold dear. Time also plays an important part of this house-home transition. The more time we spend in a place, the more comfortable we feel there.

Of course, there are people that have left all these physical and material objects behind. And they feel so much better. They are free from the physical constraints of space and can do whatever they want. They are backpackers, travellers, adventurers, or minimalists, people who are content with who they are and what they have (or don’t). People who grew tired with all the clutter in their lives, and wanted to belong anywhere and nowhere at the same time. Or just people that realised value shouldn’t reside in things, but experiences, memories, or other unquantifiable and spiritual/ emotional aspects. But are we strong, determined, or willing enough to let go? To lose our sense of ‘belonging’, in order to live freely and assess a new identity of… ‘not belonging’?

Culture, or rather a sense of national identity, is another aspect of making us ‘belong’. I believe that culture came before nations, even though today, one is more transparent than the other. I spent quite a bit of my teen life traveling through Europe, thanks to my beloved mother and her job. The division between ‘us and them’ stroke me every time I would land or take off in or from a foreign country. And after moving to the UK for my studies, I started to feel a bit weird when I’d come back to Romania for the holidays, and all of a sudden everyone was speaking, behaving, and looking… Romanian.

But then, I remembered Benedict Anderson’s notion of ‘imagined communities’ (throwback to uni, once again). Anderson claimed that nations are alive only because our minds imagined and socially created them. He talks quite a lot about how the printed press (his book was published in 1983 so the internet wasn’t really a thing back then) helps in delimiting this boundary of ‘nationess’, by also creating a division between the local and global, the ‘us and them’. This for me became extremely clear during Daily Mail’s campaign against Romanians and Bulgarians, after the work restrictions had been lifted. One would think that ‘divide and conquer’ is not the norm anymore, but in a present where break-ups are the norm (be them political or romantical), maybe we were wrong to assume that.

After living in the U.K for 4 years, I ended up doubting to whom my loyalties lay. I was born and raised in a culture, yet I don’t identify with it anymore. I spent 4 years in the other, where my acculturation process went quite well, but despite taking over some of the characteristics of that culture, I still don’t identify with it. At the moment, I am in limbo. Or maybe I just lost my ability to imagine… communities. But in the end, there’s nothing wrong with being on the grey line, instead of the black/ white one. Things shouldn’t always be definitive, deterministic, and other D words. We shouldn’t be defined just by ONE culture, but by every bit that we’ve experienced. Or maybe we shouldn’t be defined at all.

So, the next time someone asks you, ‘where are you from?’, think for a second. Are you a backpacker, traveler, an adventurer, or something completely off the books? Where do you really belong?

P.S Thank you Dan, for helping me sort this post out!