A Shopping Trip in Poland

Looking over what I picked up at the grocery store today in Krak√≥w, it was a typical shopping trip. Similar to when I am living in one place, there are some things I have to pick up ever 3rd or 4th trip like a bottle of olive oil, bag of nuts, or coffee, or detergent. I also like to buy meat, but I’ve avoided that on this trip because I’m cutting down on meat, and also I’m nervous about asking for 400 grams or anything in polish ūüôā I’ll warm up to it soon…

The list:

  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 2 Grapefruit
  • 6 Mandarins
  • 2 Russet Potatoes
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 8 Eggs
  • 1 Bag Chopped Spinach Frozen
  • 5 liter bottle of water
  • 500g block,¬†butter (like 2 american sticks)
  • 500g bag, black beans

Total cost: 49,31 zŇā (11‚ā¨/$13)

That’s enough food to have¬†breakfast everyday for a week, 3 – 4 lunches, and 1 – 2 dinners ‚Äď all together (those possible¬†options).

The rest of my meals will probably be out, but as each time I eat out will only cost roughly $5 on average, assuming I have ten of those meals, my total food cost this week is about $63.00. Which is a little more than three lunches or three dinners, or one three course dinner back home (Palo Alto, LA, Chicago, or New York).

I remember doing my taxes the year after living in NY. As I looked over all the restaurant and bar receipts, with taxes and tip, things really added up. Compared to my lifestyle in Germany (which was definitely on a tighter budget), I was living like a rich person.

In some weeks I’d spent $500 on food and drinks. To be fair, this isn’t an apples to apples comparison, I’m not drinking alcohol right now, and I’m probably not dining at places like The Diner in Williamsburg usually… but still it’s impressive to see how I can spend way less by factors of five or more if planned carefully and in the right country.

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New Best Friend Syndrome

Do best friends go to the same place as lost socks? Is there a planet somewhere far away where all of those people go. The ones¬†I¬†met on a random night out, who turned out to be “my new best friend”, but then never spoke to again? I’m calling this NBFS (new best friend syndrome).

I can think back over the years to many instances of NBFS. We met, became pals immediately, exchanged numbers, friended on facebook, took selfies – everything we said to each other was funny like some missing glove re-found of an all encompassing awesome bro-ship.

Jesse.

Konrad.

Deweyne.

Going through the lost connections reminds me of hilarious moments and commitments to teach each other about all those great artists, parties, and food I’d never experienced. I felt lucky to have met someone who would graciously offer to share valuable information, with a smile and words of comfort and laughter.

ren_stimpy_socks_planet

Yet, somehow, we never connected again. The buzz wore off, the smiles were replaced by moans and blood shot eyes. Streams of texts from just hours earlier read like transcripts between two hilarious but impossible characters in a cheap production comedy flick. Photos of being passed out in bathtubs, or apparently even other new best friends in the making whom I really couldn’t remember.

Where do they go? How many other temporary bonds did they make to be unfulfilled? Friends are an investment. It takes time, commitment, finances, communication, planning, and dedication of memory. It would be no fun to give up on said new best friends, even when all the symptoms are clear as day, a positive diagnosis for temporary NBFS.¬†Perhaps that’s why they usually appear after the 3rd drink.

Comfort and Heroin – part I

Daniel got a nice job and worked his way up the ranks.

He bought a nice home, has a lifestyle and great circle of friends with whom he has a certain cache of routines; meals, vacations, hobbies. He shaped out that picture perfect life.

It had taken (what seemed like) a lifetime to get there. In some cases the victories came quickly. Either way, at a certain point, he realized he felt good about where he was.

Maybe the remaining goals were¬†smaller than those already achieved. But the warm feeling had set in. The effort needed to get things done at work had become smaller. Greater rewards started coming more easily. All that stuff he¬†did to get where he was continued to pay off, each one a meteor of success with a tail that stretched endlessly. His CV was a track record that attracted recruiters far and wide for amazing career changing opportunities ‚Äď which he humbly turned away.

At parties he could list a couple of his past titles and the point was clear, he’d made it. And why list his own track record? Other people told stories about him that echoed respect and fondness better than he could.

Without seeing it happen, there was this great big positive energy to ride on, and now it was all without doing anything. He was intoxicated. But at the same time, somehow something had slipped away ever so slightly.

Looking back at the challenges he’d¬†fought through, the feeling they gave him were almost more exciting than the life they brought to his¬†door. Things really had gotten easier, and with them, these comforts which sort of transformed into medals of honor.

In some cases the medals were like possessions, the¬†relationships, the future plans, they almost became anchors. Things that¬†couldn’t be moved easily , if at all ‚Äď not without the proverbial pain of ripping off a band-aid.

As comfort set in, the landscape of ambition transformed, from hopes and dreams to strive for, to tangible pieces of his life sitting on the shelf for all to gaze upon, and something had gotten lost.

One day Daniel realized it was those adventures which got him where he was that he missed the most, he wanted them again. The dopamine may have been all that was laying under those moments to give him a rose tinted glass to look back through, the primitive neurological programming of positive reinforcement for getting off his ass and forming a shelter with safe surroundings to pass along his genes. All the same the rewards that came at the moment of putting in that effort, and the stories they created were the greatest moments in his life. The achievements which now sat around, were not so much, and in fact they had weight and required maintenance. The routines, relationships, home, possessions; it almost scared him to think about letting go of them or dismantling the solid life he had in order to make new great moments.

He was bored.

The uneasiness frightened Daniel, it kept him up at night. Normally a heavy sleeper (something Micah was truly grateful for), he now laid in bed for hours sometimes wondering how to get back to the heyday of kicking ass. He was barely middle-aged but already feeling stale, the static-ness felt like excess weight, like stickiness. Pulling him back towards his bed, or dining¬†table. A spare tire forming around his midsection, getting heavier by the day. He no longer felt hungry, ever. Always eating as it was that time, or there was another dinner party to go to. Cocktails weren’t treasures to enjoy, they were an assortment of tastes he’d once discovered and delighted, which also came with symbol¬†of status. The alcohol and calories had heavier implications than the joy of the experience and was starting to despise them.

Unsure of where to go, or what to do with all his belongings, how to explain to all of his friends what was happening, he started to consolidate.

At first it was slow,¬†he would go through the garage late at night, pulling out boxes of old things, keepsakes and memories which were once hard to throw away, but now the thought of getting rid of them made him feel lighter. With relationships, he didn’t want to cut off anyone, and his head was so clouded he didn’t trust his judgement to hone in on those most important, so instead he started to distance, instead of actively connecting and staying in touch with the circle of friends and colleagues around him, now he waited. When his phone would ring, or an email came in, he would respond, welcoming social life, but not pushing it forward anymore.

He took a new job, one that wouldn’t require a car, and so he sold his car. The job wasn’t very good so he saved up and put in his notice. From now on, like his friends, he would only take work he wanted to do, instead of always being the proactive team member confident a crappy project could be made great.

He moved twice in one year, each time selling more of his furniture, finding smaller and smaller apartments, until his living space was so tiny he could barely even have a table and sofa in the living spaces. All the fancy home decor that he’d bought from show rooms and antique markets were gone now.

As his property footprint became smaller, something started to change. His connection to some people started to diminish. The way he looked at their things and clothing had less of an affect. Feeling more like an observer than a participant; when conversations nearby included raves about new restaurants or a the latest night spots to grab a drink, he felt¬†his interest was¬†more¬†from an anthropological perspective¬†than a community perspective. Trying yet another cocktail with a slight variation at an inflated price didn’t have the same gravity it once had.

He was becoming free.

Months went by, Daniel put all his things into storage and moved to Europe. He focused on connecting with the locals, seeing how they lived, and what brought them joy. There were still bars and parties and eager cliques of socialites queuing up at the club on the corners after dinner, but

 

***

To be continued

Wandering Between Lines

People like definitions. They like things that they can relate to, it helps to create a world that can be understood. A world without mystery is a world without risk; by removing risk we remove fear. In some stretch, this has a lot to do with common getting-to-know-you questions, like “what do you do?”. When someone poses a question like that, issues arise when you can’t say in straight terms what you do. Maybe you do a few things, maybe you do one thing that people are familiar with, but you really do something else too and it’s just hard to explain. In that case do you explain the second less familiar occupation? Do you avoid it to keep the conversation smooth, to avoid being seen as a strange one? Not having one home, not having one occupation, this is were it gets crazy. Try telling someone about the way you don’t live in one box, see how they react. It may just open doors of discomfort.