Musings While Writing in a Café

After some saving up I bought my first little laptop. It was a fantastic feeling to be able to take it with me on a trip for the first time and be independent as far as communication with family and friends, blogging and writing were concerned. It was also nice to share it when my sister and I were in Tokyo and type away on it during my trip to Iceland.

Now that I’ve name-dropped a few fancy destinations I loved visiting, let’s get to the topic at hand. Laptops are great for travel, but they are also great when you start writing  outside of home. This has been a bit of a learning process for me, because, surprise, surprise, it took a while for me to catch up on offers besides Starbucks or build up to writing in a café in the first place.

I walked into my chosen café today and stopped to do the usual scan of the perimeter – it’s later in the morning and I’m slightly worried every table will be taken, but I’m in luck. There’s a free one by one of the large floor-length windows. A long couch seat spans the width of the window and three tables are placed alongside it. One is occupied by a girl in headphones who is immersed in her own little laptop – bless her. The next one is free as well, but there’s a newspaper lying on the tabletop, so I leave it and take the table I spotted first. I put my coat down to mark my territory and start deciding on a beverage, when there’s movement to my side and chatting.

A middle-aged man has arrived, smiling and clearly thinking he should say something to everyone nearby. It’s OK – I just don’t want to join! I smile politely, get my drink, sit down and start silently setting up, because he settles down, shifts around in his seat, grunts, says “Well…” at every page turn of his newspaper and I just know that if I don’t plug my headphones in NOW, I’ll lose precious minutes of the morning I’d been looking forward to for several days.

I love writing at home – there are no distractions, even though there can be, but everything is so familiar that it blends seamlessly with my concentration. I can write in my PJs, I can write at the desk, on my bed, on the floor, I don’t have to watch my stuff and the fridge is (usually) stocked. I can take a nap when I need to and I can be as introverted as I like. Obviously this all differs a little depending on your household, but in general it’s true.

BUT, and there is a but, I do need fresh air and people watching, because otherwise the writing won’t be authentic and a change of scene is always invigorating both for concentration and inspiration. Writing in a café also takes you slightly outside of your comfort zone, if you’ve been used to writing at home or enjoy being a homebody, or, rather, it trains you in finding your comfort zone anywhere and making adjustments if something doesn’t feel right. It’s also a good solution until you get that dream writing office with an exit straight into a beautiful garden whenever you need a break…and definitely a good place to dream.

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Things People Say to You When You’re a Redhead

And that you STILL hear even as a fully-fledged adult.

I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last, but oh, the topic is current. How to be a Redhead‘s Instagram page provides regular relief in the form of witty, saracastic, to-the-point memes, and, of course, there’s always a gif or two out there.

I’ve never been teased because of freckles, or my hair colour, but I was bullied plenty for other things, so the sensation is not unfamiliar. However, to this day I don’t expect comments related to my red-haired existence in particular. Is it confidence? Healthy self-awareness? Reasonable disinterest for other people’s thoughts? No time? Occupied with my own thoughts?

I’m still undecided what fascinates me more, the open rudeness of some of what comes my way, or the fact alone that people insist on spending their time pressing what they think is an issue or an excuse for a chat.

Whenever the comments do come, it’s always a bit of a surprise. Sometimes I leave them be, but sometimes the person commenting is demanding. They repeat the comment. They can’t let it go, like Elsa, but I don’t have time to recommend they watch Frozen. And that’s when I employ one of the following kick-ass responses (or inner reactions).

Comment Category Number 1: Hair

Did you do something to your hair? – No.

Really? Seriously, did you do something to it? It looks different. Why does it look different? – I washed it.

Was this always your hair colour? – Yes.

You didn’t dye it? – No.

You sure? – …

Category Number 2: Skin

You’re so pale. – Actually, I’m fair.

Well, that’s what I mean, I guess, but are you feeling OK? – …

Do you tan? – Not really.

What, not at all?

Comment Category Number Three: Style (Sort Of)

Wow, you wear red? With your hair? – Yes. I did it so you would ask.

Pale people like us can’t wear those colours. – * Shrug *

You want those shoes? But you’re so tall! – Oh, wait, that’s another blog post.

And let’s not forget the crowning glory of all those comments:

“You’re not a redhead! Your hair is brown.”

Dear 18-Year-Old Me

I give what might be advice exceptionally rarely (family philosophy that turned out to be my thing as well, something all my friends know), but I was intrigued by the idea of imagining what I would say to my 18-year-old self if I got the chance. As my Granny told me once when I asked her if she was talking to herself, “But of course, it’s nice to talk to an intelligent person.” I was also inspired, among other blog posts and pieces I’d read, by this article published on Edition F in German. Here goes.

Dear 18-year-old Zhenya,

If you’re not ready to move away from or move out of the home you grew up in, and NO ONE is pressuring you to do it, stop pressuring yourself just because you’re “of age”.

Yes, you will go places. Please be patient and don’t doubt yourself.

You don’t have to know right now where you’re going to work and how it will all play out.

Sure, it’s a big disappointment that scholarship didn’t work out. It’s OK, though, it was just one of so, so many.

Continue to look for sensible jobs where you can earn money between the ones that you do for the experience. Save up – it will always come in good use. It’s important to be able to provide for yourself.

Not everyone your age has to understand or accept your views for them to continue being acceptable and understandable for you.

Still, don’t preach or explain, just stick with your principles.

Ignore the aunt repeating you need to cut ten inches off your hair to make it prettier. It’s already pretty.

The people who laughed at you for not getting drunk, and you will meet a lot of them in the following years, are stupid. Go talk to that nice girl from your German class instead.

Your feeling about that nightclub was right. Trust your gut, always. There will be a chance to re-examine whether you were right later.

I’m proud of you for leaving situations you were uncomfortable in. Just because seemingly “everyone” is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to.

That guy was worth more laughs than tears.

There’s nothing wrong with you, that girl was just jealous and she’s not your friend.

Write, write, write, whatever you like, as much as you like, type it up, write it down, scribble it, journal about it, designate special notebooks, submit it somewhere, send it out, share it with people you trust, JUST WRITE, WOMAN.

You’ll be glad you spent your teens without this thing called social media. Yes, you’ll find out what it is, and I trust you.

You’re not being overly sensitive, picky, emotional or immature – you’re facing a bully without empathy who is refusing to accept responsibility for their actions and doesn’t care about your feelings. Walk away, you have better things to do. The people who love you are waiting.

What Starting Zumba Classes Taught Me So Far…

Oh yeah, I can step in place and in sync, this feels good, I’m all ready to DO THIS, this should be fun…Oh, wait, she moved sideways, OK, oh, now it’s the other side, was I too slow? What is she doing with her feet? How come mine aren’t doing the same? Am I spinning the wrong way again? WHAT’S GOING ON?

When I try to do that leaning forward, chest shaking thing, nothing shakes, I just take turns rapidly moving my shoulders back and forth. It happens by itself. On the other hand, any booty-shaking seems to happen very easily and with a lot of joy. It also strongly feels like there’s, ah, much more to shake than with my upper body, and I can’t decide whether this is funny or disconcerting. Maybe it just is.

The moment the trainer says the choreography is simple, my brain goes into overdrive with its “Complicated” setting, but they do say that resistance is what makes you work harder. She adds some theatrics that go in line with the lyrics of the song, which kind of brings out my headphone party dance/ acting skills (you obviously don’t just sing along to stuff, you illustrate it with your moves), and hey, this is that song from that IISuperwomanII video, and is it actually about taxis…?

When you’re concentrating on doing some semblance of proper steps and not cuffing the girl next to you with your waving arms, you can’t really whoop. Sorry. But please be assured that I am actually able to let it all out.

Women Apologizing: My Personal Experience

Note: This was an essay I originally wrote for a call for submissions on this particular topic, but after I had produced it, I discovered I didn’t qualify for the terms and conditions since I reside in Europe. Buuuut, why waste writing I’d invested in? So here it is. Obviously it’s only one viewpoint of a vast ocean of a subject, but this is what came to my mind upon facing the question about my sorries.

I am known as the serial apologizer in my family. At least I think I was until as recently as a year ago, when I felt like I started getting a handle on it. It had been almost like my own conversation signature that had to pop up at least once a day on any subject. My family helped me a lot in that area by the simple action of being affectionate and joking when my apologies were made in relation to harmless things, like putting something in what I thought was the wrong place or forgetting to confirm a date for a gathering way, way in advance. They would even anticipate when I was about to say sorry and calmly ask me not to.

I think the way I did it before first grew from the combination of taking my words and actions towards others seriously (sometimes too seriously), wanting to show consideration and viewing an apology as a validation of the fact that I was paying attention, present, capable of being honest. I’ve also definitely been the person who apologized automatically when she was bumped into on the street. I’ve apologized to diffuse what I thought was about to be an unexpected explosive reaction to something I did, since it was easy for me. I’ve apologized to stave off or break up fights about small things. Finally, I hope I also apologized when I thought I really did have to, for what I considered to be tactless words on my part or hurting someone’s feelings.

With time I tied apologizing to being able to assume responsibility for words and actions, something I tend to measure people by. Saying sorry for bigger things, for that which actually brings someone undeserved pain and suffering, should definitely be analyzed from within yourself, practiced and cultivated. Understanding that type of sorry doesn’t always happen overnight, and it carries weight that you need to be able to feel and then let go, remembering the impact of it.

For some saying sorry is just a turn of phrase. I found myself imitating that for a while, then I wanted to stop because it didn’t coincide with my personality and the distinctions I made about apologies. I began paying attention to my wording and in those cases where I would have previously said sorry, I substituted it with a polite statement of facts. “I can’t make that day because of so and so, but how about next week?” It was also a question of not succumbing to what felt like tiny lies. I wasn’t sorry about following a plan that had been arranged first, right? And neither was the other person I was talking to. So why even say so?

I guess I just stop myself more, take that extra second, as much as possible in the moment, on any level to evaluate whether I do actually need to make an apology. I think a lot of it is also connected to what I don’t feel apologetic about anymore, because I accept it for myself and I know that it’s not wrong.

Swimming Snippets: Pool Ponderings

Soooo… I was swimming today and arrived at the thought that there seem to be two types of lap swimmers.

Type number one acts like they own the pool. People wade in and throw themselves into swimming laps without a glance in any direction, because the idea of other swimmers in the vicinity is just ludicrous, I guess. Preferred swimming styles include backstroke or the front crawl, and of course goggles and swimming caps add to the feeling that it’s just you in the pool. Get out of the way, all you other peasants with your heads above water!

Type number two carefully steps in, moves to the side so as not to be in the way of anyone reaching the end of their lap, then spends a few seconds looking around, picking a lane. They then elegantly lower their body into the water and strike out, taking care to keep enough distance between themselves and the feet and hands of other swimmers. If, God forbid, they do end up brushing limbs with someone passing by, they actually take the time to turn their head and at least mouth “Sorry”.

Type number one are also frequently noisy swimmers. You might not see them once you’re in the water and focusing on your own stroke, but you’ll hear them. I understand there’s a lot of action involved in what they do, there’s water around and that certain physical manifestations in the form of sounds escaping them is unavoidable. But blowing your nose, sniffing and clearing your throat with unrestrained relish that carries perfectly thanks to pool acoustics, and all this while swimming, seems a bit much.

Meanwhile, type twos are basically this:

I have picked my side…

 

As We Say Farewell to 2018…

I find myself thinking even more of not only the things I did, but what I felt at various times of the year following events and experiences.

I shed way more happy tears than sad ones and that was reassuring, so the acceptance that I weep when something good happens in life definitely stays with me, as does not holding those tears back. In most of these situations it’s OK to cry, after all. Don’t apologize for happy tears. And there’s still the convenience of crying in the cinema (I’m easily moved, even if it’s a film I’ve seen before – go, art!) if I’ve had a shortage of waterworks.

Among the things that made me weep was kindness towards me, genuine, pure, from the heart, unconditional kindness, especially in hard moments I kept to myself, when people were still not obliged to be kind and were so without knowing.

That’s enough tears!

There were many solutions to what I thought were tangled problems, and the solutions were there all along, mostly contained in, as always, facing facts, and then, sometimes, writing them down. Notebooks are the best.

Other philosophical moments include many confirmations in various situations of this too shall pass, realizations we weren’t lacking something when we thought we were, what drained my inner peace and what replenished it – it’s vital to keep learning how to feed your energy, mental and physical.

I am and always will be a family person.

I want to grab the moments that feel like they define me (again and again) and register that which resonates with me because it’s closest to who I am.

I want to be brave.

I want many things that I feel I’ve had a test run of in 2018, things I hadn’t even expected, and can now proceed with “for real” in 2019.

For a long time now I’ve been making decisions and setting goals instead of resolutions. New Year’s Eve isn’t the only time of year I do this, by the way, I also like to do this for my birthdays. But there’s still something uniquely monumental about the approaching new year, because it affects everyone, I guess. Goals and decisions feel like a better internal setting for me than resolutions, maybe because they can be adapted or changed depending on how the year unfolds, and I do like to leave room for life to work its own magic, despite my extensive list-making.

So, as we say farewell to 2018, I will add thanks for all that has been given to me, hope that I have given back, quietly and sincerely acknowledge all those who have added to the size of my heart, and leave that which has played its part in moving forward, but which I don’t need to take with me into 2019.

For auld lang syne…