“Your problems are still ahead of you,” he said pensively, staring intently into the brown mass in his hands. “The depression runs quite deep.” He turned the tiny coffee cup towards me and showed me something that looked, well, like a pile of poo. “Right now you’re in a very positive place though.”

That wasn’t really a surprise, given that I was sitting in the blazing morning sun in the middle of a gorgeous park in Istanbul, on the first day of my first vacation since starting my “real” job.

My couchsurfing host was about to take me on a whirlwind tour of tourist-free Istanbul, starting with the aforementioned massive park, then a walk along the Bosphorus river, followed by a ferry to the Asian side and the “town” of Kadikoy, then a night of drinking and reggae music in the heart of Taksim.

And that was just one day.

Istanbul was a super quick, but incredibly colorful trip, one that made me feel like my body and mind finally reconnected again and I could actually feel and experience things fully rather than just observing them from a distance. 

Something that I wasn’t sure I would write about but it fits with the previous sentiment: I’ve always been bad at photos, but seeing the few photos that other people took of me on this trip was a horrendous wake-up call. They are so much worse than before. I’m inevitably positioned at an awkward angle, my body somehow tensed up and turned to make me look as wide as possible, my attempt at a smile coming across as a painful grimace, the entire image being one of a person with absolutely zero self-confidence and awareness of their body. This is a big part of me losing contact with anything except sitting in front of a computer for the past 5 months, and it needs to change quickly. 

My host’s reading, by the way, was spot on. He said I’d have a lot of professional success, and when I came back from my holiday I got a permanent contract at work. Hooray!

But I also came back with a gnawing sense of restlessness. I have a desperate desire to travel, and not just for weekend trips. I need to immerse myself in new environments, interact with new cultures, explore, get lost, meditate. It’s the only time I really feel alive. It’s the only time I feel like there’s a purpose to all of this.

It’s so easy to get stuck in routine, and not realize how stuck you are until you escape for a second. And once you come back, the routine gently enfolds you and slowly sucks you back in, creeping up around you until you find yourself right back in the mental fog and don’t even notice. 

 Well, that got depressing quickly. I guess we’ve come full circle. Here are some Istanbul photos to bring us back up again:

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First Kiss Flip-Flop

Why is everyone so outraged that the First Kiss video turned out to be an ad and cast people in the industry rather than “real random people off the street”?

What is it about filmmakers and photographers that makes them unreal people? I assume people who are outraged about this imagine bankers and lawyers, and grocery store cashiers and call center people, looking haggard after a day of work, gloriously un-made-up and in shitty wrinkled clothes.

…. When is the last time there was public uproar about a filmmaker casting people who were too pretty and too styled in their film? What makes this project different?

What is it about something being an ad that suddenly negates it as art? Someone still had a good idea, still did a casting, and a shoot, and a pretty nice edit. Just because a brand is involved and someone is getting paid for it means it’s not a good creative idea? Should an artist always be starving? (Obviously this is a bigger topic very close to my own heart.)

Please, don’t throw up your hands in disgust and walk away when you hear the video you shared and aww-ed at “turned out to be an ad!” I want to know what made you have that response. Why is it heart-melting one second and disgusting the next?

Question the simplistic execution. Criticise the flat production. Or the edit. Or even the fact that it’s an ad — but please not blindly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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brief note on self-annihilation

The extent to which the mind and body craves that which you can’t have (or perceive that you can’t have) is incredible to me. People, cigarettes, the idea of a better life. It’s so much more than a simple desire — your brain turns on itself to the point where you become consumed by the desire, where everything that happens becomes a rationalisation as to why you must have it. Why you deserve to have it. Why you can’t live without it. 

Of course we’ve been using this principle forever to play the dating game and it’s well-known that it’s the reason that nobody ever really quits smoking – and it mystifies me that we haven’t come up with a way to defeat it. 

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scattered weekend thoughts

1. Either my taste has drastically declined or Coffee Company actually makes pretty damn good americanos these days.

I’m still desperately missing the giant-paper-cup-of-coffee culture of North America, and the Coffee Company is a quite good approximation, except ludicrously expensive. 

I also went to an ~artisan coffee roaster~ this week and asked them to make me a syphon coffee just because it looked really cool. Unfortunately the girl screwed it up completely and I never got to try it but I did get to observe the approximate process. It really showcases coffee-making as the science experiment that it is so I’m determined to go back.

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2. I fully realize the irony of this statement, but as I was buying the lovely salmon below at Lidl I looked around and got really creeped out by the multitude of bored identical cashiers beeping through an indistinguishable mass of boxed-up items. Yogurt, salmon, cookies – they all looked exactly the same and it was utterly disturbing. Like a scene out of Wall-E (which I still haven’t seen). It freaked me out, but it’s not like I’m going to go live on a farm (again). I placated myself with the thought that at least I’m cooking 99% of my meals these days and not buying packaged whole meals (mostly due to being broke tbh).

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3. I went to a Creative Mornings seminar last week to listen to a speaker who was an ex-Sid Lee loyalist (8 years with the company, which in Sid Lee world is decades). A few months ago she gave up the glamour of advertising – in her words, the adrenalin rush and the gooood money – to volunteer full-time at a pay-as-you-feel restaurant nearby (which is called trust and is amazing). The point of her talk was basically “Don’t let your happiness depend on things that you might lose” or however that quote goes. She’s following the philosophy of finding happiness within and relying on the universe to deliver the rest. Pretty cool, and inspirational, but I couldn’t help but think that without the cushion of all that gooood money and the knowledge that she can always go back to advertising she wouldn’t really be able to pull that off. But I still like the concept, and it felt oddly synergetic with the time and place I’m currently in.

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3 years of gezelligheid

3 years ago, I was just 3 days into my Erasmus in Maastricht.

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And (exactly) two years ago, I got on a plane to move to Holland “for real”.

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(going away party)

I can’t say that it was an unequivocal success. In fact, I would say I’ve regretted coming here about 50% of the time.

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Nonetheless, it has been 3 years of beautiful adventures.

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And 3 cats.

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And looking through all those photos just reminded me why I’m not going to cut my hair again anytime soon.

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Here’s hoping next year at this time I will be spending February somewhere other than Holland. (Preferably somewhere with sun, so I don’t spend the entire time wanting to sleep and/or kill myself).

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self-indulgent tears

A few weeks ago I was biking home after work in the freezing rain, long after dark, after a miserable day, and I was crying my eyes out. It was full on, unapologetic sobbing, with no consideration for others’ judgment, pity, awkwardness or general opinion. And it was fucking awesome.

Admittedly, it wasn’t great that I had had a shit enough day that it warranted sobbing. If I recall correctly, I had said goodbye to several wonderful people and had an internal review of a killer project that went along the lines of “No. This sucks. Everything you’ve said here is wrong.” And to top it off I was soaking wet and freezing and heading home to an evening of nothing but drinking until I fell asleep only to wake up to a day of dealing with the same shit all over again.

So, ok, it was a crap day. But the amazing thing is that just letting go and allowing myself to indulge in some good old-fashioned ugly-crying was unbelievably therapeutic. It was truly indulgent — it felt like my id was truly taking over, like I had lost control over my behavior and let my crazy out to the fullest. But by the time I got home, I felt so much better.

Why is it that temper tantrums are solely the reign of children? Everyone talks about the benefits of “a good cry” but it always sounds like something so dainty, something you do with a single chaste glass of wine, curled up with a blanket and some scented candles while watching some sappy movie like The Notebook. I think that it’s more beneficial to not just “let yourself cry”, but to have a proper fucking cry — a full-on tantrum, with kicking and screaming if you want, with ugly hoarse groaning and sniffling and snot running down your face, and not giving a damn about what you look like or for that matter who’s looking at or listening to you.

On a related note, I’ve noticed recently that complaining is not the evil zen-destroying activity that tumblr hippies have been claiming it is for years. If you’re sitting with someone who has similar problems to you whining about stuff you can’t change, it’s also surprisingly uplifting. This is why I’ve been seeking out expats lately — it can be so great to whine and laugh (most importantly, laugh!) about everything that annoys us about Dutch culture in an environment of total acceptance. Even if I can’t change any of it, even if I leave and go home and deal with the same shit all over again, sometimes it’s great to let go of convention and just do all the wrong things. Cry, complain, be jealous, be angry. Live a little. Fuck zen… once in a while.

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la ville des rêves

Each time I arrive at the Gare du Nord, I walk down the platform and look up at the enormous metal arches that form its roof, and I inevitably get a pinch in my stomach that clearly resembles the proverbial ‘butterflies’. Like something wonderful is about to happen. It’s amazing that a large, kind of miserable train station of all things can give off an atmosphere of infinite possibility, of romance and excitement, of something vaguely hedonistic and undeniably exciting – but somehow it does. And Paris never disappoints, delivering either a beautiful adventure or at least the tantalising promise of one dangling right within your reach.

Image Paris is a city steeped in memories. It’s strange that some cities can take on memories more readily than others, and store them in layers upon layers of each other, whereas other cities, where one might have just as much personal history, remain oddly – well, impersonal.

Why is it that a horrible touristy block at St Michel in Paris stores so many vivid mental images and emotions, whereas, for example, Jericho beach in Vancouver which has seen just as much love and heartbreak remains a very neutral – though beautiful – place? Is it just that traveling somewhere creates richer memories than when they are created in a “home city”? But returning to Figueres or Barcelona was much less intense, although my experiences there were no less beautiful.

Something about Paris is charmed; something about it stores histories particularly well. Perhaps it is the sheer amount of history that it already holds within its rather small antique confines.  And something about it also evokes particularly strong emotions. Somehow I’m more ready to give in to the most ridiculous impulses in Paris, things that I would never consider doing – or even considering – elsewhere.

The streets store your stories, and places that are yet unexplored lie waiting, ready to embrace your most uninhibited of emotions. They lie in anticipation of your pain and your boundless triumphs. The air buzzes. And yet the city’s stony façade remains just a blank observer, calmly adding your memories to the ones that came before, collecting them and remaining stately and aloof. I guess that’s what makes it so irresistible.

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