Saturday, August 13, 2016

Things I Learned from Europe

I still think about living in Europe.  All the time.  Right after we came back to the United States, most of my memories were about little things - missing my bike (vs. driving in a car everywhere), remembering American cucumbers (and how they really don't taste good to me anymore), having mixed feelings about everything being in English (easier, but also...way more boring).  Now I've transitioned a little bit and recently have been thinking about bigger personality/life-changing lessons I think I got from living in Germany and Denmark for five years.

Just sitting here on a Saturday morning, here are a few:

* Getting a deep, mind-exploding realization of how big the world is, how many many people (and entire lives) there are, and how I'm just one tiny tiny tiny tiny microscopic person.  It helped me grow a little bit out of some self-centeredness and/or self-importance that was still hanging on from adolescence.  It made me realize that even the biggest of my "life goals" I had before would still mean nothing.  That the world is like an infinite universe, and my little family is actually my world.

* The vast majority of people in the world are good -- 99%.  No matter where you go.  People are good.  We all share the same experiences, broadly speaking.  We all feel the same emotions.  Empathy and kindness are the default.  

* Stuff is dumb.  It's all so incredibly dumb - also, annoying to deal with.  Doing is the only thing that really means anything.  

* Quality is not dumb, though.  If you have to have some stuff, only have what you absolutely need and then only have the nicest one you can get.  Take pride in beautiful things - but only because they're beautiful, not because you want things.

* Time is the only thing I'll ever really own and, maybe counter-intuitively(?), the only way to use it well is to limit what you do with it and take it slow.  How else can I explain this?....  The best way to use your time is to not feel like you have to keep track of how you're using your time?  That there's never anything else more important than what you're doing right this moment?  

* Hygge.  A word without a direct translation.  Relaxation, calm, coziness, quiet, slow, warm and long intimate conversations, candles, a friend playing the guitar while everyone listens quietly, simple food, singing old songs around a fire, discussing abstract ideas with a cup of tea, sitting on a porch and listening to birds, running under a bus stop shelter and watching the rain, seeing the shadows of branches on your window -- these aren't pointless, silly, time-wasting activities.  These are the things that are everything.

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