How ESC strengthened my view on life, friendship and solidarity.
They usually say that our life as human beings has certain milestones: your first kiss; taking your driving licence at 18; university, a degree, a job by the age of 25; and a family by the age of 30. And in certain environments, not having been through all of these steps makes you feel like an underdog. Better still, I’ll rephrase it: in some societies, it is the society itself that labels you as an underdog. I have experienced it in certain occasions, even though I was – and still am – sure that what I have gone through during my 30 years of existence has been worth it. I still am terrifyed of driving, I still have to write my master thesis and I am far, far, far away from having a family. I can say, now that I have gone all the way through these past 11 months, that I lived everything I could by my own pace, with some – ok, numerous – stops along the way, but still enjoying every minute of it. I must admit, seeing people judging me for who I was, for what I had or hadn’t done, has been painful at times, and this criticism has set my life back a couple of years. I didn’t feel I was enough for what humanity was expecting of me. I have been labeled in numerous ways, looser being one of the favourite adjectives. And at some point, I started to believe it. This all changed this year. And I am not being a drama queen here: I am genuinely saying that this year has changed my life in so many ways that there are too many out there to name. So I chose to focus on the 3 that have been the most important for me.
I am 30 now, and I don’t have any (or almost any) of the things listed above. And I thought, in a way, that that was only my fault. I didn’t work hard enough, not taken enough risks, not believed enough in myself. Key word: enough. But, come on, let’s be honest here, no one is never enough, there will always be someone else working harder, taking more risks, believing more in themselves than you are. And do we care? Personally, I don’t! Life is subjective, we are all different, and what is enough for me doesn’t mean is enough for you. And neither of us should be pointing an accusing finger at the other. I’ve now realized that I love the life I have: I have been through some rough paths, not denying it, but I came out of them stronger than I was before. And if you, old lady, feel like judging me because I am 30 and I still have no husband (not planning on marrying, either), no children, no car, no job, no whatever, I simply don’t care. And you know what?, I feel 25, so I still have plenty of time to do even less of the things you expect me to do. Take the advices they give you, but mould them into something that is truly good for you and for the life you want to have. And don’t change your plans just because that old aunt of yours thinks you are a failure: you are not.
When I say that I’ve made more friends in this past year than in my entire life, they laugh at me. How can you make friends in 2, 3, 4 months when you know you won’t be seeing each other ever again? Like, is it worth the effort? This is the deal, my skeptic friends. Yes, you can. And yes, it is. Imagine finding yourself in a different country, with a different language and, most of all, far from your comfort zone. You can do two things: drown yourself in sorrow, alone; or drown yourself in sorrow, with people experiencing the same situation, with a bottle of wine and some snacks. I’d choose the second option, if I were you. Being in a micro-world can be overwhelming at times, so you start talking. Like when you are on a long flight, and sooner or later you turn to the one sitting next to you just because you need some human interaction. And you two end up talking about life, your first love, the car, the cat, the mother-in-law, the brand of cigarettes you used to smoke during college. And by the time your flight has landed, you have each other’s number and planning to go on a trip with the families next summer. Same happened to me in Hungary: a beer at a pub one night, a trip to Pécs, 10 days in Serbia, shouting at SoundForge for crashing just before saving the file, an italian TV show, a laugh, a river of tears. And when I least expected it, I had 20+ people wishing me happy birthday from all over Europe. It was then I realized that I had had friends all that time, without even acknowledging it. They say friends are the family you choose, and gosh am I happy that I chose the right ones! I created connections I wasn’t even aware I wanted, least of all needed. And it is not true that we won’t be seeing each other again: I won’t let those people live without me a minute longer than necessary, they need me! How could they live their lives without me until now, I wonder.
Ok, here is a tricky one. When we talk about solidarity we imagine something big: an NGO working in the furthest corners of the Earth, helping out whales in Japan, or trying to stop the deforestation of Amazonas. A great organization, raising money to fight diseases. But we seldom look closer, at where we live. During this year, solidarity for me has meant helping out a coworker struggling with deadlines; staying up late to listen to a friend’s broken heart; trying to find a solution to a problem too big to be solved by one person alone; letting aside my personal beliefs to find a common ground. Solidarity has meant working even when I didn’t feel like it, because I knew that if I didn’t, someone else would have been blamed for it. Solidarity was standing up for my rights and those of the ones I was working with, raising my voice for something I knew I was entitled for. Solidarity is diplomacy, mutual understanding, conflict solving. No problem is too big to be solved. Solidarity is realizing each other’s needs without saying a word. Solidarity is offering peace when the only thing you feel like doing is fighting back. Solidarity is making people understand your views, without imposing them. Solidarity is not blaming the others for something you did wrong.
So, to recap everything.
I now fully understand that life is mine, and I shape it in whatever way I want. I am the only one living it, and if the others don’t like what I have achieved or what I am yet to achieve, that’s their problem.
Friends are the ones that are always there for you, to support you and give you advices, without judging. Doesn’t matter if you have been friends since kindergarten or from that one beer after just one week you met. And also, a true friend is the one driving you home when you have had one too many while desperate because your significant other just dumped you.
Solidarity is setting aside your strong beliefs for the common good, even when that common good is not as good as you wanted it to be.
And now, I want to thank each and everyone of the people that have been traveling with me during this amazing year. Some of them are back home, going on with their lives and dreams. Some others are still in Hungary, at the very beginning of their adventure. To all of them I want to say thank you, for being friends, family, heart beats going too fast. For being there when I needed and also when I felt I didn't need anyone. Thank you for dealing with me and my dramas, my jokes, my tears. Thank you for making me understand who I really am.