Unique People: Be different. Be unique

I like unique, unusual  people, I genuinely do. I realized it another day, thinking why, for instance, I am attracted only to certain people and have, most of the time, weird, unusual and daring friends.

I am unusual, and I attract unusual people into my life. By unusualness I mean unique outlook to life, the ability to not just think out-of-the-box, but demonstrate in practice what it actually means. We ask the new generation for out-of-the-box thinking, but do we even know what it is? Out-of-the-box should mean being different, but in reality this word is mostly used on paper, because, we, humans in western hemisphere, really forgot how to live differently, how to live interestingly, and how to be unique.

Let me give you in an example with two variables in otherwise same and boring system of normality. Let’s call them Nick and Janna. They met at the end of their studies, both interesting and lovely humans, who fall in love, or think they fall in love, as how many of us confuse passion (it disappears relatively quickly) and real love, I got tired of counting? I don’t know about you but I had met only one or two couples in my life who show with their union what love is, one of such couple were my grand-parents (I wrote about them here). Many other couples follow the same pattern: marriage, mortgage, kids, work, retirement. Nick and Janna did the same, realizing one day that they had missed on something, when it’s too late. It is so boring as a plan in life (marriage, mortgage, retirement)  that I am surprised why not more people rebel against it, especially when they discover that all passion is gone not just from their union but other aspects of life as well. Work should be fun, life should be interesting and adventurous, and we should dare more.

I dare in life and therefore, live a truly interesting and unique life. And I refuse to be humble and not to admit it loud and clear. Yes, I live adventurously and I live uniquely. Just four months ago, I accepted a job offer in Leeuwarden (Friesland), and moved to another country for the fifth time. Difficult? You bet! Challenging? Yes, I am exhausted, especially that I also moved my son and my cat in unprecedented life move (before this move, I would move countries on my own, which is a piece of cake, in comparison to what I did this year). Do I regret it? No, of course not. I miss my friends I made in Sheffield, I miss the UK (where I lived for the last twelve years), I miss cafes there with live music, my strolls in the hills, the local park with its café, the botanical gardens, the Sharrow vale with its restaurants and artisanal shops. I miss the British sense of humor, the BBC, yes, I miss it a lot. But if I stayed there, I could see my life unfolding in front of me with a depressing picture. It would stay the same, with me holding three different jobs, all on zero-hours contracts (even if at university), until I would be lucky enough to land in a more permanent post, the political unfortunate developments after Brexit for the whole country, the homelessness on the streets, the same routine. I was stuck in it, and once stuck, we should look for solutions, not wait for one day when you wake up and realize suddenly that you missed on opportunities, that you didn’t dare, that you let go off the fortune.

Yes, I have it in me, the forcing of fortune. I refuse day after day to ever let go and be weak. Oh, on how many days I wanted to give in to nostalgia, to the misery of the life itself, become depressed (and I did experience it) because, let’s admit it, life is not easy, and we are not always in control of the events. Bad things happen, and bad things can damage us if we let it.

There was once a woman who worked in my son’s school. Her name was Sarah. She worked in the after-school club, a very pleasant, beautiful woman, who as me, was a single mum, and we sympathized with each other. I could sense some sadness in Sarah as if she was looking for something more, for life itself to reveal herself in a more interesting and unusual way. I probably felt in her what I feel myself, the powerful urge to live fully and to live each single day with a purpose.

My son changed school and we lost touch, but two years later I met Sarah in a pub. Sarah was a different person. She had, on the spur of the moment, decided to move to Malta and was back in Sheffield to sell her house to say goodbye to the UK for good. Sarah was blossoming, she was happy! Did she move for a marvelous job? No, not really, Sarah moved just because she wanted to experience something totally new, she wanted adventure and she wanted more from her life. She found work as a cleaner, and was happy, because the job became just a means to live life at a different level.

You might guess that I admired Sarah when I met her in the pub. I didn’t know at that moment that only a few months later I would also move to another country (fifth time), but I thought then: wow, that’s an interesting life! Maybe I should do the same, even if it seemed like almost impossible, that with a small child, a house, and a cat.

So, what am I trying to say in this post?

Be like Sarah! Be adventurous and be unique. Don’t be afraid to make radical changes, even if it means that you might change a glamourous job to a less prestigious one. It’s not the status and wealth which really matter, but the desire to live life fully, without compromises, radically and in a unique way.

Be different. Be unique. Think indeed out-of-the-box. Don’t be like everyone else.



When shops stood empty in Moscow

We are still in Moscow in the 1990s right when the whole country and its neighbours experienced traumatic changes, that would never be reversed, and I wouldn’t claim that they led to anything better. Some people will disagree with me, of course, on this matter, saying that capitalism is better than socialism, that before the regime was too corrupted, people had less chances, and no one was able to travel outside of the Soviet Union.

I agree that it’s always better when one has more choices and more freedom, and while I was able to execute it in practice more than perhaps the majority of the world’s population (I lived in 4 different countries, and managed to live in two countries twice, so in total I moved 5 times in between countries), I am not that sure that people outside of Moscow and Saint Petersburg have that many choices, and the only choice that seems to be presented to young people of today, is to know how to make money. The success of today is measured by one’s bank account, which is a good thing to have, but if it becomes the main goal, it denies one of some other important aspects of meaningful human existence, such as value of friendship, enjoying nature for the sake of enjoying it, meditating on the meaning of life, and being able to appreciate the purity of unexpectedness of life, when one isn’t looking to get richer and better off.

My own approach to money, and well, shopping, was shaped during the 1990s, and stayed with me till today. I lived in between two families (my dad’s and my grandma), and I experienced the deprivation periods on different levels, as a result. In 1991 my sister was born, the year when instead of products and cash money, we were presented with ‘coupons’ by our unfortunate government. It was a constant struggle for my step-mum, as we were five of us, and to feed the lot, with a small baby in tow, needed lots of imagination and sometimes, pure luck.

I remember the day when my step-mum asked me to go and explore whether our local product delivery center had any sugar and floor. Yes, even these products were rare, and one needed coupons to get them. These were also quite good products, as one could then make some pies, which could last for a week, and easily feed the whole family.

I started my walk with the coupons in my pockets on a freezing February afternoon, without hoping to return with anything back (floor and sugar were absent for a month already), but was delighted to see a big crowd waiting outside of the product center when I approached it. People outside meant that there was something, and sometimes it didn’t even matter what it was. Washing powder, outdated yogurts, tea, or even bread, everything was good when shops stood empty.

But oh, my delight when it appeared that the center was giving both sugar and the floor, as long as one had coupons, one could take as many as one could carry. I was so excited by the prospect, that I managed to stand in the queue for more than an hour, in an absolutely debilitating cold. I remember that when I finally presented my coupons, I had problems to hold them in my fingers because they lost any sensation due to the cold.

But then the march back home began. On the peak of my enthusiasm for sugar and floor, I got indeed as much as I could possibly carry, and ended up with twenty kilos of weight as a result. I was a teenager then, still very young and fragile, and the burden turned out to be way too big. It took me an hour to drag it all with me, as I had to stop every couple of minutes to take a breath. I was crying by the end but I went on.  Step by step, one meter after another. I couldn’t wait to see the happy smile on my step-mum’s face, because my weight carried really good news. We would have both floor and sugar for good three months, at least.

The face of my step-mum wasn’t a happy one when I arrived, but full of worry, as I was absent for three hours, it was already dark, and it was clear that I was an emergency situation by the time I finally showed up. I turned into a purple colour.

“You should have just left it, and run home,” my step-mum was telling me, “it isn’t worth it if you end up with pneumonia.” But when I was in my hot bath, I could already smell the preparation of the pies, and this was perhaps a reason as to why I didn’t end up ill after all. The motivation for something is sometimes stronger than the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the wish.

In another apartment, but in the same bloc, my grandma lived. Her circumstances were different and perhaps even more challenging, as she had less of coupons. When I was in her household, I had to learn the basic survival techniques. Like what to do when you run out of bread, there is nothing else to eat, and shops don’t sell any bread? We struggled without anything for quite some time (living on the dry milk, which I was receiving as ‘American’ aid parcel at school), until someone finally tipped me with a solution. One had to put the bread in the freezer! Buy as much as you can, when it is available, and freeze it! Ah, the feeling of happiness when I learned the trick, my sense of pride that I was some sort of ‘provider’ at the age when I was supposed to have no worries but only fun.

But so, to come back to the beginning of my post, capitalism is presented to us as a given, as a regime which survived and flourished much better than all other ideologies. We have many of its manifestations nowadays: financial capitalism with the power of the banks, informational capitalism with the power of Silicon Valley, medical capitalism with the power of Big Pharma, and so on.

But I was there when it arrived to my native country, and I saw what it did to it. Yes, we started to have a variety of products at some point, too many of them in fact. But I cherish the memory of the days when there were only two types of sausages in the shop, one type of bread, and two types of cheese. These were the days when people cooked at home among friends, read books in the park, trusted strangers, and spent so much less time on shopping.

Because shopping, while providing instant gratification, has absolutely no value in a longer term of meaningful life, takes precious time away from more rewarding activities (such as reading a book), and brainwashes the brain into believing that it is something nice to do.

But then capitalism is based in shopping and buying more and more stuff, and we are told that it’s the best way for us to conduct our existence.

Is it? Is it really?


(I could reflect on all these things while enjoying a nice stroll in Leeuwarden, where I currently live, and there people don’t really shop that much, which is a welcoming sign of a town that preserved something deeper than constant consumption)