Where is home for you?

Dearest Reader,

The idea of ‘home’ is tricky.

Although most of us eventually move out of our parent’s house to live elsewhere for most of our lives, we will forever refer to our childhood towns and houses as ‘home’.

Thanks to my parents’ inability to make a decision, and later my own inability to do so, I have moved not only to different houses, but also different countries and continents over the course of my life. You, dearest reader, may have similar experiences.

Yet, I am rarely homesick.

Because more than houses and spaces, I have realised that if I open my eyes, ‘home’ is actually all around me.

One thing I consider ‘home’ was the feeling I had when I got my first own room. I had to wait until I turned 12 to get my own room, and I previously had to share with my sister and even worse, my parents. My room barely fit a bed and a desk in it, but it wasn’t so much the space itself that mattered; it was the feeling of independence that it gave me.

I was able to have the privacy I needed to enjoy the first time falling in love, which was, of course, subsequently followed by the outpour of endless tears as I endured my first heartbreak.

It was also a safe place to experiment with make-up, hair and fashion ideas without being ridiculed. Because trust me, the things I tried would have been severely ridiculed.

And, of course, it was the sort of place where you could crank up Spice Girls songs and work on your hairbrush-holding musical career.

The feeling of having my own space can easily be replicated by having my own apartment, where I admittedly still occasionally resume the previously mentioned hairbrush routine in some sort of embarrassing outfit. But who’s to know?

The other thing I consider home is water.

I have always lived in coastal areas or on islands. Wherever I go, staring aimlessly at the horizon, seeing the sun reflecting off the water, hearing the sound of waves or the sound of sea gulls makes me feel at home.

With this also come memories of sandy sandwiches on the beach, fighting sea gulls as they try to attack said sandwich, and the added salt on the sandwich from the salty ocean breeze.

Finally, football is home.

Because my father never got to have the son he wanted, he decided that I shall be like a son, and I consequently spent a great deal of my childhood sitting on his lap and learning about football. My uncles and grandfather contributed to my knowledge by explaining how to swear, critically comment and yell helpful suggestions at the screen.

At the same time, it meant not participating in the knitting, cooking and other traditionally female-dominated activities promoted by my mother. While it annoyed her at first, the whole family was eventually inspired by our excitement about upcoming matches and joined in.

Whenever I watch football today, I remember grown men crying at loss, my mother cheering at the wrong teams because she didn’t understand what colour ours was, and my father’s proud kisses and hugs as he showed my awesome football critiquing abilities off to other fathers.

 

So, dearest reader, if you too are far from ‘home’, perhaps home can be found in something other than a town or a house. 

What’s your cure for homesickness?

 

 

No alcohol is no solution, either

Dearest Reader,

It is common knowledge that alcohol solves none of your problems, and that it is unhealthy to deal with emotional distress by consuming mind-numbing substances.

I too try to deal with life as it comes, with the help of rational thinking, planning, organising and patience. But there are moments and things that you have no control over, and you know you need a strong drink to digest what has just happened to you. Because after all, when you have no solution, not drinking doesn’t help, either.

The first instance are financial kicks in the balls. This can range from backhanded pay increases of $1 per hour, which are more of an insult than an incentive, to rent increases for the home you are currently residing in.

The upsetting part about both is that there is not much you can do in either situation, other than leave the job or home. And we both know, dearest reader, that that’s too much of a hassle. What is easier is to crack open a beer and cheers to this crappy day!

Another example is when your partner is testing your patience. They might be having a bad day, they might be unreasonable or they might just be beyond the usual level of bitchiness.

Here’s the thing. You can’t tell them that they are being an ass right now because they’ll hold it over your head forever, nor can you sink to their level and be equally unreasonable because it will escalate into unimaginable depths of ugliness. So you just sit, quietly, and take it, while you sip on something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Finally, big, massive, unanticipated news. Your sibling is getting married. Or even worse, your parent is getting divorced to marry someone else. Someone died. Someone broke up. With you. Or worse of all, you find out you accidentally fell pregnant, which is a double whammy because now you can’t even have a drink to digest this piece of shit information.

So, when life really is testing you, and there is nothing you can do to mitigate the problem or make the situation better in any way, there is no reason not to drink.

Cheers to life, in all its God damn weirdness!

Maths: Was it worth it?

Dearest Reader,

You may or may not know that while I have always been a good student, I have always struggled with maths. I told myself that I can’t be good at everything, and that’s just a weakness of mine.

But here’s the thing. When I think back, I realise that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me, but with the content of the curriculum.

I recently realised that most of what I had to learn and understand during math classes has not at all been applicable in my everyday life, not even to impress in some pretentious conversation, and many skills that I could have used were not discussed at all.

For instance, I never learned about taxes. I need to pay them, that I figured from the threatening letters I received when I didn’t.

Yet, I have no idea exactly how it is calculated, where it goes, what I need to do to save on taxes and why some people put money in Swiss banks and somehow avoid taxes altogether. Why wasn’t that taught? That could have been helpful, literally applicable every year of my adult life.

Instead, I remember having to calculate the water mass and volume of a river that varies in width at different points. I can safely say that this has yet to come in handy.

The other thing I wish that I had been taught was budgeting and saving. While we learn to add and subtract, nobody teaches you about money, about interest rates, credit cards, saving for retirement, debt or personal financial management in general. Not surprisingly, most of us are in some sort of debt, or at least limping to the finish line that is payday.

Rather, I was busy calculating the speed of a ball that is falling off a tall building, considering its weight and the distance it needs to travel to the ground. I believe if I did this in real life, not only would it serve no purpose, but it would also be highly illegal. Though admittedly I have been tempted during watermelon season.

Finally, while the whole world calls for entrepreneurs, start-ups and creating new jobs, nobody explained exactly what maths one must consider when making investments and starting a business. I remember spending years and years doing abstract calculations that don’t even include numbers but just variables, figuring out the ominous formulas required to work out ‘x’. Well, it turns out that x ain’t worth a damn when you have a great idea and you’d like to know how to put it into action.

While we can’t change the curriculum or the past, dearest reader, at least we can make peace with it.

From now on I shall no longer claim I’m bad at maths; I shall say I am just a little more practical than the school system plans for!

 

 

Saving Fails

Dearest Reader,

Becoming frugal is one of the key skills one develops as one progresses into adulthood.

However, there have been times when I had the best intentions and was trying to save money and do it the grown-up way, only to find that I made the situation worse or more expensive.

On the top are and will always be travel saving fails. 

I remember dragging my two suitcases through the snow in a deserted area of Germany because I tried to save money on air travel and booked my landing to an airport which was many hours from my actual destination.

I not only ruined by bags with the mixture of ice, snow and salt, but also almost suffered my own death waiting for busses and trains in -15 degrees celsius.

I’ve also experienced countless anxiety-ridden moments of my luggage being weighed, hoping nobody would notice the multiple layers of clothes currently on me, and the several pounds of toiletries in my pockets.

It goes without saying that many times, I ended up paying much more on excess luggage fees, train tickets from and to remote airports, as well as numerous bottles of overpriced water on airlines that don’t provide free water.

The other ways I unsuccessfully attempted to save money on was food wrapping. Reach for the cheapest cling film, aluminium foil or sandwich bags and you are sure to keep spending and spending as these don’t hold, grip or seal in the way you’d expect, and you end up wrapping things in multiple layers or putting bags into bags, only to find your entire handbag covered in sauce anyway because your lunch leaked all over.

Finally, clothes. We all know it is best to shop online if you’re not too fussed about the wait and the inability to try things on. I have myself been an avid online-shopper, with more positive than negative experiences.

But money, dearest reader, and your greed eventually blind you. And it was not long before I too discovered the kinds of websites that offer what look like stylish and good-quality clothes for ridiculously cheap prices, such as $7 for a jacket, $5 for pair of jeans or even $30 for a wedding dress.

Needless to say, when I ordered a dress which cut off way above my waist line and a ‘one-size’ top that barely fit one of my arms, I realised that this was not the answer. Sure, it all only cost $15. But there they go, those $15. Poof. Wasted.

But dearest reader, may this not encourage you on the quest to look for the sweetest deal. More often than not, it works out well.

And if it doesn’t, at least you have a funny anecdote to tell.

 

The Joys of Adult Braces

Dearest Reader,

Sometimes, your life doesn’t follow the chronological order of the standard human life calendar set out for you by society. Some things you may experience earlier than the average person would, and some things might come much later than they should have.

In my case, it was braces. At the tender age of 29, I made the decision to fix an uncomfortable dental issue, and sadly this meant getting braces.

The fear of humiliation and ridicule was almost larger than my desire to feel better and healthier. I tossed and turned over this for many months before finally agreeing. And now they’re in.

Surprisingly, I almost dare to say this has been a positive experience.

There are some unique advantages of getting braces as an adult that you wouldn’t necessarily have as a teenager.

The first one is bullying. Nobody bullies you. They may think of it, but they don’t say it.

All of a sudden, you have the power. You can talk about your braces, you can show them freely, and people are not allowed to be mean to you. In society we care so much about what other people think, which is actually a much harder truth for the brace-bully than for the brace-wearer. If a person makes a mean or negative remark about my braces, they would instantly become the bad guy in the eyes of the remaining observants. I would be the victim, and I would be showered with pity. Which, as George Costanza once said, is totally underrated.

The other perk is your adult sense of self. By now, I am fairly stable in my self-image in the sense that I know I’m not an awkward, friendless nerd, or a loser, or ugly, simply because I am wearing braces. As a teenager, braces may define who you are, but as an adult they won’t. Nobody describes me as ‘the girl with the braces‘.

Sadly it’s still ‘the girl with the loud, irritating voice and the big hair‘.

Finally, it’s the respect you get from your peers. People admire your brave decision to get braces at such a ridiculous age, and to put yourself out there. In fact, many people have confessed to me that they too would like braces, yet haven’t had the courage to get them.

So there you have it.

If you need to get braces, you just do it. You go, and you get them and you don’t try to learn how to smile without showing them – you just wear them like a boss!

Rules of Eating Out

Dearest Reader,

I used to be a big fan of eating out in restaurants for any occasion, with family, friends or on a date, and enjoy the experience.

However, as I slowly blossom into a real grown-up with limited patience for social etiquette that gets in the way of my happiness, I recently got tired of the rules. The rules of eating out.

If you are a guy, what you order on a date can really make or break this outing. For instance, if you order white wine, that really sends a message. If you order bottled beer, that’s also a strong message. If you order a salad with your white wine, you might as well order her another guy too.

The same applies with going out with your other male friends. You still can’t order white wine with salad, and potentially a dessert, unless you’re very secure in your masculinity.

But what if you really want white wine and a salad, and a pink raspberry panna cotta? Well, the only place you can really have that is at home. So might as well eat there.

If you’re a girl, you also can’t order freely on a date. If you had a busy day and you finally want to relax with a beer, you’ll come over as ‘too butch’. For the same reason, you can’t order a steak. Apparently, you also can’t order a pizza and eat all of it. After finishing mine, I was once told “Wow, I’ve never seen a girl eat a whole pizza before!!” and needless to say, that made me feel like a freak.

If you’re out with other girls, you need to pretend that you’re fine with tapas, with sharing ridiculously small amounts of overpriced food, because we lie to each other and judge each other harshly if we eat normal quantities.

So you go home and eat properly after dinner.

Regardless of your gender, there are many general taboos.

For instance, nachos are not considered proper food.

If you order garlic bread, people automatically think you ordered it to share it with them, even if you didn’t. If you order fries, you have to offer them some, and nobody stops at one fry.

If everyone orders a burger and you order the salmon steak, that’ll make you look too fancy. If everyone orders the salmon steak and you order the burger, it’ll make you look cheap and like you don’t have any idea what a healthy diet looks like.

If you’ve finished your alcoholic beverage faster than everyone else, you don’t get to order a new one until everyone else is ready, otherwise you’ll be considered an alcoholic. If nobody else wants a second round, you can’t show your disappointment but instead go home and drink alone, in the kitchen.

If everyone finishes their drink before you, they pressure you into drinking more quickly, and if you don’t want a second round, they’ll openly shout their disappointment at you.

As a result, I only choose to go out with those friends who know my dislike for small portions and sharing. On dates, I don’t try to be the salad-eating princess; if you can’t handle a woman with real appetite, you must not call me again. And in all other instances, I excuse myself from the social gathering and rather sit at home, eating and drinking whatever I want, at whatever speed I want.

Surviving Weddings

Dearest Reader,

Not long ago, I attended a friend’s wedding. This is certainly not my first wedding, nor will it be the last. As all the people around me are bonding and subsequently procreating, I realised that weddings are a particular burden for the young adult who is neither close to marrying nor likely to procreate.

But why? Why do weddings cause such emotional distress to the observer?

The first reason is hope.

I must confess, dearest reader, that while I generally consider myself a very balanced person with great emotional control, weddings stir up unanticipated feelings. There is a common stereotype that women will be extra sensitive and receptive to romantic advances at weddings, and it saddens me to admit that this is true.

There I sat, watching a couple promise to love each other forever, and I wondered; maybe my new-age thinking is wrong. Maybe my rational mind telling me that marriage is really unnecessary and probably won’t work is also false. Although I can be independent, maybe I don’t want to be. Maybe there is one person for every person, and maybe true love exists after all, just like Disney movies promise us!

And as I drank what was most likely a mixture of champagne and my own tears, and watched everyone celebrating and congratulating the couple, I started fantasising about my own wedding, which now appeared to be the only gateway to happiness.

The second reason are the parents.

As soon as you throw on a tuxedo or the princess wedding dress, your parents express the kind of love and pride they never do for day-to-day accomplishments. There he was, the father choking up as he told his daughter how beautiful she was, and the mother who shed countless tears during her speech, proudly narrating how she raised the world’s most wonderful man.

On my 5th champagne, I wondered what it would be like if my parents finally showered me with this kind of respect and gratitude, this love and affection, in front of everyone, so that I may have evidence of this on tape and re-watch it whenever they express their disapproval in the future.

At the end of the night I went to bed with mixed emotions, wondering what it would be like to wake up next to my perfect husband.

When I finally did wake up with a sober mind, I looked around me, and realised I was still alone. The alcohol had worn off, the hormones were at normal levels, and I finally took a good, hard look at my life.

And then I broke into uncontrollable, hysterical laughter. Laughter that makes your belly ache. Laughter that you worry will kill you.

And as my laughter rang through the entire building, dearest reader, I knew this was the sound of deep, heartfelt relief.