Different trains of thought

When it comes to “winding down my summer” the right way, I’ve found I’m not very good at that. While I should probably be letting myself ease into “real life” i.e. stay in Middelburg for IntroWeek, I will instead be doing one last whirlwind trip around the continent before I will be stuck in one place for more than a month. Four countries in two weeks? I got this.

During my three week vacation from vacation, I’ve had a lot of time to think, reflect, relax, and get back into the mundane swing of things. I even had enough time to get bored! As much as I despise boredom when there is so much you could be doing that you actually want to do, I think being bored occasionally is good for you, just like going on vacation. You do things you wouldn’t normally do.

For example, it was out of boredom that I deep cleaned my room and reorganized it. I redesigned cardboard boxes so that they wouldn’t be too ugly to use as storage space. Yesterday I even dragged a huge heavy couch across Middelburg hoping it would fit in my room (yes, lots of people stared and commented), just to find out when we got it to my house, it wouldn’t fit up the stairs! My common room now has a lovely new couch, and I still have a sad couchless bedroom. Sigh.

Other than not measuring the width of my stairs with accuracy, the stupidest thing I have done can either be giving Sem a new haircut in the middle of the night, or “applying” to join Raya, a dating app meant exclusively for the beautiful rich and famous that I didn’t even know existed until 24hrs ago. Considering I have 200 followers on Instagram (half of them probably being spam accounts) and have a new job (this time it’s for real!) at a chic hotel as a maid, I think I stand a fighting chance at being accepted as part of the club. My dream of marrying Zac Efron is about to become a reality.

All giggles aside, I have noticed one thing about me that I find curious. I’ve also noticed it with countless others, predominately when I think about my time in Hvar. When people are on holiday, they tend to be exaggerated versions of themselves in everyday life. All of a sudden, people are more attractive, reckless, interesting and braver…and also stupider. When I’m traveling, I can strike up a conversation with any stranger about anything in any situation, and not feel as awkward about it as usual. I’m not going to go in detail about the things I’ve done while away, but for the most part, you can best believe that my self-confidence is higher than average, and my consequential reasoning skills are more likely to be ignored in comparison to straight-laced Krista. It seems the opposite is also true for me. When I’m bored, I do stupid stuff as well. Maybe this is all in my head and I’m just a person that does stupid stuff regardless of my circumstances, but I’d like to think otherwise.

Which leads into my final train of thought for the moment: I’d like to find more of a balance between my vacation self, and my every day self now that the school year is approaching and it’s almost time to get serious again. I’d like to take the confidence and carefree attitude of holiday me, and bring that into my academics and free time. It’s so nice not worrying so much about what other people might think of you when you’re on vacation, because the chances of seeing them again (unless you actually want to) are next to nothing. Go ahead, be loud and obnoxious whenever you want, because you’re never going to see them again. Whereas in a community of 600 students, everyone knows everything, and you will see them again, and again, and again. There’s a reason why separation of church and state became a thing in the Enlightenment.

But I’d like to be a bit braver this semester, a bit more open-minded, and believe in myself more, like Krista on vacation. There’s a difference in the types of confidence between knowing and believing. And I want the added confidence boost that the belief in oneself brings with it.  I feel like that’s what I wanted at the beginning of last semester too, but then again, who doesn’t want to be more confident?

 

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Back from Mars Bars

“Traveling–it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”–Ibn Battuta

Last Saturday, one of my bestest of friends came home from their summer (use of “them” pronoun out of respect for their gender queerness) and semester abroad in South Korea. On Wednesday I went up to their house in Friesland, 5hrs north of Middelburg, to see them for the first time in 8 months. OH BOY WAS I EXCITED!!!

I had been so sad when Marrit left for the spring semester. They are indeed the housemate I am closest too, and I was really going to miss them. Every Wednesday night for the past 2 years we had a standing date of eating poffertjes at midnight, and for an entire semester and summer, Poffertjes Night would be canceled. I was struggling to think about how last semester would play out: who would I have my philosophical conversations with at random hours in the middle of the night? Who would be there to annoyingly educate me on all things anime, K-Pop, social media, and gayness/gender queerness? I won’t be able to barge into their room and eat all their food anytime I pleased, regardless if they were “busy” or not. What was I going to do without my Marrit?! Yes, I was dealing with separation anxiety at the thought of Marrit not being home. But somehow I made it through the entire semester and summer. Of course we texted and occasionally video chatted, but I was busy with my life, and Marrit now with theirs in South Korea.

As much as I missed Marrit, I was also incredibly excited for this opportunity. South Korea had been on their bucket list since we moved in together, and I knew that they would experience a lot of growing up, growing out, and fun stories that would last a lifetime. It was their first time leaving Europe, and life was about to get a lot bigger. You can imagine how excited and curious I was to finally get to see them again. What had you learned? What had you seen? What did you feel? Had you fallen in love and met your soulmate? Did you figure out the meaning of life? Please tell me everything!!

While there was so much to share about what had gone on in our lives these past 8 months, we still did what we normally would have done had this been any other typical invasion of their home: eat junk food, watch YouTube videos, binge watch series, and occasionally see the light of day. What I loved most, is that it felt like we never left. As much as both of us had new experiences and stories we had learned from and discovered, we were still Krista and Marrit, doing what Krista and Marrit do best: laugh and fumble through life. Rather than smoothly seeing them and giving them a big bear hug right after I stepped off the train, Marrit found me awkwardly trying to figure out how to get through the train’s check out gates…even though I’ve lived here for two years now and should be pro at this…

But what I love, and will probably cherish most about our relationship from this point forward, is the new insight we can build upon when we go back to having our philosophical talks or life dream conversations. Croatia and Geneva made me more confident in my social skills and helped me figure out a little bit more of what I want to do with my life, while South Korea and Japan did the same for Marrit. It makes me so happy to see them more confident and assertive about their passions and beliefs, and inspires me to be that way about mine. Next semester will be quite busy like normal, but I am very happy to be spending my final year of university with all of my best friends home and ready to tackle the future together.

Want to know more about Marrit’s Asian adventures? Check out their blog @ https://seoulxsearcher.wordpress.com

Finding grace between the folds of reality

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that”–Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s been six days since I realized I was scammed (see previous post), and roughly two weeks since I had been targeted. And yes, they looked up this blog, tracked it for a week, filed through everything, took my money, and then disappeared like fog on a sunny day.

I’m not stupid. I know there are malicious people in this world, and I know that there are some sketchy people that trawl through here. This blog doesn’t contain any useful information to anyone unless they want to gauge my psychological and emotional stability. But to use even that against me, is low.

As the dreams turn back into dreams and the dust settles, I’m faced with a reevaluation of how I view myself and humanity, and I’m hit with the practical education that I have received from my parents. Thank you mother for teaching me money management skills! Because of you, I am able to take a $1,000 blow without my life falling apart financially. I have a diverse portfolio, and I make sure to have a “financial cushion” in case situations like these arise. $1,000 is still a lot of money, especially if you are a college student without a job. But I know that one day $1,000 won’t mean as much to me as it does now. And now I’m six days smarter, six days older, and six days into my decision making: do I want to become jaded? Remain naive? Become paranoid? Give up? Never.
Shit happens. Last July I almost died in a car crash, this July I got $1,000 stolen. I wonder what next July holds?

It would be so easy, and highly understandable, to shut down this blog, change all my email addresses, passwords, and wipe myself off the face of the internet. It would be so much safer to assume that everyone is out to get me, not trust any new strangers, and walk around with a resting bitch face until proven wrong. And it would help me forget about all of this if I were to give up my dreams of being a writer, and settle for something more secure (like being a diplomat perhaps?). But I’ve decided I don’t want to live my life like that, despite this situation. I also don’t want to make the same mistake twice. So where do I draw the line?

I’m going to continue writing here, and I will still aspire to be a starving writer. And after this post is finished, I will go back online and search for part time jobs, and most importantly, I will not let this affect how I view humanity, or myself.

Once I realized I had been scammed, I felt beyond stupid, embarrassed, ashamed, and self-critical. “How could you not have seen all the red flags?!”

But that’s the bittersweetness that retrospective thinking provides us. It makes us feel smarter and dumber simultaneously.

I wanted to hide, pretend it hadn’t happened to me, and not tell anyone. Instead, I let my desire to help others take over. I can’t help myself, but maybe I can prevent it from happening to one less person. So I wrote about it on Facebook, and I’m telling you about it here. Please don’t let it happen to you! Scammers are getting smarter, just like the rest of us. Check names and email addresses, and Google everything as a vetting process for legitimacy. But if it happens anyways, know that it’s all going to be okay, and you’re not dumb. We all make mistakes. If anything, you just earned smartie points from this “experience”.

Now to my final point. I’d like to think that in a pretty world, these people hiding behind computer screens using other people’s dreams against them need the money more than the dreamers. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives. Maybe a close friend or relative is dying from cancer and this is how they pay the medical bills. It doesn’t make it right, or fix the damage done, but it makes me think that perhaps they’re not completely selfish sociopaths. These people could also very well be millionaires that do this for fun, or for some extra drug money. Regardless of who they are or their intentions, for every twisted person that I’ve come across, I’ve met at least ten other good-hearted people. Traveling has taught me that.

So I will be cautious and protect myself as best as I can, but ultimately mistakes are made and bad things happen to good people. I just need to pick myself up and keep going, and not let a series of unfortunate events pull me into its world of pessimism.

And who knows, maybe my newfound knowledge and empathy for people who dubiously get screwed over will lead into a career in cyber law and security.

Stardust, Starbucks

“This means that you have to take us out on a date because now you’re rich, and you can be our sugar mommy”–Emma

Alright, you knew it was coming: A blog post about the blogging job that I just landed. Talk about your Russian doll set.

Essentially, I spent this weekend hiding in my room. I was socialized out from five intensive days studying geopolitics in every direction imaginable, and spent a lot of time with my classmates after hours. And if I wasn’t hanging out with them, or sleeping, or going to school, I was hanging out with Tjabbo, or chatting with people in my building. This “fear of missing out”, mixed with a “why not” attitude left me drained, dead, and slightly sick. I needed a weekend in which I locked myself up and avoided human interaction at all costs. However, messaging me from behind a phone screen was acceptable. Especially if I was the one initiating most of the contact (Sorry Sem haha).

And as per biannual tradition, when I give myself an unlimited amount of time to think, I obsess into my quarter life crises of “what am I going to do with myself now?!”. That was last night for me. My first question of “what am I going to do this winter break?” turned into “I need a job” to “what am I going to do after I graduate?”. Citizenship, permanent residence, passports, visas, and internships were some of the many buzz words spinning around in my head. And to overcompensate for my many ideas and options that I concocted: Peace Corps, workaway, working-holiday visas, entering the professional world, masters programs, etc. I began to google and email like nobody’s business. Suddenly I had applied to several internships/jobs on internships.com, I had sent out emails to hostels in Amsterdam, Queenstown, and Melbourne. I was thinking about sending some to London, but remembered that Azzurra might be able to help me out there. I was on overdrive and worrying like usual. “What if I have to move back to the U.S.? What if I have to enter the professional world prematurely?” I know that my time here in Europe is far from over, and I know that at 21, I will not be ready to strap down into building a serious career. But I also know that I’m not ready to go to grad school yet.

There are four pieces of advice that have been drilled into me since my first semester when these crises began:

  1. Do what you want to do
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others
  3. Everything will work itself out
  4. Your mind will change, and its ok

And thankfully, as each quarter life crisis comes and goes, my reaction to them lessens, and slowly I am believing the above 4 points. Maybe one day I’ll be able to seamlessly transition from one project into the next.

Landing this job with Starbucks was the epitome of “lesson learned”. I applied Sunday night, was scheduled for an interview this afternoon, and then 30 mins later was told I had the job. I love writing, and to be able to do what I love to do for fun, as “work” and get paid for it, was a dream come true. Usually my American citizenship costs me the job, or my location in Middelburg turns people off, or the fact that I am a student with an inconsistent schedule earns me a rejection. But this job, this job was ok with my situation. How refreshing!

So there I was, sitting on a bench under a tree that I could not name (I’m pro at bench warming btw) in Geneva’s botanical gardens, awaiting my verdict. And then I was beyond ecstatic to receive a yes. And it came so much easier than the others. I didn’t have to tediously rework my schedule or research the legality behind my eligibility. Almost as if it happened naturally. And that brings me to my last and final lesson learned (compliments of Shanice):

5. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.

And yes, this job is the missing puzzle piece, perfectly placed. This job allows me to continue traveling in my free time, both because I’ll have a steady income, and because it’s transportable. It was meant to travel the world with me! It allows me to prepare for life outside of university, and most importantly, it takes something I love to do and makes it useful. I’m officially a sponsored writer!

(Get over the fact that it’s Starbucks, you’re going to wish you had my access to coffee during finals week ♥)

Suits, sidewalks, & suffostication

“How’s Geneva omg is it as pretentious as it always kinda sounds?”–Marrit

On the bus ride to class, I went from one end of the city to the other, and was shocked by all of the men in suits. Since when do you wear a suit in public transportation, everyday to work? Since you live in Geneva and never see a businessman smile. As much as I love drooling over men in suits, this was more than a bit too much. Additionally, there was a memo requesting “business casual” that I accidentally overlooked. So while I went to class wearing tank tops and flip flops (all week), I should have been wearing my Congressional hearing blazer and matching slacks. Oops. On Monday, Tjabbo and I were eating sandwiches in the rain on a bench after class, and he was telling me about how Switzerland is so clean, “look at the sidewalks!” And then there was me, making a mess of my sandwich on said sidewalk.

But like everything, looks can be deceiving.

Underneath the intimidating appearances and resumes (Swiss Federal Department of Defense; explosives and ammunition surveillance, Cabinet Office of the Hungarian Prime Minister, European Parliament Research Analyst) they’re humans, and they’re here to learn something just like me. I had to keep telling myself that even though I have nothing to my name except dreams and a few hobbies, I had just as valid of a reason to be there as they did. On the flip side, even though I showed up looking like a tacky souvenir, I had experiences and knowledge that could contribute to a multidimensional perspective discussion that were unique to me. No one else was of Chinese origin, no one else was American, and certainly no one else was from a Dutch university. From a geopolitical perspective, I am the product of what international studies scholars speculate about. I just need the professional experience to make me as equally intimidating, and that comes with time.

One classmate was telling me about a friend of hers that acted naïve, but was actually quite intelligent, and working for her respective government. One of the British guys that I befriended at the hostel, the funny one with the self-deprecating humor, explained to me that he had a job he couldn’t tell me about. In both cases, one wouldn’t expect these professions to mix with these personalities. Is he a British spy worthy of a James Bond novel? Is she an ex-Russian sniper gone rogue and working for the US? I don’t know, and I probably don’t want to know. But I know it would make a fantastic story, and it feeds my imagination like kindling to a bonfire. Perhaps meeting all these people isn’t meant for me to network with, but for me to create stories with. Stories and imaginations founded on just enough truth to keep them exciting, but enough drama to feed one’s fantasy.

I digress. What I want to say here, is that looks are almost always deceiving in both directions. Don’t discount the value of the inappropriately dressed idiot, and don’t think too highly of the posh man in the suit without speaking to him first. And underneath all the fancy titles or lack thereof, we’re all humans who have to spend too much money buying toilet paper for our households (please excuse my metaphor as being exclusively directed at individuals residing in a well developed western state). I don’t care about what you do for a living, whether you can help me climb the socio-economic ladder or not, or who you’re friends with.

I care about what makes you feel alive, what fuels your passion for work, what breaks your heart and then puts it back together again.

I want to know who you are, not what you are.

Maybe one day I will work in diplomacy, or maybe one day I’ll become an author worthy enough to share a shelf with Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, or Oscar Wilde. Or maybe all of this is for not, and I’ll end up a good little Christian housewife educating her children on the goodness of the Lord. Or maybe I’ll run away and join the circus, fake my death, and then come back homeless and ready to chase the American Dream as an undercover CIA agent fluent in Swahili and Irish Gaelic nominated for an Academy Award for Most Outrageous Imagination. But for now, I’m just basking in my present situation. I have friends and family who love me all over the world, and an opportunity to explore all that it has to offer.