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.

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