Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Educated to remain silent

Some of you might think that once you start university life you enter a world full of intellectual and exciting discussions about politics, history, society and all these other things adults talk about. However during my past three years of university, I was able to observe another phenomenon and I think that its’ roots lie in the education we had during our school life.

When I took my A level exams, which was in 2010, I had absolved 13 years of school and I have to admit, that I was never that kind of student who would participate during lessons for several reasons:

1) I did not want to embarrass myself by giving a wrong answer.

2) I did not want to look like a know-it-all in front of my classmates (funny thing: I never considered other students who participated in class regularly as know-it-alls. To me they were just smart).

3) In general, I never had the desire to be the focus of attention in any way.

4) In other cases I was just too late. When I thought about saying something, I had to think about what I wanted to say very, very thoroughly. I had to prepare my statement word by word, turning it over again and again until it was too late. This was a big problem in my majors French and English.

The result was, that teachers always told me to say more during class, but that they also knew I had some kind of potential, because my grades in exams were normally quite decent (not extra-ordinary).

To make a long story short, being an introvert who keeps his thoughts for himself is a facet of your personality which naturally keeps you from taking part during a discussion. If you do not get rid of this habit, you are most likely to behave that way during university as well and this is what my life here has actually been:

Being the audience and not the actor

What really surprised me though is that there seems to be a general tendency to lethargy among my peers. It is not just me. It is an entire group of people who refuse to start a discussion.
This semester I had some really interesting classes about social systems and discrimination in Asia and about knowledge about Korea at the end of the 19. century. During every class 2 to 3 people would share a presentation about a certain topic with some time at the end to ask questions or just talk about that topic. The general reaction:

Nobody says a thing.

As a speaker, I know that it is a very uncomfortable feeling sitting there and hoping for some resonance, but there is nothing. You look at these people and all you see is a huge void behind their eyes and inside their heads.

Especially in our class about Korea, our teacher tries to encourage us to discuss by pointing out interesting facts or asking questions, but everyone just tends to look at their papers and stay silent.

At this point, I can already see people exclaiming:
“Well, why don’t you say something, if it bothers you that much??”

But the thing is that there is nothing inside my head. Even though I try to really listen to the presentations and think of aspects that interest me or are questionable, there is nothing. Nothing comes to my mind. Maybe the others feel the same?

At school, we were not really encouraged to discuss and it was not so important as well. If you are an introvert like me, you were always able to balance out your grades by writing a good exam. If you failed, well, you were fucked. But in general, you were not very dependent on your oral contributions to class.

I refuse to believe, that I live in a generation without beliefs or opinions. Everyone has an opinion about something, but we never learned to express them. We never learned to defend them and we never learned to rely on our own thoughts.

All we learned at school was how to write a perfectly fine essay about world famous literature making use of the “approved” opinion of others and not our own.  We learned, that a statement is only valuable, if you can proof it with another one.  It is something we were taught at school and it gets even worse at university, where you have to back up everything your write or say with something else.
Instead of stimulating the development of new intellectual approaches, we just sit there copying other peoples’ works.

I actually want to overcome this void inside me. I want to have something to say and ask questions, but it is so difficult, if you have never learned it. We know how to fill our heads with knowledge. It is familiar for us sit there for hours memorizing facts.
And still we are not able to take some time and ask ourselves what we think – what we feel. We are unable to use our brains to its’ fullest potential.

So, this time I came up with a question, because it is impossible for me to find an answer:

Why does nobody say something and how can we overcome this lethargy?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A Dreamer's Daydream

Sometimes there are those days, when you do not want to get up.
Maybe there is something dreadful ahead of you during the day – school, work, the dentist.
However once in a while you just lay there, curling up again under your blanket after turning off the alarm. It is an ordinary day, nothing dreadful, nothing horrible, but still. You do not want to get up anyway.

Maybe it is because of this wonderful dream you had last night. You want to close your eyes and return to this wonderful fantasy, but you can not. It is either impossible for you to fall asleep again or times does not allow it.
What was this dream about anyway? The only thing that is left is this feeling of warmth and comfort. So, you assume it must have been something really good.
Possibly it was a memory or even a wish come true.

But time goes on and so you get up. You go to school, do your work and live your dull daily life.
From time to time your minds starts to wander, trying to continue that dream you can not forget – or at least the feeling of it.
How will it end? How do you want it to end?

Sadly you have to focus on your real life again, but at the end of the day you are finally at home. You go to bed and once you rest comfortably and the lights are off, your thoughts start strolling around again.
You close your eyes, imagining all the things you want to dream of tonight.
Maybe you remember a kiss you would like to experience again or a person you want to see again. It is an endless row of all the feelings you want to feel again.

Eventually you will fall asleep.
You wake up the next morning and there is this strange feeling again. As soon as your feet touch the ground you are already looking forward to falling asleep again.
Because sometimes even a nice daydream can not replace the magic of a real dream.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A Pugly Sunday Walk on a Sunny Friday

 After more than two weeks without updates, I felt the need to drop my recently kind of negative attitude and concentrate on the other aspects of life, which are a bit more enjoyable than worrying about unrequited feelings. The phase of drowning myself in my own puddle of self-pity is officially over!

So, this is why I want to introduce you to one of my favourite parts of the week.
Nearly every week I drive to my parents' house to spend the weekend of them and usually on Sunday my mum and I go for a walk with the pugs.
As a kid I used to despite long walks, but now I really enjoy them. Maybe because everything is better with a pug?

This weekend I took the dogs out by myself, because my mum had to work. The weather was just too nice to stay at home. We went to a huge field, which is about a ten minutes walk away from our house. But to start off, these will be our companions throughout this entry. May I present? Lotte (left) and Jule (right), our pugs:

You will most certainly be able to spot them in a few photos. Can you catch them all?
Lotte is a very kind dog and easy to walk, but Jule is still very young and quite lively, as you can tell from that provoking look on her face. She is just one year old and runs after everything she spots: birds, bikes, cars, other dogs... well, the list is endless and on that day we were especially unfortunate. Why the hell, does the entire city decide to ride their bikes on a Friday at noon... in the winter? Welll, maybe because it was nearly 10°C, but still. Why??

Once we left all the bikes and other hazards behind us, I could let the two off the leash and we took a wuite narrow path next to the field. This one is quite nice in the summer, because the trees keep the hot sun away and all these little bushes shield you from the view of other people, who take the paved path on the left.
The field we are about to walk through is one the left side

The pugs enjoying their short-lived freedom
Once we arrived at the end of this little secret path, we walked our way through the fields. In the summer they are wonderfully green with man high maizes, potatoes and other vegetables. Right now they look a bit bald and not very exciting at all, but they are a great route to walk nonetheless. 

Dogs just being dogs... sniffing their way through the fields!
a beautiful cloudy sky and green grass - the sparse trees on the left mark the path we took before   
Many people use these fields to let their dogs run and let them play with each other. Jule always runs towards them barking like a mad man, but hardly anyone is ever really impressed by her.
After a generous round through the fields, our way leads towards a little cemetery.
A pugly photobombing by Jule on our way to the cemetery
My mum and I, we love cemeteries, especially very old ones. Our cemetery has only quite recent grraves, starting from the 1970's. It might not the proper way to behave at a place like that, but we always look for funny names on the tombstones, but I also like to imagine these people's lifes, depeding on the time they were born, their age of death and their names. 

These little graves are for urns and quite new compared to the others

all these colourful  flowers really look like spring, if only the trees were a bit less bald....
At this part of our journey, Lotte is usually already a bit tired, because she is not as energetic as Jule. She keeps just standing still, looking at you in the most accusing manner, but what shall one do? We have to go home, sooner or later. 

Once we arrive home, usually between one and a half or two hours are gone. The pugs are tired, but happy and so am I. On that weekend, I got the chance to make a second round with my mum on Saturday before I had to return to Bonn and I am already looking forward to the next weekend. 
I am truly glad, that we still have so much nature to explore around us and an opportunity for the dogs to run around freely, because let's face it:
If a pug does not get enough exercise, it will roll around your house one day and smash you.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A coward's New Year's Eve

For many people the last day of a year is considered as a turning point in life. You leave something behind – events, people, memories – and at the same time you dive into something new. It is not called a New Year's resolution for no reason. Whenever a new period begins, people see it as a chance to improve and be happier than they had been before.

I had a resolution, too. Not for the new year, but for that very night. Well, what should I say? Most resolutions one makes do not work out, but let me start at the beginning.

When I took the train to Cologne to meet up with some friends, I was utterly nervous. This would be the night - the perfect time, the perfect ambiance. It was my second New Year's with my former neighbour and we met up with some of his friends to go out and eat something and celebrate the start of 2014. Tonight, I would tell him. I would tell him, what I have been feeling for the past one and a half years.

Once I reached the sushi restaurant, my heart was already beating hard against my chest. He looked so good in his white shirt, but when he and his friends looked at me, I already felt discouraged. My heartbeat became so slow and quiet, when I sat down next to him to take a look at the menue. Suddenly I was calm, just like every time we meet up.

Before, there is this unexplicable excitement. It makes the tips of your fingers tingle. Butterflies dancing in your belly and just when you think, that you can not bear it anymore, it is over. Like the sudden silence after a heavy storm.

We had a lot of fun that night, eating and chatting with each other (even though I did not say much). Afterwards we went to a bar to grab a few drinks and when it was time to welcome the new year, we went outside. We clinked glasses and he started with his fireworks, because to him, that is the most exciting part about New Year's. The fireworks.
After a while his friends left, to drop one of them off at the train station. I stayed with him, so he would not be alone. Finally, there was just the two of us. He helped me light some smaller fireworks and I could feel my spirits light up immediately, when our hands touched. However, I was not able to say something – or at least not what I was thinking.
That was stupid and my biggest mistake on that evening.

When the rest of the party returned, we went to a club. It was fun. The music was good and it felt nice to let go. I am not interested in impressing other guys. I just do what I want, even if it looks weird. Maybe that is why I do not get in contact with men when I go dancing. All the time I barely had the confidence to look him in the eyes. I was scared that he would see something he does not like. Instead, I looked at his friends, the floor or around the crowded room.
Couples. There were couples everywhere. People holding each other tightly. Kissing. It made me angry. At that moment, I could not be happy for them. Looking at them made me so furious and embittered, because I was unable to go and get what I wanted. I wanted what they had and I wanted it with him.
All the time, there was this image inside my head of me confidently grabbing his hand to dance with him. However, I am not confident. I have never been.

We left the club at about five in the morning to go home. He and I had the same way. We said our goodbyes to the others and left. When we arrived at the already crowded train station, there was an announcement. Apparently, someone had thrown himself under a train. As a consequence the entire route was blocked. So, everyone headed for the tram, which is a lot slower.

Honestly, I was glad. We had to stand very close to each other. I could feel his breath and I just took the opportunity to lean on him. We were both very sleepy, so there was not a lot of talking, but I enjoyed standing there with him. My legs were heavy and my feet hurt very badly, but I did not care.
At one point I could feel his hand on my back. I think he was trying to hold me, so I would not fall, but the tram was so packed there was nowhere to fall anyway. I still enjoyed it. This light pressure on my back felt strangely securing. Sadly enough, this was my favourite moment of the night.
Standing in the tram with his arm around me.

After a few minutes he let go, to take off his backpack, but he did not attempt to hold me again.
The journey home took one and a half hours. Normally, it is one hour. We hugged each other briefly and finally went our ways.

This evening was nothing like I had imagined it. In my head, it was all a wonderful Hollywood production: At midnight people would start cheering. We would hug each other, look into each others eyes and kiss. Nothing major at first. Just a light, shy touch of the lips. Then a nervous, but happy smile.
It was nothing like that, because I did not have the guts.
Before that evening everyone had joked about hooking him up with someone, so he would get his New Year's kiss. I thought about saying something perky to him:

„Hey, since you had no New Year's kiss. What about having it with me? I did not have one either.“

But just as always, I said nothing. There was no kiss at all. Not for us.
Well, this is why I like being a pessimist. I make plans beforehand, but because I always expect the worst, I am not too disappointed. It is normal. It is normal for me to let chances come and go without making a move. That is my nature. It is nothing to be proud of, but I can deal with it.

I do not think, that anyone read this whole mess of self-pity, but in case there really is someone who did:
Let this be a lecture. Be brave, make mistakes, but never give yourself a reason to be angry, because you did not try hard enough.

Happy 2014 everyone.