Thoughts on Living for the Moment

About time I posted something new, I think… you may have realized by now that my summer is not quite as exciting as my roommate’s. It’s been mostly working, and then enjoying my free weekends, and then working again. But of course, stuff always happens when we least expect it, so I’ve had quite a few reasons recently to contemplate the concept of “living for the moment”.

Being the literature geek that I am, I always look for quotes to help me express what I think. So I went and looked up what famous and semi-famous people had to say, and this is what I found:

“Nothing is worth more than this day.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God’s.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

“We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“Nothing ever gets anywhere.  The earth keeps turning round and gets nowhere.  The moment is the only thing that counts.”  ~ Jean Cocteau

I could go on for a bit, but I think you get the idea. It goes hand in hand with the realization that change is the only constant thing in life… I heard this several times before but I always found it a difficult idea. What do you mean, nothing is constant? Don’t I get to have friends, family, people that are always going to be there, no matter what? Can’t I settle down at some point and have my life be at least sort of constant? But the thing is, even if I have a constant relationship, say, with a friend or a sibling, that relationship continues to evolve, to change, to be renewed, and both parties have to be there and keep making an effort to keep the relationship alive, to keep it meaningful. So everything always changes, even what appears to be constant. And most things in my life don’t even appear to be constant at the moment… besides my friends and my family, my life is rapidly changing, and it will keep changing for a while. Some of that was expected… some was not.

The part that was so unexpected, the part that makes me think about these things is a very personal story, but suffice it to say I have been given an opportunity to practice the art of living for the moment in the last few weeks… and got to thinking that it’s really the first time in my life that I have embraced this concept fully. I tend to overthink things. I have a difficult time letting go of the past, and a difficult time not worrying about the future. I am not saying I’ve suddenly become an expert at those things. They are still difficult for me. But I feel that in the last few months, and especially the last weeks, I’ve made some important steps. Right now I am enjoying my summer in full consciousness that everything will change drastically very soon. A month from now I’ll be on the other end of Germany, two months from now I will be in Nairobi. But right now, I am where I am, and I am living these days with the consciousness that they are a gift, that I should be thankful for every single one of them.

And when the summer is over, I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life, but I won’t live in them… I will move to the next chapter of my life and I’ll be so much richer, because I’ll have all these memories and experiences. Someone once said to me to live as if “the mug is already broken”… I can’t exactly recall the context of that conversation but it was about how you shouldn’t save something like a beautiful mug for a special occasion and then end up just never using it because you’re scared it could break. Instead act as if it were already broken… then every moment you have it and still get to use it is a gift, a bonus, something more than you needed or expected.

With that in mind, I’m going to go make tea now, and I’m going to drink it from my favorite mug…  which is special, of course, because Ariane brought it for me from London… but as I just said… that doesn’t mean it should just sit on a shelf and never be used. (Although, honestly, I do really hope that it doesn’t break because no matter how Zen I am feeling at the moment, that would be really sad.)

I hope this wasn’t too philosophical, by the way, but well… this is how I’ve been spending my summer. You asked.
(Actually, okay, you didn’t, but Ariane asked. So there you go. Comments, philosophical or otherwise, can be left on the blog or, for those of you who actually know me, also on facebook of course.)

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O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

Happy belayed Fourth of July!

Its been over a week since my last blog post and some funny and very typical “me” stories occurred in between. Last Thursday, a friend of mine and I faced the whole extend of America’s “No alcohol under 21” rule. After Germany’s defeat in the eurocup, we were on our way to Central Park, hoping that sun, a good book and music might cheer us up. On our way there we discussed the game in a mixture of German and English when, suddenly, a group of five people in front of us turned around and asked “Sorry, but are you Americans?” in English. When we told them that we were from Germany, they started smiling and continued in German. “Great, us too. We are from Munich”. Its interesting how meeting people from your country when being abroad can change your attitude towards them. You automatically feel strongly connected to them even though you usually don’t care a lot about your nationality. But because we did not only share a common language but also a common sportive defeat, we decided to all hang out together on sheep’s meadow, a huge lawn in Central Park. After some time of just lying there, enjoying both sun and company, an old man comes up to us, pulling a trolly.

  “Buy something!”, he threatened us in an almost not understandable Arabic accent. “Sorry?”, we replied. “You buy something! I give good price. Not tell anyone. I got everything. Corona, Bud Light, everything!”, he repeated over and over again. Because of his strong accent it took us a good five minutes to understand that he wanted to sell us BEER. Without carding us. In the middle of Central Park. In the United States! Having the national heritage that we…have… everyone but me bought a beer and hid the bottle in socks to not show off the label. All of this turned into quite an awesome afternoon and when the sun went down, the five Germans invited us to join them later. “It’s our last night in the US before we fly back to Munich tomorrow. We were thinking about going to a bar later tonight. We’ll give you a call so that we can meet up.” When we reminded them that we were not 21 yet and thus not able to order anything alcoholic, they just shrugged and said “Use your passports. Usually that works, because the Americans get confused with all the dates. Always worked for us!”

Don’t get me wrong. I am perfectly fine with not going out every weekend. I can do three months without both alcohol and partying. And yet there we were, desperate about going out here at least once.

When they called us it was almost midnight. They were far down south in Manhattan and we figured it would take us a while to get down there, especially since the subways don’t run all too frequent after midnight. Still we went. After half an hour waiting in an almost abandoned subway station, we finally got into a sub. I let my friend figure out directions- mistake. He made us get off the sub two stops too early. So, back into the station. Waiting for another 20 minutes for the next subway. Getting off at the right stop. Calling the Germans. They give us directions to the pub they are in. We head off. We walk. And walk. And walk. Through completely abandoned streets, dark alleys, rats (literally!) scamper in front of us…you know…stuff like that. We walk for over an hour, criss-cross through a neighborhood we have no idea of in terms of safety. FINALLY, we manage to find them in some random pub at some random corner AND….get carded. Not 21? Sorry, you are not allowed to stay in here! Wait…what? Since when can’t you even order a glass of water in a pub? Oh, tough luck, no minors in bars after midnight! After long negotiating, she at least agrees on letting us stay with the others, who had already ordered a barrel of beer for the table…only that now they had to exclude us since the bartenders were all watching us carefully. Yeah, well…that did not go as planned. It was still nice to chat with them, we exchanged Facebook contacts and might visit them for Oktoberfest.

The weekend was less of events and more of the chilling, we went to the beach hehehe, this time without hardcore sunburn:

 That was quite a fun day 🙂

Then, this past Wednesday, it was the Fourth of July- the American Independence Day. Jess and I, being the awesome organizers that we are, had our entire day planned out:

First Stop- Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Second Stop- Central Park Zoo:

Third Stop- Macy’s Fireworks….and thats when the stress started:
Websites online advised us to be there around 2pm, even though the fireworks started only at 9.30pm. Weather forecasts predicted 50% chance of rain and storms. Neither were right. We had 95°F heat (approx 35°C), unmerciful sunshine and thus pitiless heat. We did not think of bringing sunglasses or sunblock or enough water or something to kill time with us. People were not there at 3pm, which was when we came. Yet, the police advised us to safe us a spot NOW.

Ou

 Naturally, our mood turned quite grumpy the longer we waited.
Around 5.30pm, some more people finally came. By then, we had figured something to kill time with: HANGMAN! Good old childhood games…
The later it got the more people joined.

And finally:
HAPPY INDPENDENCE DAY!!!!

The firework was quite spectacular (also check: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJA9OQZuOp4) but if I ever did it again, I would have to be better prepared. Something to drink would be nice. A blanket too…

The mass of people leaving the side afterwards was just crazy…and that was just a small percentage!!

When we came back, Jess and I were tired, dirty, dusty, sweaty, exhausted…sorry for being so detailed here. We were just really not really nice to look at and only the thought of a shower kept us going. The aftermath was notable though: the next day we were still tired and felt like after a week of finals. BUT now we can at least say that we did it 😀

This weekend we’ll try to go and check out some museums- MoMA, Museum of Natural History and Ellis Island are on our list! The weekend after, we will go to Washington D.C. for a night and the weekend after that one, we will be in Indiana to visit Jessi’s family. So, I will see a lot of things and will (probably, seeing that its me) have a lot more stories to tell 🙂

Keep it cool!