Lost and Found

Lately, when people ask me how I am doing, I have been telling them that I am feeling very lost. With my US visa about to expire and my imminent departure from San Francisco approaching faster and faster, I have gone back and forth between ignoring my life and falling into sheer panic whenever I don’t. Everything I love is here. Everything I want is here. I belong here. And in a fair world I wouldn’t have to leave. I felt defeated and that’s not a good thing to feel.

When we lose ourselves, what we really mean is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our direction, our end goal, our carefully charted course that we once found ourselves barreling down. We’ve lost the drive we used to use to propel us. We’ve lost the vision we once used to light the way ahead. We feel lost when what we had dreamed our life to be like falls through and it is beyond our influence to fix it.

But here’s the truth about being lost – we’re only ever as lost as we are in denial. When we don’t want the past to be over and the future looks too daunting to touch, we call it lost. When we’re barreling forwards at a thousand miles an hour but gazing determinately out the rearview mirror, we call it lost. When what’s been is so painfully appealing compared to what is coming up next, we call it lost. Because we’d rather be lost than be found in this new, uncomfortable place. And so we bury our coordinates. We toss away our compasses. And we declare ourselves citizens of no-mans-land.

The truth about being lost is that we choose it when we just aren’t ready to be found yet.

When you’re lost, you find yourself in every step you take towards gaining back control of your life. By stopping the cycle of passivity and replacing it with one of autonomy. You find your new self in each small choice you make, each risk you take, each opportunity that you fail to pass up, even if it ends up being a flop. You find yourself by re-creating yourself into the kind of person who is ready to take on what’s next.

Because the truth is, we can’t ever truly lose ourselves, because all ‘losing ourselves’ means is that we’re choosing a story that ended over the one that is still going on. It means we’re gazing in the wrong direction and calling our disorientation lost.

Getting found, by definition, is the simple act of recognizing where you are.  You simply have to recognize that you’re somewhere new now. Somewhere different and challenging and less than ideal, maybe. But there you are. And to find yourself somewhere new, you simply need to start walking.

You’ll find yourself in wherever you end up.

You’ll find yourself in any place where you go with your whole heart.

So, game mode is on. I’m fighting back. It sucks that other people decide that I can’t stay in the place I am so happy in, surrounded by the people that make me happy. It has been driving me mad. But here I am. Moving to Berlin to help my current employer expand to Europe. And working my ass off to come back next year. California is where I belong and heck, I won’t let anything get in the way off that. Well, at least nothing within my power. Now excuse me, I am taking back my life…

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Meditation 101

My landlady (aka housemate aka hostmom) works for a Meditation Center in SF, which means she’s closely connected to the whole meditation culture. Now, being a good housemate trying to build common interests, I did not turn her down when she offered me meditation sessions. Awesome, I thought. I had always been curious on how to meditate and how to acquire a sort of calm mindset that can help you in so many everyday situations. Little did I know, that it is so much harder than it sounded:

05:36 am: My alarm clock rings. Since my meditation instructor (aka landlady aka housemate aka hostmom) has to go to work early every day, this is the time we wake up for our 20-minute session. I lie in bed and my slowly awakening mind is playing the blame game: “It is YOUR fault, that we are in this mess Ari, because of you we have to get up before dawn to go sit on a floor!!”Actually, it’s a cushion, not the floor“, I correct my tired mind.

05:39 am: I walk downstairs. My other housemate, who also got talked into trying the whole meditation thing, is already there. Sitting in the dark. Since we aren’t supposed to talk before or after the session, I don’t ask her about the darkness thing but just go and switch the light on. I see hectic hand gestures in my peripheral view suggesting that something is wrong. “No light!“, she whispers, trying to surpress a laugh attack. It’s just too absurd of a picture that we paint of ourselves here.

05:40 am: The little bell rings and meditation begins. From now until 6am, it’s just about me and my breathing, I’m supposed to push all thoughts away and just focus on my natural breathing flow. But also, I am sitting in the living room on a cushion in my PJs in the dark. Meditating. If my friends could see me, they would drag me home without further ado. Oh, but I’m not supposed to think about that, I should breathe now!

05: 42 am: Don’t laugh Ari, don’t laugh!! Deep breath!

05: 44 am: Oooooh my god!! Imagine I had to burp right now. That would be soooo awkwaar…no. don’t laugh!! Think of something sad like dead puppies or your mom…uh, good one, go me, sad that noone could hear it cause I’m thinking TO MYSELF!

05: 47 am: Ok, this is awkward- my leg is falling asleep!

05: 48 am: Like, really. It’s falling asleep.

05: 49 am: Maybe if I just wiggle my toes…?

05: 51 am: Ok, what could the worst possible damage be that I am doing to my leg right now…?

05: 52 am: Hmmm, I wonder what I should wear today. Also, should I go back to bed? I’m kinda really awake right now. In fact, I feel like my thoughts just got an espresso jump start. Too bad, I’m not supposed to thinkkkk…

05: 55 am: I could totally try this new hair style I found on youtube! Shouldn’t be too har…ok, STOP AND BREATHE!

05: 58 am: Actually, this isn’t too bad. I’m totally getting into my zen right now! I love breathing!!

06: 00 am: Time’s up. Great. Just when I stopped thinking and starting breathing. Of course….

Bottomline: Meditation is hard and requires a great deal of practice. But you also get better each time and after a few days, I didn’t even mind getting up that early anymore (ok, fine, I kinda do on days that I could have slept in until ten) because it’s a great way of slowly starting your day. And I still believe that it’s worth the practice- looking at my landlady, I can clearly see that mediation really helps her be calm and optimistic and real. So, I’m not giving up. If nothing else, I can tell my grand children that I meditated in San Francisco, and that’s kinda something, isn’t it?

Also, I joined my school’s surf club, so let’s see where this is gonna take me 🙂 More coming soooooon!

Peace, Love and Ice-Cream,

Ari

First Week in SF- Lessons Learned

My first week in San Francisco is almost over and I feel like a sponge that is soaking up all the new things, the interesting lessons learned and the first impressions. So, let me share some with you:

1.) Learn how to convert miles into kilometers. “Oh, 2 miles to the nearest supermarket, that’s walking distance!” shall remain a one-time-only misadventure.

2.) Bank accounts- there is a checking and a saving account and you have to transfer your money to one of them and in-between each other. Should have probably done my research before so that I could have avoided the slightly awkward: “Oh no, I don’t wanna open two accounts, I just want one. One account!”
“Yes Miss, but do you wanna place the deposit on your checking or your savings account for now?”
“I want a general account, a veery basic account and just one of them, Just.ONE”

3.) .. Bank employees are incredibly patient. And really lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I went home and googled “Can you add your banker on Facebook?” Turns out- you can. Depends a little on the moral guidelines of the banks though.

4.) The nearest grocery store is called “Trader Joes”, which I guess is the healthier mini-version of a Walmart? They don’t really have any brands I know, but they try to make up by selling EVERYTHING organic, vegan and gluten-free. Gluten-free brownie mix, vegan almond butter… Luckily, I found something called Safeway nearby. It might still be a 20-minute-walk, but it is entirely possible to buy ice-cream and carry it home without it melting. I know because that was the first thing I tried, of course. Currently building an ice-cream paradise in our freezer as we speak.

5.) I get why people stereotype East Coasters as colder and more distant..it’s hard to compete against the warmth and enthusiasm of the folks from around here. Everybody is SO happy to meet me and my stories about Germany are so VERY insightful and oh, didn’t I just have the GREATEST of experiences today.

6.) Nothing beats warm blueberry bagels. Or warm blueberry bagels with ham! Although, my housemate seems to think that’s weird.

7.) Californian sun….wow. Should not have underestimated that. I sat outside to read and after ten minutes I was pretty  sunburned. I really wonder whether “tanned” will just be my normal skin color from now on. WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!?!

8.) Public transportation- well. First of, if you are looking for the buttons to press for stop requests….try the chords dangling alongside the windows and don’t get discouraged that they look like exposed electrodes. Secondly, .. no. I will stay open minded and trust that public transport is actually great!

9.) Homelessness seems to be a reocurring phenomenon around here. Even when walking through an area that looks like New York’s Wall Street, there are so many streets populated by homeless people.

10.) It’s super easy to get into chit-chats with people but it’s really tricky to differ between solid promises and vague suggestions. If someone you just met says “Oh, we should totally spend a day in the park”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are automatically going through their mental schedule to make time for you and set a date. Had to learn that the hard way..

11.) Dress in layers. I heard of the microclimate but I only really believed it when I left my neighborhood in NoFo valley (aka notorious fog valley) to go downtown, only to come out of the subway and find a paradise of burning heat, light-blue skies and no fog in sight. Also, beaches here in San Francisco are not exactly like you see them in California movies. I mean, they are great. But don’t expect palm trees. Or hot lifeguards. Or temperatures warm enough to actually go swimming. I might have to save up for a trip to LA soon. Or SAN DIEGO!!!

12.) Pandora. Oooooh Pandora Free Radio Station. You know me so well. We’ll be best friends I’m sure! Quite fittingly, my first ever Pandora station is titled “Unpacking”

13.) UNBLOCKED YOUTUBE VIDEOS!!! I mean, people here don’t have health insurance or social securities or paid vacation but they can LITERALLY watch ANY video they want on YouTube. In HD. Over and over again.

14.) Kale. Can we talk about Kale for a moment? Kale CHIPS. Kale smoothies. Kale T-shirts. I translated that word to German the other day and, what do you know.. it’s been a thing in Germany for centuries. But don’t you dare saying that out loud around here. According to West Coasters, they just discovered it, so of course it has actually JUST become the “latest graze”.

15.) Eeerm.. Instagram. It’s an actual thing. People instagram their foods and use hashtags and take selfies all the time. I might sign up for an account, just to see what all the fuzz is about. Maybe.

So, that was my first week for you and there’s yet more to come. I really really like SF so far and feel super comfortable in my rented place and with the people (and the dog) I live with. So far, so good- I’ll keep you guys posted 🙂

Cheers and go to the West Coast soon!

Ari

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Grad School: Epic Odysee

So, I’m in SAN FRANCISCO!!! I gotta say, it was a really long arrival day with some bumps and a very tired Ari by the end of it. When I was waiting for the BART at the airport to get me to Daly City to get a cab from there to my home in the dark while being ubertired, I got really sad and homesick and just wanted to go back asap. But once I was in my rented room, I could not have been happier- the people are really nice and warm and welcoming and my room is bright, clean, big and has a spacious walk-in closet. It looks like a very typical American suburban neighborhood (which, in my case, means it looks like awesome).

And since it’s gonna be grad school from here onwards, it’s gonna be my new series in a wider theme. From how to get settled into your new city over student-friendly grocery shopping to finding the best public places to meet people, go partying or just having a good time 🙂

Groceries

So, first day. Fighting jetlag and starving stomach by exploring the neighborhood. Guess what’s right around the corner? A shoppingmall! And they have everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from Victoria’s Secret to Forever 21 to Sephora OPI nailpolish to Chipotle and Godiva Milkshakes and Starbucks and oh so much, I was overwhelmed and super happy. Then came a downer- the only grocery store within walking distance is a Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice, conveniently located store and I can be lucky to have it so close by but when I pictured my future grocery shopping, I thought of New York’s Pathmark. You know…the broccoli au gratin and isles of ice-cream flavors and unhealthy stuff I know I shouldn’t eat but love anyways… Nada! Instead I was confronted with organic and healthy everywhere and and gluten-free fries, nuts and isles of fruits and vegetables. Should be my choice of consumption but it’s also a big question of money and since I wanna cut my budget short, I need to be picky at times. TJ has really friendly stuff and a healthier variety of microwaved and precooked foods (picture instant noodles with dried organic meet..yay). Their cosmetics section was also quite small but that might only be my branch.

So, today on my third day, I decided to take faith in my own hands and looked up nearby Safeway stores only to find out that there was one within walking distance…or so it seemed. “Hey, let’s walk 2 miles to that store” said noone in San Francisco ever. Cause the locals know about one phenomenon I blatantly ignored: The hills! What should have been a 20 minute walk, took me almost an hour through suburban neighborhoods wher

e every street looked the same and all the houses were equally nice and yes, oh, a palm tree but oh, shoot, also a steep hill, how far am I really willing to go for this stuff?! Turns out- pretty far. 2 miles, 60 minutes and 6 steep hills far, to be exact. I gotta say though- that Safeway was exactly what I was looking for and I could have spent hours in there, I was instantly happy and felt relegated to New York last year but only for a few minutes because I was completely aware of the fact that I would have to carry everything back again. I think crossing by the Ice-cream isle without getting any was the hardest part of the day.

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Wheeere is the safeway? I only see fog, hills and houses

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More Fog, hills and houses

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FOUND IT!!!

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Happiest version of myself I could possibly be 🙂

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So yeah, my legs are tired, my body is aching from the heavy bags but it was still very much worth it because I know I have a bunch of Rica A Roni’s downstairs (and cooked with meet and some fresh vegetables, it’s really not that bad).
Stay tuned for more stories because tomorrow I’m going downtown!

Cheers and go grocery shopping!

Ari

Countdown Series: 1 Day

Well…I warned you. I kinda failed in keeping up my daily countdowns but this week has just been full of last minute preparations and several goodbye events and lots of sleeping. Also, I am getting more nervous by the hour basically and I am convinced that I forgot something really, really vital that will make me get turned down at my port of entry- do you know that feeling? I mean, you will always forget something but there are things that are really not worth crying over and some others that just cannot be forgotten… anyway, moving on to prevent a nervous breakdown!!

My bags are packed and should anybody open one of them, they would find an interesting hodgepodge of stuffed animals, tons of nailpolish, pictures and yes, here and there clothes as well. So, here is to my last countdown which kinda relates to packing and flying:

1 Day- Time for Presents!!

I gotta say I was overwhelmed by all the awesome postcards, pictures, presents and words of support that I received upon saying goodbye to people. It’s really amazing to have such a great support network and it makes challenges like that more fun and less frightening.
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I took all the cards with me (I know they’ll help against homesickness) but there are two things I am very much looking forward to during the plane ride:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis book was sent to my by my long-distance roommate a few weeks ago and I believe the first entry is supposed to start on the plane. It’s a small journal that is divided into 12 months with every month holding a few challenges for me. Apparently my friends brainstormed for that a while and I can’t wait to get started on it- of course I will share all adventures and challenge results here, too. Just saying guys, it ain’t gonna be a boring year for all our followers! 🙂
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo many pages full of fun and challenges- I think we should all take a moment of silence to honor Judith’s arts-and-crafts skills!!!

On top of that, my friend of 18 years gave me a present that I had to swear I would only open on the plane…naturally, I am really really curious and can’t wait to rip of the wrapping like an impatient four-year-old on Christmas. What could it beeeeee, I wanna knoooow!!
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Bottomline: Tomorrow is a little bit like Christmas, Eastern and Birthday combined and once I am in my new room with all my suitcases, I’ll be a whole lot less nervous and a whole lot more tired! Good night and hopefully talk to ya’ll state-side soon 🙂

Cheers and give your best friend a present!!

Ari

Countdown Series: 7 Days

Whoop whoop! I gotta admit, there might not be 7 more countdown posts following because I’m becoming increasingly busy with last preparations and making sure that I didn’t forget anything important. But I still have a few things worth noting so here’s to:

7 Days- Walmart

Dude. It’s insane. Walmart is not just a supermarket that somehow always seems to be within reach and conveniently opens 24/7. It also got the most ginormous proportions ever! I am not even kidding, this thing is like an airport terminal. You can get lost in there- I know that because I have. It’s consumerism at its best but it is consumer heaven! THEY. HAVE. EVERYTHING! They have Nutella for a reasonable price. They have ALL sorts of Oreos…like PEPPERMINT-CHOCOLATE-DOUBLEDECKER-OREOS! They have ISLES full of ice-cream flavors and brands. Most of the packages and bags come in supersizes. It’s insane, basically. And once you recover from that epiphany, you might just be lucky enough to have a friend close by a….wait for it ’cause it’s gonna be legendary…SUPER WALMART! Not kidding, there are even bigger versions that would fit my entire house. Wow. Just wow. And yes, I know what you must think: Where does this girl live?!…Not in America. Most of the time, Walmarts also have a Taco Bell or McDonalds on the property so that you can buy food after you bought food and I totally get it. You just need to sit down and somehow recover from your Walmart shopping spree. Best part about it- I found a true Plan B for my life: Become a Walmart greeter! Seriously, the minute I found out that it’s a job position, I knew it was made for me. Who else would greet the incoming shoppers with an enthusiastic: “Hi, Welcome to Walmart, HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW POP-TART FLAVORS YET?!?!?!??!?!?!”

Cheers and stop by Walmart!

Ari

*photo credits to Pinterest

Countdown Series: 8 Days

Who implemented luggage weight restrictions?! And who made time pass by so fast?! I feel like there are sooo many things still to do…convert euros into dollars. Get all my documents together. Be sure to HAVE all important documents. And, most importantly, pack my bags. Luckily, my dad must have won the Tetris World Series at some point in his life, he’s amazing in folding and storing a waaay to big pile of clothes into an obviously waaay too tiny suitcase. Oh yeah, and there is obviously still the feeling that I must have forgotten something. Am I ready for….

…8 Days- Big City Life

I grew up in a tiny cute town in the middle of nowhere. No big crimes or news except maybe for occasional headlines like “Freddy the Raccoon escaped his cage”. It’s a great town to raise kids but a depressing town to grow to a youngster in. At some point I think people debated building a skater park but that never happened and after the only 16+ club in the entire area burned down, there was nowhere to go out to either. Well, what can I say- there’s a reason I graduated as best in my year…there was simply nothing else but studying left to do. But I love life in big cities. I love the buzz and having lots of people around me. I enjoy being exposed to all sorts and types of people and classes. While some people might hate the anonymity, it allows me to be myself and sometimes dance through the streets or throw on a ridiculously extroverted outfit to go to the supermarket because NO ONE CARES! You can be anything and, most of the time, people will either ignore you or smile at you (friendly is most cases, sometimes also a little sympathetically). I appreciate the great choice in cultural, social and educational events and I mean…come on- there’s just no way HONY could work in towns like mine.
I know San Francisco is not the biggest of cities in the US, a lot of people actually said it’s got a small town feeling to it. But I also heard it’s super open-minded towards everything and very opposed to stagnation in any way. Well, I’m intrigued. But I’m not a naive dreamer, I know the downsides of living in a big urban environment. A very good friend of mine got robbed by a guy with a gun in the streets of the Mission district yesterday and stories like that remind me of the dangers that do lie behind some adventures. Sometimes, movie scenes and real life aren’t that different from each other at all (both the movies with a kiss in the rain and the movies with robberies and murder and mystery). Like Paracelsus said: “The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy”. 8 Days!

Cheers and go get a dosage of big city life!

Ari