Story behind the story

Behind the curtain: brave differ world

Behind the curtain: brave new world

I am 30, currently sleeping in a sleeping bag since a month (but fortunately still inside a building).  And just to be clear about it: I am not preparing for any kind of an extreme expedition. I just don’t have much stuff left. Most of my belongings are in boxes, in my childhood home in Poland.

Three months ago I decided to finally close the “Erasmus exchange” chapter because it just seemed to last a way too long: 9 years of my life. Although I love Ghent more than any place in the world, I decided to leave. And I may not come back after all.

You probably wonder why? How? What’s wrong with her?

Well, everybody has its own theory about it (although I did not ask anybody to comment on my decision).

  • My colleagues blame ‘30 years old crisis’. I even checked the “symptoms” on the internet, haven’t really seen it like this yet.
  • Others think that I have finally decided to leave for the world tour I’ve always planned to do. So they are convinced that I’ll be back in a couple of months once I get run out of money.
  • My closest friends predict that I’ll just stay somewhere in South America and they promise to visit me every now and then
  • My mom’s verdict: You cannot stand the reality so you just run away again.
  • My ‘little’ brother: You are such a LAJZA (this is really untranslatable although I would say a tramp). You will end up in the jungle with just monkeys around you. (This option seems not that bad after all).

The truth is that it’s not that easy as it may seem. One thing is for sure. It wasn’t that I just woke up one day, had this eureka moment and changed my life completely. We all know this from books or films:

  • Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. (The happiness project by G. Rubin)
  • A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction. After a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey to “find herself”. (Eat, pray and love, film based on a novel by E.Gilbert)
  • Driven to the edge by the loss of her beloved mother, the dissolution of her marriage and a headlong dive into self-destructive behavior, Cheryl Strayed makes a decision to halt her downward spiral and put her life back together again. (Wild, film based on a novel by Cheryl Strayed)

Instead of having an ‘out of the blue awe effect’ I had spent two months thinking (yes, it did hurt). And being sick most of the time.

There was obviously a trigger to all of that. In January, I had spent a month in Chile and Argentina, just hiking and being in the nature. And it was so awesome: I woke up every day, broke down my tent, started walking, listened and looked around. My head has never been so clear. And I actually wanted to keep it this way once I was back home. But how? Will all the incentives, thousands of to do’s, hobby’s, friends, the future, promises made and responsibilities: this carrousel made me drowsy already.

Anyway, once I was back everything was just like before, at first sight at least: I came back to work, carried on living my life. But at the same time something has changed: I became more alert, was perceiving the reality differently.  I opened my mind completely: I just let my thoughts play, compete and fight with each other. I didn’t silence them any more as I did before.

At the beginning, I had one idea what all this thinking was about. It was a little bit like felling into a rabbit hole. Although most of a time it felt more like digging a hole instead.

It was an interesting process because I realized one thing: shit, I haven’t been thinking for a while (these are words of a high educated and skilled employee of a governmental organization).

This confronting reflection led me to the following conclusions:

  • I don’t have to push, try at all costs and force any more.
  • Sometimes you have to let the things go to create the space for things which are important, too. (It’s not always about a decent job, security, relationship and own property)
  • There will never be a “good moment” to do this so do it now.

And it’s not about being bored, giving up or drop unpleasant things. Every grown up knows that it’s all part of a game. What pushed me to make choices was the feeling that the balance stayed negative, unfortunately.

So I took some actions.

  • I finally asked for a year off at work (first I applied for 3 months, then changed my mind and asked for 6 months to finally write 1 year on my application). But to be honest, my job doesn’t inspire me that much. So not going back is an option as well.
  • I finally said goodbye.
  • I bought a ticket to Peru. You have to start somewhere after all. The choice for this place is another story.
  • I packed my stuff and send them to my parents in Poland (mum, thanks for paying attention to unpaired shoes, gloves and other mismatching stuff). Just so I don’t feel place-bound.
  • I decided to start writing again. So here I am.

I must admit that all this shit was pretty tiring. The mourning process of leaving things behind was sad but necessary. But all at all it was pretty revealing although I seriously panicked twice or so.

One thing became clear. It was high time to WAKE UP. LOOK AROUND and BE MYSELF.

It has brought me peace. I realized that all these years I’ve just been keeping doing things to ‘achieve’ something: prove myself, attain social status in a country where I stayed different anyway, try new things and other things all over again.

But at a certain point you just have to make a choice: whether you will continue live like this, or you dare to take the risk and follow your instinct. Choose for things that give you energy and inspire you.

It sounds so logical but still… Last years I’ve been doing everything but this.

And I have no idea where this will lead me. Definitely not to the Wonderland. It probably doesn’t exist anyway. I don’t expect any miracles neither.  At the end of the day we have what we have, what we created by destroying other things. Still, it’s a hell brave differ world to me. I’m done with ‘looking forward to a nice trip’, ‘awaiting new experiences’, ‘hoping for the bright future’, ‘waiting for a next step in my life’.  I’ll just want to be more present. And be myself.


Some time ago, on the train, I met a friend I have not seen for a while. We were discussing a project she was working on. I listened, nodding every now and then and gave her some feedback. When we were already in the station hall she asked how I was doing recently. Then I just blurted everything out about going away, saying goodbye, restoring peace (as a quick ‘update’). She looked at me astonished and without knowing how to react because she actually had to run to work. So she just stuttered: And you… did it.. all… to yourself? 🙂 I confirmed: Yes, I did it to myself. We laughed and said goodbye.