четвъртък, 23 март 2017 г.

The Freedom


(Monday, 27th July, 2015)

One year later.
I am still thinking about everything that happened to me, about the people I met, and about the ideas that have barged into my mind since.
‘Still digesting it’, as someone I know would say.
The memories and emotions are, of course, not as vivid anymore, the thoughts are not as radical.
Yet, they are quietly waiting every day, stored somewhere in the background. Like the wallpaper on a phone.
Meanwhile I keep wondering how to express an essence without being overly dramatic.
I am talking about Freedom this time.  
Am I a liberated person? In terms of my work I have to be, at least on the stage. I thought I was liberated in my personal life too, without being extreme. But I would never have guessed to have internal barriers and conservative limits myself.
At the same time, Sofia had become so tiny all of a sudden that without knowing why, every day the air was not enough for me. Upon leaving, I felt like a hamster in a wheel. Not only was I aware of this monotony but I wasn’t getting off. A human in a hamster body. Or something of that sort. Anyway, I think you got the idea.
On the walk I met:
A well-paid 30 year old accountant from Austria, who had taken a one year leave to travel and decide whether he should change his career path and become a shiatsu masseuse because this is what he liked and he wanted to help people;
A 23 year old Korean girl who had taken up the Walk despite her father’s forbiddance;
American students, a couple, who had gone to photograph the edible plants on the Walk (four times, once each season) to compile a guide;
A Bulgarian woman, living and working in one of the hostels in the mountain, who had exchanged her previous life in Bulgaria to follow her dream and own a remote hut somewhere;
An 18 year old, who hadn’t decided what he wanted to study, so he was travelling to meet people and find out what really interested him;
A 75 year old American with serious knee problems, determined to walk the 800km;
A woman in an electric wheelchair with her boyfriend;
And many other people with various stories that leave no doubt that anything is possible.
In the course of the discussion with one person or another, and without necessarily going into deep conversations, I found the common link between everyone -
The natural state of mind where you are comfortable and confident that you can do anything you want to and there is nothing that can stop you. Except your own fears and prejudice if your name is Alissa, for example.
I realise that I’m on the verge of making a grand statement like in a New Age Religion Self-Help book. But when you feel it that strongly in the people around you, it comes to you too and it hits you like the sunlight outside after being trapped for 5 hours of rehearsal in the dim hall of the theatre. Your eyes are burning but at the same time you’re enjoying it.
I felt like I had lost (if I ever had it properly in the first place) the sense of limitless opportunity. The reason is either the geographical location where we are situated (although I have travelled a lot) or the people that constantly complain how things are impossible. Or it’s the environment where it turns out that if you are not immediately successful, you’re asked to remove yourself because it’s already too late. It seems to me that it’s mostly because of the tension in the air, the pressure that you must be at the peak of your realisation at any given moment. And if you have low periods, they are absolutely fatal. Making others feel bad has been so popular that you can become depressed whatever you do. And at some point you have no objective viewpoint. You’re somewhere, pushed to the side, and whether you like it or not, you become a fish in the tank of your own fears and discomfort. Then you forget other viewpoints exist at all.
This is what I was able to remember as a result of my encounters in Spain. Nothing is fatal. Nothing is final. Nothing is critically important. Why not let yourself at least consider that you could be someone else? To change your searches and interests, to say goodbye to everything and dive into new waters?
Maybe because we are little, a few and in a small country, and we are always afraid we have lost the little that we’ve got. It might not be a Bulgarian syndrome, it might be mine. Nevertheless, only words are not enough, you need to experience it. This is how things worked out for me. The people who have influenced me do not know it. It’s only because they were talking so naturally about the turns in their lives that all I could hear was the echo of ‘I have my freedom’.

And I dared to think that anything is possible. I dared to think I have the time. And the energy.  

понеделник, 13 март 2017 г.

Belonging


(Sunday, 20th September, 2015)

When leaving for Spain, I did not consider even for a minute what people will think of me or if it matters where I am coming from. I have never lived abroad. I know only from friends that these details might influence your interactions with others.
I have never felt ‘pride’ nor ‘shame’ for being Bulgarian. After all, it was not my choice but the Universe’s, if such things as fate exist.
‘Patriotism’ is a word whose meaning I have only found in dictionaries and textbooks but never in my heart. It is true for a fact that the environment shapes our mind-set and worldview. Yet, I was never interested in where people came from but rather in their personality, ‘despite’ or ‘owing to’ their origin and culture. Therefore, I see myself as a cosmopolitan citizen and a human being with dreams, fears, hopes and doubts like anyone else in this world. It does not matter whether I read Marques, Chekhov, Baudelaire or Edgar Allan Poe. I understand the pain of people from all ends of the world. What then? What defines my belonging and to what exactly?
I had not thought about this too much before I found myself on the Road to Santiago. And it’s not like I expected it to happen then. I thought that people on that Road are united by aspirations to something bigger than individual egos and maybe have the same feeling of belonging to something greater.
Overall, this was the truth.
And yet again, in my encounters with people from all around the world I gradually started to find traces in me of something that only they could label as foreign, or even Bulgarian.
How does it happen that when you tell a joke and the response is: ‘Oh, you must be living a pretty hard life.’?!
‘No,’ I reply, ‘I actually have a lovely family, nice home, genuine friends…’
‘No, no, it’s noticeable. It must be very difficult where you’re coming from’.
Hm. Yes, I was using dark humour but the joke was not that horrible. I, personally, was in a great mood for the most part of the journey. What made them think I was that burdened? Maybe the things that make us laugh are the same ones that made us stop crying. To not run ourselves down with grief at the end of each day, we have shut our eyes to the things around us and have dull our senses to the universal pain.
Another question:
‘Why are you so insecure?’
‘As in? Are you being serious? I have never been as confident as I am right now. I have been walking alone for two weeks now, on the other end of the world, inspired by what I have witnessed and heard. I know that everything is ahead of me, that I can do anything, and that there is a meaning. What do you want to say when you are calling me insecure?’
‘No, no, I can feel you. Generally. You don’t believe that some things can happen to you. You just don’t consider them possible. Why? Who was it that told you it was ‘impossible’?’
Okay. Pause the game. I need to think about this.
Is it coming from me? Is it personal or inherently national? Am I beaten down, are we beaten down? Why? What is it that is not enough? Who is it that is not enough? And so on.
I would have defined it as a personal problem by default, had I not looked more into the people around me. Yes. Indeed. Whatever other country they were coming from, the others who were walking with me had the confidence that they can and know everything. They were in search for their own answers but they didn’t question for a minute whether they’d be able to find them.
I make a record of this.
An Irishman stopped talking to me the moment he learnt I was from Bulgaria.
‘Do you mean to say you are part of the EU? It’s not your place, there has been a mistake. Such bullshit’.
That’s it. He was not interested in anything else related to me.
‘Your French is so good, I can barely detect your accent. When are you going to leave Bulgaria and move to live elsewhere?’ A French guy, 30 years old, Geography teacher.
The inherent sense of superiority. Some german people are commenting how it is the Spanish’ fault to be having a crisis since they are the ones who refuse to work. No one owes them anything, they better buckle up. Some Koreans agree. Some Americans, too. Maybe they are right. What about us?
..
And many other numerous encounters and conversations where it turns out that your origin matters. And you realise that it is inescapable. There is an entire different world inside you that you need to be aware of. In the others, too. Although we all dream of the same kindness and beauty somewhere deep within.  
I couldn’t but hear myself singing Bulgarian folk songs when I was alone. Or the anthem. I had never sang it alone or aloud before. And it had never seemed that much greater than another country’s one.
.
I am making a slight opening to the thoughts and feelings, which stormed inside me on the topic of belonging. It is like writing the first sentence to a 5000 pages long novel, just to give it direction. There is no way I could finish the novel here. But I thank Camino for encouraging me to start it.
It’s a strange thing. I have been a part of different projects, exchange programs abroad, I have communicated with foreigners here and there and it was as if I’ve always remained in the comfort zone of clichés. There you go, this person is from a certain place, so he is what he is and we are what we are. Or even ‘This one is different than the others like him’ etc.
Something that resembles nothing.
‘Ask me and I’ll tell you’ is what we say. No, ‘Ask me so I can ask myself’ was my state of mind during the Road to Santiago. And up until now.
Last thing about belonging.
I am not religious. I used to skip Religious classes because I didn’t like the teacher.
I knew ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ but I felt uncomfortable praying.
‘This institution is a lie, I do not love it, do not talk to me about it. Priests, services, they are not for me, I don’t want to have anything to do with them’.
But I did enter all cathedrals in Spain. I got excited, although I could almost feel a physical pain because it was not my place. I was craving the smell of candles and the familiarity of an Orthodox church. Why?!
This is another topic. Another belonging. There is time for everything.