A compass when there is no map

by darribas

A series of events in the last days have got me round here back again. I remember last summer having a conversation around a beer in Yosemite, a friend of mine used the word ‘aseptic’ to describe my year in the US. The context was different then, but at that time I found the word to fit the experience pretty well.
With a little bit more of reflection, now I think it was not. I lived a lot, in a way I hadn’t before; I met brilliant and inspiring people and realized I truly like what I do for a living, put aside the ton of stuff I learnt, academic-wise. But probably the most important thing I left the US with was the convincement that “I can”. It sounds halfway between corny and very american, in the european despective way, but only if you haven’t ever felt it. The most relevant change in me after the US year was to wake up to the fact that it is possible to live your own way, to create and follow your own path; and even more important, this whole thing probably only makes sense if you do so. You don’t have to give up on what you believe because they say it’s the ‘only’ way; you can write your story, and you’d better do, because if you miss the True Meaning, that ‘something’ that makes all the rest small and wakes you up in the morning, you’re going nowhere, whatever others tell you. Taking that to reality and making it happen is probably a different animal, but even if the road to get there is tough, it’s better to know what the destination is. Last summer, I was also fortunate to be involved in one of the most meaningful projects I’ve ever collaborated with that took me to India. When we were packing, Julia concluded that maps and guides are part of the tourist toolkit and, as such, we should avoid them. Instead, she bought two compasses for us to navigate around Mumbai and gave one to me. For the joy of our relatives and beloved ones, we never got to use them, but I did keep mine and, today, while I was looking for something else in my bag, I stumbled across it. I can’t think of a better gift to represent what I mean.

As good as it was, however, the American year did not come for free. For the first time in my life, I understood the meaning of ‘far’, sadly realized one can’t be in two places at the same time, and I learned that the hard way. Furthermore, for ten months I put aside many feelings, (unconciously) stopped taking pictures and writing and almost got convinced the best way you can use your time, always, is working. When I came back to Spain for Christmas and could zoom out a little bit from the day-to-day life, I realized that was not totally right and maybe a little time in Europe would do me some good. And here is where Amsterdam comes in. It’s now been roughly a month and a half, but it feels way longer; definitely life’s not to be measured in seconds but in moments. Events have compressed incredibly and the 8-hours sleep and quiet life I used to have has just vanished and been replaced by a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions, ups and downs in which happiness mixes sometimes with frustation, uncertainty and fatigue with the only constant of never being mild. It is still too early but, if there is a lesson I can take from all this stream, it’s that living and experiencing is always worthwhile, that the only true regret comes from what we do NOT do and that good and bad, sweet and bitter, need each other to define themselves. I also think I am starting to understand that quote from the movie ‘Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran’ about the Arab view of love, giving and feelings (“your love is yours, it belongs to you. (…) Whatever you give is yours forever. Whatever you keep gets eternally lost“) which never really made sense before. Only six weeks, but it’s been time enough to get back on my shots (ok, until my camera broke), on my urban walks and on my lyrical side. And certainly, it’s been time enough to get me writing again.