About American Express and “cross it out” demons

As November 15th was getting closer and closer, I had to get myself ready for paying the share of bills my dad used to cover. If I get the money for the job I occasionally do, this is my obligation. If not, then me and my mom have to come up with some incredible idea how to make the ends meet as her retirement money can’t cover all our bills and at the same time also sustain our food for 30 days. I got some money this month, but in addition to regular bills I also had to cover the last quarter of the annual tax for the apartment we live in, which is over the limit of the budget I receive. As I was making calculations and borrowing the additional necessary sum of money from the limit the bank allows on the only credit card I hold, I suddenly found myself in the middle of some kind of commercial for the American Express credit card the bank clerk was giving her best to make me take. As I was laughing out of misery over her shiny counter while trying to explain to that fancy woman that she was knocking too hard on the wrong door, she went on to elaborate on the wonders of what the travel health insurance that comes with the American Express can do. It virtually provides you with the health insurance that covers the trips all over the world, as opposed to MasterCard’s insurance which is valid for Europe and Turkey only. She continued with praises as to how this is wonderful if I travel a lot, especially if I have a family of my own. Another involuntary stab into my back from her part because obviously she thinks that if she works in a bank for a great salary, has good health and a husband and two kids, that everybody else is like her. Maybe “normal” people are, maybe that’s how things usually work or should work. And as they don’t work that way in my case, maybe that simply means that I’m not “normal”. Whatever.

When she asked if I travel, I replied – No, very rarely at the moment. What I should have said was – No, I don’t travel at all.
A) I have no money.
B) I’m an agoraphobic, I can barely stand an hour drive from home to the cottage house. You don’t need the American Express health insurance for the village at the outskirts of Belgrade.
C) I might as well die without bothering the health services – it’s just my mom who would notice the difference, the world couldn’t care less.

When she asked if I’m married, I said – no, I’m not. She replied – oh that’s not a problem, when you get married, all the members of your family will be insured as well. She said this as if getting married were some sort of undebatable truth, almost an axiom: you’ll get married, period.
What I should have said was – No, I’m not married and I’ll probably never marry.
A) I’m 39 and living in Serbia, people are already married at that age here if they marry at all.
B) I’m 39 and female, it’s getting highly unlikely that I’ll have kids if I ever marry. Serbian men usually run away from women like me.
C) I have panic disorder complicated with episodes of extremely severe agoraphobia. It’s not a flu and it won’t go away. Men in Serbia have many much younger women without mental health issues at their disposal.
D) My father died of cancer and I resemble him so drastically that I can almost bet that what I witnessed will be exactly how the end of my days will look like. Panic disorder runs in families and is inherited in 86% of cases. The type of cancer my dad had is also very often inherited, and I can’t go and have my pancreas and the rest of endocrine glands taken out as a preventive measure to secure myself a long and healthy life. I still need to somehow digest the food that I eat. The ethical question is whether or not should I create another human being and leave it on this planet with extremely high probability of being condemned to this terrible fate… life is hard even on its own.

So, where were we – basically yep, no thank you, I don’t need an American Express card. The commercial was great and the offer tempting, but you picked up a wrong target. Thank you again, but NO thank you. I think that the bank clerk would be amazed what kind of life baggage could be hidden under a credit card commercial carpet.

While I just wanted to get rid of my November bills, I actually managed to get my self-esteem deflated to zero and below by the time I was pushing that expensive double door to run away to the street and get some bank-free air. I left aside barely enough money to buy a dental floss. It’s my life savior, as without it my dental pockets would require the hideous emergency pocket cleaning and eventually degenerate into paradentosis. More money. More pain. I used to visit my dentist regularly, now I can’t any more. I entered a DM store, heaven for every Belgrade woman in love with makeup and style. High quality German brand in combination with every other world’s best cosmetic brand you can think of, and on the top of everything tasty organic products. Almost perfect, if it didn’t require a lot of money. I grabbed the floss and as I was walking towards the cashier, I spotted a winter scarf. Lovely colors, stripes in all shades of violet from the darkest to the lightest. That’s me, my color, the one I like the best. I didn’t like the price though. Seven dollars. In America, that can probably be defined as cheap by many people. In Africa, that’s a whole world for a poor person whose village is miles away from food and water. In Serbia, it’s somewhere in between if you belong to what used to be defined as middle class. I don’t any more. So I paid for my floss and went out making sure that I arrive home as soon as possible. Not so much because of agoraphobia, more because of the fact that from the terrace of my apartment you can’t see any banks or shiny department store windows. There are just trees, little wood that can never remind me so harshly that I am a failure. Nothing to buy, nothing to sell, no credit cards, insurances or scarves. Just nature. Thank God for that. I just need a constant reminder that I should stay here as much as possible because going out there among all that “normal” people strongly aggravates my depression. Also, I have to remember not to make shopping lists. Instead of writing things down I need some sort of mental pencil to cross out every single item that comes into my mind. I can do without things, as long as I’m not hungry and capable of covering the basic needs. That’s for now. What will happen tomorrow? I simply can’t think about it. I don’t make plans, I have no means for that. It has nothing to do with panic, laziness or depression, I sent out dozens of job applications willing to push over all my limits, but with no success. Qualifications are not a problem, but age is. 39 seems to be way too old for any Serbian employer, plus the country is in quite severe recession. Life in Serbia is very hard, even without my issues.

I’ll leave this post as a reminder that I absolutely must block all shopping desires that come into my head because it still won’t come naturally, I’m doing my best to adjust to this new life I have to live. It’s livable, it surely still is life. And all that stuff we tend to consider important or even essential at any given point of time can be done without. People matter, not things.

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Omega blocking

Omega block
Just what is an omega block?

I always follow weather forecast on the first channel of our national television, RTS 1. In my opinion they have the most accurate forecast for Belgrade area for the next 3-5 days, with the successful prediction rate of nearly 90 percent, which is among the highest in Europe. Also, one of the reporters called Biljana VraneΕ‘ is a graduated meteorologist and always loves to back up the forecast explanations with interesting scientific facts. Tonight she talked about dry and unusually nice weather and clear sky above Serbia, and how the field of high pressure in our atmosphere is responsible for chasing rainy clouds away and towards East. It would have remained one of fairly ordinary forecasts if she didn’t mention that this phenomenon is known as omega block or omega blocking. That’s where the amusement and laughter started almost instantly, both because I imagined how interesting it was that the shape of Greek letter omega could shield the sky over Serbia and also because I realized how cool this expression was. In Serbian it sounds even more cool, like some super fancy foreign explanation why it’s not simply speaking cold in November as it should be, but even in English it can be hilarious. Remember how we all talk a lot about weather especially when we don’t know what to say in certain situations, or how much we complain of meteoropathy, i.e. how weather makes us feel all sorts of pains and aches, and how much we blame it for irritability, instability, anxiety, depression, aggression, insomnia etc.? Well, now if you find yourself in the middle of good weather when not expected you can tell others – oh I feel bad today, I have omega blocking… or you can excuse yourself if you unexpectedly yell at somebody with one nice – sorry, it wasn’t me, it’s just my omega blocking πŸ™‚ They might as well think that it’s some weird new alternative diagnose and sympathize with you, oblivious of the truth that it’s actually just the good old weather going on your nerves. It’s the same trick doctors use when they speak Latin, even the simplest of things and treatments get raised to a whole new upper level. In my case, I’ll try to enjoy my omega blocking as long as it lasts, i.e. till this Greek letter decides to move away from my little country and make space for some water in form of rain and snow. We’ll come up with some other fancy expression to justify winter blues by then, that goes without saying. πŸ™‚

Biljana Vranes
Biljana Vranes – video by RTS / Radio Television of Serbia

Republic Hydro meteorological Service of Serbia

Chrysanthemums

Red chrysanthemums
Red chrysanthemums – photo by tamellu 2015

I first found out about these flowers when the best friend of my grandmother brought them into my life – she used to grow big beautiful yellow chrysanthemums in her garden and it always fascinated me how this plant defied bad weather, first blows of frost and first flakes of snow. Flowers are associated with spring, with the first rays of early March sun, while in autumn everything shuts down and prepares itself for yet another long sleep. Almost everything, apart from chrysanthemums whose splendid colors explode to brighten up first gloomy days of October. They are such a pretty site, but you have to wait all year long to see them bloom for this short, late time. You have to be patient, the best and most beautiful things in life require perseverance and patience. Also, you have to be punctual, because if you miss them you’ll have to wait for another year to see them bloom again. And a year can be a very long time, once I used to say very casually and confidently that I would do something or go somewhere next year, it went without saying that the next year would come, then another next and all the other nexts after it. Today I’m much more cautious when I want to say a thing like that, now that I felt all the fragility and uncertainty of life in the closest possible proximity. Chrysanthemums will always remind me of it.

Pink chrysanthemum
Pink chrysanthemums – photo by tamellu 2015
Yellow chrysanthemums
Yellow chrysanthemums – photo by tamellu 2015
Dark red chrysanthemums
Dark red chrysanthemums – photo by tamellu 2015

Flowers for my dad

Today was one of four yearly memorial days for the dead in my culture, another occasion to visit and take care of my dad’s grave, bring flowers and relive the memories of one life that reached its end last year. Another reminder that the pain never goes away, you just learn to live with it. You simply survive because it’s the law of life, it’s still not your time. Rest in peace dear dad, as long as I live the memory of your life will live too.

chrysanthemum
Bright red chrysanthemum – photo by tamellu 2015
Heart of chrysantemums
Heart of chrysanthemums – photo by tamellu 2015

Bad vs. good news

I was always inclined to first perceive the bad picture when I summarized the event of the day, month or year. Quite sadly for a long time that was actually the only picture I perceived, unable to confront it with its opposite counterpart which always exists, no matter how dark is the darkness we sometimes found ourselves in. Flaw of the character or simply the consequence of my mental health issues which colored my days with the gray filter of depression even long before the tragic loss of my father, that was who I was and still am to a certain point. It just took a completely new shape in this last year or so because even when things are funny or I begin to smile, it is never again that relaxed bubbly laughter I used to enjoy in the past. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how independent you are at the time when you lose your parents, it’s only then that you truly become that mature grown up adult, one of all those other adults at that given moment world has now to rely on. Those who shaped that world before slowly leave the scene and you find yourself more and more alone in front of the big audience to show all you can and cannot do. Till then you always had somebody who could in case of necessity watch your back, give you advice, replace you for a moment or two. Perhaps you didn’t use that backup option at all, but still you knew it was there, like a comforting emergency button you could push at any given instant, a person or persons who would never betray you and always be there at least to give you warm two cents of their own. When you lose that, again no matter at what age, you lose the unconditional ground under your feet and your time comes to shape some tiny piece of this planet in your own way. It was easy to criticize or watch from a safe distance the previous generation at every possible work you could imagine and say that you would do it better if only they let you – when your time comes you see how hard that task is. How easy it is to make mistakes. How many insecurities and unknown things lie even in some seemingly simple everyday tasks you weren’t involved in. You realize that it’s not easy at all to shape the world. That this is new time frame but that people are still people, that your generation isn’t much better or worse than all the previous generations. That you missed so many important lessons, but that you have to do something, without creative and not so creative blocks inside that just serve as an excuse for – oh that’s too difficult, strenuous or tiresome, I’ll leave it for tomorrow. You can’t leave it, because there are not so many tomorrows out there any more. It’s scary and requires responsibility. But that’s how it is. This realization leaves you with some sort of mature scar on your soul, a scar that makes adults adults and alienates them from the carefree strength of a happy childhood.

I used to be extremely sad in this past year, now life is somewhat more frozen in several shades of gray the mature realization that I’m alone to fight now consists of. Life is hard. Literally. Things around you weigh a whole ton when you try to lift them and there is nobody else to do it for you any more. I have 57-58 kilos now and I probably shouldn’t lift anything heavier that 10-15 kilos but I have to. Nobody asks if I can. And anyhow I was never used to transferring the weight from my shoulders to other people’s backs. This heaviness of life serves as a burning fuel for depression which in turn continues to force me to see mainly just the negativity in the world around me. I’m aware of that. I see that others are aware of that too – people don’t like simple reality, they strive for inspirational heroes even if they are just a myth because people in general are much less brave than they pretend to be in front of others. What counts is what you think and how you feel when you stay alone with yourself in front of your bathroom mirror and honestly face your true reality, and there are not many of those who would sincerely share such moments with others. Nevertheless, if you’re honest, people flee. They run away from you, they don’t call you, they leave you on your own to “pull yourself together”. They can’t listen to negativism, they search for inspiration. People are just – people.

When I used to actively fight against panic disorder I read all sorts of psychological texts from the field of self-help and I tried out all sorts of techniques to simply survive a day. One of them which was dedicated more to the fight against depression than with panic was to write down your negative thoughts, at least several a day and then find as many good things in that day to confront the negativism with. At first that is extremely challenging because you simply can’t see anything good in horrible days. They you do somehow squeeze out good moments onto that paper, but they seem totally insignificant. With time and practice it gets easier, actually they say that if you practice this long enough it can become your second nature to first see the good and only later the bad in your days. I was never patient enough to give it a decent try so I don’t know if it works on the long run to improve the thinking patterns, but I know that it was a helpful tool on some pretty rainy days.

Today my soul is pretty heavy, as if somebody were sitting on my chest. Let’s try to chase some fog away by a short bad vs. good list:

1. Remember kitten Maconi from the photo post? Well, it’s not at the cottage house any more nor it will ever be. There are two people who live there in the immediate surroundings all the time, but they both refused to take care of it during the winter by saying that they don’t have the food for a cat??! My uncle wants to spend a carefree wonderful winter abroad so he won’t be here for at least 3 months. For that reason the kitten was sent away to some distant yard, it’s quite unclear if it will be taken care of or abandoned to search for food by itself during winter.

2. The first neighbor at the cottage house who was ill this last year and a half died today. My father would be very sad if he were here to hear the news, I remember their adventures when they walked for miles in good and bad weather when the buses would break down and there was no other means for them to reach their cottage houses in the past when the village wasn’t well connected with the town.

3. I have strong back and muscle pains due to heavy duty work at the cottage house yesterday – the place doesn’t look small at all when you have to collect leaves and heavy rotten apples to carry them away, there were 100 kilos of rotten apples to be collected in order to prevent trees to catch illnesses. Then I went up and down the ladder for like 50 times, quinces are finally ripe – the wind was blowing like crazy, branches were hitting me in the face and I was losing balance and almost falling down from some crazy heights.

4. I was following this year the life of one very special Serbian female writer, Isidora Bjelica. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 3 years ago and went into two remissions, but the disease stroke back again in April-May this year for the third time. She tried vast number of expensive therapies, there were big humanitarian concerts as people gathered to collect money so that she could be treated in Switzerland, she promised to fight the best she could with lots of love for her fans and every single person who gave her a friendly word of support on her Facebook page. She posted that the imaging tests done today showed that her cancer spread very much and very aggressively. I felt the blow of heavy sorrow and those same mixed emotions I wrote about that haunt me for a very long time now.

The list could go on for quite a while, but I want to stop here with the negativism. Let’s search for the positive face of things:

1.In spite of pains I managed to bake a bread. And it turned out really excellent and tasty, I hope that I finally nailed the recipe that I should stick to.

2. Quinces are hard to collect and they have very unique taste, but they are also such a pretty site to look at, plus their smell is amazing. There are beautiful songs about quinces on cupboards during winter in our tradition.

3. It is hard for me to go to the cottage house, but I’m giving my best to convince myself that it is nothing and that I can do that. I’m fighting agoraphobia the best I can.

4. It is hard, but I’m somehow managing to post 2-3 times a week. I always say to myself – it won’t take long, I’ll write a shorter post this time… then I end up writing a “novel” as always. Maybe I should put a word limit and see what I manage to come up with that way. πŸ™‚

Have a nice weekend!

Someone out there knows us

Thinking of you

Cancer stroke once again in my close proximity. Today I learnt that my dad’s best friend’s brother died on Saturday, he had bile cancer – one of the rarest and most lethal forms of this evil disease. He lost his battle in 10 months marked by 6 extremely difficult operations after the diagnose. My dad’s best friend watched my father’s rapid decline and was shocked by the speed at which his life ended, yet he hoped beyond the end of all hopes that some miraculous cure could save his brother and that even the last terrible operation on Thursday family insisted on would make some difference. I perfectly understand that surreal human need to cling to the last shreds of vanishing hope and no matter how much more I know today about cancer, I’m sure that I myself as well would start all over again that battle against all odds if I encountered this evil firsthand one more time. It’s that bargaining part of dealing with loss process, when you try even the most absurd things under the sun to prevent the bad outcome. Even though you know it’s highly unlikely to succeed and that almost everybody else failed, you still push. You still fight. Others failed because they made all sorts of mistakes you imagine to justify your fight. They failed, but you won’t. It’s so profoundly human. Then if miracles don’t happen and things don’t go well, you get into schock. And the dealing with loss starts all over again right from the beginning, from the very start of the denial part.

That’s how my dad’s friend feel now. Fast backward to ten months ago when he first told us about his brother’s issues, he was full of confidence that his brother would be cured. Relatives from everywhere gathered to send all sorts of known and unknown alternative care products and for each new one they included in his therapy dad’s friend would say that if my dad tried it, he would be still alive. It’s so weird when you find youself in the dark tunnel of dealing with an illness without some universally known and definite cure – you want some product to work but you’re still very sceptical, you feel horrible because your family member couldn’t try such product, and in my case you eat yourself alive because you know that your M.D. father would deny trying anything outside allopathic protocol even if you had means to provide it. You go through a turmoil of mixed feelings asking yourself what if this man succeeds while we didn’t manage, does that make me a bad person because I didn’t save my dad? And there comes jealousy, too. That’s such a shameful feeling, to be jealous because someone else out there is alive and you fight every second against it, but it resurfaces again when you least expect it. You know that we’ll all exit this life at one point or another in this or that way, yet you still “fear” that someone else will outsmart the laws of life and stay here forever while you were not smart enough to find the eternal life formula. Totally crazy and quite foolish when you think about it, yet once again extremely human.

I went though all these and many more phases in these past months as I frequently heard news of the state of health of the brother of my dad’s friend. I never met this man, I never even visited the town in Bosnia where he lived, I didn’t even see a single photo so that could at least imagine how he looked like. Nevertheless, over and over again during hundreds of days behind us I asked how he was. I knew where he was, what he did, what was his diet, what were the things he liked, how strong he was and how big hopes he had. I knew so much, although very probably he didn’t even know that I existed and that I followed his battle with so many mixed emotions, praying so much for his life but also for his peace when he was exposed to the last painful procedures. This realization suddenly dawned on me, how probably for each one of us there is at least somebody out there who by chance or through someone else knows about our lives and feelings and how that knowledge often enfolds and stays behind the scene, leaving us completely oblivious of its existence. Just because we don’t know it, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who hope and pray with us, cheer for us and share our rollercoaster drive in unpredictable circumstances. Depending on circumstances and people involved, this can be a hidden burden or a hidden blessing as some sort of human energy obviously always travels our way. Whatever it is, it’s anyhow one of surprises the miracle of life consists of. I wish you all that only good people have you in their minds and hearts as your and their paths cross for a short time of this planet, may only good energy fly your way. And may the brother of my dad’s friend find his much needed peace till we meet some day. Rest in peace dear man, you were so strong and brave in you battle for life. I know that you were much loved and that you’ll be so much missed. Someone some day will find the cure, I’ll pray for this till the end of my days.

Apples and art

The previous post was about apples in beautiful nature, while this one is about how nature can create interesting patterns and imprint art on apple fruits. Here is original natural art, and my touch to it in five different variations. πŸ™‚

apple
Artistic apple – photo by tamellu 2015
apple
Artistic apple – canvas pattern – photo by tamellu 2015
apple
Artistic apple – glowing edges – photo by tamellu 2015
apple
Artistic apple – ripples – photo by tamellu 2015
apple
Artistic apple – dramatic effect – photo by tamellu 2015
apple
Artistic apple – zigzag effect – photo by tamellu 2015

Apples

The harvest of walnuts is almost over, trees are shedding yellow autumn leaves… but some types of apples are ripening or are even about to ripen. Dad’s trees are covered with beautiful, healthy fruits – you can’t even imagine how much he loved them and how happily he ate his apples every day, sometimes even all winter, if his trees gave enough fruit. Here are some photos, I hope you’ll like them!

apples
Apples in the afternoon sun – photo by tamellu 2015
apples
Apple tree – photo by tamellu 2015
apples
Apple harvest – photo by tamellu 2015

Friendship

keep in touch

Friends are people who are there by your side in both good and bad times – they keep you company, listen to you when you share either happy events or long rants on rainy days and give you the necessary feedback, they watch your back, give support and offer help in every sense of that word when needed. True friends are rare gems, they are hard to be found and require effort and care to be kept. Studies say that friends come and exit our lives at 7-10 year time increments, which means that with each new decade new people are bound to become a new and essential part of our world, while many if not almost all people we once knew get lost somewhere along the way. Rare ones that don’t are like gold, cherish them the best you can because these long-lasting unconditional friendships are among the most precious gifts life will ever serve you.

I wish this were a story about one such friend of mine. Unfortunately for some reason destiny made sure that I don’t earn such blessings, my friends all got chased away either by the passage of time or my health issues, or they simply vanished somewhere in the vast space of our planet far away from my country. For that reason this is a story about one of many lost friends, this one lost primarily because I didn’t put enough effort in keeping that bond alive. The bond was broken many years ago and while I don’t remember very well any more when exactly and how, I also can’t really explain why I didn’t take better care of this friendship in the first place.

My American friend I met almost 20 years ago kept in touch with me for several years after we got to know each other here in Serbia – we used to write long letters to each other and exchanged them mainly by fax, fast and easy way of sharing information and thoughts at long distances at the time. I would have tons of things to say about this special person and the place that friendship had in my days, but it would take thousands of words and cover too many different topics. This time I want to contemplate on just one of his phrases from the letter I still conserve: “Tanja – keep notes, keep a journal, keep in touch.”

I always loved to contemplate, which is already somewhere halfway between the idea in your mind and its materialization on paper, and my friend knew that. I was always very good at classes of writing in Serbian, but I had both luck and misfortune to attend those classes with the most talented people of my generation, as I went to high school for linguistic talents. It was luck because I could get the best education in the best possible conditions, misfortune because it’s extremely hard to outsmart the smartest people around. What I mean is that my writing was good, maybe even very good from time to time, but never excellent or extraordinary. No matter what I did or how much I tried, I could never top 2-3 my best friends who could just sit down and produce a masterpiece on any given subject in merely hour and a half given for the test. Someone else would see such a situation as a challenge and push further and further to go higher and higher. Someone else, not me. I was scared away by their brilliant literary achievements to the point that I stopped writing, convinced that if I can’t do that like they do, then I shouldn’t do it at all because it was pointless. Extremely black and white thinking – if you can’t be exceptional, don’t do anything. From today’s point of view really crazy philosophy and completely counterproductive, but that wasn’t exactly the worst conclusion I reached in life, worse was still to come. I went on downhill to spend almost half of average human life searching for something else I could do best, something that would come easy and naturally as an integral part of my personality and then turn it into profession I’d pursue till the end of my days. I generalized the notion of being untalented for writing by believing that I shouldn’t get into ANY of the fields where I can’t be great, no matter how much interesting or appealing they could be to me. I was and am insecure, I needed proof of my worth and seemingly nothing less than some sort of proof of greatness was good enough for me.

That was how I entered the world of learning foreign languages and “trading” one for the other working on translations. That’s a safe ground, although also creative one to a certain point, as perceiving the world around us doesn’t always match in different cultures. Safe is good enough for a nature precise like mine, but no matter how much verbal creativity can be hidden in the translating process, it’s still just a conversion of somebody else’s creation from one format to another. You trade one language for the other, but the content is still the same if you did your job well. However, that’s not nor it will ever be your content, as you’re just a conversion tool. It really is safer and you don’t risk much, but nobody will ever hear what you as a human being have to say to the rest of humanity. This realization truly defeated me. And I decided to take action. Translating and language teaching were put behind the scene and preserved for survival only, while I happily embarked on a new artistic journey. If I couldn’t excel with words, I opted for images.

For a long time I sadly contemplated on how tragically wrong this decision was, until i realized once again that it had nothing to do with decision itself, but with how I chose to react to the environment I found myself in. I was very happy when I was admitted to the art school, but the dream stopped right there. No matter what I did or created, I was always harshly criticized. Not only that I couldn’t excel in this world, I couldn’t even earn a single praise. That was extremely painful, to the point that I still feel that pain even though the nightmare ended 8 years ago. Today when I look back on that experience, I see little flashbacks of how my fellow students had nice words for some of the things I managed to come up with. I remember positive reactions from people from the outside of that world. I watch the notes I got for two photography classes I took, and even though I am well aware that I was and still am far from being a good and special photographer, I still had best marks in my generation. However, things didn’t look that bright at the time. Negation and denial was all I was presented with and not only that I accepted them as real, I implemented that attitude as my own thinking. Simply speaking, I began and continued thinking that I was artistically inadequate for good so I consequently left the images behind, the same way I abandoned words a decade and a half earlier.

As you already guessed, I didn’t listen to what my friend had to say in that letter from many years ago. I stopped keeping notes. I stopped keeping a journal. And the saddest of all, I didn’t keep in touch. If I kept in touch, I’m sure that my friend would encourage me to continue writing and that I would learn many more things from the exchange of our thoughts. At least my English would be much more fluent than it is today. Maybe he would have managed to illuminate me much earlier that what’s very good is good enough for everybody to keep doing whatever it is you do very well. Maybe he would have found the way to make me understand that the world would be a very small and almost empty place if only the extremely talented did some type of work in the fields they were born for. Maybe he would tell me that I had to believe in myself no matter what others say. To listen, but to stay who I am.

Sometimes critics may be right, but all the same there are ways and ways to point out to somebody how to improve their work, negativism and offenses are definitely not the instruments good people use to instill changes for the better in others. But on the other hand, sometimes critics are not right. People make all sorts of mistakes. I watched a movie last night and I wrote down this interesting line – “Nobody’s perfect, that’s why pencils have erasers on them.” Some of those mistakes are made out of ignorance because no one’s infallible eminence, not even the best experts. They are humans, too. Again, sometimes people just have double standards or they want to put you down because they perceive your work as a threat to their own success. Sometimes people are just plain mean. If you’re unlucky enough to meet people from this last category and end up believing their words and adopting them as your own way of thinking, world will be deprived of your precious creation for no reason. Sometimes people spend a certain amount of time doing what can be called average work and then all of a sudden their potentials just “explode” in the right circumstances. Imagine if they weren’t patient enough to wait for their stellar moment, what a tragic loss would that be.

On the other hand, maybe that globally approved greatness will simply never happen. That still doesn’t mean that we should sit and do nothing. Create. Write. Sing. Play an instrument. Draw. Paint. Cook. Do whatever makes you happy. Nobody can truly convince me any more that even a lifetime of “average” work can’t yield brilliant moments of their own. What matters is that you enjoy what you do and everything else your life consists of. When you get into that state of creative happiness, honestly only sky is the limit as to what can happen in the end.

Don’t repeat my mistakes. Don’t chase for too long intangible things believing that you’re chasing your true inner soul. Don’t waste time waiting to “find” yourself and then start doing something. You have yourself, here and now, you haven’t disappeared anywhere so that you have to go and look for yourself. Create if that is how you feel, without second thoughts and unnecessary questions. As long as you like what you do, you’ll find others who like it as well, I’m certain about it. This is one big planet, among all those billions of people there must be at least several kindred spirits for each one of us.

Keep notes. Keep a journal. Keep in touch, with both your inner soul and people you care about. And as for everything else, no matter what it is as long as it matters to you – KEEP IT.