Two or Three Things I Learned in 2016

One thing I cannot stop myself from doing once the year is drawing to a close is to look back at what I have done, what has happened to me, trying to get an overall view of the period that has passed. But because lately I have started to realize that what remains once an experience is done and lived is the lesson that you were taught, this year I am trying to think of the things I have learned rather than try to re-live the moments that have marked me the most.


Altruism is still well alive in some people

The most impressive thing I have discovered this year must have been what it feels like to receive a gift that has the sole purpose of making you happy. Two tickets to the concert of your favourite band might not seem like anything extraordinary to some people, but it has deeply touched me to see that someone invested time and money in something that would make me so happy. Actually the simple fact that they thought about doing this for me moved me deeply. For someone to come up with this thought, to plan this, to just make this gesture, to try to make things simpler for me… it even moves me now when I remember it.

This is why sometimes, when a crazy idea of making a gesture like this for someone comes to me, I try to act on the first impulse. And I try to shake away the thought that the relation that we have would make my gesture seem awkward, that I might be taken for a fool or that they might take advantage of me by mistaking my wish to do good for weakness. Because at the end of the day life is hard enough for all of us so if we get the chance to put a smile on someone’s face and make it a bit better, why not do it?


Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, not what is most comfortable

The second important lesson I have learned is something that actually stuck with me from last year. The human psyche is something very frail and can change direction way easier than we would like to imagine or accept. We like to think of ourselves as of the heroes in the stories that we populate, but the truth is we can turn into monsters in no time.

I hate to admit it and I will always carry this burden into my heart, but I have wronged a person because of selfishness, because of my impossibility of seeing the big picture and because I had refused to accept the cards I had been dealt. I will no more get the chance to ask for forgiveness, but I have learned that I cannot run away from the responsibilities life puts before me, that life is, contrary to what we keep hearing almost everywhere around us that we must seek happiness and fun throughout our journey, not only about finding ways to enjoy yourself, but mostly about accepting responsibilities and doing the right thing, even though at times that might not be exactly what you wanted.


My place in the Universe gives me reasons not to fear my death

I have read books and saw videos that opened up my mind about the world around me, about the huge universe I am but a minuscule, insignificant part of, I have managed to come to terms with the idea of my death. I have managed to finally put some order in my thoughts and beliefs around the existence or absence of a God and I am inclined to believe the latter. I have come to the conclusion that the God in our dogma is just an invention that bears the limitations of the human mind, it wasn’t us who were created in God’s image, it is God who was created in our image, simply because we couldn’t imagine anything more.

The Universe is so immense and such complex phenomena take place out there, that it is simply impossible for me to believe an old man among the clouds is watching me and writing down the good things and the bad things that I do. A frightening thought for when you feel the need for protection by someone or something above and beyond you, but also soothing for me when I think of how unimportant I am in this infinite realm of ours. So then why should I be so worried if I exist or if a cease to be? That is of course no reason to stop enjoying life and to try to make the most of it.


Words don’t really mean much

Another thing I’ve discovered is that one day you can hear the sweetest words from someone and the next day they can make you understand they don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore. Which is shocking. If someone tells you that you are perfect and special one day and then they stop talking to you and actually expect you to take the step of getting out of their life, it is at first shocking. First you try to find a logical explanation, although it is difficult to explain such a fracture in a logical manner, then comes a strong feeling that you have been treated unfairly, then you get hurt and then you’re back at “what the hell happened?”.

Whatever subsequent reassurances that you are alright, that nothing is wrong with you, that you are wonderful or whatever you might be told, cannot really change this situation. First because you have heard the very same words before you got discarded and secondly because when people care about you, they find the time and a way of keeping you around them. They don’t look for you, they don’t care about you. It’s as simple as that. And yes, they didn’t like you that much in the first place, because the truth is… nobody wants to let go of someone they really like. So “It’s not you, it’s me” actually means “It’s not you, it’s me and I don’t like you”. Case closed.


My dreams are my dreams

I may end up this year a bit disappointed, but for the first time I feel that I am one of the greatest people I can rely on and that I have it in me to offer myself some remarkable experiences in the future. It must also be for the first time that I am trying to imagine myself with someone by my side and that the image pains me and makes me wish to do everything I dream of on my own.  My dreams are my dreams and next year I will put my own dreams first.


The best stuff I listened to this year

I am about to write a piece about something that surprised me a great deal this year, it’s about the best track I heard in 2016. I was used to listening to metal mostly and I thought this is the supreme music genre in terms of pop culture. So when I went through this great shift that introduced me to electronic music (or a very small part of it), it was astonishing even to myself that I could be so entertained and that such sensations could be triggered within me by this kind of music. So this year it was time to break another prejudice and start listening to music I never thought I’d enjoy.

I was introduced to Deadmau5 with the following words:  “If you can listen to this till the end, you deserve a prize”, so I was expecting something quite nasty or at least boring. I was given the link to a 13-minute video of a live performance of Strobe in Toronto. I very rarely just listen to music, usually I use it as a background to another activity, but as soon as I heard the first notes of Strobe, I put on my headphones and laid down in bed because it seemed to me like this deserved my full attention.

I immediately closed my eyes, and the images started passing through my mind like in a movie. This song made my imagination run from the very beginning. I never thought I would say this about an electro track, but this one stirs such vivid pictures in my head and such strong feelings within me.

It stars with a feeling of nostalgia, as if I were seeing myself yearning to live again moments that have passed a long time ago, reminiscing about happier days in my life, a feeling of vulnerability and loneliness coming over me, and the regret that I couldn’t always share with anyone else the strong feelings that would forever remain known only to myself: the passion, the will to live, the love of life, the great happiness and the deep sorrow. The rhythm itself is not very alert in the beginning of the song, like a heart that’s barely beating. Around 2:36 (I’m now listening to the recorded version) this feeling seems to turn from numbness to acute pain and it goes on like this until about 3:20 when a movement in the song makes me think of the dawn of a misty morning.

There is a sound in the background like the wings of a flock of birds flying up to the sky or like the crisp sound of a river flowing in its bed through the harsh rocks of a mountain. The rhythm starts to accelerate and it makes me feel like it has all changed: life has come back to me and so has the will to live and do a lot of yet-un-tried things. I start seeing aerial views of all sorts of landscapes which I suppose translates my wish to travel a lot and see this great world we live in.

Around 6:10 there is again a change (some other sound that’s added in the background and then comes to the foreground) which triggers human images in my head. My imagination now moves to an urban landscape and I see all sorts of people having fun, dancing and laughing, and we’re at this rooftop party (something I’ve always been curious about) and then the landscape images mix with the urban ones and everything ends in a huge celebration of freedom, happiness and life in general.

I listened to this song on sunny mornings to make sure I’d have a great start, on dark evenings when I’d go back home broken-hearted, at home when I just wanted to enjoy myself or at work between two Excel spreadsheets. It is no philosophy, I know these are just sounds someone played with, but if it makes me come alive like that, then I think who played with this, did it in a very masterful way.

If you’ve read this so far, just go ahead and give it a try. Just once. Don’t ever refuse yourself the chance to discover something great.

P.S. A little fun fact at the end. I was supposed to go to a play the day I was introduced to Deadmau5. But the truth is I was so impressed with this guy’s work, I kept postponing getting dressed for the play until it was eventually too late for me to go. The next day I had found out the performance had been canceled because one of the actors was sick. I went to see the play when it was rescheduled two months later and I hated it. I think the Mau5 was trying to warn me about something.

P.S.2 Yes I have dreamed ever since of going to one of the mau5’s live performances and I have felt very  grateful to the person who showed me Deadmau5 for introducing me to new stuff and for inspiring me to do new exciting things in the future.


I used to look at you while you were smoking your cigar…

I used to look at you while you were smoking your cigar. I was trying to carve the image of your face deeply into my memory. Like I knew that you weren’t going to be there for a long time. Your innocent look, the eyes that seemed to ask for protection, or sometimes the absent-minded gaze into the distance.

And your gestures, and the expressions on your face, I still have them with me. Sometimes it seemed like you were  smiling even with your eyes, not just with your lips. But were you truly that happy?

I had understood my dream was unrealistic, not feasible, I understood what a huge difference there was between my imagination and reality. I was not even sure I wanted to go back to that foolish dream anymore. But yours seemed real enough, like we could make it happen.

My dream was hard enough to let go of and it shook me to the core of my very existence. So I wanted to turn yours into reality. Ready to follow you wherever you decided was a good place for crafting stories of success. Ready to use whatever skills I had earned to put them at your service. Ready to remain in the dark, just so you could shine in front of everybody. I wanted you to shine. You deserve to shine.

And now your smile comes back before my eyes. A bit overwhelmed, a bit impressed, like your heart was melting to see yourself reflected like the image of perfection into my eyes. You probably did not think much of that. And you will not miss it. And not wish for it again. Neither will you see again perhaps perfection returned into your look from a pair of eyes that got lost into yours.