Life in Lyon

 

During my time in this French city, I really enjoyed the little things. I was extremely happy every time I went to the market on the square behind my building, where I bought large amounts of fruits and was always greeted with a smile and sometimes even free stuff! I also really enjoyed an evening at home with a good book, a walk along the Rhône, taking a bath, drinking my morning smoothie, talking to my friends, writing, improving my French… I have not done a lot of big things and I actually haven’t really traveled outside of the city during these months, but I don’t regret that. I needed it like this and it was great.

Every week there was an event from Couchsurfing; a boardgame night in the center of Lyon. It was in one of my first weeks there that I went to one of those evenings and I became a regular instantly. We played all sorts of games with people from all kinds of different countries and it was such a blast, again and again, every week. I’m still sort of amazed by how much fun I’ve had there every week. The people who showed up were very nice and I spend a lot of time with the ones who were also regulars outside of these nights too. I’m very happy with my group of Lyonnais friends, even though I did betray one of them in a spy game and they didn’t feel like they knew me well enough until we played a game of two truths and a lie. I would have thought inventing lava sharks and mushroom cacti were ingredients for a lifelong friendship, but I guess it takes more than that ;)

I actually didn’t take many pictures throughout the summer, so in my last week in Lyon I went crazy with my camera to capture all the great memories. You may not enjoy watching them as much as I do, but I hope they are at least a little entertaining :)

Advertisements

Creating your own normal

Most of the times, when somebody asks you if you are happy, it is very likely that you will have to think about it. It seems like such an easy question. Are. You. Happy?

Turns out, not that easy to answer. And I feel like often people are measuring their happiness the wrong way. We all have an idea of what our perfect life looks like. And in measuring happiness, people are often trying to figure out how far off they are from that perfect life. So often, when asked the age-old question, the response will be something along the lines of “I wish I had more money”, or “I’m not quite happy with my current job”, or “I still haven’t found the love of my life”. In my case, it would be “I’d like to exercise more” or “I want to spend more time writing”.

But creating and analyzing the gap between your actual and your ideal life does not happiness make. Nor does it measure happiness. If anything, it shows you that you want more. More time, more money, more love. But even if you have a million dollars, you have all hours of the week free to spend on the hobby’s that you can choose… You will always want something more.

Maybe this effect is created by our current society, or our culture. Maybe it’s all the motivational speakers screaming you can do anything you like and be anyone you want. Maybe it’s fear that always tells us to strive for more.

Whatever it is, it will always be there. We will always want more. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it does mean that if you will measure happiness based on this gap you create by wanting more, you will never be happy. Because guess what. Goals expand. Goals multiply. Goals change.

You also hear many people say that if you appreciate what you already have, you will be happy. This makes more sense to me: stopping the focus on all you don’t have and focus on the things that you do have, the goals you have already reached. Gratitude is a good thing, for sure. And although gratitude alone is not the key to happiness, it will make the gap between your perfect and current life less prominent.

I’m currently reading a book about mindfulness and I read an interesting part that I’d like to share. We are all very hard on ourselves nowadays. And I don’t mean giving ourselves a hard time if we fail in striving towards all these goals we set, although, yes, that too. But we are constantly analyzing how we feel and why we feel that way. Maybe in your life, if you think about your job, your family, your possessions, you are sure you have it all. The ingredients for the ambrosia called happiness are there. And then you wonder why it is then, that you don’t feel happy all the time.

Instead of accepting this feeling, we challenge it. We fight it with all our power, because we want that happiness. It is the ultimate goal. We question our feelings and wonder where they come from and scold ourselves for not being happy or content. I believe this causes a downward spiral that in some cases can be called depression.

It has been really bothering me lately that the world has these preconceived notions on what will make us happy, when the majority of the population cannot say with any kind of certainty that they are in fact happy.

I’ve recently read Fightclub (and watched it too) and I was really struck by the part shown in the link (which is more elaborate in the book). Parents tell their kids to go to school. They have to go to college afterwards. Then they should get a job. Marry. Mortgage. KIDS. And then what? They seem like clearcut ways to become happy. They are blocks that can make up a life like pieces of Lego create all sorts of awesomess. They are perceived as the normal way to live your life. But they never guarantee it.

I hate that the world, our society, what- or whomever has decided that we have to follow certain paths. That we are limited to certain pieces of Lego. We have to go to university, we have to get a job, get a spouse, have children and that’s that.

That. Is. Not. That.

You don’t have to do shit anything and you can do everything.

People sometimes tell me they envy the life I’m living right now. Living in different places, traveling, meeting people from all over the world. I get it, but I don’t get it. It’s not like I have anything going for me that others don’t. I just decided to do it. I saved up money, and I’m not the kind of person to do anything that I don’t like to do.

So I don’t.

So in a way, maybe I am like these motivational speakers encouraging you to do whatever. And to not do whatever. Yes, lead your life, set goals. But let your life flow. Go with it. Let things happen. Stop trying to control everything. Enjoy what you have, and take time to figure out what it is that you want to do, not what society wants you to do.

These themes, happiness and normalcy have really been keeping me busy lately. I’m living an awesome life right now and yet there are still the inevitable moments during which I feel unhappy, and those who know me personally may know I’m the analyzing type of person. I want to know why I feel unhappy, but feelings are simply not easily caught up in logic. There is not always a reason and in fact, I believe that the only reason for unhappiness is you. It is your mindset that decides if you feel happy or not.

But that’s kind of a confronting thought, isn’t it?

Because it means you are responsible. It means you cannot blame your job or the people around you. You cannot blame your life.

Because it’s you.

Roadtrip in France

The weekend before my 25th birthday was really special to me. One of my best friends came to visit me in France and we drove all throughout the area, stopping in different beautiful places, taking pictures and laughing. It was really grounding to see her there, because I was already feeling rather miserable and had decided to leave my job at the camping site. She traveled very far, using not the most comfortable ways to travel, to see me for just two days. And it was great. I felt understood and remembered that there are people in this world who are on my wavelength, which is a feeling I was missing there.

She brought me presents for my birthday – which were perfect and showed me she knows me well :) – and a card from another one of my best friends – which contained words that I needed at that moment – and we slept together in one of the huge safari tents. I liked the slumber party, I liked the company, I liked the travel vibe we had going. Honestly, I really liked being able to complain about everything at the camping site too. Roadtrippin’ together was great, even if I did occasionally drive past our goal (an available parking space, mostly), making us having to drive in a circle to end up there again.

Saying goodbye to her on my actual birthday was really hard for me, because it meant I had to stay there by myself for even longer and having spent two full days with her made me realize how great life could be. How awesome my life is. How great my friendships are. How much I miss being able to connect to people on an intellectual level and feeling understood.

Well, this all sounds rather dramatic, I’m aware of that, but that’s the way it felt. And honestly, this weekend is really the only good great memory I have of my time there. So seeing the pictures again… that’s just magical.

 

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-25 om 11.52.39

Sharing is not always caring

I’m sure we are all familiar with this situation. A friend of yours says you have to watch a certain movie, because it has changed their life forever. There goes two hours of your life. Or maybe they would like you to read a book that has the best storyline ever. You could end up giving it six hours of your valuable time. Or if you are really unlucky, they will recommend a tv-show with five seasons, causing you to spend a whole week binge-watching.

When we find something we enjoy, we want to share it with everybody we know (most commonly our close friends and family). You want to tell them how great it was, that it was so funny, they should absolutely watch it. Your life won’t be complete if you haven’t.

And it got me thinking… I am also the kind of person who likes to share their enthusiasm with friends about these kinds of things. If you have read something that felt important somehow, you want to share it. But while doing this, often we forget to think about our target audience.

Not everybody has the same interests as you. Maybe a dramatic film that has no joke in it whatsoever is not the best thing to recommend to your friend who loves comedy. Sure, you may want to share your passion for this newly discovered picture, but if you don’t keep in mind what your friend likes, this may only result in disappointment. I’ve watched movies that I love with friends who start to tear it apart and pointing out all of the flaws. Maybe after that, you won’t like the movie as much.

We have ALL been in the situation where you show somebody a clip from Youtube of something you have laughed about for days, but your friend watches it with a straight face and a frown, wondering why you would want to show them this video. Usually, about halfway through the video, you will be tempted to say something along the lines of: “Just wait for it, the funny part is coming”. But you already know that this viewing is a bust.

So yes, on the one hand you should think about the person you are sharing your newly discovered awesomeness with, but on the other hand, it can say a lot about you. It is a chance for your friends to learn more about you and what you find funny or moving.

When I was discussing this with my Lyonnais friends, they gave me an interesting new insight. If somebody recommends something that you really love, it proves how well they know you and it can strengthen your connection to that person. I must say, I agree. I always try to think of the person I’m recommending to when recommending something and it can feel rather special when somebody who gives you a recommendation introduces you to something that becomes meaningful to you.

I guess the point of this blog is: be mindful of what you recommend to whom. The philosophy of: ‘They should read or watch this because I liked it and thought it was awesome’ won’t always cut it in the world of sharing interests.

Sunny, what are you doing after France?

Well, that is in fact a good question.

Because what I will do next is something awesome.

I have been searching for an internship to finish my studies for a while. I wanted to do it in Paris at first, I wanted to work at an HR department. Because of the language barrier that didn’t work out, which caused me to go to France for something else (a summer job). And even though I was kind of disappointed that I couldn’t do that kind of internship in France, I knew with 100% certainty that it was for a very good reason.

Which turned out to be the case.

While I was in France I was searching for an internship. I applied for a few positions, send letters to companies that interested me. I did so for companies in The Netherlands, in France and even back in Indonesia (where I totally would have gone again had I not gotten this internship).

One day, I was feeling a little dramatic. I figured I wouldn’t find anything, I was restless because my future wasn’t planned after September and I just really needed a break.

Well, I got it.

While I was at work that day and I scrolled through my Facebook timeline, I noticed an ad from a publisher that I like on Facebook. Coincidentally it was the only publisher that I like on Facebook. The ad was for an intern for their PR and marketing department. Starting in September. I got very, very excited about this. In my mind I was already writing my application letter and when I got home I typed it out in half an hour. It was the most honest letter I have ever sent in for a job, it was a great letter and I was very proud of it. So without even thinking twice about it I attached my CV to the email and sent it.

It was not even two hours later that I got a response (at 11pm!) telling me that they really liked my letter and profile and they would send me an email tomorrow to set up a time to do the interview. In that email they sounded just as excited with the prospect of hiring me as I was with the prospect of working for them!

The interview was not me trying to convince them to hire me, it was just a conversation where they told me about how they work, what I could expect and it was me trying to contain my excitement about where this was all going. In the end of the interview they said they would love to have me and that I could of course think about it. Obviously, I didn’t need to, so I immediately accepted and walked around with a smile for the rest of the week.

I am so happy about this, because this internship is exactly what I need to actually launch a career as a writer. It will give me insight into the business, it will give me connections and it will give me the knowledge to promote the books I will write, which seems the hardest part of the process to me. Even though in general I am not that much into PR and marketing, when it comes to books, I could not be more interested.

After the excitement from this news slowly faded away a bit (which does not mean it’s gone, it just means the thoughts of it don’t take up my entire day), I realized what this means. I will have to move to the capital of my home country. So I entered the jungle that is the real estate market in Amsterdam.

It took me quite some time to find a place to live in Amsterdam, but I also finally have this covered and so I’m more than ready to start this new challenge in less than a month. I just know it is exactly the right place for me and that I will learn so much in the five months they will have me for.

I’m just… so excited.

 

 

 

 

 

How to save some energy

I found this post on one of my secret blogs, where I have posted like five posts before I gave up (wow, this blog is doing really well in comparison!) I wrote it about a year and a half ago and I thought it was still very applicable. It is one of the rules I live my life by and I guess this was written on the moment I learned about this idea, so I wanted to share it with you here as well!

~

I have been reading this book, written by Stephen Covey. I started a week ago and I am almost finished, but already I have integrated some of his stuff into my life. He became very famous for these 7 habits he created, that would help transform your life. I will maybe share more of this brilliant man in the future, but for now I wanted to focus on one particular thing.

A lot of people spend a lot of energy on a lot of things. Can you hear yourself or people around you say the following?

“God, the weather is terrible today. I annoys me so much when all this rain is coming down on me and I have to redo my hair when I get to work… Life sucks!?”

“The people in our government don’t know what they are doing. They are screwing everyone by increasing the taxes.”

“I am so bugged by the way my boss talks to me. Her voice is so high-pitched and every time she speaks I get goosebumps!”

These are just a few examples of things that people could say, when they are focused on the wrong circle. What circle, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

According to Covey, you have two circles. The circle of concern consists of things that have an effect on you, that concern you, but that you cannot influence. Examples: the weather, other people, the government, etc. The second circle is the circle of influence, which, as you may have guessed, you can influence! This can include your life, your relationships, your job, your choices. See the picture below.
circle-of-influence-circle-of-concern

So after reading this, I started thinking about it. Two circles, one I can control, one I can’t. This sounds interesting. So that means that I don’t have to worry about or stress over the things I cannot control? Immediately I felt lighter. When I cycled through the rain the next day, people around me were complaining, and I just didn’t care. I did not want to waste energy on this thing that I obviously had no control over. It gave me this new kind of peace and already I am happy I have learned this, and, more importantly, learned to apply this.

Yesterday I had some friends over and I noticed that I was applying this theory in my conversations with them. One of my friends told me she was really trying to help another friend and it bugged her that she wouldn’t listen to her. I told her: “You can let her know how you feel and what would be the consequences if she continues her behavior, but that is all you can do. The rest is up to her and is out of your hands.” Now I am already usually a great advice giver, but this was a highlight, even for me. She agreed with me and I saw her relax a little bit with this realization. It was simply not her responsibility to change her friend’s behavior.

But let’s focus on the circle of influence as well. Because if you cannot stress about your friends’ behavior, the weather or the government, what can you stress about? Well, I am inclined to say, don’t stress at all. You are in charge of your own life. So there are always options and it is up to you to pick the right one. If you encounter something displeasing, ask yourself the following: Is this something I can change, something I have control over, or is it not? If you don’t have any influence, if it is only in you circle of concern, just let it go. It won’t help to stress, so don’t. But if it is something you can change, there are still two options. Either change it, or accept it and stop stressing. It’s actually really simple!

Now I have wondered why Covey made this distinction using circles, but when I tried to put it another way, I realized why. Just saying: there are some things you can influence, and some things you cannot influence, just sounds to damn passive. You know there are things you don’t have control over, but that doesn’t mean you cannot stress about them. Well, it does. It is a choice to stress over these things. You can cycle through the pouring rain and be annoyed the whole time. You can even be annoyed when you finally arrive at your destination and even for the rest of the day. But you can also try to let it go, to not be upset by things you cannot change. Trust me, it will save you tons of energy. And you can spend that energy thinking about things you can control.

Imagine the productivity.

Imagine the happiness…

My 10 favorite French songs

Honestly, I could start with listing all of Stromae’s songs, but first of all, he’s from Belgium, and second of all, I already knew all of his songs. But since moving to France I discovered a bunch of new ones, and here are the ones I cannot stop listening to and I am learning the lyrics to.

1. Zombie – Maître Gims

Even though a few lyrics repeat a bunch, there are a few lines that I just cannot pronounce so fast. “Retire ces chaînes, qui te freinent” (Remove the chains that hold you back).

2. Berceuse – Coeur de Pirate

First of all, love the name of the band. Heart of the pirate. And I just love her voice. This song also really has a French vibe to it, so yeah… Top 10 material right here.

3. Je Vole – Louane

Very slow, very sad. I’m pretty sure it’s about a person in their last minutes before committing suicide, while fully conscious (sans fumer, sans alcool).

4. Jour 1 – Louane

Same singer, happier song. I like the rhythm of the melody, it’s very catchy. Easy to sing along to. While reading from the lyrics website, bien sur.

5. Avenir – Louane

I know, again, same artist. But they were first in the list, so I’ve heard songs by her the most. A great song for dancing (the version I have is faster than this one on YT)!

6. Avec le temps – Isleym

I only found four songs by this artist and I really love this one. The lyrics are fast, but I can still keep up! And I like how she sounds like she’s only fourteen, which she may very well be.

7. Je t’emmenerai – Ridsa

I love his voice. And I like the lyrics. It’s never a punishment to listen to a guy singing in French.

8. Je me souviens – Ridsa

Love the feel of this song. Also, see song number 7.
“Je me dit que ça va aller” (I told myself it will be okay)

9. Pas Besoin de Toi – Joyce Jonathan

Love her voice. And the song is easy to follow.

10. Tant Pis – Joyce Jonathan

Mostly because of the title. But also because of the song.

11. Est-ce que tu m’aimes? – Maître Gims

“Do you love me? I don’t know if I love you”. Seems to sum up love pretty well.

 

Let me know if you found the joke.