It was hard to believe that a week ago my life was a monotony, a litany of sameness, of despair, of relentless calls and frustratingly purposeless situations. In three days I'd met all kinds of new and interesting people, got lost (and found) wandering the charming streets of Copenhagen, tasted this and did that and saw etc., and now I was heading to Milan. I don't even know if I can separate three days of work out of the 900 days I worked at my last company. Each day seems to just be a ruthless repetition of every former day.....yet here in Europe I have three days that I'll never forget....I'm slightly overwhelmed with what possibilities are in store for the next 87 days I have left on my Visa!
The night before I left Los Angeles, I paired down everything I wanted to take with me. You'd be surprised at how effective the volume of a backpack is at determining what is really necessary for an open-ended trip abroad. My first thought--other than how minimalist this adventure would be--was that everything I needed had to be carried. No titanium exoskeleton, no sherpa, no Darpa Robot. Just me and a backpack. The idea was thrilling, if not a little scary, too!
Typical plane ride: 7 hour delay, followed by 10 hours of being squished shoulder to shoulder while waiting for my olfactory nerve to turn off the "B.O. and bad breath" sensors in my nose. Whatever rudimentary, amorphous thoughts I had on the plane turned quite real as soon as we landed. I think I'd been in denial in-flight, because when I landed a huge wave of fear rushed over me. I was scared! I don't know the language, nor do I have any clue what their customs are like. As fear turned to self-doubt, I'd thought to myself, why was I in Copenhagen? What the hell was I doing? I had basically thrown a dart on a map and here is where I landed, the puncture point, Denmark. Even if I removed the dart from the map and threw it again, the small hole would always be there, having never been filled by experience. Maybe others wouldn't notice, but I would. I knew that hole would always be a hole in me; something would always be missing. I couldn't let fear stop me, dammit! Unfortunately, all that didn't do a thing to help me deal with the anxiety. To make things even worse, it was the first time in my life I've ever truly followed my heart. Was my heart an idiot? I hoped not. 36 hours of sleeplessness didn't help. But almost instantly my fears were assuaged. After a drama-less cab ride I settled in to my rented room and, after exchanging greetings with the host and settling in, I passed out like a drunk baby.
First (real) day in Copenhagen started out a bit rocky. I got lost on the way out while trying to find an ATM. I had no krones (only Euros and USD) and no useable credit cards. I did have my bad sense of direction with me and a cell phone with no service. Just when I began to worry that I could very well get stuck in a maze of a city, I found an ATM machine and met some awesome Greek cafe owners, who showed me around and took me to Christianshavn.
In the 1600s by Christian IV found and built Christianshavn as a little merchant/fortress town while he was fortifying Copenhagen. Some time in the mid 1900s the square was made public and hippies settled in and the tradition carry on until now. I doubt he could ever imagine that his park would become the epicenter of Copenhagen weed culture, as this is the park where the locals and tourists come to buy and smoke. Of course, no pictures allowed signs spray painted everywhere where the product is being sold, but once you pass it, it becomes a friendly atmosphere. The section where the hash and cash transaction took place seemed serious. Every dealer was set up under tents with sunglasses, and hoodies and no one was alone. When people talk to the seller, the guy next to him (bodyguard I suppose), would stare you down. I'm sure they pretend that they're there for security, but I got the suspicion that they took their job too seriously. Now, I'm no drug addict, and I surely didn't go to Denmark with the intention of smoking hashish, but if what I wanted was routine and sameness I'd still be back at home working my boring, awful job. New unexpected experience #1! I don't know what the 60s were like, but now I have a little better idea.
I'm writing from Copenhagen, Denmark. Just over a year ago I broke the first lumbar vertebrae of my spine. My X-Ray below kind of summarizes just how bad it was. I've always been independent and done things my own way, but lying on my back helpless, wondering if I'd ever do anything on my own again taught me just how much I desperately need to be in control of my life and destiny. In 12 feet and 1.5 seconds my life changed forever. As I recovered and eventually stumbled out of a morphine fog, I realized that change--whether good or bad--is near-instantaneous. Bad things disrupt our lives and change our trajectory, but I wondered why can't good things happen just as quickly? Perhaps destruction is always quicker than construction....at the time it was a twinge of self-pity, I suppose, but the idea that good things can happen that change our life for the better in an instant became a thought that I never let go of.
Starting back at my job behind a desk, dealing with both irate customers (and the occasional colleague) who didn't know their job function even if you tattooed it on their right hand, became more difficult than ever, but I'm actually not sure what was worse--the pain that shot from my spine down to my legs and back--or the thought that unless something good or bad happened to change my trajectory, this is exactly where I'd be in 10 or 20 or 30 years.
I'm by no means wealthy. I'm 25 and have struggled to earn probably just a little less than your average taxpayer. I thought that dedication and hard work would lead to pay raises and promotions, but at the rate I was going, I was barely competing with inflation. During the day my thoughts would shift to the one thing I loved more than anything: baking. Whereas some girls of my age spend their extra money and time on going out with friends or shopping for new handbags, I spent all my extra time in the kitchen experimenting with flour, sugar, butter, eggs and heat. And I spent all my extra money on that, too. Croissants, breads, macarons, tarts were my best friends. Late nights for me left me hungover from a lack of sleep rather than overindulgence in cosmos and cabernets. Rolling pins and perfect macarons were what I lived for.
And then one particular day while listening to my boss carry on about how I have to bend over backwards for the fucktards I work with, I had two consecutive daydreams. As my thoughts wandered back to my original curiosity about whether or not life can change for the better in the same amount of time as it had changed mine for the worse I began to also daydream about how I could be perfecting croissants lamination technique. And that's when it hit me. The future of my life was clear: I should bake, I am a baker, it's in my blood, it's all I want to do. It's what I think of in the morning, it's what I think about no matter how exhausted I am. The only instant event that could change my life forever, and change my trajectory from dealing with US customs was an event that had been there all my life. Every day it followed me around, just waiting for permission to take over, just waiting for me to acknowledge its presence. What was this cataclysmic event, you ask? A decision.
A life I always wanted simply required only that I decide to do what I love. I'd have to accept uncertainty and all kinds of unanswered questions and the potential possibilities of failure, but also all kinds of possibilities of self discovery and potentially very positive results.
And with that, I bought a ticket, boarded a plane, and landed in Denmark. Over the next several months, I'll cook and eat my way through as many countries in Europe as possible. I will learn as much as I can from anyone who'll teach me the secrets of their trade. I'm trusting that my passion for what I do will break down language barriers, open up opportunities and provide me with the knowledge and skills I need to be successful for when I return to my 'normal' life. But most of all, these next few months will change the trajectory of my life forever. So much so that when someone in 2 or 5 or 10 years asks me, "how did you make it to this point in your life?" I'll say, "In 2014, my life changed in an instant. I made the decision to do what I loved, which--no surprise--led to a life I love."