Many wish for designer clothes or bags – my biggest wish is for life by design. And may the design be my own.
For almost a year I was working in the department store in Oslo that sells the most expensive and exclusive brands. Lately Norwegians have gotten more interest for the high-end products and Oslo started to develop its own area of luxury shopping. Some years ago these streets were filled with kiosks, small shops and cafes. Now in their place there are all the famous fashion names.
Walking past them every day, I had enough time and opportunity to contemplate about luxury. And I came to conclusion that, for me, luxury is not Louis and Gucci, not flying with a private jet, popping champagne bottles. The greatest luxury for me is to live my life by my terms and rules.
When I worked in the Danish design store of jewelry and living, I liked telling the story behind the product because the story makes it more personal. I would often tell my customers: “When it comes to such things as jewelry, we want it to have meaning: either they are a gift from somebody dear, a heritage, or they have a story you can connect to”. I was not making things up, this has become my own truth too. I would say: “With clothes, I can go and buy some cheap t-shirt and throw it away next summer. With jewelry, I want it to last many years and have some special memory every time I use it. This is why I like when my necklace is a gift, even if I could buy it myself. And it is ok to give presents to yourself too, if you want to mark an occasion that is special for you. It is also ok when they cost some money – choosing and thinking over is all the part of the process. You would not want some cheap thing – it would not have the same value for you over time”.
I have come to realize that my relationship with things has changed. A lot. Growing up in a very turbulent time in Ukraine, right after the collapse of Soviet Union, I was not spoiled by things. I remember wearing my mom’s shirts and my dad’s flared jeans (I was kinda hippie and loved the 70s style). I remember shopping at second hand. My jewelry was self-made necklaces and friendship bracelets which fitted with the eccentric style of my hippie friends. While my girl peers were busy with make-up, pretty clothes and boyfriends, I couldn’t care less about it. I focused on studying and dreamt about getting into the Moscow university, filling my time and fancy with rock’n’roll music, the Beatles, drawing and making up stories with my friend. I was a typical dreamer.
I have written for a while under a tag “expat” – but the more I was writing, the more I understood that this doesn’t apply to me. There is a taste to the word “expat”, sweet and free, that is unfamiliar to my palate. I am more an immigrant and less an expat in Norway. Somewhere I have read a discussion of the differences between immigrants and expats, and since then this thought hasn’t left me. How would I explain that difference? In my post “Thriving in Norway” I made a try of explaining – and I feel that I have so much more to say about feelings of an immigrant. And how they differ from other kinds of foreigners.
We, foreigners in Norway, often view ourselves as a big group as opposed to the group of native Norwegians. But we tend to forget that this big group is not homogenous, and as we experience difficulties understanding the locals – we may also face difficulties understanding other foreigners with whom we identify us. I get a skin-close experience of it since I live together with another foreigner – and sometimes it feels like we have lived in two different countries, though we have lived in the same city in the same country of Norway for the past 11 years (20 in his case). Let me explore the differences.
Once I was talking to a friend about my blog and noticed: “Everyone says that the blog must give something, and I don’t know what my blog can give to the reader”. Her answer was: “Your blog can show your search for meaning. And it has value. You are searching for meaning, for beauty in your everyday life – you don’t create those glamorous Instagram accounts, but collect your doors and things you like. Because not everyone knows what he likes. And you can show your way”.
Why I am so afraid to feel my negative emotions? Why when I feel despair or anxiety rising up do I want to run and hide, to distract myself, to do anything but avoid feeling what I feel? I am not a good runner in sports, but I am a very good runner from my fears. Isn’t it generally a human condition? We try to stop ourselves from feeling the way we consider negative. But what if we stop stopping – and start exploring?
Feeling is healing, I have recently heard in a yin yoga class. And I loved that thought. But I am so good in suppressing the feelings I don’t like – even though I consider myself very self-conscientious and in touch with my inner life. But it shows in situations where I face really uncomfortable emotions that I have no interest for self-inquiry. I just would love to switch the channel and be in a totally different state. As much as I respect Tony Robbins and all that philosophy of quantum leaps and switching states, I want to answer to that call for facing my emotion. I feel that it can bring me closer to my true self.
I happen to live in the country that has given to this world the great explorers like Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, the Vikings (who sailed all the way to North America). These guys have set kind of high standard for what exploring means, and, honestly, sometimes that bothers me. Do you also have this idea of exploring the faraway shores, thick jungles and mountain tops that are untouched by the foot of a man? Then I check the Instagram feeds of travel bloggers with their perfect sets in places that I don’t know how to pronounce, the flowing dresses, hats and hipster backpacks all there. I look at them, I look at me – and in my eyes you can see a reflection of an abyss that seems impossible to jump over.
But where is this distance? It’s only in my head, and no one is really stopping me. And I don’t even need to buy tickets to the exotic destinations, pack my suitcase with mosquito sprays and first aid kits, and risk my life hanging from the cliff with my camera in order to call myself an explorer. My mind is like a kid, it needs a picture attached to the word. So these are the pictures I have attached to the word “explore”. But recently I came to realize that exploring is the spirit, not the destination, or a dangerous activity or a cool shot on Instagram. It is more like an attitude, a mind mode that you can tap into any time and any place.
Today I would like to start new series of posts about the city where I live. That was partly inspired by the rainy weather this week when I felt stuck at home and was browsing my older photos. I have discovered that when you cannot get out and shoot, you can be creative with all those pics. Creativity is motivated better by constrains than by freedom, according to science and Eric Barker, and I agree with that now.
My second inspiration came from talking to the fellow blogger Estrella of La Casabloga about living in the cities which other people find wonderful and how we get surprised by it. I have lived in Oslo for 10 years and lost that freshness that makes you open your eyes widely in awe. I spent my first years wandering around the city, taking pictures with my old camera. But now I got used to it, and then watching pics on Instagram (hashtag beautiful destinations) makes me dream away to places like Paris and London. And good old Oslo? Oslo is still here, but when did it stop to excite me? So with these new series I want to reinvent my attitude to Oslo, to explore it anew and share it on the blog.