Inspiration

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Lately, I have been thinking about inspiring people in my life. With that, I do not mean influential persona such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but people that I have personally met and that have enriched my life – no matter if just once or permanently.

The first inspiring person that comes to mind would without a doubt be my mother. I know that a lot of people say this, but I actually mean it too. I have been deeply connected to my mother since my father left our family when I was still in primary school. (No worries, this is not going to be a depressing piece of writing.)

My mother is one of the strongest people I have ever known: being a single mother while simultaneously handling her career and two incidents of cancer. None of these incidents made her bitter in any way – eventhough it would not be wrong to admit that her level of sarcasm has certainly risen in the last couple of years. Most importantly, she has always supported my decisions: no matter if that concerned leaving to New Zealand for a year by myself after graduation or deciding to study at a university 6 hours away from my hometown. Eventhough she does not like to admit it, I know that deep inside it must have been somehow hard for her to let me go out into the world – especially since I also happen to have no siblings. For all this and more, she is and will always be my rock in life.

The next person on the list is a very unique specimen of human being in a lot of aspects: My grandad. First of all, he is one of the few people I know who truly loved his job. He used to work in France as a organ maker and restorer for the French Catholic church for more than 35 years. (Funnily enough, without actually being Catholic.) He travelled the world and at one point almost moved to Spain, which thankfully never happened because otherwise neither my mother nor I would be where we are now.

After he retired in 1990, he mentally fell into a hole – but the way karma works, I was born the year after and according to my mother managed to give him a bit of purpose again: when my mother was at work, he and my grandma took me out for walks and when I was older he regularly took me to the train station and we waved at every train inspector that came past us. Up to this day, we are regularly on the phone and luckily, I even happen to get „donations“ for the holidays and birthdays. To be fair, it has never been about the amount for me, but rather about the gesture. Since I can think, every present has always been accompanied by a very personal hand-written card – black fountain pen ink and nothing else. I cannot enlist all the – in my eyes very positive – traits I adopted from my grandad. (My mother even says the resemblance is spooky sometimes.)

Furthermore, I will forever be grateful that he introduced me to the beauty of chess and the German classic poets at a young age: his favourites are well-known writers such as Goethe or Schiller, but Tucholsky and Rilke can also be found in his repertoire. He can recite many of these by heart – a trait I have always admired and tried to adopt in my life. I am guilty of adding some of the classic English poets such as John Keats, W. B. Yeats or William Blake to the list – unfortunately my grandad has no understanding of English and thus cannot share these with me – in our eyes, poetry has to be read in its original form, otherwise it loses a significant amount of meaning. I could continue this paragraph about my grandad for a very long time, this is why I decide to stop here for now.

The last two people I want to mention have all been mentors to me: the first one is my German teacher in High-School, the other one my favourite professor at university. It is amazing what difference a great teacher can make in our lives – and simultaneously alarming what a detrimental effect a terrible one can have.

My German teacher in high-school was a lady in her early 60s who used to come to school in her stunning red vintage oldtimer each summer – an image I will always have in mind when thinking of her. She was my favourite teacher in high-school, mostly because she never simply stuck to the textbooks, but told us little anecdotes about her life at the same time. For example, one day we were discussing Schiller’s works and she told us the anecdote of her studying him at university 30 years ago and how she learned that Schiller used to keep a couple of apples in his desk – even after they were rotten – to keep concentrated. Till this day, I still remember this anecdote, on the other hand I have to sadly admit that there is not much left of my algebra skills.

Fast forwarding 5 years, the professor at university that made me fall even more in love with the language of English happened to be an esteemed English gentleman in his early 60s called Mr. Turner. Whenever he entered the room, no matter if there were 30 or 200 students in it, the room immediately went quiet and everybody paid attention in a mesmerized manner. It is hard to explain what makes a professor unique and proficient – but for me and many more of his students he is #1 on the list. Mr. Turner retired in my last year of studies, which makes me very happy to have had the chance to meet him and have many interesting seminars – one even concerning J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I wish that there were more teachers like him – teachers that are driven, teachers that love the subject they are trying to bring across and most importantly, teachers that can actually actively bring that information across in a manner that actually sticks in the mind of the student for a long period of time.

Who knows, I might end up being a professor one day and students will complain about my methods instead? 😉

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Old and new love

Moon

In the last two days, I had conversations with three different men – all in their time very important to me, all of them still my friends, one of them now my long-term partner.

Friend and former love-interest #1 is a rather tragic one. We were in high-school together, but he never showed any interest whatsoever in me. Not even in the slightest friendly way. Basically, this combination was doomed from the beginning. However, there was one incident that changed the game for both of us: me joining his chess club right after graduation. As you might guess, chess clubs support a rather female-devoid environment and thus made me – a tall, outgoing and average looking 18-year old girl – the center of attention for the first time in my life. Nowadays, I still enjoy the reaction my presence seems to bring to the room.
To fast forward, we were never in any way romantically involved. Nevertheless, because we tended to go out in a huge group AFTER each chess training, the foundation was there to bond on a friendly basis. This has been going on for the past 3 years now and continued through his first girlfriend and his first break-up. Yesterday at 3am, as it usually happens lately, I was still lying awake and pondering about the things that one ponders about at 3am. I got curious and wanted to see whether anyone was still awake with me, but seemed to have no luck on social media. Then suddenly friend and former love-interest #1 came to mind, so I sent him a message. As I found out over time, he also suffers from occasional insomnia, so we ended up talking for 3 hours that night – until 5.30am. We laughed about the fact that he didn’t know that I was interested in him until about 5 years after – eventhough all of his and my friends and basically the entire town we live in already knew. Sometimes, it can have a healing effect to have such a conversation, it doesn’t matter if it occurs right after something throws you off balance or 5 years later. I deeply appreciate him being in my life in this way now and wouldn’t want it any other way. I wish him all the best and hope he’ll find happiness along the way.

Friend and former love-interest #2 is on a totally different level. We also met through the chess-club, about 3 years ago: He was in his late-twenties at the time, me about 22. I happened to be in a rather unhappy long-distance relationship at the time with someone who was very cunning and more about appearance than personality. (Yes, horrible, I see that now.)
Friend and former love-interest #2 happened to be in a long-term relationship with a lady who apparently overstepped her boundaries a bit too often: according to him, she was a control freak and left him no freedom whatsoever. (I was to find out later why that seemed to be the case.) We bonded over our mutual sadness about our situations and went for a couple of drinks after chess training – by ourselves of course. This process started in December, I broke up with my boyfriend at the time in February.
Friend and former love-interest #2 stayed in his relationship. After April, things seemed to take up speed: we talked a lot on social media, we met up regularly when I was in my hometown. (I was studying at university 6 hrs away at the time.) There is something about him that to this day I still can’t quite explain: we have the same flirty sense of humour, we love the same music and yes, he was still officially in a relationship. We both knew this, but rarely mentioned it. Our „dates“ consisted of having a good time and after a while of occasional kisses. Nothing ever went further than this, I already felt bad enough as it was. Sometimes I still feel his lips on mine, he had a very determined and strong grip when he kissed me – as if nothing in the world could stop him from doing so. At one point in June, he then suggested leaving his girlfriend for me. This was a shocking announcement to me, I thought we shared the same mutual understanding that this „connection“ would never go further than enjoying the time we shared together. I pondered about this offer for a long time and in the end declined it. (It also helped that I found out at the time that they weren’t just dating, they were ENGAGED.) How could I break up anyone’s relationship? This wasn’t me and never would be, I had to distance myself from the entire dilemma – physically and most importantly, mentally. In the back of my mind, as every girl can understand, I guess a part of me wished that he had done it. That he had risked everything to be with me. But then again, would I want someone who just throws everything away and runs off with the next best adventurous lady? I don’t think so. Now I know that I loved him, I loved him quite a bit. But it was an unattainable love, something that was out of our reach from the beginning. And I think that’s what made it so passionate and unforgettable.
He got married to the lady 3 months after we stopped meeting up. I didn’t attend the wedding, eventhough I was invited. (The whole chess club was.) After that, our conversations lessened day by day. Lately, I see him more often at the chess club again and we started to joke around innocently the way we used to. A couple of weeks back, we went to a club together with a group of people, him at one point holding me close and very late at night even kissing my ear. Deep inside I know that I am playing a dangerous game, but what is life if not a bit of spontaneity and excitement?
We both know that nothing can ever happen between us, so we decide to play the game instead.

Friend and current love-interest #3 is a man I have loved for a long time: 5 years to be precise. We have gone through so many ups and downs, I couldn’t enlist them all here even if I tried. Nevertheless, he is a very caring and hard-working man who wants nothing more than seeing me happy. He might not always succeed, but he has a way about him I just cannot resist.

The reason why this essay came to part is simply one question: Why do our minds tend to automatically go back to our old loves when we hit a bump on the road with our current loves? Why do we compare incomparable entities? Nothing good can come out of it, but it still feels SO GOOD to have the opportunity to do so. I guess we’ll never really know if we actually missed out on another great love, but we can assume one thing: if they are still in our lives, they still care – and that is the most beautiful outcome one can hope for.