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Archive for the tag “crisis”

Date of maturation

http://www.robertotoole.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Alaska_Eagles_DS7_1547_N.jpgA person very dear to me recently told me how wonderfully I’ve matured over the past few years. I don’t like the feeling of growing older, to be honest. But I do enjoy the experiences and the adventures of a time well-spent and a life enjoyed to the fullest. And knowing that all that brings out the best in you, is a feeling like no other.

Because in reality, maturity is not something that comes with age. Far from it. It is, as time passes, however, that you become more aware of the world around you. Of how everything works, the unwritten rules, the human relationships, the fragments of society and all the things no-one talks about.

You mature through the life lessons you learn. Through the times you fall down and get hurt, and the corresponding more that you get up and continue. Through all those instances you survive, no matter how hard it seemed at the time.

You grow up not when you reach a certain age. But when you become independent enough to be able to cope on your own. To be capable of facing crises without panicking, freezing and needing to call for help.  It happens when you develop the necessary attitude to face the world.

Maturity, it is said, is not when we start speaking big things…it is when we start understanding small things.  It’s learning which battles are worth fighting, and realizing that many things don’t require your comment.  It’s feeling content with simply knowing you’re right about something, without needing to prove someone else wrong. And it’s in feeling well and sure about yourself despite everything else.

Like another dear friend pointed out, Shakespeare was right about one thing we should all stick to above all: “to thine own self be true”. Always. Knowing that this is what matters more than what other people think, is evidence enough that you have reached that other level.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Crisis

It’s not easy being Greek

Youth in GreeceFor the past five years, Greece has been the centre of news around the world. Not so much because of its spirit of democracy and ethos imbued by our Ancient Greek ancestors. But because of the shame, deceitfulness and financial mismanagement brought about by their predecessors. Media around the world have vilified the country that thus far was praised for all the principles and values it had introduced to the modern world. Yet, we ourselves proved unable to live up to them.

It is not Greece alone that is in financial trouble. The whole of Europe is, and most of the world too. But Greece is an easy target. The advertised ‘300 days of sunshine’, the Mediterranean diet, the mythical island beaches, the relaxed and ‘easy-going’ way of life are so easy to despise and scorn, and all the more easy to contradict with the lack of responsibility and order, especially as regards public finances. The source of all our troubles.

Foreigners cannot understand how Greeks can still fill restaurants and cafés, as if nothing is going on around them. But Greeks themselves justify their outings, by arguing that staying indoors and damning their misfortunes is not a solution that will lead anywhere.

And they are right.

Because it is not the “ordinary” Greeks who can do much to change the situation, other than adhere to the harsh measures imposed. Those brought upon them by others. Others, who, are supposed to represent them, but once in power, forget all electoral promises and turn the other way. The lay Greeks are the ones who witness their country’s demise and all they can do is shout, exasperate, and eventually just let it go, because somethings will never change.

This attitude is what has caused over 200,000 young Greeks to search for a future abroad. For many, their dreams and expectations were too big for what the country (now) had to offer. It is certainly not easy to get up and leave. To abandon everything you are familiar with, the life you are accustomed to, your friends and family. But it is even harder deciding to stay. It takes more courage to remain and continue to fight in a country that is constantly proving to be against you in every way.

There are many Greeks who choose to stay. And they should be respected all the more for that. Because they are still trying. They are the ones who believe that “if everyone just leaves, who will stay and fix the country?” They are the ones who still dream, but are determined to compromise on a few things in order to survive. They may not be acknowledged as much as they should, nor are they compensated for the work they do. But they choose to stay. Why? Why would you stay when everything and everyone around you screams go?

Because you still hope. You believe deep down that things will change for the better. And that you will be part of the wheel that will set it all in motion.

There are young Greeks, in their early 30s, educated, full of thirst for life and willing to work. There are those who decide to strive on their own, and, since they can’t find the work they want, they will create it themselves. In a period of crisis, struck on all fronts by austerity measures, stifling bureaucracy and high taxes, these Greeks persist in having their own way. There are many who have launched their own business, determined to change foreign perceptions of their country, making it a model to emulate, rather than one to avoid. It is these Greeks who have been dubbed the crazy ones, the radicals, the dreamers. The ones who people look upon with both admiration and sympathy. But aren’t “those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually the ones that do”?

It is not easy being Greek nowadays. And it is certainly not easy being Greek in Greece. But there are still many who insist, persist, and resist all negative waves pounding their way. Maybe it is through them that Greece will arise again. After all, it was Socrates who said that the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but in building the new. And that is just what we need. A new start.

See also related reports with examples of Greeks who try to accomplish more in their own country in English and Greek.

A different kind of crisis

Xmas BirthdayGetting snowed in on a day when your to-do list is over-piling, that may be considered a crisis. Dripping donut jam on your clean shirt the minute you step out of the baker’s just two steps away from your office, that may too be considered a crisis. Losing money at a casino fun night, is well maybe not so much of a crisis (unless it is all your savings). We all face different crises in our lives and we all view them differently.

The third-world crisis of lacking food, clean water and a home is far more severe than the first-world crisis of not having matching shoes for a new outfit worth hundreds of dollars. It is all a matter of perspective. But perhaps, with just a couple of weeks before another year passes, we can take a second and rethink…everything.

The holiday season is one to rejoice, one to spread the love and show you care. But it is also one in which you are silently prodded to make amends, first and foremost with yourself.

The most intense period of crisis one can face is when this joyous season coincides with their birthday. That is when a crisis certainly hits. Because you begin to feel all the more intense about the fact of adding yet another year to those that have past, of becoming so many more years young (because you try and avoid the word “old”). You may finally believe the compliment that you are like wine, it only gets better with age. But deep down you do feel the melancholy strike, because there are very few people who achieve exactly what they want at the precise time in which they so desire. It is hard feeling incomplete. As though you are nowhere near where you’ve dreamt to be. And it is all the more difficult when you know that another birthday is rapidly approaching, signifying that time is still flying and there is nothing you can do.

Apart from one thing.

Continue to dream. Change what you can, and leave aside what you can’t. Rejoice in the warmth of the season and learn to appreciate the good of what you have. Maybe next year things will finally come your way. But, however it may be, you’ve already come a long way. You’re still standing and that it is the most important of it all.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Getting Seasonal

Career Nomads and Freelancers: Striving to Create a Future

Career nomads - freelancersThere is a popular saying that “when things don’t go right, go left”. How many times recently have we all thought of turning to another direction? With the increasing difficulty people of all ages today face in finding a job, a different trend is on the rise – that of career nomads, and freelancers. All hoping for a better future.

Tereza worked for big public relations companies for almost 20 years before she resigned and decided to go freelance three years ago. She regrets nothing. This has today become a growing tendency — people quitting their jobs to go independent and become self-employed. The unfavourable working conditions simply make the decision easier. “It is no longer a choice but an unavoidable outcome of the crisis,” explains Tereza. “Many people have to work freelance as there is not enough full-time (and even part-time) job creation on a global level to sustain a growing job market”.

And it is true. In countries like Greece and Spain, where unemployment has sky-rocketed, people have been forced to rethink their necessities, priorities and habits. It has encouraged more and more people to become freelancers, as they cannot find a job in a company. But this also means that they will probably be uninsured and only get paid if they have a client who will pay them. People no longer think about saving up for the future, but of having enough money for today.

In freelancing, there is no guarantee as to when the next assignment will come up,” says Tereza. “Another important disadvantage is that a freelancer has no medical coverage or other social benefits.” But there are also very important advantages pertaining to this type of employment, she adds. These include flexible working hours, the freedom to choose who to work with and what projects to take, as well as the fact that you do not have to be physically present in an office.

Making the leap

Nick followed a similar path. After a decade working in a private energy company, it was sold. Drowning in bureaucracy with limited chances of career development, he decided to go freelance, making good use of all the contacts he had gathered in the course of time. Now he works on a project-basis but is happier. He gets to determine his own work and time schedule, and most importantly, choose his own clients. “It’s more rewarding to work for yourself,” he says, “but it is also tougher.”

Things are not as easy for someone starting off as a freelancer, though. Tina, a graphic designer and recent graduate, is new to the labour market with only the experience of a few internships. She is striving to find independent projects to work for, but not having the necessary contacts to move ahead, she is still struggling to be given a chance.

Finding fullfillment

Yet, people feel the need to change careers in order to find a job, find a more fulfilling profession and gain enough money to make a decent living.

After working in communications for over seven years, Dominic decided to take a step in a different direction. He went back to school to study architecture, what he “always wanted to do, what he would enjoy, and what he could do well”, but was discouraged out of fear of not finding a job later on. “What difference does it make now?” he wonders, as unemployment has spread to all sectors of the labour market.

But what really urges someone to make such a radical change? “I was tired — of the hours, the workload, the tight deadlines, lack of time off, the political scene, of nothing ever getting done. And because my health could no longer take this pace,” he explains. “So, I decided it is time for a change. To slow down, do something more creative, something that I wouldn’t have the pressure of a big organisation in, and have greater flexibility and more time to take care of myself and those I care about. Even maybe work for myself instead of a company — no one seems to be hiring anyway.”

Eternal career nomads?

We have become career nomads. Moving along with the changing tides, with the hope of maybe landing a job that may guarantee some sort of pay, no matter how low that may be.

Maybe in the future I will do something entirely different again — I don’t know. But I know that when I stop enjoying something or cannot take it anymore, and have the luxury to change things, I should try,” says Dominic with a smile, as his eyes gleam with the exciting prospect of this change.

People’s main concern today is how to pay the many taxes that have been imposed per capita, how to ensure a daily meal and how to simply get by. Thoughts about pensions are now minimal, at least for youth. Uncertainty is the emotion of this time and there is no feeling of security left. But there certainly is some optimism remaining and the perseverance to keep fighting for something better. “My main concern is to live a life that is fulfilling, satisfying and makes me happy and calm,” says Dominic. But perhaps it is no longer enough simply to change profession. We need to change mentality, too. As individuals, as nationals and as Europeans. Only then, will we be able to change society towards the better and create a future worth aspiring for.

 

This article was first published on Cafébabel.com and translated in French, Spanish, Italian, German and Polish.

Making a half a whole

glassesSo, you remember that Chinese curse (“may you live in interesting times”)? You have to admit these are interesting times even though at some point everything seems so boring, so static, and so monotonous. But in what other time has there ever been so much happening: natural disasters at the same time as man-made disasters – earthquakes, tsunamis, explosions, murders, bombings, and of course political and economic crises. In every aspect of our lives the crisis reaches out. It’s not only financial / economic, it is also social and by extent psychological. It’s a crisis of mentality in the end, which touches deep into our very being. And makes us wonder what it is all worth. If there is a future worth fighting for. And most importantly if there is still hope.

In essence it makes you look at the world as a glass and wonder if it is half-full or half-empty.

So which one is it?

It all depends on your perspective. But the key in surviving is not to give up. Even if it is half-empty, we must not forget that it was once full and only needs that much to be so again. At least there is still something there and it is not completely empty. So that is something, right?

But the best thing would be to retain optimism and see the situation as a glass half-full. One that would inspire you to keep fighting for something better. That would remove pessimism, sadness and depression. And that would keep you hoping for a positive change that will soon come. Having a cause to hope for, is after all a quality of a strong mind. And although the Chinese cursed with interesting times, they never said those would all be good… After all, if it wasn’t dark, you wouldn’t be able to see that wonder of the universe – the moon and stars.

Hope is essential in order to be able to utilize the glass to our purpose. It’s up to us whether we will fill it up, or empty it down.

 

Also part of  the Daily Prompt: The Glass: Is the glass half-full, or half-empty?

 

Calling on Morpheus

funny_insomniac_owl_sticker-Lately I can’t sleep. At all. And it’s not just because of the mouse running around in the roof, fighting a pigeon, and all the rumbling going on over my head because of it. No. I can’t sleep because I can’t seem to get all these thoughts out of my head. Another consequence of this maledetta crisis… And the more I try not to think, the more something else pops into my head and my insomnia simply nourishes itself and perpetuates this state of non-sleep. Even if I am extremely tired, when I go to bed I suddenly become wide awake. So much that sometimes I actually empathise with owls – if I hooted, I would very well know what it feels to be one – awake all night and falling asleep during the day. It’s not pleasant, I’ll tell you that. You end up eventually falling asleep when you actually don’t want to – when you’re watching your favourite TV series for instance, or during a sunny afternoon.

So how do you treat insomnia? Despite the inadvertently ironic response that “the best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep” (W. C. Fields), I was told that the only way to treat insomnia is to relax. Easier said than done, you may say and I agree. Maybe even meditate – but that sometimes leads to more thinking so…not that helpful. Counting sheep doesn’t help either because I get confused along the way. Then imagining you’re climbing down a flight of stairs also has adverse results leading to the feeling that you’re falling off the bed and resulting in you jolting every few minutes. But I find that actually getting yourself tired during the day may also help you fall asleep at night. So exercise, yoga and a whole lotta running around, ought to do the trick!

So I tried that and it sort of helped. I slept for two hours. Then the super mouse went into a crazy chase and cannibalous scrambling and screeching with a bird in my roof and I was up. Again. My brother joked that some people would actually pay to see a fight like that going on. But I wasn’t seeing anything – and definitely wouldn’t want to either. There was just so much noise going on at hours during which even the night itself is asleep, or rather should be. It’s annoying. And everyone knows that the more irritated you get, the more your blood pressure rises due to an increasing heartbeat and the more awake you feel. Get my point?

Anyway, so here I am trying to fight insomnia away. During the process I have listened to about five playlists twice over, written a 4,000 word story, and a dozen of other short stories of varying themes and plots. Hey, at least I’m being productive.

I’ll try to go to sleep now. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve realized that getting yourself tired actually works. A bit. So I’m hoping Morpheus will visit soon (no, not the one from The Matrix, although that would be cool…). Anyway, if you have any work you would like to get done, give me a shout, I may still be up…

N.B. Written at 2am.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Mr. Sandman

The commercialisation of the globe

I read somewhere a phrase that sums up today perfectly: “God made the world. Everything else is made in China”. If you think about it, it’s more or less true. There are so many things nowadays that are produced in the Asian market, specifically China. Everything seems to be manufactured in mass produce that it seems to actually lose its worth, or even its value, let alone its quality. China offers cheap labour which means more revenue and thus more money. Money makes the world go round. But does it really? It actually stops the world (thanks K for this!). Everyone is so preoccupied with making money that they don’t really do much else. Money is the main aim of everyone’s life that they miss out on everything that is more important. Of course, if “money does not bring you happiness, it will at least help you be miserable in comfort” (Helen Gurley Brown). But is it really worth it? Money may definitely make life easier. But what happens when the stock markets crash or banks go bankrupt? When an economic crisis reigns over the until-then well-off nations? We are actually living the consequences. Life gets harder for those who lack it. But for those who have the money, it doesn’t seem as bad.

Our daily lives are overwhelmed with the insatiable quest for more money. Television is ruled by advertisements – their main source of revenue. Sometimes even to such an extent that advertisements dictate the time and length of TV programmes. Newspapers and print media also rely on advertisements for money, so much that they would be willing to leave out or ignore stories and important articles simply to please the whim of an advertiser.

Considering that, loads of money goes into electoral campaigns. Thousands of euros, dollars, yen, are invested into supporting a candidate whose main aim is usually to get elected in order to earn even more money and have the power to dictate how public money is spent. “A fool and his money are soon elected” as Will Rogers says, and it is true. There are very few politicians who actually deserve to speak for the people, or who actually know how to. Most of them are just there because they can afford to be.  Developed nations nowadays all depend on money. That’s how it all functions.

Money has become so important to everyone that there seems to be almost nothing that it cannot buy. Charlotte Dujardin (Equestrian Gold Olympic Medalist in Dressage) sold her Grand Prix horse in 2011 to another rider, stating that she accepted an offer she could not refuse, even though it was a tough decision. She admitted that it made financial sense and would not only allow her to buy a house but also a younger horse. But stated that it was the hardest decision she ever made, saying goodbye to her best friend after everything they had achieved together. But, if you don’t want to say goodbye, then there is simply no offer you can’t refuse. If something is more important to you than anything, then no price can ever be placed on it. That’s how it goes. But apparently, even horses that are the main reasons athletes win the equestrian distinctions and awards they do, are treated as an investment and being traded for the commodity that all want more of: money.

What is even more striking is how much every achievement, every opening, every step actually costs.  Dreams themselves may not cost anything, but making them come true does. And as Walt Disney rightly said “the biggest problem all my life…it’s money. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true”.

Everyone keeps lamenting that they never have enough money. The rich want more, and the poor simply want some. But it seems to be the main thought, aspiration, objective of everyone’s life. To have money. Enough to help you afford what it is you most want. How far you are willing to go to achieve that, however, is a different story…

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Smith

NB. I was prompted to note that I am not a Communist and have no such affiliation 😉

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