As I tear up old letters, tens of them that I saved from all of those I received in my teens, I realize just how much the world changed. How open we were back then. How close. How caring. And how much time we gave for another. I wonder at the willingness and interest of friends to ask about each other, to get to know each other, the sincere care for what you are and how you live, what’s your world like and how you feel. And it worked both ways. On top of it, it was all done on paper. Slowly. Sitting down at a desk.
I’m appalled by the so-called progress we’ve made. What have we actually done? We moved online and lost most values of friendship we had before. How many miss you’s a person gets today? (besides from girlfriends who suffer from their boyfriend’s hectic working life – and vice versa) When was the last time anyone wrote you a ten-page letter? It just doesn’t work like that anymore. The way we are interested in other people changed dramatically. I scanned through letters today. The letters I had to throw away to make room for all the junk we accumulate each year and shouldn’t throw away. As I did that, the effect was quite the opposite. My mind should supposedly turn away and look to the future and present, but I just learned why and how much I miss those times. When I didn’t need a goddamn computer to socialize. And when even strangers replied when I politely asked them something. Or wished to get to know them. And maybe, most often actually, we became friends. Close friends. How’s that for science fiction of today. How many strangers you meet on Facebook for example would actually be interested in who you are besides a profile image, scarce info and likes?
We’ve become a superficial working society. Sooner or later, new relationships won’t even form anymore. Strong ones don’t form now either. And it’s because people work their asses off (because they have to if they want to survive) most days in a week, and then they drink their asses off on Friday to relieve pressure (right…), sleep over Saturday, do some work around the house on Sunday and repeat the whole thing starting Monday. Writing letters? Are you serious? These people do all the talking through 140 characters of a tweet. Unfortunately, although I am generalizing, I’m most certainly not far from reality.
Is it just me? … Was it just my life? That ended. Because as I was tearing up those letters I couldn’t stop thinking I’m destroying the last signs of life around me. Emails, messages, comments and tweets don’t have that value. They’re just a blink of an eye. Here today, gone tomorrow. It’s like (in Slovenian terms) a can of beer. You don’t save it, you drink the damn thing and flatten the can or throw it away, right. You don’t keep your empty cans from last year, do you? It’s because today we can communicate on every step in a multitude of ways, reply whenever we want to, start a conversation when we want to. But do we do it? No. The truth is all this alternatives, all the ways in which we can communicate, have brought us to a point where we are mostly talking to ourselves. And we don’t have to respond to other people’s words, it’s just a wall, an electronic one. You’re not facing the person, so you can turn away and do something you feel is more important (most of the time, given the tweets and statuses, it really is). Moreover, the mass of all the messages out there is overwhelming. But as we turn around so many times, I can’t help thinking social networks breed individualism. We’re fast becoming more and more indifferent. And in that sense, returning back to the letters, there were far less communication back then, but it was real and it was two-way.
It was also a world of options. Back then, our future was open and dreams alive. We could turn in any direction and try. And most of the time, it would pay off. We knew all the excitement, the world, new places, new people, treasures for the soul, all of it was still to come. But it didn’t. Sure, every motivational speech will say it still can, because our options are never closed. Really? Most people tend to believe it. But … Do you believe, because you really see possibilities (but if you’re here, how are those possibilities working for you?), or because you just wouldn’t handle admitting your options are gone?
I saw the future in those letters. Then I looked up and realized the future has come. I was in a basement, trying to throw out the shit I kept for who knows who, to make room for more shit I will throw out of my small room that’s been hosting and burying every dream from the time I learned that word. Where’s the job? The travelling? Exciting moments, changes in me, changes in my environment, where’s the world? The NY, the sea … I don’t remember having this in mind when all those letters were written. Life doesn’t happen the way we want it, right? Well, I guess we believe it happens to most of the people around us. But then again, sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.
We are offered choices and that’s when we have to take them. I’ve noticed roads diverging in my past as I looked back. Many times. And we often ask ourselves what if, but that’s not my primary question. I see where my choice of roads took me. A turn here, a turn there, and by now, I should be on the right road, but it seems like I made too many wrong turns. Seems. A bright town of opportunities might rise from the desert horizon any time. But is that hope worth living on? We’re not asking ourselves where we can go from here, what door to pick, what road to take – we’re taking the only road and hope it gets us somewhere. We’re not looking forward to the future, an exciting life, personally fulfilling and dynamic – we’re just hoping for the unknown. Against all odds. But that’s still better than most of the world’s population. The only problem is that we don’t live in their world. They’d be bummed if they lived here, too.
I noticed we all have that knowledge inside of us. We all know it could be worse. We could be ill. And even if we are ill, we could suffer from a worse illness. If we don’t have a job, there’s always someone who in addition doesn’t have a home. If we don’t have a home, someone out there doesn’t even have a roof over his head or lives in the freezing north. It could always be worse. And most of the time that’s where we’re headed. But we don’t seem to take all of that into consideration when we are forced to battle through this world with a situation more suitable for some other.
When it comes to having excitement in life, what am I talking about? Yes, I did travel a bit, produced various stories here and abroad and that’s about it. Did I move to an English speaking country yet? Having a BA in English and I only spent four days in London. Most of us have (now more than ever) friends who left this country and found life elsewhere. The life that they couldn’t find here. But that’s beside the point. It’s how they live that’s important. Meeting new people, making new friends, expanding their horizon, trying things, having fun, new experiences, new wonderful lessons – and some hard ones, but it’s all a lesson of life. So, for some of us, it’s like we’re committed to stand in a corner. No lessons here, except learning that four out of five business partners/clients, employers etc. are downright rotten, and that others nurture individualism (which in itself is not bad, but living in a social bubble is just putting limits on what you can experience and learn). And again, think about it. That’s still more than half the Earth’s population. And in this case, it’s even more than a big portion of this country’s population, but it’s absolutely nowhere near the requirements of today’s high quality photojournalism and surviving in it (but that’s business). Overall, we’re pretty well off, if we conform to working jobs that have an increasing demand in a party-country (yes, that’s almost all you can do here) like Slovenia – waiters and waitresses, hosteses … working at the counter, promoting products, handing out leaflets etc. Or maybe jobs that a regular party Janez wouldn’t do. But photography is not among them, because of one appealing thing in this world. Women.
The last few days was a trip through the most important years of my life. It now seems as if I missed them. Partly because I had a goal to have good grades and graduate with flying colours. I did. And then realized it doesn’t count. Another reason is a career as a photojournalist. All work, no play, makes Jack … well, you know the rest. And given the way this pj ship’s sinking, it appears it served solely for my experience and a bit of that excitement and learning, but might have no result in the life I would wish for. And so it happens that when I look back through all those letters, I actually notice things I haven’t noticed before. Things that back then, if I wasn’t wasting my time, might just take me to a better place. Or worse, sure, but I did have a chances to take different paths and I didn’t see them. I don’t remember if I had the resources or what it was that made me look away, but it doesn’t matter anymore. There are very few chances like that now. In fact, there are almost none.
As cliche as it might sound, “at the end of the day” we go to bed and some simply cover themselves with a cardboard. We’re ok. At least for now. Even though we are going down the path that will get us to a cardboard, but (here’s another cliche) hope dies last (not to mention a lie) and success might be just around the corner. (Sure, and monkey might fly out of my butt.) I mean, what’s so difficult. If you try hard enough, you can do it, ha? Really? Or, the other one’s even better: If you dream it, you can do it. 😀 Yeah. Well, good for you. Change the world. Funny, how cleaning up the basement and room can be … enlightening. 😀 And productive. But for those whose lives are a lot more exciting, happy, “right” and “theirs”, it’s a waste of time. Yes, it is.