The beast of competition

HI-DE-HOO!

You: “Well Ev, you’re cheery. I thought you would be having the ol’ travel blues since you got back from Canada. Plus: looking at where you were last year, you probably will be full of nostalgia.”

That is correct You-san. Facebook does punch me in the face with anniversaries of precious moments I lived last year. January 29th it was one year ago I was standing on The Bluff overviewing one of the most amazing views of my life. Yesterday it was the anniversary of the first time I drove on the left.

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And I will be confronted with many more precious memories in the weeks to come. But blue? …

I kinda like the color blue.

It also happened to be the color of the car I represented at the Car Expo in Brussels a couple of weeks ago.

As you may know, I returned from Canada on January 9th and the next day I was already attending training sessions to become a car sales(wo)man for MINI.

I applied for the job months ago and around September I found out I was hired. The company even had so much confidence in me they put me responsible for their newest model. The European premiere of the new and improved MINI COUNTRYMAN.

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I could totally see myself driving this ‘Island Blue’ baby on the left side of the road.

It kinda gave me some cold sweats knowing I would be in charge of one of the most sought after models of the event, but I was honored they confided in me.

Hell, I wouldn’t if I were them!

But there I was. Friday the 13th of January. All dressed up to sell my car to the audience for the next ten days.

Our team would work long days. Getting up early in the morning, walking and talking for at least 9 hours straight, driving home, eating and going to bed at a reasonable hour to repeat everything the next morning.

It’s like living in a bubble with very little to no time at all to do anything else.

Actually….

It’s kind of like participating in a big cycling race!

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You get together every morning for team briefing. By that time you’re already fully dressed and equipped for another day on the super hero front. You will kick ass. You will not shark around. You will get the job done. And by the end of the day there’s the sweet release of food and sleep.

Plus: there is a classification. Every day there is a team winner. Someone who did the upmost. Someone who deserves the 24 hour title of ‘Sales(wo)man of the day’. Presents are handed out. Stats are being showed.

And every time we would be reminded of one thing: to aim higher each day.

It was the first time I was engaging in something this competitive. And I was feeling something inside of me I had never thought I possessed: the beast of competition.

Even though the newspaper business was and is a very competitive business too, I never really played my cards that way. I just did my thing in the hopes it would all turn out well. Sure I was happy whenever I would have a scoop someone else didn’t have, but I easily could have lived without that adrenalin rush. It was just a nice little extra on top of the rest of the work.

But now, the tables had turned. I was eager to do a great job. To kick ass and to make me, MINI and the agency  who got me this job, proud.

Battle mode on √

The setting was great. I was in charge of the most adventurous car. I found its identity to be more than meets the eye. Still a MINI, but also spacious, well thought out of the box. I identified with this car. I figured if I would throw in a little wit, a little charm, I could sell this puppy like sweet cherry pie.

But my car was a Diesel. So I started off a little slow too. I was assured I would attain my top speed in no time and from then on be unstoppable. On my third day I was doing so great, I was convinced I would become ‘Saleswoman of the day’.

The next morning I was all ready to receive my prize. I was cheery and confident and ready for another day of ass kicking.

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“I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky”

Team leader: “Okay team, let’s look at some statistics from yesterday’s leads. As you can see, you are doing a magnificent job! We are attaining our goals and even going the extra mile. Sales team, I am extremely proud of how you’re doing. And yesterday one person in particular did a great job and deserves to be sales person of the day. That person is…”

Me: “This is it, this is my moment of glory.”

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Team Leader: “Mike!”

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I didn’t understand. Mike told me he had a bad day yesterday. And here he is, being elected to Salesman of the day…

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I was feeling so low. I knew I shouldn’t let this get to me. I’m doing a great job. If the rest won’t acknowledge that, I will just have to keep doing what I’m doing until they do.

After a brief zen meditation in the toilet…

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I decided to continue the work I was doing. Soon as the visitors arrived, I was back in the game. Dispensing all the valuable information people wanted from me in Dutch, English and French. Interacting with children and showing them some cool features.

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And then there it was. The thing that melted all my sorrows away. The cutest little baby in a pink baby carriage.

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Me: “Oh my! Aren’t you the cutest little baby in the world!” I reached out my hand to pet it on the little head, when it suddenly turned around and changed into an absolute…

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MONSTER!

The little bitch (it’s a dog, I’m allowed to use that word) bit me right in the index finger and kept holding it between her little, but very sharp, teeth for a good 10 seconds.

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I screamed. When the dog finally let go she was barking and making a scene as if I had just molested her. I didn’t know what to do or say, and was keeping my hand behind my back, rubbing my thumb over my index finger to find out if it was bleeding or not. I didn’t want to look at it since I already fainted once from a bleeding finger and I didn’t want it to happen again. I had a goal to attain! And Sales(wo)men of the day don’t faint!

Owner: “No, no, no you can’t do that! Not while she’s in her carriage.”

Me: “Well good God woman! You could at least have a sign or some warning attached to her stroller!”

Maybe this was the sign. Maybe, this little calamity, was my warning to not get too caught up in the act. And the chihuahuas muzzle was just a metaphor.

All day I was out of my element because of that dog.

Eventually I generated some leads but I wasn’t at my best. The next morning I wasn’t elected. But that was no surprise.

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I decided to lick my wounds and just focus on the job. After all, helping people find the car of their requirements was already pretty rewarding too. And that night we would order pizza for the entire team. So I had something to look forward to.

Our outfits were sent to the dry cleaners and everybody was just wearing jeans and sneakers to the occasion. I was wearing the black bear I scored in Canada. Read: the faux fur I bought at Value Village.

Team leader: “Woah Evelien, thats a pretty big coat.”

Me: “Yep, I’m a pimp in real life.”

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Bitches call me Gator

I took a slice of pepperoni pizza and considered talking to our team leader. After all, two days had passed since my little bathroom tantrum and I still hadn’t made it to Saleswoman of the day. Almost everyone of our team had already been elected. But I was staying neglected.

Me: “Say…. Team leader. Does the fact that I haven’t been ‘Saleswoman of the day’ yet, a sign that I’m behind in the classification?”

Team leader: “Not at all. You’re doing a really good job. We always try to make everybody Salesperson of the day at least once. The fact that it takes a long time with you is because we think you don’t need that reassurance as much as some other people on the team. We kinda presumed you were pretty confident about what you did.”

Me: “Yeah, totally…”

I wanted to disappear behind a pizza box. I had been such a fool. Getting carried away by my emotions.

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I should have known by now to never doubt my work and what I’m capable of.

The day after, this trooper got named Saleswoman of the Day. I got a beautiful pen and an applause from my team mates. By then we were already a strong team and that was the biggest reward to me. To be part of that. And to help each other get over the finish line in one piece.

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You: “Talking of cycling, how is your so-called cycling career going?”

Me: “I thought you’d never ask!”

I am glad to announce I will be participating in quite a challenging race in less than 10 weeks to come. I have been training really hard and hope to be ready just in time.

Everybody around me has been really encouraging.

At a recent family outing -where I wasn’t present- my mother was telling her kin about my participation.

Kin: “Err..the chance she will make it till the finish line is pretty…”

My mother: “Small?”

Kin: “Non existent.”

It was only days later I found out about their little conversation.

Well let me tell you all a little something about Evelien Delgouffe:

SHE DOESN’T QUIT. 

End of story.

I am a MINI Saleswoman of the Day (Yes, you get to wear the title for the rest of your years, it’s kind of like being Miss Universe). I may appear small on the outside. But I am surprisingly powerful on the inside.

Plus! I have the advantage of a hidden engine.

You: “A hidden engine in your bike frame?!”

Me: My mind.

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I have grazed skin on my ass. And my lady parts feels like punched lasagna. Don’t tell me I won’t make it until you suffer from one of these discomforts yourself.

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“Wouldn’t you be better off putting more energy in a career than shitting away precious energy for some cycling interlude?” Someone recently asked me.

My answer:

I need this.

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This is a way to re-energize me for my professional life.

Don’t forget I was near burnout by the end of 2015.

I wanna return healthy and fit.

I have been healthy and fit for some months now. From the moment I left for Australia it felt like the weight of the world fell off my shoulders. I was driving in Australia hoping one day I would be like those amateur cyclists I saw riding on the side of the road. In the hot summer sun. Free. One with the outdoors. Fit.

One year later I am training.

My bike makes me feel good about myself. Gives me the energy I need. Makes me strong. Healthy and young. Bikes keep people young, people!

But most importantly: my bike reminds me I have no limits.

I will never take “No you can’t” for an answer.

I am a believer.

It’s my default preset.

Like the ‘Mini’ who kept believing he could be a ‘Maxi’.

That’s what gets me through all my challenges. Whether it is writing stories, going on far away adventures or selling freedom on four wheels.

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The day after the Car Expo ended, it was officially Blue Monday. Last year I left for Australia on Blue Monday. I wanted to leave on the most depressing day of the year. This year Blue Monday was -just like my Countryman- an Island Blue Monday. Filled with good vibes and memories. The 1390 liters of maximum trunk space. And that suited me just fine…

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Always remember to live in the now. And appreciate what you’re doing now. Even if it’s planning a holiday, prepping yourself for a night out with friends, making your first home made lasagna (sorry if I ruined this for you). It’s precious memory making. SO LIVE NOW. You probably will never get these moments back.

Also: don’t be afraid to be competitive or fight for what’s important to you. Even if it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. You will never know for sure, until you try. People will always try to knock you down. Unfortunately, it’s their default preset. When they do. Just remember to:


1) Not give a fuck

2) Get back up again.

XO

Mrs. Grinch

* It’s that time, Christmas time is here
Everybody knows there’s not a better time of year
Hear that sleigh, Santa’s on his way
Hip, Hip Hooray, for Christmas Vacation*

Writing Saturday morning December 24th, 2016.
I wake up in a children’s bed in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Celine had let me borrow her niece’s bed for my first Canadian night. I rub the dream crusts out of my eyes, scratch the poor ol’ gulliver and take a look outside the window.

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Behold a wonderful white deck of fresh snow. The white Christmas I was dreaming of.

Tonight’s my very first American Christmas and I feel super charged. Rumor has it we’re celebrating in Mono Mill, a town a little over an hour away. We’re expected at the Christmas dinner table of Stephanie’s (Celine’s sister) in-laws. And since the place is so far away we’re taking our sleeping gear with us to spend the night all together. And spend another Christmas day filled with food and candies the day after!

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(I love my candies)

So at about 4 pm, after spending the entire afternoon in our onesies watching ‘The Polar Express’ we start to get ready to take the drive up to the North Pole. Err, I mean Mono Mill.

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All aboard!

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Counting: Celine, Celine’s three sons, Celine’s husband, Celine’s dad, Celine’s sister, her husband, her two kids and Kevin, ahm, I mean me 🙂

Just before we got out of the house and into the car I had a chance to Skype my parents and wish my family back in Belgium a Merry Christmas. They were already rounding up their Christmas celebrations. Having dessert. Unwrapping presents. Topped with some annual good old drama.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family but every year for Christmas there’s always a little bit of tension going on. I guess that’s what happens when you have a bunch of different minds and characters crammed into one space together. I was looking forward to a drama-free Christmas and checked with Celine in advance if her family usually has a lot of dramas this time of year.

Celine: “No, we don’t. But this year is a little different since we’re invited over to spend Christmas with my sister’s in-laws. There will be some neighbors and other people I’ve never met before.”

Me: “I see…”

Either way, I was feeling pretty good about it. And I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that Canadian turkey! Gobble gobble!

Too bad it exploded the day before…

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Just kidding.

A firm hour and a pair of numb butt cheeks later, we arrive at Casa Christmas! The place is beautiful. And huge! We’re sleeping over with 15 people and there will be a total of 20 something people coming over to have dinner. Inside the house is decorated with wooden floors, a big American kitchen, christmas lights and a stunning tree. I feel at home right away! Especially since Leona and Carl, who were hosting, were such nice and welcoming people.

Leona and Carl: “Say, you’re not Chinese.”

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Me: “Ahm…no I’m not…”

Leona and Carl: “Well we thought you would have been since we heard Celine had met you in China. How funny we just assumed, right!”

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Me: “Hilarious :-)”

Carl: “So where are you from then?”

Me: “I live in Belgium.”

Carl: “Belgium hey? Well sit down I’ll get you some Canadian brew.”

Waw, what a lovely home. I was just about to print out some adoption papers to slip under these people’s noses later tonight when all of a sudden the door bell rings.

Leona: “Oh hi-de-ho neighbors come on in!”

It was a woman of around 60 with her two daughters and her husband coming through the front door. They looked like a lovely family. No drama hazard here!

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*Hip hip hooray for Christmas vacation*

I hopped over to go meet them and shake their hand when I suddenly came across a fifth person entering with the bunch.

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Grandmother Margaret.

Better known as ‘Marg’. A 5 foot 8 dame that has been walking this planet for 81 years straight. Unlike her daughter Debbie she doesn’t live next door but in an apartment in Toronto. She just tagged along for the occasion.

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Marg and her daughter Debbie checking out the hors d’oeuvres.

Her fingers were incredibly long and lean, I noticed, when she came over to shake everybody’s hand.

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When she arrived over to where I was seated -minding my own business, quietly enjoying my Canadian brew- she hunched over to me, sniffed up my perfume, looked me straight in the eye and asked:

“And who might you be dear?”

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Me: “Err, my name is Evelien. I’m Celine’s adopted Chinese daughter…*grin grin*”

Marg: “A smarty mouth hey?”

Me: “No, ma’am. I’m just visiting from Belgium. I come in peace.”

She didn’t bother to go into the conversation any deeper and continued her stroll around the house.

Marg: “Thank you for having me Leona, …

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Leona: “Oh no problem dear. What can I get you to drink?”

Marg: “You know my drink. Rye with ginger ale and water.”

Leona: “Coming right up!”

I was amazed by this woman. She was turning 82 next week but she was walking around the house as if she was the Queen B. She had this super intense aura over her and -by the looks of it- enjoyed male attention very much. Except for that of her son in law. You could tell she hated his guts. When he accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee, her eyes shot laser beams.

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Apparently he had always let her walk all over him and never managed to get rid of her bullying since. He was whipped.

Marg: “So have they got houses like this where you come from, Evelien?”

I was a little offended by her asking me a question like that. As if I came from some hillbilly country where we live in containers. But I guess she was just looking for a fresh and spineless fiddle to fiddle. I wouldn’t let her tickle my nerves that easy. She likes to provoke people and make them feel uncomfortable in her presence. I looked through her game straight away. Heck, I invented that game.

Me: “Yeah we have houses. We build houses like crazy.”

Marg: “So what brings you to Canada for Christmas, you don’t have a family?”

Me: “Well, I’m not an orphan. My family’s at home celebrating Christmas right now. It’s ok, they understand I have places to see, people to meet. We did our Christmas dinner a week earlier.”

Marg: “So you travel a lot hey?

Me: “Yes ma’am.”

Marg: “So what do you do? In life? What do you do?”

Me: “Well …. (I decided not to give her the long story about me taking a gap year and all. I just send her off with the short summary)”

Marg: “Oh you write for the paper? Do you have any kids? A man in your life? So you have nothing hey?”

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Marg sure was testing the waters there.

Me: “Nope, I’m a free bird”, I replied with a straight face.

Marg: “Hahaha, free bird hey? Good for you. I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette. Anyone who feels like joining me, I’ll be in the barn.”

I don’t know what it was that got me all worked up but I felt a tantrum coming up and I was aiming for the snack bowl.

I have nothing? That’s not true. I have a lot. It’s just not a house. Or a husband. A pension fund. A hospitalization insurance or a presently well defined job for that matter.

Next time when I meet people and they ask me what I do, imma be straight up and say:

“I’m a 28 year old kid in the middle of an existential crisis walking around with monopoly money bluffing her way through town hoping she will make it at the end of the ride. I’m freaking Peter Pan and all I want for Christmas is for Tinkerbell to light my path and to hang out with the Lost Boys.”

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Bangarang there’s room for at least one girl!

Marg: “So is this free life working for you?”

Me: “Sure…” (liar, liar pants on fire!!)

Marg: “Do you want a husband and kids?”

Me: “I don’t know… Maybe one day.” (stupid Grinch, give me my Christmas back!)

Marg: “How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?”

Me: “28” (Going on 92) 

Marg: “Oh, you’re a baby! The best is yet to come.”

Me: “Yeah right. Not to be rude or anything Mrs. Grinch -err- Margaret, but I feel the best has already been had. I’ve had the settled life, the career life, I was a question at the annual quiz of my birth town in 2015, … Honestly I feel I had all the cards dealt to me once and I royal flushed them all down the toilet. It’s all downhill from here.”

Celine: “Stop it! If you think that, then that’s what you’re gonna get!”

Marg: “Just ask yourself a basic question: what do you want?”

Me: “In life?”

Marg: “Yeah, in life, what else?”

Me: “… I don’t know. I don’t know what I want… Do I even have to have a destination in mind? If you live in the now isn’t that the worst thing you could do?”

Celine: “Well you have to let the universe know what you want in order to get it.”

Me:

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(Getting my chinese rude on)

“Is the universe really concerned about me getting what I want? Why would it give a rat’s ass? Do you really think the universe wants us to have a nice Christmas Eve together? Earn a lot of money? Build a lot of houses? Do you really think the universe cares?”

Marg: “Were you traumatized as a kid or something?”

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Me: “No, I just question my entire existence a lot. It doesn’t make sense to me why we’re here. It doesn’t make sense to me that we are born into this world that destroys oneself with war and terrorism, it doesn’t make sense to me that we are born into this system that expects us to clean up other people’s shit all day just so we can have a comfortable old age. It doesn’t.”

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Marg: “Your life is just beginning. Believe me. Take it from someone who has lived a long one: live in the now. Enjoy your life now. Before you know it you’ll be walking in the mall looking at your reflection in the mirror wondering who that old woman is. Life has its ups and downs. You will have bad breaks and disappointments, but don’t give up on life. Live it. There are wonderful things coming. Things you will want to work and live hard for. So live.”

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Bangarang! When did Mrs. Grinch turn into Wendy Darling?

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The Grinch was right. Or maybe it was the bottle of rye inside her blood that was right. I definitely want to live and work hard for the things I love. Traveling the world to discover all there is to know about life. Picking up stones and discovering what lies under them. Looking into mirrors and understanding everything there is to be seen in them. And one day I would love to love again. Deeply. Profoundly.

My wandering thoughts were interrupted with a deep grunt of discontent =>

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Marg: “Well it’s already past my bedtime. Son in law! Haul the truck we’re leaving.”

As she was waggling towards the cloakroom to get her coat, I ran in behind her.

Me: “Marg, wait!”

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“…Do you have like an email address or something?”

Marg: “Me…? What, you want to send me an email?”

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Me: “Well I would very much like for us to stay in touch. I didn’t think it straight from the beginning but… I think you kinda rock.”

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Marg: “Well *cough* I, ahm, I ….”

I think I had just made the Grinch blush.

… Before she turned into her old sassy self again.

Marg: “Well I can’t email on Tuesdays….

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… But I would love to stay in touch.”

She scribbled her email address on a napkin and handed it over to me with eyes as soft as velvet.

Marg: “You are a truly gorgeous girl and you will have your ball. Just never give up on that.”

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(Enter narrator’s voice:)

It was the night the Grinch stole Christmas.

And returned it the same day. 

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*Merry (belated) Christmas to every single one of you*

XO

Read all about me arriving in Toronto, visiting Niagara Falls and smoking the christmas tree next time on the blog. Gobble gobble!

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Freaks + geeks

There was a girl who talked to freaks.

You: ?

Me (hissing): “Shut up, I’m quoting some poetry here.”

*ahum*

There was a girl who talked to freaks
She understood them, and they her
One day she looked into a crystal stream
and saw in its bed a diamond
she picked it up and placed it in her hair

she did so

as she did so, she turned into a freak
it was then revealed that the other freaks,
she magically had understood,
were once human like her

You: “Mmmkay that doesn’t make sense, Ev.”

Well it’s an adaptation of a Cocorosie song which I geniusly altered to my new favorite tv show :

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You can watch it on Netflix. Or try Youtube for free!

It’s kinda like ‘That 70’s Show’ but situated in the 80’s. And it has been around for ages. It was the first acting gig for a lot of actors who became famous later on.

It’s about this achiever kid Lindsay who is a mathlete, decides not to be a geek anymore but to hang out with a bunch of burnouts instead.

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Hell I would be a burnout if I could hang with James Franco and Seth Rogan.

Squat goals!

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Errr, I mean squad goals.

Freaks and Geeks - Season 1

L-R: Seth Rogen as Ken Miller, Jason Segel as Nick Andopolis, Linda Cardellini as Lindsay Weir, and James Franco as Daniel Desario

I have always fancied James Franco as an actor but after seeing him on ‘Freaks and Geeks’ I desperately want to sodomize him.

You: ???

Me: Well, I hear he’s gay but he doesn’t want the world to know about it.

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Anyway. Some of the plot lines are very adaptable to my life. Apart from the fact I’m not in school anymore and I don’t smoke weed (that often): I’m a definite burnout! I’m channeling my inner punk. Heck, I even sneakily blasted ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ by the Sex Pistols through the speakers the other day.

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Well, relax. I’m not going to walk around with egg white spikes in my hair or walk the streets with a head full of acid, but I do understand the punk way of thinking.

I don’t know if it’s the trashy Berlin vibe of the café I work at, the tattoo TV shows I binge watch, Trump unpacking his personals in the Oval office or just another super moon, but I just don’t feel like following the rules too much anymore. Even dogs go to heaven, right? And there are a lot of good people who live their life according to the book who don’t.

Punk basically promotes the act of ‘thinking for yourself’. And that’s all I’ve been doing this year. Analyzing, questioning, nonconforming. Because it came naturally to me. The more I walk off the beaten path the more I feel this uninspired way of living: getting up each day, leaving for work with a worn out face, coming home with a worn out face, not enjoying anything, being an apathetic slave to society isn’t the way I want to live my life.

Example: I happen to know quite a lot of people who studied, have a degree in some higher study like business management, civil engineering, sports physics, … but deliberately serve coffee, work in a store, pick up garbage, … Every day these people get asked if they aren’t too smart for the job they do. And I think it’s exactly this narrowed way of thinking that makes our economy, our society, sick.

You don’t have to stay an engineer and reply emails all day if you discover it’s not really your trade. You made the choice to become one when you were 18. If you feel you would be better at serving coffee with crazy latte art, then why should you feel restricted to go do that? If you pour coffee and it’s the thing you love most in the world, don’t you think a bit of that love drips in the cup and makes that customer a little more happy too?

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I just really feel people are doing way too much against their will. They’re being deliberately sodomized by the system, man.

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And that’s how you create diseases, cancer and mental breakdowns.

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Life at the café is a good example of this point I’m trying to make. I experience a lot of interesting encounters behind my counter. I talk to people. Listen to them. Share stories, insights and laughs. Also pain. Some come to me to talk about their troubles. A bad day at work. A date that got blown off. A brain tumor that needs to be removed. A marriage that has gone sideways.

Now, I don’t really like being confronted with people’s problems too much but I designed my own signature way of dealing with these cases.

I don’t speak.

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I just listen. And when the waterworks come, I quietly slip a napkin under their beer card and whisper: “Go ahead. This stays between us”.

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Just let it all out K-boy

Because of the world presenting itself to me in various shapes, colors and tastes,  customers provide me with a lot of insights in life. Some bright. Some somber.

The other day I was gazing outside and reminiscing about life and asking myself some fundamental questions about my future. Our future.  And the reason why we are put on this Earth.

My boss: “There is no reason, kid. This is all there is to it. I hate to give it to you, but take it from a man who has lived.”

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Funny thing: I didn’t really feel like disagreeing with him. Even though he’s only 50 % right.

It’s a crazy thing called ‘living’. We’re all trapped together in a limited time and space zone and don’t really know what to do with our time being here. We just fill up the blanks. Make time pass quicker when we’re at work and try to press pause when we’re on holiday. The only thing we know for sure is that we’ll all die one day.

Being limited, we should all be capable to make the most out of it. But instead we fuck everything up. We destroy, overindulge, hate, fight, complain, cheat, … we let our egos get in the way.

eggo

Also, with time being so limited, we all feel the deadline. And the need to desperately leave a mark. A footprint. We want the world to know who we are and to remember us. We don’t want to disappear in the history books a loser. We all want to be winners and be better than our neighbor. But often fail doing so.

Greed is such a disease. We should shake it.
depeche

Tone down your expectations. Of yourself, of others, of life in general and just try to do good, enjoy the ride and pick up as many memories while doing so. It is the only way of dealing with this mortal fight.

To be kind to your kin.

And your knees.

And to live as much in the moment as possible.

Wherever you are, to really be there. Whatever you do, to really do it. I think it’s the only way to savor each day and actually come as close as you can get to something called ‘happiness’. Take it from a burnout.

franco

On that thought, I recently started to Snap myself into the moment.

You: “Oh great, just be more egotistical that will solve all of our problems.”

Me: “Oh please… I had some accounts before but I just never really was a fan of it until now. All of a sudden I felt the need to snap. And I also understood it better. It’s a great way to share your vision, to make mini movies, tell cool stories, … I guess my after movie inspired me to do it.”

In case you haven’t yet, you can check it right here:

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And it’s SUPER compatible with the blog and a great addition to my multi media strategy in my bid to transcend this earth and start life on a different planet with James Franco!

daniel-desario-freaks-geeks

Look, I already snapped this before you read it. How meta am I?

snap2

You: “As if you’re living someone else’s drug dream…I’m calling your mother.”

Me: “Wait! You don’t want to stay around to see me get my ears pierced with infected pins???”

doubtfire

Snap you later! 

==> Follow me: evdelgouffe aka ‘Blonde Clueless

XO

Directions

You: “Hi Ev, how’s the cycling career going? Staying vertically?”

Me: Well things are mostly going horizontally since I have suffered a severe back problem because of working my ass off in order to pay for my (amateur) cycling career.

It was September 13th, 13:13 pm and 13 degrees outside. I was standing in line for the bakery with number 13 in my hand when it happened.

pain

I couldn’t move for about two hours without pain shooting from my lower back down my left leg. It felt like a nerve got stuck between my back and my pelvis.

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The next day, the chiropractor tried to snap me out of it.

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But after two sessions I was still on my back.

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Here I was having spent a ton of money on a brand new road bike, already crippled before it had even started. 

A good thing about being horizontally is it gives you a chance to look up. And reflect. While I was gazing at the sky. Reading the clouds. I was trying to envision what my next move would be. Once I would be back in the saddle -literally- and able to move, that is.

Autumn has come, my sabbatical is almost over and I still don’t have a clue about what I’m going to/supposed to/want to do with my professional life.

Like time slipping away like sand in an hourglass. The more time ticks away, the more the realization comes:

I need to start choosing a direction.

And since there’s no more thing as ‘One Direction’ …

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… things can go ANY way.

And that shit’s crazy scary.

But -apparently- this is the part where I should throw in the word ‘exciting’.

My girl Kylie McGirr, could you take the word please? I need to pee.
(Listen to her, she’s the renowned writer of an … (E-)Book on nine steps to successful goal setting titled ‘Get Your Year Into Gear’ … Written by Kylie McGirr… Lovely rhyme work to say the least)picture-2016-10-12-om-09-58-15

Kylie:

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Coach Kylie is right. There IS an exciting side to it. People are seducing me with great job offers. I’ve pictured 5 different futures already. All had some nice things to say for them.

But it’s not ‘picture a future’. It’s ‘pick a future’.

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What to decide?

Where to go?

I need a BIG road sign in my life

blondecluelesscyclists

No, not that one…

Rather one with:

‘Your direction here’ 

‘100% regret proof’ 

‘100% satisfaction guaranteed’

‘Try now, you’ll get an ‘always right, never wrong’ compass for free’

pocahontas-spinning-compass

‘Don’t like it? You’ll get an alternative route for free’ 

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One year ago I  wasn’t ready to choose. I took a detour. And did what traffic loving Belgians like to do: place a big sign with ‘Works ahead’. To work on myself. To work some stuff out. To do anything but work work work.

least-responsibility

The consequences were horrendous.

dmv-lines

The Daily Planet: “People turning in driver’s license due to too many personal road works”

If I could I would have just 8-balled my way out of this pickle. But those things tend to change their minds more than Donald Trump opens his mouth.

Will I find the right direction?

signspointtoyes

Will it bring me a gainful, mentally stable, enjoyable though creatively challenging future?

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Why not?!

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I know I need to choose the way myself. Without tools. And follow my inner compass.

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What says my head?

What says my heart?

What says Pocahontas??

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Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?
Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver
Just around the riverbend?
Ok, Pocahontas’ advice is to keep looking for excitement, the unpredicted path, without being held back by handsome men who build sturdy walls.
But I need a bigger AHA! feeling than that.
The great output of coach Kylie, the 8-ball and Pocahontas aside, it was time to take life lessons of a much higher level.
You: “God? “
Me: “The hermit crab.”
Red-hermit-crab-Dardanos-megistos-1024x768.jpg
Every hermit crab comes to a time in life where he -or she- needs to move to a bigger shell. They need to recognize that the small shell they used to call their home cannot hold what they are becoming and they need to take adequate actions. Without fear of growing and stepping out of their comfort zone. It requires serious courage for those beady eyed sea babies to leave their old shell since they are extremely vulnerable without it.
Some crabs even develop hermit crab anorexia. They starve themselves out of fear of growing and taking on new challenges. fatso-burger-picture

The subtext here is: The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic long-term learning process, and not live in a shell of static safe mediocrity. Growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.

Every challenge you accept is a new shell, a new home and a new opportunity for growth. The current one you have might be comfortable for now, but what are you depriving yourself of to stay there?  What challenges are you shying away from just so that you can remain right where you are?

Let’s all think about this while indulging on a savory treat.

Crab cake anyone?

crabcakes.jpg

I guess this blog post will be another ‘to be continued’.

Let me know if you’re looking for a bigger shell. We can all go shell-looking together. Apparently hermit crabs use their social network to trade up a shell. When a hermit crab finds a new, larger shell, several other individuals gather around and form a kind of queue from big to small. When a hermit crab that is sufficiently large arrives for the empty shell, this puts a chain reaction in motion: the largest crab takes the empty shell, the second largest creeps into the newly abandoned shell, etc. 

dmv-lines

The Daily Planet: “Hermit -and obese- drivers queuing for a bigger car”

XO

Oh before I forget. I want to end this post with a small communication service.

Recently I was going through my social media and I came across someone using the hashtag ‘#funemployed‘. Now, I know this blog is called ‘Blonde/Clueless’ but I was shocked by so much cluelessness after discovering this hashtag.

I mean:

Was taking the ring to Mordor fun?

frodo

Sure it was adventurous, and Frodo didn’t have to go to work for a long long time but leaving your job to go look for new and unexplored roads isn’t fun. It’s fucking hard work.

Sometimes I just want to snap people into place myself:

ted

And say:

r1oucad

You: “Ahm… You should say, you’re having a relationship with a bicycle.”

Me:

souls

 

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Dring Dring

 

The cycling of life

Writing January 2015. My editor gives me the look. The look he gives everyone who comes up with a lousy idea in a bid to try something new, edgy and different for the paper.

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Editor: “Look Evelien, I admire your… ahm… creativity? But we’re not gonna turn you into a cross cyclist. Why the heck did you came up with that idea anyway?”

Me being deadly serious over here: “Because I want to challenge myself, write about every detail and make people think, push them to step out of their comfort zones. In which ever way they want to.”

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Editor: “(shakes his head with a big male chauvinist grin on his face) Let’s not, okay?”

“Now, let’s ‘cycle’ (ha-ha)

1

back to the daily reality guys. There’s been a murder 40K away from here. The wife apparently stabbed her husband with a pair of scissors and then tried to commit suicide but failed. She is now in the hospital where … ” His voice blurred into the background where it eventually muted. I was in my head. My silent bubble. My turmoil.

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Dreamer.

My choice for becoming a cross cyclist came forward out of frustrated ambitions, melancholy and heartache.

I wanted to rise above myself. Reinvent myself. Be proud of something I achieved.

I felt so damn ordinary.

ordinary

Stuck in a daily routine. One where no one seemed to allow me to break free.

Not on my terms at least…

I was a woman shouting in the desert.

The idea was so pure and simple. And many times commercialized throughout my childhood years. I’m a kid from the MTV generation. And all I wanted was to be Made.

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But nobody seemed to listen.

I gave in. I decided it maybe wasn’t the time or place to become something else. That maybe they were right, and I should just go back to being normal. “Being normal is already crazy enough.”

… They should just execute people who dare to say that out loud.

A couple of months later I crashed. Hard.

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I had become so restless, I just couldn’t walk away from it any more. It was the big elephant in the room. Stampeding. I was looking for so much more. But I didn’t know what exactly. Or where to begin at all. I was scared as fuck.

It’s like jumping into the deep blue without knowing you can swim. Or end up piranha bait.

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Worst.Movie.Ever.

So -as you loyal readers of the blog already know- I quit my job and bought a ticket out of here. The furthest place I could imagine. Australia. And see from there.

vicharb3

<Seeing from there>

People blamed me I was running away from things. As if it was a bad thing.

But there are two ways to look at the picture here. What does an athlete do? Does he run away from the start? Or does he run towards the finish line?

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“Touché”

In my head, yes, I was running away from something.

To run towards something else.

That made sense to me. And that’s all that mattered. No matter how tired I got of explaining myself to family, friends and coworkers.

i-quit

On my travels I adapted a minimal lifestyle. I shared a shed with deadly spiders, slept in the passenger’s seat of a car, drove around the Sunshine Coast in a Mini Moke, kept the social encounters to a bare minimum, threw away clothes, insecurities and comfort zones. I let go. Trusted.

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I read somewhere that people who trust things to faith are happier.

I ended up in China in a Kung Fu school to gain more self confidence and defensibility. Better reflexes too. I reached Japan and realized I was out of money. I worked with what I had. And the universe helped me out with the rest. My long travels brought me back to cycling this summer. I was back in the circus where I got hooked on adventure and fell in love with bicycles two years ago while I was working as a one-time Tour de France reporter. The cycle of life…

And the idea grew back on me.

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TDF 2016

I want to ride my bicycle.

And participate in amateur road races.

Starting now my life will be concentrated to two wheels. Almost two years too late. But better late than never.

The greatest ticket to freedom, excitement, endurance, self knowledge, and the occasional fall on the face.

A metaphor for life.

“You make every tomorrow faster by acting today. So even if you aren’t at the same level as everyone else, there’s only one way to get there and it’s by staying optimistic and giving it a go.”
(Ella Cycling Tips)

Let’s not kiss the asphalt on the first date. Nor the hood of a car. Or the side mirror of a big truck.

Note to self:

Stay real.

Stay alive.

Stay on your bike.

XO

BIG SALE / 

COMFORT ZONES

They’re all out of fashion guys. I’ve stepped out of mine. People are stepping out of theirs. (Have you checked out srprs.me? It is the best invention ever!!! Well… Since the wheel, obviously. People are purchasing holidays without knowing where they’re going. I think I will treat myself to a surprise trip for my birthday this month!)

Why do we build up comfort zones? Materialistic ones and psychological ones?

american-beauty-stuff

Just think about all the junk you could get rid of. And how much you could actually gain from it.

Namasté all the way!

XO

You: Ahm Evyy?… Aren’t you forgetting something?

Me: Ehh…What?

You: Weren’t you supposed to tell us all about your new boyfriend you referred to on Facebook?

Me: … I just told you all about him.

You: (…) Is … Is your bike your new bf…?

Me: … Mmyes.

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To be continued.

The self ridiculing act of nomad bashing

Hi all!

You: “Errr…?”

Me: “Ahm… what? Do I have something on my face?”

You: “Why do you start your blog entry with an hello? Usually you just talk away. About your life. Or god forbid… your sex life. Ugh.”

Me: Well today I would like to change things up. And maybe start a dialogue…”

I can’t help but feeling there is a little bit of underlying tension going on these days. Not between you and me, per se. But more frequently I discover some kind of mockery against nomads, backpackers and everybody who chooses the great outdoors to gain some personal perspective.

Since this blog is called ‘backpackersguide…blablabla’ I feel I need to take a stand and address the non captivated/exploited, happy-go-lucky elephant in the room. And try to analyze what’s going on.

There are two obvious camps here:

* People who are drawn by adventure, who temporarily run away from obligations to live in the here and now and diss on people who rot away in their comfort zones.

* People who steer away from adventure and diss on the people who recklessly throw away all securities and comfort zones in the idle hope they will find all life’s answers by swimming with sharks, taking a selfie on top of Machu Picchu or eating a fried scorpion at some random Chinese farmer’s market.

scorpion2

(I plead guilty)

Well, let’s just settle this friendly battle here and now, why won’t we.

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Let’s draw a little background sketch. We (20-30 year olds) are the generation that’s been handed too many choices. Our parents were children of parents who had survived the war. They had a harsh upbringing. In a bid to turn things around they decided a different approach for their own offspring. The velvet glove. Let’s just be motivational towards our kids. Let them become whatever they want to become. Let’s bring them up with a sense of freedom. Some analysts would say this prevented some serious quakes on the puberty scale. Why would we start a riot if everything is allowed and negotiable? It didn’t eliminate it; it just postponed it. To a much more difficult timing later on.

Enter the quarter life crisis.

whoami

I am…. (feel free to pick one for yourself)

a) who my parents made me to be (=realist, acceptance, no crisis here)
b) everything opposite my parents made me to be (=the rebel)
c) better than everyone (=the jerk)
d) a loser (=negative thinker)
e) Egon Ewin Kisch (=dead)

Of course the problem is not good or bad parenting. The initial problem is still the fact that there are too many choices. And the fact they eventually lead to choice stress. The way we react to that would enable some older generations to call us: spoiled narcissistic brats with no sense of reality.

But it’s just hard these days to really say:

Screenshot from I Want It That Way

We pick a road but from the minute the scenery doesn’t appeal to us any more, we bail and try another road. Because we can. Because we should. And because we want to. Or think we want to. Because -actually- we really don’t know. We just assume. Because -let’s face it- there’s too much choice.

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So what seems to be a choice a lot of youngsters take these days? Right, the high road.

Due to the pressure of (social) media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, …) and the ad hoc commercial strategy of the travel industry using internet cookies and tailor made stalker advertisements to their power it looks like the only evident way to get rid of your stress is to step on a plane and travel to a galaxy far far away.  noseviaja

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Where else are you going to get the opportunity to do a shallow water scarf dance?

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Get the most out of your opposable thumbs?

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Or cosy up to a complete stranger?

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Woops, this one is not supposed to be in here

Of course not everyone dares to take the high road. Because they

  • are scared
  • financially in a pickle
  • scared
  • scared
  • scared

The list with reasons is endless.

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So some of them -in fact- rot away in their comfort zones. And forever regret not making exciting life choices. Walking around like little time bombs. Others find a way to get over/around it and end up appreciating what they got and eventually lose the need to jump from one continent to another.

funny-eric-foreman-quotes-2

“I don’t need to go to Asia to solve my life problems, thank you”, someone slingshotted at me recently.

That’s fair. If you really mean it. That means you’re much more likely to solve your problems one on one. Or maybe don’t have any problems to begin with.
… For now. Let’s just see what midlife brings.

I can’t help but feeling when people say it like that, they take the diss out of people who do need it. It has become a phenomenon to ridicule the act of traveling the globe to get to know oneself. I call it nomad bashing. Backpacker bullying. Globetrotter battering. Wanderlust shaming.

Well, don’t blame us for having a sense of curiosity.

… Or for having better stories than you.

mounttibidabo

In reality those people are just shifting the blame, changing the conversation, greatly hoping one day a scientist with a PhD will stand up and tell them:

‘You were right, you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world. It’s not going to help you. I have the proof!’

sheldon

So the bullies can go on and say: ‘Told you so’

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I don’t know

Our stories could be the closest you’ll get to a little adventure.

Too bad you don’t see it that way.

It must be hard living a life with bad eye sight, no cojones and a synthetic identity.

It might just be you are trying a little too hard to conform to a closed system, pushing a synthetic identity onto yourself which enables you to avoid looking if the chosen identity matches your own deeper wishes and competences. You choose to be unsupportive towards other ideas to protect yourself against potential doubt about the irreversible road you took.

So, who’s dealing with the real crisis here, Sherlock?

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Not to be worried though.

“A crisis is no such thing as an inevitable disaster, but must be seen as a necessary turning point, a critical time when the development in one way or another should continue and opportunities for growth, recovery and further differentiation will be mobilized.

An identity crisis, like any crisis, is an initially negative perception of emotional experience, but mostly an inevitable obstacle to achieve further development.

In that turbulent phase lies ample opportunity for growth.”
(Erik Erikson)

“Real winners are those who dare to lose everything” * 
(Evelien Delgouffe)

I hear the Maldives are on sale.

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Great travel agency by the way. It’s the one I used for my awesome adventure. If you want to I can tell you ALL about it some time.

XO

* (Not to be taken literally by heavy gamblers with debts the size of the Grand Canyon.)

… Although I do hear the Canyon looks great this time of year.

Grand Canyon National Park

Less hating. More hiking.

Safe travels!

paperbag

XO

 

Korsakov

picture-2016-09-07-om-11-36-12Korsakoff’s syndrome , also known as Korsakoff’s disease, is a persistent memory disorder which is primarily caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, usually due to too little varied food by chronic alcohol abuse . It is characterized by disorientation, especially in time , disorders, in particular short-term memory and confabulation.

In layman’s terms: The severe memory loss you develop when overindulging on alcohol.

The time has come you guys. Ever since I came back from my travels I’ve been going home every night smelling of stale beer and sweat. Dazed and confused.

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Tired. Falling asleep on my couch watching Comedy Central. Or worse: Spike TV.

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I’ve hit rock bottom alright.

I spend most of my days in the bar.

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200_s

You: “Gee Evvy how did it come this far? I never considered you to be an alcoholic.”

Me: “Me? Oh I don’t drink. I just stick to water, coffee, ginger juice and brownies. Plain brownies. Not the ones Martha Stewart baked in prison.”

martha-bakes

You: “But I don’t get it, then why do you say you go home smelling of beer? All dazed and confused?”

Me: “Because I work in a bar dummy. You’re currently looking at the new barmaid of Korsakov. The coolest -and most ‘colorful’- bar in town. It attracts some interesting specimens I can tell you that. And ‘men’ in general.”

Owner: “Gee, ever since I hired you the café is filled with guys. It’s like they’ve never seen a female bartender before.”

korsakov

First barmaid in history. All rights reserved.

It’s like that time when Buffy left Sunnydale to live in that shitty apartment, making ends meet by working as a waitress and changing her name into Anne!

3x01anne0280

“I have to write this down”

buffy-burt-reynolds

(Guys acting like they’ve never seen a female bar tender before)

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Ooh, that’s a strong look. Maybe I should try it out today.

Relax. It’s all temporary. And it’s all for a good cause.

You: “Oh you’re donating your earnings to charity?”

Me: “Err, no. I’m saving up for a new challenge.”

You: “A boob job???”

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Me: “No perv, my tits are fine. I did the pencil test…”saggy-boobs

Although it is a great idea for my tip jar…

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No, I’m very comfortable in my skin and feel very blessed to be walking around in this goddess body Mother Nature bestowed on me. And it’s nice to see I am still very much in control of my mind and bodily functions.

…Which is more than I can say for some of the customers.

Weird dude: “Hey Anne could you pour me another Duvel. It’s only my sixth one today.”

Me: “My name is Evelien.”

“And its only 11.30 am…”

Weird dude: “Well I’ve been awake for almost six hours. I went to bed at 4.30 and got up at 6. It’s okay I usually drink 18 Duvels a day.”

Meliver

Weird dude: “So you’re still in school?”

Me: “Err; no.”

Weird dude: “Then why do you work here? “

Me: “Because I want to.”

Weird dude: “Waw, you’re weird.”

I just got called weird by the weirdest guy on this planet :

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Weird dude: “What’s your name again?”

Me: (…)

Korsakoff’s syndrome. Told ya.

You: “Well the weird guy does have a point there, Ev. Why do you work there? You got excellent qualifications, you graduated with distinction, your IQ is above average, one year ago you were the perfect ivory to will.i.am’s ebony…

william

…Not to be rude or anything but you can do way better than this.”

Me: “Look, don’t feel bad for me guys, I choose to work here. It keeps me grounded. It pays the bills and it gives me time to gain some perspective, look at things from a different point of view, put my priorities in order and think of all the things I want to achieve before I’m 30 and after. I’m coming up for air. And it’s actually working out really well for me.

I’ve been feeling super energized. For the first time in a long time I feel like I can finally breathe again. I’m not on my case anymore. I’m working, making money, contributing to society. And I’ve actually been creating a lot of cool stuff.

You: “So tell us about that new challenge you’re saving up for?”

Me: “Well it’s still a secret but I can say it’s a physical challenge. But my body is far from fit yet.”

You: “You finally realized you belong in the porn industry?”

Me: “Yuk no! Why has this always have to be about S-E-X??”

You: “Slaying vampires?”

Me: “I wish! Been wanting to do that since I was 10.”

btvs-season-10-shhk

You: “Oh I know! You’re going back to China?”

Me: “Unfortunately no, even though I dream about my Shifu commanding me to do Russian push ups every night…<3”

shifu

The first ever original pic of my Shifu on the blog. His Chi is mostly in his hair.

He would so much enjoy using that staff to punish drunken customers. Not that I dislike alcohol or people how drink or anything.

I do -very rarely- enjoy a shot of tequila after a hard shift. With a side of …. UH OH

LEMON!

lemons

But I do steer away from the alcohol demon as much as I can. I’ve seen what it does to people. And it’s not pretty.

bieberedsheeran

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And of course Beyoncé is so drunk in love she can’t even spell right.

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Or remember she took a shit in the kitchen.

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What I’ve realized over my short career of bartending, is that there’s always a reason to drink. Some drink to celebrate. Some drink to make something happen. Others -and they’re quite the majority unfortunately- drink to forget.

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 To forget their dad abandoned them when they were a kid. To forget their girlfriend left them for some other dude. To forget they have financial trouble. A dead end job. To forget the prison they’re living in.

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And who can blame them? It is tempting to lighten the burden with bourbon.

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But reality is: life has got us all by the throat. Everybody is looking for their cup of happiness. But maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to find if we wouldn’t raise the bar on ourselves that much.

It’s like in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. We go looking for the perfect cup. With emeralds and gold, …. the whole shebang. But it’s the simplest cup which carries the purest happiness.

My glass is filled to the rim these days. With my own (non alcoholic) brew. Now, it’s only a first draft so things can still curdle, but I discovered the perfect way to perfect acceptance and happiness is to sometimes just stand still. Nakedly exposed, for everyone to take a good look at you. And you allowing them. Without fear of failure.

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I’ve realized: If you want to succeed in life, you shouldn’t be afraid to fail.

Not being scared to occasionally fall on your face is the way to put life check mate.

Life is a game of chess, I’ve said it before. And I will say it again.

beepme

There’s nothing wrong with standing still or even taking a few steps back if it helps you to jump further in the long run.

For now, I decided for myself: I don’t have to be achieving 24/7.

I choose to underachieve.

And it feels great. Incredibly liberating even! It definitely beats trying to be someone you’re not or desperately achieving someone else’s crazy high standards and feeling miserable over it.

mistrake1

Hi, I’m a temporary voluntary underachiever.

Nobody is perfect and still we demand ourselves to be a perfect 10 every day. In order to be acknowledged. By ourselves. And by our surroundings. To be something other than just a brick in the wall. A plant. Or maybe a pretty flower.

Well in order to become that. To rise above your feeding ground. You have to let the seed grow. And all that requires is three basic ingredients. Air. Patience. And water*.

*Nope, sorry, no alcohol.

And for what it’s worth. This is a quote I found on the toilet wall in the bar:

“If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, then it never was.”

If this doesn’t sober you up for the better, I don’t know what will.

Cheers!

ron-burgundy-l-6enrck

XO

KABLEWY! Blonde/Clueless has it’s own business cards! What do you think guys? Isn’t this kick you in the nuts damn right fantastic?!

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chrispratt

🙂