From a very young age the one thing I could not stand where empty walls. I guess it was my parents really, that inflicted that onto me, I remember this picture of a large ever-green tree in the hallway whenever I’d close the front door. My parents had beautifully drawn people, hands, and – oddly enough – Leonardo DaVinci and many more different pieces of artwork all over the house. When I was older I asked my parents for artwork for myself as my Christmas presents, and then I started to live my artistic side and photographed sunrises which I then plastered all over my bedroom walls. My bedroom really was a sanctuary of artwork, no wall was empty, much like my mental inner chamber, there is always something going on, always something to look at, always something that fascinated me. The artwork never went together, on one side you may have a photo of a bright sunny day and on the opposite side you had a reprint of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam”. I didn’t care, because both of these pieces showed who I was.
Over the years, I’ve done my fair bit of re-decorating (or as A likes to refer to it, “moving”) from and to all over the world and the one thing that I never could stand (and still can’t), that always makes me so incredibly uncomfortable, are empty walls. It’s really the first thing I do when I get settled: make sure the walls are not bare. When I was younger I read this children’s book, called “A world for Madurer” (written by Roberto Piumini, I don’t think it ever was translated into English – also SPOILER ALERT) about a sick boy who couldn’t leave his room because of severe allergies so his father summoned the most talented painter in the world to come and paint the world for the boy. This man relived his own life, he relearned how to see the world, how to make sure that the boy would be able to see the outside without ever leaving his house. I’ve must have read the book a thousand times and I am still utterly fascinated with the concept of bringing someone the world closer without them being able to go where you’ve gone, seeing what you have seen, experiencing, smelling, touching what you experienced, smelt, and touched.
The painter in the book dedicated his life to making sure that he could bring the world one step closer to the boy and when he was finished with one wall, he’d move on to the next, and then eventually he’d return to the first wall to change it all. Creation and destruction, hand in hand, just to make sure that the boy wouldn’t miss a moment from sunrise to sunset to deep in the night, cloudy landscapes, furious seascapes, misty mountains, bustling streets, he brought all of that closer to the boy.
When I look around in my room at my four walls, in my new-ish home (four months into still counts as ‘new’ right?), I see the outside world. I see all the places I’ve been fortunate enough to go in this past year and in the last ten years (I’ve got wedding photos up, and ‘mile stone’ photos of A’s and my relationship – a natural progression, if you will). I got post-cards from A’s travels, I’ve got artwork from Mozambique where A traveled to for a conference, I got a wall-carpet from Greece, a photograph of a painting of A’s and my favorite restaurant from the Greek island his family is from. I actually taped a ‘plate’-ish object onto the wall (I say plate-ish because the salesperson told me it was a plate but it’s a flat surface with a picture of a little bird withstanding the cold while standing on a white mitten). I got a colorful print of an elephant from an Irish artist reminding me of a little part of me from India and every day, more things get added to the wall.
Not all moments make it to the physical wall though, some stay within me. Like little clips of A and me driving around on the country side in Ireland, or A driving in Australia constantly using the windshield wiper instead of the blinker when indicating a turn. The smells of a thousand orchids and all the vibrant colors of the botanical garden in Singapore are deeply engraved in me. Our 9-year-anniversary while stampeding through the flood-plains of the Dublin coast, or the morning we sat on a tiny sailing boat on the San Juan islands, watching a seal pass in front of our window while we were eating breakfast. When I first set foot in Cork and wondered if I was really able to do this, or the moment I was officially enrolled into a PhD program. The second I found out that I was going to move to Ireland, and the hot tears streaming down my face. The endless nights of sorrow, wondering if I could really manage to be apart from A for three years. Or when I stood at the janky gates on a tiny local airport on the tiny Greek island where A’s family is from waiting for A to get off the plane. Or when I fell down the stairs in France in front of more people than I like to recall. Or last week when for the first time in a long time I felt like I could really belong in a profession… Can you believe that all of this was just this past year?
All these moments will never make it onto the physical wall of my home, but they decorate my inner walls and every year, like with the annual spring cleaning, the mind gets decluttered and more amazing moments get added to the wall, while I move from one corner to the next, painting tiny little moments while also capturing the big picture. Sometimes the moments happen so fast, that I have barely time to notice that they’ve happened, and sometimes I know exactly when to take a moment for myself and look around and make sure that I take it all in, the smell, the touch, the noise, the feeling, everything.
My point is, that life moves much quicker than we care to think about. Moments come and go, important things pass too quickly and still not fast enough. Some things we’d like to forget, others will stick forever with us, and we have no way of knowing which it will be. This past year has taught me a million and one things, but the one thing that stood out far beyond the other million things is, ‘when you’re there, you’ll know it’. There won’t be a big red arrow showing you the way, there won’t be a big celebration at your arrival, there will most likely not be the slightest of acknowledgements that you have actually made it, but you – and only you – will know. The moments you think significant, are really barely worth mentioning in the long run, but the seconds that you do not dare to think about, they will come and then somehow – all of a sudden – you have arrived where you may thought never possible.
For me, there have been a lot of these signs telling me that I’ve been going the right direction, that it’s all slowly but surely coming together, and that my patience was worth it. It took me a very long time to finally get here, and still I was anxious and stressed and honestly not much fun to be around, but I guess that’s normal, we all have these phases. But the point is, that these moments are incredibly precious, and rarely come by, that’s why it’s important that you take a second here and there and don’t forget that all these other moments, the ones that maybe happen every day, the ones that you don’t notice, the ones we so quickly are to forget, are the moments that make your day colorful, that make your walls lively, that add a little fairy dust to all the (extra)-ordinary moments.
So, here is to fairy dusting the extra- and ordinary days, to living every moment to the fullest, and to taking a minute here and there to just sit and gaze at the walls of your accomplishments.
(Here are some snapshots from the walls of my accomplishments in 2018…)