The curse and blessing that is YOLO

Decisions. For some reason people around the world struggle with them. I do too. They’re like blank pages we feel like we need to conquer. But how to get those first words onto the page? How to know they are the right words? Decisions very much feel like that. You toss and you turn and you hope that when you do decide, it will be the right decision.

“Yes, he is the guy you will be able to spend your life with, happily ever after.”
“No, that is not the right place for you to move to, far removed from what brings you joy.”
“Perhaps, maybe this job opportunity is the right one, but how to know for sure…?”

If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve all been there before.

The problem is that making decisions is hard. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how wise you might be, they’re always hard. Because the uncertainty of making the wrong move is a fearful task. More so even in this world than a world of years ago. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed by the opportunities screaming at my generation to get noticed, to be our roads less travelled by our ancestors. Growing up in today’s day and age is a privilege, if nothing else. But let’s face it, in a way, things were “easier” way back when.

I use that term loosely, “easy”, as I don’t want you to mistake it for “better”. What I am aiming for is that, once upon a time, you were born and depending on which family you came from, which gender you were etc., life was almost “pre-decided” for you. It may not have suited you perhaps, but in a way, you knew what to do. You knew how far you could go and what limitations life held. While I’d never want to go back to a world like that, I do confess it sounds appealing in a “Gosh-how-amazing-would-it-be-to-not-have-to-make-such-important-life-altering-decisions-all-the-time.” I mean, hell, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this?

In my opinion, a lot of people make choices nowadays out of fear for going into the golden years with too many regrets. It’s what my generation, the #YOLO-generation is all about: You Only Live Once. And that belief, that fear that you only live once, well it means that you have to carpe the hell out of that diem, doesn’t it? It means you can’t let any kind of chance of greatness go to waste, or you’ll be the fool who let it all slip through his/her fingers. There’s pressure behind making decisions now, not just because life is no longer “pre-decided” and you actually control your own fate (for which I’m sure you’ll all say with me: Halleluja!) but if you make the wrong one, you’re not living up to your YOLO-potential. Shame on you!

Let’s be honest: I have felt that pressure massively as well. Who doesn’t? But the absence of said pressure can have negative consequences too, I feel. Say you find yourself in a life you didn’t specifically ask for, you never really wanted, never truly dreamed of in the way that you’re experiencing it, yet… You can see it being stable, presenting you with a future where you know what to expect. Finally, the pressure is off! And you can rest a little easier. You can breathe more carefree, even as the days, weeks and months pass by and you have to admit to yourself, that while you’re not unhappy, you’re not exactly happy either. The relief of knowing what’s coming next keeps you tied to your present state.

As this is my first day where I am truly no longer employed, the pressure is back on in a major way. While it’s an added weight to carry, in a way I welcome it back with open arms. Finally I have the power to make decisions again! Who’d-a-thunk I’d be glad to feel that stress?! Ha, I genuinely am though. To be honest, I always had the power to make my own decisions – of course I did. But my carefree state made me unwilling to change. Now though, I’m ready for something different. So with that in mind, I’ve made two decisions:

  1. I am starting an online copywriting course at the College of Media & Publishing. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve got a solid background in marketing, it’ll be awesome to truly combine the two and see how I do. I have the time nowadays anyways, so why not? Sitting at home day after day just doesn’t interest me – now that I have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it and learn about something that interests me greatly!
  2. This Saturday I’m attending a Creative Writing course at the Faber Academy in London. Not sure what to expect from it, I’ve only been told to “bring my favourite novel”. But I’m definitely so looking forward to it! This course to me is not about learning per se, like the CMP online course is. It’s not about helping me look for the next opportunity in my life… This one just tugs at my heartstrings. This one… Is just for me. :-) And I can’t wait!

I’ll keep you updated on how it all pans out. In the meantime, I’d just like to stimulate each and every one of you to never lose that pressure. Never lose that feeling where life has no more different stories to offer you, because everything is simply going full steam ahead towards the predictable end. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: life is unpredictable. And that can be such an amazing thing to experience! I’d hate for you to lose that excitement, to lose that joyous buoyant feeling of being deliciously alive. Stop being content if you’re not, not truly anyways. Change it. You have the power to make that decision. I encourage you to do so.

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From: Invictus, by William Ernest Henley (1888)

Life is unpredictable. Expect that.

The other day I was chatting with one my BFFs – yes, I know, what a cheesy way to describe someone, but in my defence: I did grow up in the age of “BFF” and “NWLY” and “ILY”, also known as the MSN-generation. And there’s simply no better way to describe this particular foxy lady. Anyways, I digress: we were talking boys, as us girls tend to do. And in the midst of it, I was advising her to not have too many expectations of how life was supposed to be. Especially not in the love department.

Why? Well, a lot of us – and with “us” I mean “girls” – grow up thinking that we need to find the right man. And once we do, we need to make that relationship a top priority in our lives together, so that when a sufficient amount of time has passed, it will have become appropriate for us to move in together with said man. After which another period needs to pass, so that it will become acceptable for the man to propose to us and we can finally start our “happily ever after”.

Simultaneously though, we are also expected to work on our self-actualisation and be our own woman. To go out and enjoy a movie, you don’t need a man. Same goes for dinner and every other activity you’d often need a partner to “enjoy”. We are told we don’t need a man to feel worthy of love, to feel worthy – period. Which, in my opinion, is so true! But I find it to be a conflicting message, because if we can enjoy our lives on our own, then why can we not have a happily ever after without that other person?

One of my dear friends is a stunning woman. She was married. It didn’t work out. All of her friends have gotten married, started on kids and look at her with that look of pity – because “her plans” didn’t pan out. And it’s heart-breaking. Because her life is freakin’ fabulous. She does what makes her happy. And sure, she’d love to meet a great man and maybe have kids with him. But it’s not going to define her. Instead, she just landed a job abroad and she’s going to be kick-ass amazing at it. I’ve not been this proud of someone in a long time, because – while she doesn’t know it – it gives me hope for my own future. That I can be me and chase after my own dreams, the way she has done no matter what happened.

She’s taught me this: I can be my own woman. And that will already be enough. The rest of it… Will sort itself out, I hope. But I’m not counting on it. I don’t need to follow that “traditional roadmap” in order to achieve happiness. Because even when you do, my friend’s story proves that it doesn’t necessarily mean happily ever after. Expecting that everything will be miraculously wonderful once you’ve got a ring on it, well it just ain’t realistic.

Which brings me to my point, something I’m taking a long time to get to – I know. But as I was talking to my friend who was having all these expectations about how her relationship was “supposed to go”, as us young women have always been unconsciously taught to have, I told her to stop having them altogether. Because life is totally unpredictable. And while I understand that human beings don’t do well with insecurity, it’s madness to think that there’s only one way your life can go, one plan that will deliver happiness. Because that’s not real life.

So I told my friend: Life is unpredictable. Expect that.

A year ago I didn’t expect to be out of a job right now. I didn’t expect I would have moved out from my place, a flat I’d only just moved into at the time. I didn’t expect to have lost a lot of my self-worth in the months past. I didn’t expect to have to do all of this rebuilding on my own self right now. I didn’t expect a lot of things. But I did expect that nothing would happen according to planBecause it wouldn’t happen that way. Because it hasn’t been happening that way for years.

From the moment I applied to business school – something that would never have occurred to me in a million years in the years preceding that decision – I threw everything out the window. My plans I’d had. My future I’d always seen so clearly. I threw it all away. Because what’s the point? Life doesn’t work out that way. And while it was hard at first, somehow I ended up in another country. And then I started building a life here, somewhere I’d never envisioned living – besides in my wildest dreams. Clearly not everything has been smooth sailing, but is that what I did it for? To lead a charmed life? Or is it more interesting to lead a life, experiencing both the good and the bad – whatever it likes to throw at you and see how you do?

I still haven’t got a plan. I have no idea what I am going to do. But I’m sure I’ll find out. As time moves forward, I am totally confident I will at least find out. It’d be awesome to have a bit of certainty, but since it’s been uncertainty that has brought me here… Even through the bad, I’m actually OK living my life this way. As the unpredictable mess that it is. I’ve come to expect it. More even: I’ve come to love it.

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How good is your swipe?

As any singleton living in London, I am all too familiar with the dating world. Or, better yet, the dating hell that is Tinder, Happn, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel – man, the list of dating apps is endless. Sadly, it’s not made it much easier than in the times before mobile phones were even a thing, which you would think is the case. Let me temper your expectations straight away: it’s really really not.

It’s almost a joke to think that in the 21st century – with all its progress and advancements – dating is still as difficult as always. But alas, while we may use dating apps now – which are indeed wonderfully convenient – I cannot begin to tell you how unbelievably impersonal it is! More even: because it’s so impersonal, more often than not the actual date doesn’t even happen. You’re lucky if you even get a decent conversation – let alone a nice evening out on the town. *insert audible groan here*

Ah well, luckily for you, I am in a sharing mood and today I’d like to take you through some enjoyable Tinder conversations I’ve had, because while it’s perceptibly painful, it can also be totally hilarious. Now, if you’re a guy, this may actually help you! Because genuinely, I am not just commemorating the worst offenders here. No, in fact, I am just creating like a hall of fame of “Things shitloads of guys do on Tinder that we – us with the boobs – really wish they didn’t”. And with that introduction, let’s start with this poor lad here, who came up with the cheesiest pick-up line in history:

Tinder 2

I mean… What is up with that? You think that’s going to make me intrigued at your noticeable lack of wit? To be honest, I did laugh, but at the guy, not with, which is an important distinction. Safe to say: this dude is still waiting for me to reply. And he’ll be waiting for a loooong time.

Another hilarious thing that will happen whilst you’re swiping away: these Christian Grey-induced dudes, thinking they’re “tha shiznit” and believing this is totally something that will sweep us ladies off our feet. Like… Really? Seriously, guys complain all the time that the Christian Grey bonanza has set unrealistic relationship goals for women and we now all want mentally scarred billionaires tying us up to get ready for a good spank. Let me tell you now, once and for all: this is not the case!!!

Suffice it to say that, whenever I encounter these idiots, a swipe left occurs immediately. Well, after I’ve taken a print screen, obviously. Because oh yeah, this is beautiful material to share with the girls as we commiserate with each other on the sad desert that represents our love lives.

But I confess, I do feel for some of these guys though. Sometimes it happens that we swipe right and then we match and it’s like… “Ah. Oy, uhh… Well, to be honest I’m not into this guy, now that I’ve thought about it.” But alas, the guy immediately starts making contact! To be fair: it doesn’t happen often that they’ll keep trying after that first unanswered text, but you do have those who are persistent, like this guy who matched my friend the other day:
IMG_3925I mean, if it wasn’t so funny, I would probably think it was sad. As for my friend: she’s not replying in a bid to find out how many more days he can keep this up for. Because, let’s face it, this is entertaining stuff to share!

Sometimes though, miracles do happen and you start a conversation, which is – low and behold – actually enjoyable. Finally, it’s a guy who’s not immediately asking for naked pictures, it’s not a guy in a “happy, open relationship who’s just looking for a bang” and he’s also not going straight for the meet-up, but wanting to get to know you before he’s interested in going for a coffee… I know, after all the depressing madness, you’d started to think these nice guys didn’t exist? Ha!

It doesn’t happen often, but when you do find someone willing to get to know you, there’s only a few things that can derail a great conversation. Sadly though, the following two lads – especially the latter – really couldn’t keep up with me. Maybe I’m asking for a bit much, but I really enjoy intelligent conversation. And while I’m totes happy talking about TV shows, favourite foods and other simple topics, it’s kind of an epic fail if you can’t even keep up with those easy conversation starters.

This first guy here is a classic example: he asked me about my favourite show – which I am super happy to talk about! Obviously at the moment I am all about UnReal, a show I’ve discussed at length on my blog here before. It’s a brilliant sTinder 4how and I cannot stop talking about it, it’s just so good. Unfortunately, this lovely Scot had no idea what “meta” was and figured it was something “highbrow”. I mean… Sure, I’m a literature student and perhaps it is highbrow – you tell me? – but in any case… Given that this is my favourite show right now, it’d be good if you’d at least “pretended” that you understood what I was saying? Oy oy oy! I totally get that not everyone has the same interests and therefore not the same knowledge, but Google is your friend, darlings! So when you are chatting someone up, this is just NOT how you impress someone. I’ll always take “Intelligence for 500, Bob!” Meet me halfway, will ya?

Alas, this other dude also TOTALLY failed at proving he was intelligent. We were talking about speaking different languages and considering my Belgian background, he wondered whether I could speak AND Flemish AND Dutch??? Clearly, he must also believe that Belgium is the capital of Brussels, as that’s the level of his question right there. Major face palming over at my end of the phone, as I audibly groaned while I – once again – wondered whether true love is really a major scam and all my happy couply friends are totally doing me over with this massive joke.

Tinder 5

It’s a depressing world out there, the dating world. I don’t know anyone who enjoys it all that much, as it’s ridiculously embarrassing and increasingly hopeless. And yet… Us singletons persevere in the hopes of one day finding that one person to be with and share our lives with. A feat that many of my friends have succeeded in, yet I am somehow not able to accomplish. But oh well, since fortune favours the brave and all that, I do keep trying. And let’s be honest: there’s a lot to smile about too. Because yes, dear gents, if you embarrass yourselves online, we will share with our girlfriends. And we will laugh.

My personal Beerxit

Last Friday was a momentous day in the history of Great Britain. After months of following the different  campaigns – and reading The Economist to the point where it became my new religion – I thought it was totally clear: the issues the UK is facing have little to nothing to do with its membership to the EU. Most of the problems are the byproduct of several years of austerity and a government that does not seem to be able to tackle issues, such as insecurity and equality. Don’t believe me? Please read this article from an expert – and please, don’t be so stupid as to think you know better than the experts. Because we all know what happens when you do that and no, you shouldn’t be proud of it.

Alas, Britain has voted for Brexit to go ahead, even though it’s become abundantly clear that there is no plan for the future whatsoever. There’s no clear successor to become Prime Minister, Labour is in tatters as Corbyn has just lost a massive no-confidence vote after an already staggering 30+ resignations over the weekend, the pound has fallen to a 30+ years low with but a small recuperation today and the European Union…? Well they’re done with playing nice. They just want Article 50 to be actioned, so they can get on with it. And to be honest: as painful as it’s going to be for both parties, I want them to.

I don’t want all this instability affecting the EU any more than it already has. Literally, I feel this entire business is just a matter of an insipid kid not being able to pass a test and as he goes home to his parents, he exclaims that the teacher never called on him in class during “Show & Tell” – which has absolutely nothing to do with passing the test, mind you. So please, just shut up and get on with it: you’ve pointed the finger at someone else for no other reason than that you dare not take on responsibility for major problems you have not been able to solve – now go lie in the grave you’ve dug yourself. Because the EU deserves better than that, even if I do agree the EU needs to think more on what should be included in its remit and what – inevitably – should remain within the sovereignty of the nations.

As far as Brexit goes though, I had my own personal version of Beerxit last Friday, having handed in my resignation at the company I used to work for about an hour after David Cameron said he’d be resigning. As I’m sure it was for the Prime Minister, it  was a big decision for me as well. Yet in the end, for me, the need for happiness won out. Life is too short to be unhappy. And it is far too short to be investing time and effort into a place that makes you feel like you don’t belong.

To be honest, I think I always knew I didn’t really belong. I’m part of the creative mindset, all about writing, thinking outside of the box, singing at the top of my lungs right after a major dance session. Also I believe in unicorns and I’ll be damned if I ever found someone there who did too… While I’ve always appreciated the strategic thinking of such a major corporation and definitely enjoyed getting to know so many talented people, I always felt like I was missing out: the parts of the business that I was most interested in developing, we kept outsourcing to agencies. Again, I completely understood this, but it means that while I learned a ton of new things and developed skills I will always be lucky to have, I was never able to progress certain aspects that I really wanted to as well.

So now I am like the Leave-campaigners: no clear plan on what is going to come next, though I am developing it in my minds’ eye. In real life, it basically looks like a major calendar on an A2-poster with shitloads of post-its where I am trying to figure out what my next step is going to be. For those of you who know me, I’m sure you can already picture it!

Now, while it is crazy scary, I’ve not slept better in months. While I am definitely worried, I also have not felt more relaxed in what feels like ages. And while it’s been a blow to my self-confidence, I can’t shake this optimistic feeling I’ve got that’s making me smile and look forward to what the future might have in store for me.

Sometimes you have to make a change. And contrary to the Leave-campaign, I knew that remaining a part of that company was not going to help me become a happier, more in-love-with-life type of person. So I jumped off the cliff and while I don’t know what’s at the bottom yet – a hard fall or sweet, blissful water that’ll envelop me back to the surface – I can’t wait to find out. Because at least, when I find out, it’ll be me who will discover what’s next. It won’t be some corporate junkie who’s lost all sense of self. It won’t be a miserable piece of human being with a fake smile permanently plastered on her face. It will be me. And that’s the key.

A yoga-lovin’, crazy-dancin’, unicorn-drawin’ and always-writin’ me.

UnReal is B.A.C.K!

Who cannot remember the ah-mazing tv show from last year’s summer season that made the once “single sad female” network Lifetime famous for something other than its C-rated movies of women in peril? Think abusive husbands and anorexic storylines. No? It’s not ringing any bells? Maybe that’s because the show is a bit off the grid because of its network, however it doesn’t mean that it’s not got a following. Even if a major voice in that following is just… Little old me.

UnReal is back for this year’s summer and the first 3 episodes of the season are IN. Let’s talk about them, shall we? I know it’s mandatory to warn you about spoilers and stuff, but like… If that’s something that’s on your mind, then please, go home and beg for yo momma for all the fucks I don’t give about that. I’m just going to go ahead and dig in!

Things I am already loving as much as I love cake:

  1. The suitor is BLACK! And the show is actually saying it means something real. Given the racial issues in the States over the past few months/years, I find this such a bold choice and definitely a sign pointing to the right direction, the right direction being “we are ALL people and we are ALL equally good/bad”. Skin colour, hair colour, straight teeth or no, none of that has anything to do with who we are as people and whether we love unicorns or not. I am firmly in the “love-unicorns” camp, but I would never not allow anyone entrance into my camp because of the colour of their skin! Now if they were wearing a t-shirt that said “Death to all unicorns” I might feel differently. But surely hair colour won’t have anything to do with coming into my camp.
    What I’m trying to say is: so far, I am loving the black suitor! He’s cute, he’s got a wicked smile and I genuinely love how the show is – in its own meta thinking – turning it into a big deal. Because… It IS a big fucking deal! So yay show!
  2. Rachel is still crazy. So cray cray, in fact, that she got like these weird tattoos together with Quinn at the beginning of the show? Literally they tattooed the words “Money Dick Power” onto their wrists. I’m guessing it’s to show some kind of ya-ya sisterhood thing, but clearly that didn’t last long. Rachel went behind Quinn’s back in zero point three seconds. Who doesn’t love a bit of backstabbing on this show? In any case, Rachel definitely still has the crazy eyes happening and I cannot wait what trouble that’ll cause her next!
  3. The Hot Guy. I’ve already forgotten what his name is, to be honest, but that doesn’t matter, as we will simply always refer to him as the hot guy. For those of you who do actually want to know who I’m talking about: it’s the guy who gets introduced in episode two at the very end. Basically Rachel’s backstabbing was meant so that she would be able to take over the showrunning of Everlasting, though you know what they say about the best laid plans… Instead, Gary brings in The Hot Guy to run the show and man, am I being serious when I’m telling you he’s hot! Also, I am loving the chemistry with Rachel. I wish they would have let it simmer a bit more before moving on to some of the more physical kissing bits, but I guess that’s what you get when shows only receive about 10 episodes a season. Things just move a hella lot faster.
  4. The manipulation. Oh god, it’s so awful to watch and yet it’s so friggin’ good! I do wonder whether it’s close to reality, as obviously one of the main creators of the show used to work on The Bachelor. So clearly she’s used a lot of her real life experience and worked that into the show, it’s just a matter of how much “artistic license” is being used here. In a way, I don’t know what I’d like better: for it to be wholly unreal – thus making the title of the show very correct indeed – or to be so close to reality, that we’d all have to face facts and remember that things like The Bachelor are all staged and thus – you feelin’ me already? – unreal! God I love this show and how meta it is. It’s like candy for my brain!

Things I am pretty dispassionate about, kind of like that feeling of “Oh that movie is on that I used to love as a kid, but then watched so often it got predictable and it’s now pretty nostalgic still, but also I’d be better off reading a good book… Hmm I’ll watch it, it’s fine enough. Also the remote is far away.”

  1. Chet is still around for some reason. He doesn’t look like a washed out loser anymore, as the actor has clearly lost a lot of that overflow fat – good for you! – but alas… He still plays such a loser character? He wants his kingdom back after spending time with some kind of woodlands tribe? How unreal is that? A little too much for me, to be honest. And then he wants bikini babes and slo-mo boobs instead of… The usual Everlasting crap? I mean, both are crap and very disrespectful of human beings, but at least the usual crap is disrespectful to all people, whereas Chet’s notions are only respectful to us with the boobs. The latter being discrimination. I’m not a fan. Also what’s up with the baby? When did he get born? Did I miss the part where he lost custody? Why is the baby even still a storyline? I thought Cynthia divorced him? Why am I supposed to care about this? Meh.
  2. That girl who got promoted after giving Chet a blowjob last season. I can’t remember her name anymore, I’m also not going to make an effort to care. I think she looks really weak and her response to Rachel helping her in her ear while talking to one of the candidates… Oh puh-lease, go away and never come back. I’m annoyed at her presence in the scenes. Is it the pig tails? It might be. They sure don’t help.
  3. Another suitor trying to clean up his image. Obviously, we now have a black suitor in comparison to last year, however this is the second guy who’s only signed up in order to clean up his image – be the gentleman. I get the precipice, but it means that straight from the start you basically have a dick on your hands. A lot of the early scenes with the candidates on the Everlasting show are all staged, all fake, because that’s just what he’s gotta do in order to make the show work for him. But I guess, I don’t know, it’d be a lot more interesting to have a suitor who actually wants to be there??? Is that crazy? Did that ever happen on The Bachelor? I don’t know guys, I think it’d make for an interesting dynamic, because currently it’s the women who are falling head over heals in love with “tha man” and it’s “tha man” who gets his pick of the crop and he doesn’t even care… It makes the feminist in me look sad, maybe?

There might be a few other things, but I’ll save that for some other time. I’m just wondering: are you guys watching, yes, no? What’d you think? How meta – and unreal – is this thing? I cannot wait for next week yo!

GET E.X.C.I.T.E.D:

War on Terror comes to Belgium

It was Tuesday morning. I was in my car driving to work – my last day before going on holiday to Belgium & seeing my friends and family for Easter. The sun was shining brightly and I was smiling, because it was going to be a good day. I was looking forward to knocking down my to-do list and leaving the office with the happy expectation of travelling home – my real home. I remember thinking that I was truly “loving life” at that moment.

My phone was getting messages whilst I was driving, but I hadn’t had a chance to look at them until I arrived at the office. I turned the key in my ignition, silencing my car and got out. As I was walking into my office building, I looked at the messages on Whatsapp. It was a group conversation and several people were saying they hoped “the Belgians were all right”. I didn’t quite get it. So as I plunked my bag down next to my desk, I opened my News app and waited anxiously as it was scouring the web for new stories. And then there it was.

There had been an attack in Brussels. At the airport. Just that morning. My heart stops. My breathing stops. And I try to remember how my mom was going to Paris that morning. She must be on the train, right? She never takes a flight to Paris. Never. But there’s always that possibility. I text her a quick message to check she’s OK. Next I open my laptop to find more information on what’s happened – the tiny screen of my phone isn’t enough for this.

My favourite Belgian newspaper’s landing page is… A disaster. It’s in big letters: “Attacks on Brussels” – my heart skips a beat when I read the use of plural. Apparently it’s not just the airport, but the metro as well. Who do I know in Brussels? Who might be hurt? As I list more and more people in my head, my dread becomes insane. Currently there’s only one victim reported dead – it makes me feel confident somehow. Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe the wounded number will be low as well – and they will hopefully survive.

One hour passes and the whole world has changed. My world has changed. The death toll keeps rising. The images and videos online show disastrous circumstances. My email pings. Something from my to-do list in the office today, something I was excited about ticking off. I can’t think right now. My mom hasn’t texted me back. I need to call her. NOW. She picks up and sounds OK. She went by train. And she left right before the attacks. Before the city was on lockdown. She’s safe and she will be for the next couple of days at least.

I text my friends. As many of them as I can think of to have ties with Brussels, whether they live there or work there or both. Most respond back. But I can’t find my sister. She works about a mile from Molenbeek, where some of the terrorists have been found in the past. She teaches Dutch to immigrant high school children, who are hoping to integrate. Despite the circumstances, the irony’s never lost on me. I send her a text. It doesn’t arrive. The newspaper’s website says that the mobile network is down due to overuse. There’s a request to use mobile data instead, so as to keep the lines free for emergencies. I send a Whatsapp. Just one checkmark next to my message. It doesn’t arrive.

I have meetings in the office that day. One really important one. I can’t think. I can only watch the news. And text my friends. And find out all transport has been locked down, including the Eurostar – which I’m supposed to take the next day. I can’t deal with this. People in the office are coming up to me to ask if everyone I know is safe. I don’t know how to answer. I haven’t found everyone yet. Where is my sister? I know the likelihood that she was somewhere in that area is small, but I don’t know her route to work. And the city is on lockdown. What if she’s in the middle of a manhunt? I try to breathe.

I walk away from my desk and find a bench outside. The sun is gorgeous. There’s a pretty flowerbed. But I don’t notice anything. I just sit down and start crying. From worry. From fear. From anxiety. From shock. From pain. From heartache for my country. From everything at once, because I feel everything at once and I can’t get out. I can’t find reason within this morning. I don’t understand. My throat constricts and I don’t know how to be me. A friend comes up to me and hugs me. She doesn’t know what’s happened. But as soon as I tell her, she just hugs me tighter.

And so the morning continues. I try to focus on work. Find that I can’t and break down. It’s like a circle and I keep going round and round the loop. My team takes turns in being there for me. Trying to ease the pain. But I always come back to the same circle & I start crying again. Tons of people see me cry that day. Probably the whole office. I just can’t believe it. This is Brussels. This is Belgium. We are laid back. We eat waffles. One of our most famous landmarks is a little boy who pees, for crying out loud?! We haven’t done anything wrong.

In the end, it makes no sense for me to stay. I leave the office, hours earlier than I had planned on. My to-do list virtually untouched. My last day, my joyful day before my holiday has completely disappeared into the fog of my anxious self. Then my phone beeps. It’s my sister. She’s been in Antwerp all this morning, planning to go into Brussels in the afternoon. Those plans don’t exist anymore. She’s going to try to go home. She’ll let me know once she gets there. My breathing, which I’d been holding since that beep, starts back up again. I take a few deep breaths. And feel relief. Like a massive weight has finally been lifted.

My phone beeps again. It’s Facebook, of all things. But when I read it, I am overjoyed. It’s a safety check, where everyone can indicate whether they are safe (or not) and friends get the automatic update. In that moment, in that very instant, I am loving social media. I thank God we have it. Because  the list is long. Some of my best friends, some friends who I’ve lost touch for a while, but all of them people I’ve been worried for. They are OK. They are safe.

As the day comes to a close, the Eurostar announces it should run normally the next day. Travellers are advised to double-check the next morning and if all is going smoothly, to make sure to be extra early for check-in. There will be heightened security. Of course. I try not to mind. I don’t mind extra security for the guarantee of safety. But Belgium has always been the complete opposite of this: more about living life, less about infinite amounts of worry and “what if?”. The Belgian lifestyle is relaxed, slow, chilled out, something I’ve always loved. But for how much longer? In the back of my mind I wonder what I will be coming home to.

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What to watch on a Sunday

Hi y’all!

I seem to keep making promises about being better on here and apologising every time I haven’t written in a while and… Ya know what? Enough already. So I’m a writer who only writes on occasion. Better that I have something to say than that you waste 10 precious minutes, no?

So today, let’s talk about this new year and how #PeakTV is absolutely killin’ the TV landscape out there! Holy shizzle there’s some good stuff out there! So let me tell you what’s on my watch list. I wanted to do it all in one go, but I got to Tuesday and realised… Well, I watch a shit ton of shows? So to make this a bit more bearable, I’ll cut it into a few days at a time.

Let’s start with the beautiful day of rest – and coincidentally amazing TV day – my beloved Sunday:

The Good Wife: a show that’s on its seventh season now – and presumably its last – and one I have followed since its inception in 2009. Man, that’s so long ago? That’s when I started college y’all! It feels like a freakin’ lifetime ago, to be honest. And the show has had its ups and downs throughout the years. Season 1 will always be a bit of a procedural that doesn’t seem to have a lasting effect on people. At that point, its only advantage compared to Suits is that you actually learn something about the American legal system. But holy mother of evolution: by the time we got to season 5, I couldn’t believe how amazing it was! People, this is a show that isn’t afraid to re-evaluate and shake things up in a big way. More importantly, it also “knows” what kind of show it is, so expect some more meta-episodes towards the latter seasons.

Best episode to date: season 5, “Hitting the Fan” – Note: I miss Will!
Best line to date: “We’re coming after you — all your clients — every single one we worked to make happy while you swept in at the last minute to take credit. We’re taking them. And then you know what you’ll have? A very nice suite of offices.”

Madam Secretary: in its second year since the fall, this is something I’ve been watching because of its feel-good vibes. The stakes are (supposedly) high, but I’m never worried, as the happy ending is always present. Can’t think what my favourite episode would be here, but I did quite like the latter episodes of the first season. Just those Henry-storylines always bug me: he’s not that interesting, show!!! Please don’t try to make him so, because it ain’t gonna work. Such a different role from his past in Private Practice. I’m just not very impressed with him here. But I like Leoni’s glasses and how they’re constantly used as this prop for when she’s “serious” and in business-mode. Like, I do that too! However, does it feel like they’re slightly too low on her nose? She cannot be getting great sight through those, am I right?
Anyways, this is not a must-watch, but feel free if you’ve got the time.

Billions: I’ve only watched two episodes so far, as this baby is brand new! It’s therefore not withstood the famed 4-episode test yet, so I will not tell you to watch this for now. But I’d be keen to hear what you think of it. It seems our ex-Homeland, ex-Wolf Hall Damian Lewis seems to be the perfect anti-hero: he’s clearly going to be the one getting chased for his greed in the hedgefund business, but let’s face it, we’ll still be rooting for him anyways. He’s a stand-up guy who worked his way up from nothing – who now owns balls the size of Texas with all the money he’s earned over the years. That speech where he makes this down-on-its-luck family take $9 million instead of the promised $25 because he once got fired from his caddy-gig at a golf club by the grandfather?! Priceless, I tell ya. Also, I don’t trust men who like to be peed on. Chuck Rhodes, that’s disgusting man! I will never root for you or your beard!

Best line to date: “You need this 9 million dollars, because none of you, not one, has done a single day of work from the moment your miserable prick of a grandfather fell face down in the sand in Palm Beach. And after reviewing your holdings, your business interests, your debts, I know that this cheque is the only thing standing between your family and bankruptcy. So pick it up, put it in your pocket and walk out of here. Or I will.”

Mercy Street: Another new show, started just last week, so only 2 episodes to date. However what I’ve seen so far seems very promising. Set in the US of A during one of its darkest periods, the Civil War, this show is about a war hospital where soldiers from both sides get treated.
We’re in occupied Alexandria – a state that it’s in the South, so it’s the Yankees who are occupying the place – where a hotel has been converted into a hospital. There’s two nurses from either side present: a can-do widow from the North and a luscious Southern belle who makes you think of Scarlett O’Hare when she was still all innocent and naive. Surprisingly, I found AnnaSophia Robb here – most known for The Carrie Diaries, may it rest in peace – with a pretty darn good Southern accent! So far the show hasn’t broken any dishes yet, but it’s good entertainment and I like many a good period piece!
And honestly, it’s refreshing to watch one that’s, for once, not set in England. I’m all for Downton Abbey, Outlander, Wolf Hall, The Tudors, The White Queen… See what I mean? None of them go beyond those island borders. And I, for one, like to see something else. And considering all the racial issues prevalent in the USA right now, I’m eager to see more of a show that centers on a war, which – let’s be honest – had a lot to do with abolishing slavery. I’ll keep you posted!

Best line to date: “It is a hospital! For sick people! Blood is not grey or blue, madam. It’s all one colour.”
A bit strange coming from the man who’s not all for freeing slaves, but at least the doc is clear on helping everyone who comes through those doors, may it be Union or Confederacy.

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In the flesh: our Southern Belle