A letter from my fearful self

Dear Selina,

I’ve warned you before, and I will warn you again: what you’re currently doing is utterly irresponsible.

I don’t know how many times I have to ring the internal alarm bell. (Clearly the bell is broken because I’ve pressed it so many times and seems like you didn’t hear them!) How many times do I have to wake you up in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts, racing heartbeats and sweaty palms before you’ll finally listen to me.

It’s as if you still haven’t grown up and are refusing to open your eyes to the harsh reality of the world. When will you admit that all these gallivanting and experimenting and swimming against the current are nothing but a long rebellious streak, not a purposeful life choice.

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On work

Have you ever wondered: What is work?

Maliesingel, Utrecht

Is work our means to earn a living –  nothing more than a job, an equal trade of one’s time and skill for a wage, all the stuff we do between 9 to 5 in order to pay the bills? Is work the tool that helps us accumulate wealth, the activity that can be steadily tracked and measured by how much the bank statement grows at the end of the month, or how much possession we have amassed? Or is work our art – how we express ourselves in this world, our attempt at making a permanent mark in this transient life?

Is work our distraction? The seemingly-urgent, yet inconsequential fire we put out every day, over and over again, the squeaking wheel we’re forced to grease, the routine we use to fill our days. We cultivate a love-hate relationship with our work. We detest & complain about it, but secretly enjoy having the constant anxiety so we don’t have to think about all the other things. Imagine if all the work-related thoughts and worries suddenly disappear from our mind, what would be there instead? Maybe work is the ever expanding foam we use to fill the void in our mind, which would otherwise be occupied by self-doubt and existential questions that are much harder to confront. That’s why work is called occupation, isn’t it? It occupies our time and our mind.

Now, do you work to live or do you live to work? Is work our identity, the label we wear, the answer we give when someone asks, “And what do you do?”. And if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, how often does this seemingly innocuous question feels like a socially-accepted method of sizing someone up, to measure someone’s worthiness and how they stack up in the socioeconomic ladder, if they’re worth our attention and our time.

In our society, work provides a sense of self that feels real, or real enough that we can use it to fend off stranger’s question about who we are, and write it down on various forms that seek to ascertain our identity. No wonder we have come to believe that one’s work is one’s worth. How often do we value others based on what they do for work?

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Trashtalk

Found on the side of a dumpster in downtown Utrecht

“Back to normal? Normal was the problem”