Day 319 – It’s Over.

Money spent: $0   

11 weeks after I left the most horrible company in the world, I finally settled.

It’s still not what I had hoped for. It’s probably not even close to what I deserve… but it’s enough to walk away with my head held high and the faith that Karma and all of you have my back.

Last night I emailed a friend to let her know the above, and she replied that “you should be proud of yourself.” And you know what… I think I should be.

Yes, I still lost a huge amount of money, and that’s not fair. But finally – finally! – I can let this go, and move on to better things. Because make no mistake, it has been stressful and tiring. It consumed so much of my thinking, while all I really wanted was to focus 100% on my new job, the career ahead and the opportunities that are right there, in my future.

So today, I’m really happy and peaceful and so ready to move on.

And that, my friends, is the best feeling in the world.

via  loubis-and-champagne.tumblr.com

via loubis-and-champagne.tumblr.com

PS: thank you so much for all your kind words, support, good vibes, comments in the past weeks. I hope you’re as relieved as I am that this chapter is now closed.

PPS: this is a super short post, but – understandingly and since I have close to no packing left to do… I’m out celebrating.

PPPS: I’m also tremendously proud to say, that I put 5000 dollars towards my debt today, my savings account is finally taking off and I have a little budget to purchase some things for the apartment.

PPPPS: an apartment where – by the way – I have a great sofa bed for rent (for short term stay only!) Check my About page to email me if you – or someone you know – is looking for a GREAT place to stay in one of the most awesome neighborhoods in Manhattan. YAY!! 

 

Day 318 – Internal Clock. Mine is Flippin’.

Money spent: $0 

For two days in a row now, I’ve been waking up at 5.30am, to the beat. My eyes fly open and I’m wide awake, an hour before my alarm goes off.

Trying to trick my body back into sleep, seems useless, so I just get out of bed and get ready… which is all quite alright, but that means that for two days straight now, I’ve been getting to work at 8am, and not at the usual 9.

My office at 8am – the incubator where my company rents a space – is still empty when I arrive that early. I also noticed that the last person never turns the light off… or the lights just never go off. Funny thought, though. I always figured that all those bright lights behind glasses in the middle of the night, belonged to those workaholics beating deadlines. Turns out someone just didn’t find the light switch.

In comparison to what I remember from paying in Belgium, utilities are relatively inexpensive over here. The taxes alone make a solid 12% difference.

Last night, I was talking about these differences to someone, as the question was posed where the quality of life was better: here or there. So I made a little review. Just in case you were contemplating moving to Brussels in the near future.

  1. The weather.

My Facebook feed always – always! – gets an overload on weather reports, and mostly they are complaints: the weather in Belgium is generally to be described as ‘grey and wet’, and often times, a year feels like one stretched fall, with occasionally a good day, and if the Gods are truly finding them in a festive mood, that might even translate in a good week.

Although the winters are extremely cold, and the summers on the more humid side: I dig the 4 seasons in New York.

  1. Work Ethic.

Topic yesterday as well. I’ve gotten used to life never fully stopping here on the East Coast, but if you were to tell someone in Belgium they’d have to work on a Sunday – or a weekend – they’d scream blood murder, call in the entire village and hunt you down with axes.

There’s always a strike or the threat to go on a strike, and in most cases it’s to complain about workload just being too much… I guess there’s only so much you can do in 36 hours a week, right?

Nah… there’s pride in actually working for your reward.

  1. Health Care.

I did applaud our social security system. I mean: if you go to a doctor and pay 35 euro for a visit, and you get 30 euros back from your health insurance… you basically have nothing to worry about, right?

But the system got disproved by my companion, who stated that ‘yeah… but nothing is ever free, right? So how about taxes?’

4.  Taxes.

Taxes on groceries are 6%, but on all other things – whether it’s a house, a car or a computer – are a solid 21%. To calculate your net income, the rule is to divide your gross in three, and multiply by two… or also: you easily pay 33% income taxes. If you’re lucky, that’s it… but most people I know – including myself – get an extra bill to contribute a little more at the end of the year.

 

So, bottom line, it’s not all that bad over here…. It’s not all that bad over here, either. There’s always room for improvement, of course, but in general, I think it comes down to this: wherever you settle down: just go with the flow, change what you can change, live within your means and just make the best of it.

 

Peace!

 

PS: Coincidentally, I ran across this article in my Facebook feed… it would have made for a fine point 5 on the above list: the horrible (truly awful) traffic in Belgium, and why that is so.

Day 317 – All the Pretty Boxes.

Money spent: $0 

On Monday Morning, at 8am, the movers arrive at my doorstep to pick up all my belongings and bring them to my new life.

As someone who overly stresses out in situations like this, that means that I’ll be ready to go on Saturday, somewhere around noon. That’ll be one interesting Sunday!

photo (6)

So, since I’m surrounded by boxes and by junk that still needs to find a place (possibly in the trash can), I thought I’d go for a round of “Hey! It’s Ok!”…  you know, because it’s fun!

HEY! IT’S OK!!

  • To pack boxes in your underwear when it’s 90 degrees outside. Just be aware of them cardboard cuts…. (wish I knew this one before I wrote it down).
  • To plan to live on beans for the rest of the week, because that’s the only can you didn’t pack yet…
  • To potentially pick something up on the way home, because drastic times call for drastic measures… and I doubt I can survive on beans for 5 more days.
  • To cancel that event you had RSVP’d to, because you have more important things to do. Like all of the above, mostly
  • To be ridiculously happy that Netflix has a new season of ‘Parenthood’ on file! Yay!
  • To dramatically run for the elevator and give everyone in it an early morning shock when your foot holds the doors JUST in time. We all want to make it in time, people!
  • To seriously consider getting your driver’s license.

About the latter: as I made it in the elevator just in time, a guy who also works on my floor and I started talking, and from one topic we hopped to the other, and all of a sudden we were talking about driving in NYC.

Not that I have a need to drive in the city, but occasionally, the idea of renting a car and driving someplace is appealing. So yeah… I’m contemplating to get my US license.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes… Red lights still mean ‘stop’, right?

Day 316 – The Wind of Change.

Money spent: $30 on a 2 hour Kundalini Workshop.  

Yesterday was a New Moon and today was the birthday of Yogi Bhajan, so I thought it to be an excellent time to attend the New Moon Kundalini workshop at the studio that introduced me to the wonders of meditation and the teachings of a kind, warm hearted man.

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I started noticing the effect of the moon, mostly when she’s full: it’s as if my current mindset increases with a ratio of infinity plus one. When I’m sad, I get depressed. When I’m mad, I’m a raging bull. And when I’m happy, I fall in love with the entire world and everyone in it.

New moons are different, and for the longest time, I didn’t like the nights that weren’t even remotely lit by her silver sheen. It felt as if she had turned her back to the earth in that silent, disapproving manner that’s typical for someone’s feelings you’ve hurt. Little did I know that my perception was off.

I learned last night that farmers – and I don’t whether that is still the case – never planted anything on nights of the Full Moon. It was common knowledge that, no matter how fruitful the soil, no seed would spring roots, and no good harvest would come of it. Instead, I was told, the New Moon announces the perfect time for sowing. To plant the seed of intention in the most fertile grounds of our minds… and trust that nature will run its course.

I like that idea.

So from now on, every New Moon, I will set the best of intention… and every Full Moon, I will harvest whatever comes forth. And here’s how you can do the same:

  1. Write it down.

Think about what it is you desire. Whether it’s improvement of your financial situation, meeting the love your life, establish better friendships or find answers to questions you might have. Writing gives you insight, and that clarity is exactly what you need.

 

  1. Use a positive, present tense.

Write it as if it already happened, and declare how happy that makes you feel. Use positive, affirmative statements, and avoid negatives. Say: “I am so grateful  now that my bank account shows a positive amount.” Write about 10 to 15 statements, describing your positive, joyful feelings now that you have what you desire.

 

  1. This, or something better.

The power of intention is a desirable thing, but people often wean when what they want doesn’t happen. I used to be the same. Have faith though, that whatever power believe in, works greater than you can ever imagine. Therefore, conclude writing your ideal vision with “this, or something better, for the highest good of all concern.”

 

Now go sow, my little farmer friends… sow them goals and intentions and desires!

 

PS: I wore my Yogi Bhajan top today. It reads “I don’t believe in miracles. I rely on them.” Only fitting.

Day 315 – Big Brothers Are Watching You.

Money spent: $0  

I remember a time where governments started using camera’s in public spaces and events, to guarantee the safety of their citizens, and people being absolutely opposed to the fact that Orson’s 1984 predictions came true: big brother would indeed be watching us.

Fast Forward to 2014, where we use our phone’s camera’s to film and shoot every happening in our lives.

The fact that we tag friends in pictures without as much as their approval is one thing. The fact that you use your kid’s head shot as your profile picture on a dating site a little distasteful but still a choice of your own. Go ahead and share your baby’s first steps, a time lapse of your pregnancy and the excitement for having received a bouquet of flowers.

But there’s also the videos of a man shot down. A busdriver who shoves a woman of the bus. A kid being bullied at a station. A man hitting a racist tantrum at a pub in Brussels. Videos that stir a commotion, overloaded with thousands of comments and opinions.

The question raising is this one: what happened to our privacy? Have all our actions become public property? If I trip and land face first on the pavement and become the next big YouTube hit, by no choice of my own, is the entire world entitled to laugh at my expense? This is not about oversharing anymore… it’s about us becoming our own worst enemies.

Nothing justifies horrible behavior: whether it is a racist outburst on the R train or a cop shooting a civilian. But is it really necessary to publicly punish those who do wrong?

Because, that, to me, sounds a bit like in the olden days… where they chopped the thief’s hand off on the market place while people were elbowing their way to the front row.

You’d think we evolved from that.

I don’t know… just some thoughts on a Monday.

Day 314 – It’s The End of an Era!

Money spent: $0  

Here’s how I pictured moving from one apartment to another: get boxes. Put stuff in boxes. Load boxes on truck. Unload boxes from truck. Unpack boxes.

In reality, though, it’s more like: Get boxes. Looks like bomb exploded in my apartment. No idea how everything is going to get from one place to the other.  There’s not even a truck in sight yet.

 

slightly exaggerated... maybe. via apotential.wordpress.com

slightly exaggerated… maybe.
via apotential.wordpress.com

 

But with a week to go, I guess I should not panic. Yet. So let’s give me a break from deciding if I still want that blue sweater that I haven’t worn for 2 seasons, and check last week’s goals.

  1. Back to Work Out. Apart from marching through the city from one vacant apartment to the other, I’ve neglected my yoga/running workout severely. Hopefully, after tomorrow, I can get back to the routine I’ve gotten used to.

SUCCESS!! Since I didn’t have to dedicate my spare time to endlessly browsing the Naked Apartments, Trulia, Streeteasy and Craigslist (and other) websites, nor sightsee the interiors of a gazillion of apartments, I got back to running.

  1. Box it! Yep, it is that time. I want everything that I won’t be needing in the next two weeks, to be packed and ready to go.

SUCCESS!! I’d say I’m about halfway through the boxing process, and with a week and a weekend left until moving day, I’d say I’m right on schedule.

  1. Toss it! Now that I’m moving, I’m – again – going to toss whatever doesn’t fit my new life. That also means a very thorough wardrobe cleanse (again).

SUCCESS!! Not that was that much to toss, since I had had some “stripping my life from the unnecessary” episodes in the previous months, but the idea of traveling lightly into my new life, sure feels good.

  1. Settle and Move On. Let’s all hope that this coming week is the one where I can finally close a chapter, and move on with my life.

NOT AS OF YET… But I do have in writing that I can expect an answer – and hopefully a check – in the first half of this coming week.

  1. Peace of Mind. Surely, a settlement will be helpful, but I’ve also neglected my meditation routine lately – one that kept me strong and hopeful through the toughest times. I want to reintroduce that practice into my daily life.

ALMOST… I’m guessing I’ll get back to this part full on, once I’ve settled down again and all my clothes, books and furniture are harbored into a new place. So I’m not being too hard on myself for not being able to sit still.

All stress aside, I’m very excited about moving. I went to visit the apartment yesterday to make some arrangements with the current tenants and discuss the painting job with the super, which got me to sketch a floorplan and visualize my new digs and its potential…

photo (5)

It’s like a castle, really.

Once a designer, always a designer, I assume. And once a goal-list-maker…

  1. Write a letter. I had never thought my New Year’s Resolutions would eventually fade into non-existence. It was such a great list to work on. But the circumstances in the past months were those that you best surrender to, and it wasn’t as if my life depended upon them. However, in the light of yesterday’s post, there is a letter I need to write, to let someone know how much he means to me, how much I love him, how much I will miss him and how grateful I am for the time he got to spend in my life.
  2. Carpe Diem. Life is made out of the good times, and the bad times. That is just how it is. But every day is a new chance to be outstanding in grasping it by the roots, and make the very best of it. I need to remember that more often.
  3. Debt Repayment Galore. Depending on how this settlement works out, I am determined to use some of the money to debt repayment. Duh.
  4. Book a Massage. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a 30 dollar groupon for an hour long hot stone massage. A treat I kept aside for ‘the right time’. Which, I know, doesn’t exist, really, but I figure that after the move, and after what should be a settlement… I’ll deserve. I’m going to make the call this week and schedule 60 minutes to kneed the knobs out of my body.
  5. Keep Calm and Don’t Stress Out. I tend to flip when things need organizing. Like say… oh, I don’t know… a move? This time around though, I’m just going to try my very best to keep it cool and just go with the flow.

The last week of August is about to start off. Not to make it all that symbolic, but let’s be honest: when I close the door behind me next Monday, it’ll be the end of an era.

I’ll toast to that.

Day 313 – Sad News.

Money spent: $10.20 on laundry.

There’s a thin line between joy and sadness. Today, the excitement of my upcoming move got overshadowed by some sad news from Belgium.

It was an afternoon early summer of 2008, my friend Kevin and I sitting at the bar of my parent’s pub, making plans for the season still stretching out in front of us.

Maybe we should make a trip somewhere… we could go to Paris!”, I suggested. Then he rolled his eyes and gave me that look that only gay men perfected and said: “Paris? Sweetie… we’re too cool for Paris. We should go to New York!”

And with that, the seed for what would become a goal in my life was planted in my mind. I couldn’t let go anymore: all summer long, I thought and talked about nothing else.

Eventually, Kevin bailed out for reasons I can’t remember, pissing me off so severely that it had me jump into my car, drive to the nearest travel agency and book the trip all by myself. My parents were only a little in shock when I announced that I’d be going to NYC solo.

But yeah… it’s that one random afternoon in 2008 that started the whole journey.

Kevin has lived an amazing life as a professional ballet dancer, and he has travelled the world. He followed his then boyfriend to Miami, where he lived for two years, until their breakup had him move back to Belgium, where he’d enter my life and become one of my closest and dearest friends.

It was back in Belgium that he found out he had HIV, not that it stopped him from living abundantly and full of hunger and passion for life, joy and laughter.

At a certain point – I think it was 2010 – and after not hearing from him for a couple of weeks, I stopped by his house. When he opened the door it was as if death itself stood in front of me. He was clearly very ill, but afraid to go to the hospital and seek the medical care he needed. Afraid, probably, to hear what was obvious: he had passed the HIV stage, and was diagnosed with AIDS.

He didn’t give up though. After several weeks in the hospital, he was more determined than ever to make the best of his life. He never stopped joking, laughing or dancing. He opened a pub of his own, where his natural ability to entertain flourished.

But when I went to visit him a couple of weeks ago, it was clear that things weren’t going well, a l leisure – the typical skin cancer condition associated with Aids – camouflaged on his face. He asked me to follow him to the kitchen and announced that the doctors had given up: the cocktails of pills and drugs weren’t working anymore. I tried to stay positive, but when he lifted his shirt to show an uncountable amount of purplish marks on his oh so skinny torso, I had to do my best not to start crying.

We said goodbye as if it wasn’t the last time. “I’ll see you when I come back for Christmas!”, I promised. He nodded in utter agreement.

Today, though, my mom let me know that he might not make that.

I don’t know how to say goodbye to someone who’s so far away, or how to thank him for being such an important player in my own life’s course.

So I’m not saying goodbye just yet.

PS: if you pray, please dedicate a prayer to my friend. If you are spiritual or meditate, please send a Long Time Sun prayer to Kevin. And if you don’t believe in anything at all, please send him some love, for his big heart would sure love you back for it.