One of the reasons to go for an exchange exactly this year was to get a bit of breathing space. I have some formidable, even a bit scary, changes coming up in the next years. I’m thinking about my future studies, career and all that stuff and planning for some big things to happen. Thinking that through requires some effort. That’s why the idea was to escape my previous surroundings and get out of the oh let’s just go for a beer and stop worrying mentality. I’m not meaning this as any accusation towards any of my friends. It is a normal way of coping with the status quo of everyday life. For these questions, however, I felt I needed to be somewhat alone to be able to question my life properly. The distortion and noise from the normal life would just have been too big to really concentrate. Surprisingly I never expected was how hard it would be to try to do nothing.
Normally, I’m so used to running the gauntlet of everyday life that not having all those essays, exams, deadlines, meetings, projects and parties now seems somehow quite weird. Here, I have an enormous amount of free time and I deliberately try to avoid filling it with all the normal stuff. I’ve tried to be, abnormally for an exchange student, very picky about my time to savour those free time moments. I made a decision early on in here, which was that if I plan to have time to think, I can’t spend every night hanging around in clubs until 5am. Well, I couldn’t take the smoke here anyway. Goddamn Austrian smoking laws! But I digress.
I’ve got to admit I’m still not very good at this emptiness. Quite often it leads to hours spent watching TV or listening to the same old music I always listen to. So I’m blocking my train of thought with all that stuff that hardly can be called important. And that makes me feel like I’m letting myself down: instead of thinking or educating myself, I’m watching some neverheard dude do some I-don’t-even-care stuff on screen. Time well spent. This heavily Lutheran influenced work ethic of a previous competitive sportsman is a problem in its own right, but I’ll get back to it some later time. So far I’ve mainly ben bypassing dealing with that and tried to develop myself (whatever that means) a lot. I’ve tried increased my book intake: I now spend around 10% of my time reading. All fine and well, except force-feeding somebody else’s thoughts doesn’t help much if I’m supposed to be thinking my own stuff. I find most books very fascinating, but only a minority of them will help me with the issue What is it that I want to do? Especially as I’m not even deliberately seeking books related to that issue, I’m just reading stuff that I find generally intriguing.
Thinking about life, the universe and everything is a very subconscious process and probably that’s why I’m having some trouble with it. It’s not something that can just be decided to be solved in an evening. I can’t just sit down and force myself to think about it. The process just needs to drag along, run its own course and then, sooner or later, I’ll feel like I’m done with it. There will never be very concrete results. All the ambiguity about future career prospects, where I’ll live or how many kids I’ll have or when will surely be there. The future will never look like a single determined pathway. But that is exactly the point: the ambiguity of I have no idea what to do with my life should be replaced by the I know what I’ll do and stuff will happen kind of uncertainty. It’ll still be uncertain and that is to be embraced as a part of life – not regarded as something negative.