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Author Archives: violeta

About violeta

No special talents, just passionately and fashionably curious! I blog about what I can no longer keep to myself, and I write about my experiences and reactions to them. Everything from travel, sports and books, to social issues, trends and findings. I myself am a Bulgarian expat living in Amsterdam for more than 5 years now, mostly very happy and accustomed to my new home, and at times questioning where and what home is, craving for some neverland. I try to keep up with my regular job being a data scientist, my soon to be past academic research and my freelance editing while maintaining my passion for books and sports. I am a regular runner (did a marathon) and enjoy the mental release that comes with my boxing trainings. Besides books, sports, travel and expat life, I am interested in various social phenomena -- be it trends in happiness, inequality across nations or within a nation, and different determinants of behavior. In my research, I explored why some people turn the way that they are and what experiences and factors shaped them to be in this particular way, why they make the choices that they make and what this tells us overall about the general well-being of humanity. But above all, I am fascinated by numbers and data, which is what I am making my living from these days. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I hope you enjoyed reading it!

Taking some time off and the complete serenity of it

Not long ago I wrote about how important it is to timely act upon all decisions and urges we have, and not put things off (you can find the post here). I mentioned there that I was planning to take a few weeks off between my two jobs because I had never before had the chance to do that. Well, now my time is up and I wanted to share how the whole experience went for me. Spoiler alert: It was one of the best things I have ever done and few things in life have made me happier.

One of the first things that happened was that I was put in uncomfortable situations. I travelled with a group of other people, who spoke a language at which I don’t feel super fluent; I travelled alone, going on daily excusions, communicating with people I never met in my life, explaining and sometimes defending the fact that I was travelling alone. I travelled with my boyfriend and we were offerred overpriced touristic ‘attractions’ which made me feel quite uncomfotable. But all of these weird and uncomfrable things did expand my horizons, one way of another.

Secondly, I got to visit stunning places I always wanted to go to. All of them — to some extent but not equally — had rich history, interesting culture, beautiful nature, delicious food, soulfood music, friendly people, interesting flora and fauna, and all the air of a new place that charms and mystifies you.

When you take away the stress and pressure of your job, of the daily routine, of all small troubles and trepidations you have in your everyday life, something wonderful happens. You open up for new experiences, you start noticing the small beautiful details of things that surround you, and stop sweating off the small stuff. You become content with little and you want to do more. But then again, it is easy to feel that way when you have nothing to really worry about.

I had the chance to spend time reading books, doing some sports, watching movies and TV series, to find new music that calms and inspires me and overall, open up and allow myself to be moved by different forms of art. In the past, whenever I had some free time, I would devote a bigger part of it to learning something new, usually related to my job, or related to learning the local language (in my case, Dutch). But now I read for pleasure. I watched silly, as well as beautiful movies. I watched TV series about beautiful places and women leading ordinary lives but having extraordinary friendships. I ran outside when the weather permitted and simply enjoyed the sun and breeze in my face, taking in the view wherever I was. I listened to music that gave me goosebumps. I sang in the shower to it and danced to it while no one was around. I lied on a gorgeous Caribbean beach and simply looked at the wind playing with the palms’ leaves.

For a few weeks I simply did nothing but I felt everything, experienced so much and have seldom before in life had this feeling of pure content and serenity. I focused on myself, and at the same time, focused on everything and everyone but me. I reflected and felt grounded. I travelled, I saw, I sought and felt complete and utter freedom. Would I have felt this way if things in my life were different, if say I did not have a job waiting for me, or a person happy to see me back from each new trip? I don’t know. Will I ever be able to travel as much, and to feel this way of complete freedom and satisfaction with my life and feel like I might not have everything I ever wanted but I have more than I ever hoped for and needed? I don’t know. Will I be able to go to some stunning, gorgeous places any time soon and forget about all the little troubles I might have at that point in my life? I certainly hope so. It might not happen to me again but these past few weeks have been among the best and happiest time in my life. I felt I have travelled a lot but I always felt at home, I always felt safe, sometimes homesick though not sure for where. And now I returned and feel at ease. I feel sad it is over but I am energized and ready to tackle a new challenge. But I have to admit a very good part of this all was that there was someone, always awaiting for me to return.

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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Happiness, Travel

 

Life is too short to put things off

I am not into new year’s resolutions. I never needed this kind of stimulus to make changes in my life. Whenever something feels not right, I try to change it as soon as I get the courage and summon the power of will to do so.

This year somehow something did not feel exactly right. In particular, I was in this job, which I enjoyed but was getting a bit bored at. I had a steep learning curve at the beginning but things had begun to taper off. Given that this is my first industry job, and coming from an environment where you always want to learn more, there is always something else, some new skill and technique to add to your arsenal, I decided I was too young, and was at too early a stage at my career, to become that comfortable. So, I made a switch. And unlike the first time when I looked for a job (you can read about my experiences which were anything but a walk in the park here), this time things worked out quote smoothly.

Then the next thing I really wanted and needed to do was to take a month off between assignments. Most people will do that after high school or college. But after high school I had no money to travel, nor after undergrad and grad school. After completing my PhD, from my new job they wanted me to immediately start working. So I split my vacations between going back home and stealing a weekend here and there. But that’s it. No where super exciting. Nowhere you need shots to go to. And when if not now? After all, what to do with some draining savings if not invest them in life experiences?

It is an overused cliché, but life is indeed too short to postpone what you want to do. A completely different life could be only a decision away. And a few steps out of your comfort zone.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Holidays, Life, Uncategorized

 

Putting 2016 behind

As the bad news keep on pouring on us on a daily basis, many of us – I bet – are eager to put the year behind. I am not one who is very fascinated or excited with the coming of any new year (partly because January and February are such bleak months, they tend to get me a little depressed). Therefore, I never do New Year’s resolutions, never draw lines and make countdowns when the year comes to an end. But given the many bad things happened to humanity in the past year, it made me ponder how well I fared.

It has been not such a bad year for me personally. I did have a number of firsts and a number of achievements. The biggest is perhaps that I defended and obtained my PhD diploma, something I was working on in the past 3 years of my life. I wish back then I felt a speck of pride or joy, but well… I am and will be reaping the fruits of it in the future, I hope.

I moved out of the apartment I was sharing with other people in the past 4 years to an independent, grown-up space of my own. I got to decorate it the way  it seemed fit to me, I painted it and bought the furniture I wanted to have in it.

I was doing well in my job and in my relationship. I learned a lot at my job, and was happy to be adding value to an important real-life problem. My relationship also moved on to the next level and I shared many happy moments and invaluable experiences with my significant other.

I did some travelling and exploring. When it comes to travelling, my notion is that it can never be enough, but I am always satisfied if at least I have visited some place I had never seen before (and re-visited some other beloved places).

I have also been enriched in life experiences. I sort of overcame my fear of roller coasters, I saw some amazing operas, I attended a concert of Coldplay (and Coldplay and U2 were the dream!), needed to become comfortable riding a motorcycle, learned how to paint and assemble furniture, completed (yet another :P) course in Dutch (so allegedly, now I am supposed to be good at it), for the first time ate at a Michelin-star restaurant, climbed mountains, read more than 30 books, had another academic paper accepted to a good journal, and overall, will finish the year feeling a bit enriched, older and wiser than at its beginning. And in my book, the past years have not been all that eventful..

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in new year, Uncategorized

 

Abandoned places in Bulgaria

To be honest I do not always closely follow all news that involve my home country. Of course, I keep up-to-date with the major events, and strangely with the (less important) news from my region and home town. Certain things (such as political news, corruptions and all kinds of scandals), I prefer to ignore. I, however, do not apply this ostrich approach to humane feature stories; I do not close my eyes and ears for the daily misery and tragedy that engulfs lives of many people in Bulgaria.

There are a certain type of photo features (or you might say photo journalism) that I especially appreciate and devour. These are photo series of now almost abandoned places, usually villages in some mountainous location in Bulgaria. There is so much nostalgia oozing from these photos. I am transported to the days of my own childhood when I used to visit my grandparents who lived in a small town themselves. At the same time, I notice the lonely, small, cobbled streets, the houses which are falling apart, and the few, most often old people living there. I cannot help but think that after them, no one will be left, and these villages will become complete ghost places, until the wind and the rain dissolves and washes away anything left from the old barrack-like structures, and nothing will be left from its former residents. A part of me is saddened that these villages, once prosperous, housing sizeable populations, were bursting with activity and now are sleeping in silence. Yet another part of me, appreciates the silence, even envies it. That part of me sometimes, when life gets hard, dreams of escaping everything and everyone and finding solance and refuge in such a place.

But let me stop rumbling, and leave you strol through some forsaken places in Bulgaria. I can look at these forever..

Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with taking these photos, I found a number of these series on the High View Art site that I follow on social media.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Life, Nostalgia

 

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Moving in a grown up apartment for the first time on your own

After first living with my parents until I moved abroad to do my grad studies, then living in student dorms, and sharing an apartment with other people for a few years, a moment came when I could not take it anymore. I just couldn’t be woken up by noises on the street in the relatively noisy neighborhood I used to live in, by flatmates you don’t have the same schedule as me, or spending hours on cleaning other people’s mess. I was just done.

Now, when it comes to housing in Amsterdam, one should always keep one thing in mind : it is a cruel, grueling, making-you-want-to-give-up-the-will-to-live process. And I struggled with it. For  a couple of months, I visited apartments in nice and not so nice neighborhoods, I took time off from work, took days off, sent endless applications forms, collected documents and documents, and then some more documents. I tried, visited apartments, submitted forms and waited for months. And then, I was lucky to get an apartment I really wanted in a new and very residential part of the town.

Very often when you rent an apartment via an agency, the apartment is completely empty, often needing serious renovation.I liked the apartment I am currently living in because it needed a bit less of the hassle. I ‘only’ had to paint it and lay a floor in the bedroom.

And the work only started from there. Little did I know how much I little informed i was about renovations, hooking up appliances to the electricity and making grownup decisions such as what pieces of furniture to buy for which room. But fortunately, they either offer a service for everything, or if you cannot afford it, there is always a helpful friend or your boyfriend who can help you for you.

Not only the limitations of my knowledge and, sometimes purely physical power, were a limitation. I was also short on time. I had only a few weeks to move out from my old  flat, set everything in place in the new one (enough so to make it livable), alongside my full time job in another city. For a while I had to forget what it felt like sleeping without an alarm clock, free time on the weekend, and in general having time for things as simple as doing sports. Now, I didn’t do everything absolutely alone. My boyfriend was helping as much as he could, but as it happened, he could not be there as much as I needed him. Friends also helped me. But mostly I was struggling, suffering and bruising on my own.

The awesome part though is that you might be suffering on your own but you end up going where you want to go, and you end up creating the cozy little place in which you feel absolutely comfortable. And it is all up to you, not having parents, friends, landlords, or partners setting it up instead.

And I cannot describe the pure joy of simply sleeping to your own needs and desires, or having just a little peace and comfort after a busy day at work. Just a quiet place where you can be on your own, all by yourself, undisturbed and perfectly at ease. Then relax with a cup of tea or wine and indulge in a guilty-pleasure type of a habit (mine is TV series).

But even I cannot deny that it also feels pretty great when someone is waiting for you in the quiet little place to come back home.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Feeling at home, Uncategorized

 

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How to love and the “Interbeing”

The relationships we have with people change over time. The way we treat ourselves does too. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I personally am still re-discovering the art of inner peace and as the person I will quote calls it ‘interbeing’. I stumbled upon this excerpt from the wisdom of a Buddhist monk (I know, I am nothing about Zen myself; and, yes I will normally scoff and dismiss anyone who suggests to me such a reading material). So, if you were struggling to define what love is, what inner peace and love of self is, this could be helpful.. (I hope you don’t mind that the pieces are from here and there and sometimes lack coherent transition from one paragraph to the next).

“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they understand, you can’t love.

When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.

If our parents didn’t love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? … The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness. Our parents may be able to leave us money, houses, and land, but they may not be happy people. If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.

Often, we get crushes on others not because we truly love and understand them, but to distract ourselves from our suffering. When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person.

Sometimes we feel empty; we feel a vacuum, a great lack of something. We don’t know the cause; it’s very vague, but that feeling of being empty inside is very strong. We expect and hope for something much better so we’ll feel less alone, less empty. The desire to understand ourselves and to understand life is a deep thirst. There’s also the deep thirst to be loved and to love. We are ready to love and be loved. It’s very natural. But because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love. Sometimes we haven’t had the time to understand ourselves, yet we’ve already found the object of our love. When we realize that all our hopes and expectations of course can’t be fulfilled by that person, we continue to feel empty. You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for. In everyone there’s a continuous desire and expectation; deep inside, you still expect something better to happen. That is why you check your email many times a day!

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.

If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy.

In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one.

In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination. His happiness is your happiness. Your suffering is his suffering. You can no longer say, “That’s your problem.

When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust, respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person.

To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen.

When you love someone, you should have the capacity to bring relief and help him to suffer less. This is an art. If you don’t understand the roots of his suffering, you can’t help, just as a doctor can’t help heal your illness if she doesn’t know the cause. You need to understand the cause of your loved one’s suffering in order to help bring relief.

The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.

Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us… Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering.”

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in Love

 

Never forget to take care of yourself first

You know how during the airplane safety instructions they always tell you to put your own mask first and then to assist those around you who need help – even if these are your loved ones. After bitter experience, I am trying to follow that credo when it comes to many other things in life. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was under extraordinary stress. Some of it was real, other parts had been piled up there due to my tendency to over think and overall issues with anxiety. I was so busy juggling between a new job, finishing my dissertation, finalizing the job I was doing on the side, language course, and personal life. I was, subconsciously or not, trying to please everyone. Whenever people would request more from me, I would not even think twice and go out of my way to do the given task. I never said no to additional work they would give me in the second job, at time-consuming (and often boring) tasks at my first one. I would try to go out of my way to accommodate the needs of my parents, my partner, and everyone else in my immediate surrounding. I was so busy and somehow so unequipped to deal with this new type of stress in my life, I was at my wit’s end.

Then I started having problems sleeping. I would fall asleep easily but 2-3 hours later, I would wake and not be able to get a wink of sleep anymore. That would make me even more tired and irritable. Everything would annoy me, I would be so alert, at times I felt I could just explode. I did not have time to do sports but even exercise would not help me to stay asleep. Then I started feeling very itchy on my arms, calves and legs. I scratched until it hurt. And it still itched some more. And the less I slept, the worse it would get.

After a consultation with a doctor, it turned out I most probably have a stress-induced (and more common among women) inflammation of the skin and urgently need to get some sleep. So I started taking supplements which are supposed to calm you down, and had to take them for the coming 4 months. At first they did help a lot. I remember I was so happy after sleeping through the night, I felt reborn. My mood improved, the irritation on my skin decreased. The short-run effect was immediate but also short-lived.

The most important change had to come from within. I had to learn to let go of worry, especially when the thing I worry about is out of my control. Sometimes when I am very anxious about something, I try to remember what my father always said to me when I was young and worried about some triviality. He would ask me, “So what if that happens? Think about it, will it really be the end of the world?.”  Thinking and learning to accept the worst case scenario long before it happened is actually very helpful to me. If you calmly and rationally access these options and scenarios, you would be better prepared to act upon it, in case it happened.

These days my life is down a few sources of stress but it is long-term battle. I notice just when I get moe nervous and worried about something, my skin inflammation is back. I have also made some healthy choices in my diet in order to stress my body less. I try to find more time for myself and for the things I extract good vibes from. Most nights I sleep through the night, but sometimes I need to have a rational conversation with myself to induce it. And I am still learning and findings new ways from the sure path of a heart attack before I am 30 that I was on to. And I hope to get better at it soon because it is so empowering and such a relief just to let go and care less.

 

stressed

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2016 in Life, Stress