I’m starting to realize that my ability to affect change in the world is entirely dependent on capitalizing my skill sets, most of those being my energy, passion, genuine zest for life, with the ability to solve complex problems quickly. The flipside of this being my perseverance (the piss and vinegar if you will) to push through obstacles and take down my desired fruits from the tree of opportunity, when the aforementioned skills aren’t profiting me. This became apparent on my recent trip to Atlanta to take the DELF A2 at the Alliance Française…
It’s not often that I go to Atlanta, the “New York” of The South, the city upon which all others are judged in this region. I used to go frequently between 2004-2008 for raves at Opera and Wet Bar, so I’m familiar with enough with Midtown by night. But, this time, arriving in the afternoon of 23 March 2015, it was like seeing the city for the first time and the grandiosity of the area was inspiring. Which is just what I needed to smooth my nerves out before the exam. That evening, after studying several hours, I needed to take a walk to find some food and clear my head so I walked to the testing location at the corner of 14th and Peachtree, about 7 blocks or so from my hotel.
Navigating Atlanta streets are nowhere near as simple as GPS devices make it out to be. I can’t tell you the number of times that I made a wrong turn and got caught on one-way streets which forced me onto the interstate and then, 5 miles down the road later I was able to correct, and come back for another go. I didn’t want to repeat this bit of history the following morning of my exam.
Well, during the walk I passed by a place called Café Intermezzo, which upon first glance, looks like the combination of a Parisian and Viennese Café. I made a mental note to check this place out on the walk back. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this place, but let me tell you, it’s awesome! I ended up having a Greek-style salad with a negroni, and had a glass of Chartreuse Vert for dessert. The latter, after having lived in Grenoble, France, is my favorite way to end a dinner, especially with good conversation.
As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a girl (later found out she is a musician) talking to the server. She saw my glance, and we struck up a conversation. After speaking for several minutes, she joined me at my table to continue the conversation. We talked about many things and she told me several of her life experiences. One of them was how she tried to kill herself during a dark time in her life and how it obviously had failed since we were talking. I then told her that she had only one direction left to go, up. She looked at me cynically so I had to explain to her:
As your world was burning around you, the flames getting more and more intense, you saw only one way out, death, and after your attempt failed and you lay there stunned, crushed, and in disbelief of your unfortunate stroke of luck, the wind changed and you saw an opening in the flames and thus a path to salvation from your dark pit of despair.
Metaphors and allusions aside, she immediately understood what I meant and internalized my story. We talked about society, it’s perceptions, the judgmental nature of people, and how everyone tries to label and place everything into organized little boxes, more for their benefit and comfort and less for those being classified and catalogued. And the simple truth of this is, that for those of us being classified and catalogued, we are only affected if we allow ourselves to be. As the night went on, I had to get back to the hotel for a proper sleep before my exam. I told her this and then offered her 4 bits of advice in parting, writing each into her notebook (she’s a musician after all). I’ve included a picture below (my penmanship could have been much better):
It’s funny. I’m no fatalist, but I just get this feeling that I was meant to meet this person. Not so much as in the “Oh my god it’s a girl I want to marry!” kind of way, but as in a person who was privately searching for answers, some known, some unknown, and found them in my willingness to listen and objectively respond. I should’ve figured that this would happen over dinner as I had previously met another person while at the hotel, having a pre-dinner beer.
The bartender, whose name I won’t say, hailed from Norway but, there was no way to tell from her accent. She spoke perfect American English. It was incredible. Anyway, she came to Atlanta for university and now, MBA in hand, works for a technology company close to the hotel. Given her personality, energy, and insights, it was quite evident that she is an entrepreneur. She left her home in Norway for the United States, because her dreams and aspirations and desires are much larger than what Norway could offer. She said the people there are too comfortable meaning: with the beautiful scenery, proximity to nature, beaches, and with the sea so approachable, it’s easy for natives to be content with their location. Don’t misunderstand, she loves Oslo as much as the next native, she just wants more out of life.
I’m exactly the same, just coming from a different country. And up to that moment, I hadn’t figured out a good way of explaining myself to my Nashville and Tennessee friends about why I had to get out of the state. I want more out of life than Nashville can offer, which really seems to upset a lot of people. I’ve always found that so confusing. Why should my wants and aspirations affect your life in any way shape or form? Simply wanting what a place can’t offer isn’t crazy! What’s crazy is getting upset in the first place about the fact that somebody finds a place of habitation much better or worse than someone else. Those are your thoughts, person, not mine. Chill out!
Positivity, love of yourself (not vanity), and drive are 3 of our greatest weapons against the naysayers of life. They are the enemy of negativity. I’m so happy that my year is ending like this! I will definitely let this view, and the realizations from my experience in Atlanta, propel me into my 29th year of life, on the morrow.
Onward and upward!