I Did It My Way…

I’m in Helsinki now, on a weekend trip from London. Yes, „traveler” has always been my middle name and these days more than ever. While my plane was landing on Vantaa Airport today, I experienced an enormous feeling of gratitude for everything that I’ve been experiencing for the past year. True and honest gratitude. And I also felt empathy with what „Frankie”, as Bon Jovi jovially calls him, must have felt when he wrote the evergreen „My Way”.

„I planned each charted course/Each careful step along the byway/But more, much more than this/I did it my way…”. It’s the very first time in my life when I truly feel and understand that one hundred percent. Not as a boastful or selfish thing, but just as one of those thoughts that occur to you when you’re having meaningful conversation with yourself and, even more, when you are being grateful for what life has catered to you.

Everyone who knows me knows how much I yearned for this MA program. It’s been one of my biggest dreams, if not the biggest for the past three years and I’ve had moments in which in all honesty I felt that I simply had to forget about it and put it all aside. That life is much too serious and painstakingly rough to afford to daydream and that one must be rational rather than emotional when it comes to one’s life goals. I even had a moment in which I completely resigned the hope of finding the right program, the scholarship and even that time slot in my existence that would allow me to go ahead with my dream. And, for a brief moment, I truly felt as an adult, in the worst meaning of that word.

You see, when I graduated from secondary school, each of us had to prepare a short speech to deliver in front of our professors and classmates. I don’t remember my entire speech but there’s the concluding phrase that stayed with me and always will and in my moments of apparent defeat it always pops up from some remote space of my conscience to put a question mark around the assessment of my „failure”. „We are all kids now. And in a few years we will all be grown-ups. However, what we must never forget is to pay attention to the child that will always reside in us one way or the other. Only those who hang on to their inner child as they become adults can truly deserved to be called <grown-ups>”.

Yap, I had said that. And more than ever, I really felt like a second-class adult the moment I took the decision of resigning my fight for the right MA program. I was giving up on one of those goals which that 12-year-old girl would have never given up on so easily. What kind of fighter was I? And…it happened. I got to live my dream and although it wasn’t all as bright and as easy as one may depict it in one’s fantasies, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me and the one thing that has ever granted me the right to call myself a „grown-up”. A full-blown grown-up.

Since I’m in one of the final two months of the program, I was listening to „Frankie” :) today and trying to bring back and somehow rationalize into a coherent discourse all the amazing memories and experiences that I’ve had throughout this wonderful year.

This year:

– I lived in 4 countries:

Leiden, Netherlands (Hugo de Grootstrat 52)

London, England (Wyndham Street 21 and than Inner Circle)

Vienna, Austria (Schuttaustrasse 64, Kaisermuehlen)

Versoix, Geneva (Rue de Boucheries)

-I’ve traveled to 14 countries completely by myself

Netherlands(there was no stone left unturned – Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Delft, The Hague)
Belgium (Bruxelles and Bruges)
Germany(Koln, Bonn, Stuttgart, Baden-Baden
France (Grenoble, Avignon, Lyon
United Kingdom
England (London, Windsor, Warwick, Greenwich, Bath, Stonehenge, Dover, Canterbury)
Scotland (Edinburgh)
Wales (Cardiff)
Northern Ireland (Belfast)
Ireland (Dublin)
Czech Republic (Prague)
Slovakia (Bratislava)
Poland (Krakow)
Finland (Helsinki)
Portugal (Lisbon)
Spain (Barcelona)
Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

– I’ve seen X musicals, plays, opera all by myself:

Musicals:
– Avenue Q
– Cabaret
– Grease
– Phantom of the Opera
– Gone With the Wind
– Wicked
– We Will Rock You
– Joseph
-Les Miserables
-Mary Poppins
Covent Garden Opera:
– Cinderella (Donizetti)
– Tosca (Puccini)
– Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Plays:
– The 12th Night (Shakespeare) – Globe Theatre
– The Mousetrap (Agatha Christie)

– I’ve been to x concerts at the O2 arena:

Boyzone „Back Again, No Matter What” – 30th of May 2008

Neil Diamond –

– I’ve eaten escargot for the first time in my life at the „Cafe National” in Versoix (one of the loveliest restaurants I’ve ever been in and where I would go back anytime with the same pleasure) and frog legs at the Chinese restaurant in Leiden. Loved both dishes.

– I spent a day on a Dutch cheese-farm (Maria Clara Farm), seen how cheese is made and played Burrenhof (sort of a golf with a big ball, not a technical game but great fun) and seen my American friends get all excited about cows. One of the best days ever!

– I’ve gone to movies all by myself (first-time also):

Sex and the City The Movie

Mamma Mia

– I’ve gone to the „White Christmas” Christmas Carols Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, with Liz. One of the most wonderful experiences ever and something I will always treasure dearly.

– I’ve had professional seminars at the following institutions:

International Criminal Court – ICC (Hague, Netherlands)
International Court of Justice – ICJ (Hague, Netherlands)
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – ICTY (Hague, Netherlands)
NATO (Brussels, Belgium)
European Parliament (Brussels, Belgium)
United Nations Office Geneva – UNOG (Switzerland)
United Nations Office Vienna – UNOV (Austria)
World Trade Organization – WTO (Geneva, Switzerland)
International Committee of the Red Cross – ICRC (Geneva, Switzerland)
Organization of Security Cooperation in Europe – OSCE (Vienna, Austria)
Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries – OPEC (Vienna, Austria)

– I’ve been a member of the Royal Institute of Foreign Affairs in London (The Chatham House) and attended passionate lectures, including with Stanley Fisher, former World Bank official; Vaclav Klaus, Czech Republic head of state and Coleen Conolly, chief of Public Diplomacy for the US)

– I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, in Poland

– Apart from the American core of my group, in the 4 locations I had colleagues from more than 15 nationalities.

– I stayed in a prison-theme hotel in Helsinki

– I’ve flight 26 flights

Spre Bucuresti – Iasi(x4), Buc Leiden(x2), Buc Leiden (x2), Buc-Londra (x2), Londra-Dublin(x2), Geneva-Buc(x4), Vienna-Krakow(x2), London-Helsinki(x2), Geneva-Barcelona(x2), Geneva-Lisboa(x2), Buc-Viena(x2),

– I commuted from Versoix to Genthod-Bellvue every day in Geneva by train.

– I lived in 4 student-houses and experienced all the advantages and downsides, including communal facilities. And I also freezed in my Geneva room.

– I made the NATO guy cry.

– I did my grocery shopping by foot (imagine lil’ol’ me carrying 2 huge bags in every hand on the cobblestones of Leiden, then on the streets of London, in Kaisermuehlen in Vienna and from the Coop in Geneva.

– I have a newlyfound sense of fashion and of experimenting with it.

– I had the most amazing Valentine’s Day dinner all by myself in Cafe National.

Yes, there were times, Im sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

Ive loved, Ive laughed and cried.
Ive had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

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