As I wait for my semester to start, I try to scrape together some pennies that could allow me to organise some of my weekend trips.
Specifically, I work in a cafe. Days there are pretty routinely: I wake up at 7, jog until I feel like having my everyday asthma-attack through the English Garden, take the 9.26am subway to Sendlinger Tor and switch to Tram 17 to Amalienburgstraße while devouring my müsli-yogourt. At 10am I finally arrive at the Children-care clinic, just in time to switch my clothes and: start baking Semmeln, serving clients, brewing coffee, making sandwiches, baking “Semmeln”, serving clients, brewing coffee, baking “Semmeln”, make sandwiches, quickly-complain-about-the-malfunctioning-oven before I serve coffee with one hand and make sandwiches with the second and eat a broken Bretzel with my third. This happens until 6pm when I engage my fourth hand in tidying up, cleaning the counter, collecting old journals…. at 6.30pm I then usually run to and miss tram17 to Sendlinger Tor, complain about my Italian late-being-nature and wait to get on the next tram, while listening to melancholic music reminding me of the existential dread that is finally setting in and meanwhile slowly commute home.
Doing this -with some variable evenings spent at the cinema or a bar with a friend- for the last two weeks non-stop, I noticed myself mentally slipping away from what I was doing. Finally I couldn´t help but wonder, how life must be when working: knowing what most probably expects you the next day, 5 days a week, supposedly all life long. I surely don´t know the answer, since this routine is not my normal everyday life, but these weeks were enough for me to question: how do you survive routine?
Maybe you just don´t think about it. Maybe you only tolerate work in order to have the means to design the rest of your life.
One day, after giving up complaining about my Italian late-being nature, I let the existential dread set in slightly to deeply and panicked at the thought, that sooner or later -after finishing University- I will find myself doing the same things over and over again. Standing alone by the godforsaken tram station I wondered: Would this be an existence worth living for me? From the perspective of a 19yo, it surely isn´t, even if I truly respect and admire my co-workers, who take on responsibility for an entire family.
Having these background-thought swirling in my head, I recently decided to dedicate my only day off work to pursue news, variables, anything not repetitive really, to break the work-sleep-eat-repeat circle.
As I only took one day off, I decided it wouldn´t be worth leaving the city and I thus picked out a guide of Munich and started focussing on the highlights I had never really seen.
Given the plethora of options, I designed my day to be an “artistic day” – i.e. I would visit museum Brandhorst, the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne, which are especially cheap on Sundays (only 1Euro entry ticket) and thus perfectly apt to the scraping-money-together project I was going through.
Due to german elections, the Museums were empty and I really enjoyed taking my time and trying to really understand the paintings/architectures/sculptures for once, instead of glimpsing them.
I always puzzled what people think about when staring at a painting. Often I found myself trying to do the same, but really thinking about what the others were staring at in the same painting; not thinking about the painting itself. I was alone there, inexpertly choosing the pieces that inspired me to look at when I realised, that sometimes you don´t need to look for things in the painting in order to admire it. The time people spend in front of art-pieces must be the time it takes them to let the piece evoke any feeling it provokes in them. This is how, for the first time ever, I didn´t think about why others were looking at the painting and tried to find out what others see in it. I didn´t look for things in the paintings that would make me fix it longer: I just strolled around the Museum and stopped by the pieces that made me feel I needed to stop by it.
When do we stop and wonder in life? What makes us stop and wonder?
Personally, two kind of events make me stop and wonder: death and natural disasters.
About the rest, I pretty much rush through it. I guess this “wondering-thing” is comparable to staring at a painting. It actually chooses you. In fact, when I hear of someone´s death I don´t have to sit down and “force” myself to think about it. Rather, it settles on my soul and I cannot do much more than thinking about it.
When I got back to work on the next day, I figured that even though things did not change and sandwiches still needed to be made, as well as coffee to be brewed, I actually did not fall back into that routine, because my mind had been filled with news captured the day before and the people I dealt with, the journals I collected, the Semmeln I went to bake, all things started to seem interesting to me.
When I missed the bus that day and the existential dread started to set in, I wondered if our mind can really “free ourselves from mental slavery” -as Marley would call it-; slavery being us, switching off our brains.
Somehow I now puzzle, if nothing will seem routinely to me, as long as I´ll engage my mind at work. From this perspective, life after university can´t be that scary, after all. Right?