Three winters ago, I moved to Zagreb, the place in which I was born and lived the first two decades of my life. To make things, let’s say more interesting, I also moved to the same neighborhood I grew up in. Naturally, I felt like a total failure. Who lives in various places around the world for years and then ends up in the same old neighborhood they grew up in, and more importantly, never liked? Nowhere is perfect, but Croatia for me has been like a person you don’t necessarily like but know so well that you see through all her acts and you see how shallow she is.
The first two winters in Zagreb I felt I was surrounded by Dementors from Harry Potter, sucking my happiness away. To say most people you see on the street in Zagreb are grumpy and mad at their lives, the government, or the other person, is to only scratch the surface of the negative energy sludge one wades through here most of the time. I schemed constantly about moving away. Yet, something kept holding me back, and this something wasn’t some concrete reason people often have when scared of the unknown. This was a feeling, a knowing that I needed to be here. Why?
You may already know that I had a concussion last summer (Stop! Concussion!). What you may not know is the impact of this concussion on my life. After the concussion, I have spent weeks in bed, wandering if I’ll ever be up, let alone functional in this world. When I was, finally, able to get out of bed without the world spinning instantly, I could barely do a few things before collapsing back to bed, exhausted. I was scared. My brain, my energy, my body seemed to be melting away from me. And then even when I could do basic stuff, like go for a short walk, I still couldn’t read or write for months, which for someone who has only a few years ago realized their passion for writing, was nothing short of a nightmare. Who am I if I can’t do things I love? I was slowly spiraling into depression…
But this is not the impact that I am talking about, actually. This is: At some point during all this, people, beautiful, wonderful people appeared in my life, seemingly out of nowhere, and nudged me in the right direction. Slowly, I started facing emotions, old patterns of thought and perception that were of no use to me anymore, shedding layers, opening doors of my being. These people, and events that transpired during the following months, not only catapulted me on the path towards physical health I have never had, let alone imagined possible, but they also enabled conditions to form for me to find the way back to my soul. I reaffirmed and strengthened the connection I have once had with the beautiful loving energy that permeates all.
And all this happened here in Zagreb!
Right now I’m writing my second novel, placed in and around my old/new neighborhood, with daily walks by the river Sava inspiring me. I am involved in a local project for improving the quality of life in the neighborhood. And this is just the beginning.
I don’t know when or if I’ll ever move away from here again, and it doesn’t matter. I want to keep falling in love with where I am in life, this place of ugly, concrete buildings and people who spit or even poo in the street (about that in my next blog :-)), because the more I fall in love with this place, the more I am able to love everything and everybody else, including myself – unconditionally.
When I was younger and living here all I saw was anguish and senselessness. This is what I continued to see when I moved back three years ago. What I saw, in turn, seeped into my life. Now I see something else. I see people raising children, playing sports, soaking in the sunshine, decorating their apartments, making art – each and every one of us walking our own path through life. This is not to say that I have started to idealize the sludge, that I don’t see the ugly anymore, or that I don’t hear the rude anymore. I do. But I can either despair like I used to, or pretend I am above it all, like I also used to, or I can be present, do what needs to be done, live and love. Life can be bleak or colorful, senseless or meaningful, mundane or divine.
It is a matter of perception.