Hungary 2013: When the Should Hits the Fan

2013-02-10 15.47.39My apartment on the Danube. Cozy respite from a rocky start.

Budapest, Hungary

I had, and have, good intentions of setting up a dedicated blog for this current adventure and like any good copywriter I even have the title all picked out and everything; but my landing here has been just a touch rough and for now a slightly shoddy, one-eye-open TravelPod entry is all I can muster.

It’s Sunday night and it’s the first downtime I’ve had since I checked into that tiny hotel eleven days ago. I’m so excited to already be all moved into my awesome apartment and lying on my new down-ish duvet (they have IKEA here!) that I’m not at all certain I’ll even be able to get something acceptably written and posted before I succumb to the desire to dive under the (wonky-fitting, metric-sized) covers in a heap of comfort-seeking exhaustion. Reminders of how much I cherish sleep have manifested daily – and sometimes, on busy weekday afternoons, hourly.

Eleven days ago – that’s when I flew away from the familiar places and faces of Montreal headed for this befuddling burg called Budapest, where everything is foreign – including my working life. For the first time in close to five years I’ve taken on a full-time gig, at an ad agency where I will have to write and write and write, working alongside and learning from some really kick-ass, super-seasoned copywriters. In a flash the mostly unstructured days of hanging out in my apartment, working in my sweats and taking naps between projects have vanished like a dream I’m not sure I had. I both hope and believe that the structure and sheer volume of work this job demands will teach me to have discipline in my craft – something I am aware I lack. Like it or not, five days a week (and sometimes more than that, I suspect) I will have to write a lot and go without naps.

There are perhaps some things a few people are hoping to hear – about how fantastic and dream-like living in Europe is; about the fabulous cafes and streets and architecture; about some random adventure that found me like on so many of my other expeditions. But, aside from the fact that I’ve not yet been here two weeks, this isn’t like any other trip I’ve taken. First off, it’s not really a trip (there’s currently no return date scheduled.) And, rather than my journey consisting of aimless days spent wandering from place to place at leisure, taking a lot of photos and blogging about it all, this time it’s been about things like apartment hunting, metro passes, residency permits, Wi-Fi connection appointments and bank-account openings – and trying to conduct said exercises in a country where the language is about as easy to understand and speak as Tuyuca. Oh, and it’s also been about working.

I am aware of how some people think I should feel about this adventure – that I should be excited, should be rejoicing, should be celebrating. And I almost surely will do all of those things, once life settles down a little. When Columbus first hopped onto the Santa Maria armed with a compass and some figs I’d venture a guess that his only sentiments weren’t “Yipeeee!!” and “Woot woot!!” There were likely more than a few “WTF am I doing?” moments. He did a scary, crazy, reckless thing. Of course we can clearly see now what an epic voyage that became. But at the time he set sail his brave adventure was too new to yet be considered romantic or elegant. Undoubtedly it was terrifying and fraught with hardships and a few people likely thought he was nuts.

We treat the word “should” the way Hungarians treat salt: we sprinkle hefty doses of it everywhere, unthinking about the ill effects it may have. While it does have its place in language – like, “I should think twice before ordering sushi on a Sunday,” or “I should break up with Hugh ’cause he keeps hitting on my best friend,” it does not apply to feelings. We own our feelings, and at any given moment we feel how we feel – not how others, or even we, think we “should” feel based on social conditioning and self-imposed pressures and ideals that are formed by the stories we tell ourselves. We might think Columbus should have been excited, and maybe he was – but we weren’t him and we weren’t there, so we can’t really say what the dude might have been going through.

I’m no Columbus, but an incredible opportunity for discovery and learning has been been handed to me. I know this, just like I know the journey will probably get a little harder before it gets easier. But I am grateful – and when I finally hit land I’ll let the world watch me do my happy dance.

But until that day comes, please don’t should all over me. If you must, I’ll try to take it with a grain of salt.

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