I could have spent my whole trip just lazing by the water. It’s probably an act of divine providence that we only made it to the beach on the last couple of days or we’d have gotten absolutely nothing else done. I remember this: an old european man dusting sand off a polaroid picture and handing it to me.
I think this is yours, he says. Where are you from?
I launch into the familiar spiel of Chinese born Singaporean, based in Germany, holidaying in Spain.
Germany! Sehr Gut. Ich bin von Deutschland auch. I am from Germany also.
We engage in low level German conversation, till the limitations of my prowess cause us to switch back to English.
May I give you some life advice? He asks.
I shrug, it seems older people always have advice to give, solicited or not.
I’m from Germany and I run a business there, but I spend half my time in Barcelona. Two weeks in Germany, two weeks in Barcelona every month. When I’m in Barcelona, all I do is have a mojito and sit by the beach. Hard work is good. But so is learning to relax.
I’ve heard many variations of the Life is short lecture over and over, but this is the first living example I’ve encountered. I’m fascinated, I’m jealous. The idea of geographically forcing yourself to cleave your life cleanly into a neat division of work and play is completely foreign to me, where a moment unproductive is a moment wasted. I forget sometimes about the intangible currency of learning to relax.
It’s the old German I’m thinking of now as I trudge through the last sighs of hell week. It occurs to me that I immensely enjoy the subject matter I am pouring over, the only thing I take contention with being the pressure cooker environment academia demands from us. It’s a tough line to toe between balance and boredom. I’m still writing here because I am not writing the other thing that demands to be written. Is there a better time for an abrupt ending? I think not.