“I wish you a great day! May you find peace and your own place in this world!”
This pretty much resumes most of my birthday wishes throughout the last couple of years. My friends, tired of my constant zigzag through several places, felt hopeless after some time, so they abandoned the traditional wishes of good health or happiness, and became more specific – “peace” and “finding my place”. Initially, I kindly thanked them for these words, but after some years of constantly hearing them, I began to question myself: is it really peace and a place the ingredients needed for my happiness?
The answer is no. And this comes from my own definition of myself. Since everything in this life is transient, so is my life. Nothing lasts; nothing remains too much in the same way or place. I change. People change. The world changes. I can’t even recognize myself after a couple of years – it’s so fast that everything changes. In fact, even if during some periods life and the surroundings seem to be stable, this does not last, either because I feel an inner urge to change, or because change comes from the outside and I am forced to move on. “Finding peace” or “finding stability” is an illusion.
Then, my experience tells me that I feel much more motivated and “much more myself” while I’m doing something I like, rather than enjoying a secure situation. In a changing world, I myself am a process, “a becoming of something into something else”. My identity is not static but dynamic. So… how should I find pleasure in stability when my own self is constantly in motion, it’s – let’s say – a verb and not a noun?
I guess my friends were all wrong. They didn’t know me. Perhaps they perceive life in a different way and they thought I’m like them.
I don’t need to find my own place in this world. I need to find my own dynamics in this world, that process or becoming that makes me feel alive and happy. It doesn’t matter if I’m in one country or another; as long as I do what I find meaningful, everything is ok. But no place is the right one if what I do is something I find useless or meaningless.
Same goes for peace… I don’t need peace. I need tension. Creative tension to be specific, because you can be stressed to the verge of burnout and feel all the tension in the world and yet be unhappy because it’s not the right kind of tension. Tension is when someone puts a gun to your head, tension is when you rush to your job and you’re late, tension is when you must deal with several tasks at the same time. But meaningful tension… well… that’s something else. It’s being busy as hell and yet feel a sense of reward and gratitude. Or a sense that you’re useful at something. Or the sense that you have an impact on other people’s lives, no matter how ephemeral and illusory life is.
One of my strongest symbols here in Strasbourg is the main railway station. Unconsciously, for many years, I was attracted by the area you see in the image of this article. The railway station never really closes; it is always open and it has connections everywhere in the country and internationally. A railway station is a stage/phase in everybody’s life; it’s one of the most dynamic places in a country. Nothing lasts, yet everyone has to pass through it at some point. There is always something new. And it is meaningful for so many people who travel all over the region. Although it was built to last, its function is to enable transit.
It is somehow a contradiction. Like myself.