Ignorance is bliss or: why stalking never leads to something good

Yes, I admit it: sometimes – during long train rides to Nuremberg all by myself – I tend to do things I am not proud of. A few weeks ago, for example, I watched “Magic Mike XXL” on the way home; a movie about a gang of strippers that features a lot of stupid dialogues and shockingly few naked men. But anyway – I don’t want to talk about naked men (at least not in this article), because another much more interesting thing I recently did whilst riding the train is stalking. We might also call it “researching”, to make it sound more professional. As I said, I am not proud of it – but the guy I stalked, err, researched, can actually consider this a huge compliment since I would never stalk somebody that I don’t find interesting (just saying).

When you find things you don’t want to know

The thing about stalking somebody on the internet is that you rarely find something unexpected or delicate. But what if you do? I actually really did find something about that guy I was stalking that shocked me. Imagine me sitting in the panorama lounge just behind the train conductor (my favorite seat), taking turns looking at the passing landscape and then again at the mobile phone display in my hand for like an hour. I was flabbergasted. My feeling for interpersonal things had apparently completely failed with this guy because I would never have believed him to have such a special “hobby” (if you can call it that). [As a side note: I will not write publicly what his special hobby is, but if you are interested in knowing more we can talk it through over coffee. Or – probably better for the occasion – schnapps.]

This discovery not only occupied my thoughts during the train journey, but also in the following days – I even conducted some meta-research about this unusual hobby in order to frame my many thoughts on the subject. But the quintessence always remained the same: I had the feeling that I didn’t know this guy at all and that I had completely misjudged him – although actually nothing had happened in the real world.

Dealing with knowledge you shouldn’t have

So there I was: confused by some piece of information I had found on the internet and actually angry with myself that I had not stayed true to my belief, that the best way to get to know people is by talking to them – in person, face to face. Luckily, once the initial shock had subsided, reason returned to my brain and I thought: what the hell, I will just pull myself together and ask him about this the next time I see him. Maybe there is some reasonable explanation or maybe I misunderstood the website I had found (although this seemed very unlikely to me).

Nevertheless I was left with a stale aftertaste that I could not shake off and I kept asking myself: might not knowing something sometimes be better than knowing it? Not that this is even remotely comparable, but wouldn’t a wife be happier not knowing that her husband cheated on her some years ago? Could not knowing everything about a person potentially save marriages, friendships or beginning love affairs?

Returning to the real world

Let’s face it: the internet is not the real world. People communicate differently, they present themselves the way they would like to be (but not the way they really are) and they sometimes try to realize phantasies they would not act out on in real life. And maybe this is what the internet is for, maybe this is okay – as long as those people are decent in the real world and do not hurt their fellows with what they are doing online. What I found during my stalking session on the train to Nuremberg does not hurt anybody (actually, it does quite the opposite…) and it’s not turning this guy into a bad person. A weird person maybe, but not a bad person – and certainly not a boring person. And who knows? Maybe he would have told me about his strange hobby some day himself and then I would not have had the time to brood over the subject – I would have been forced to react spontaneously and instinctively. I would probably have giggled, as I usually do in situations like this, and I would have asked him to explain to me why he does what he does. And then we might have had a wonderfully funny conversation about an interesting topic without any stale aftertaste at all – an experience no amount of internet-“research” could have taken away.

So what do we learn from this? Stalking is bad and experiences in real life always trump what happens on the internet. For my next journey Nuremberg I will definitely bring a book – or download another stripper movie, just in case 😉

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2017: A retrospective

Every year around christmas there comes a day when I sit at home on my sofa, wrapped up in a blanket with a Marshmallow-hot-chocolate in my hand, and reflect on the past year. What my mind does in those moments is essentially something we do at work every second week: a retrospective. At work we sit together with the team and think about what went good or bad in the past two weeks and what we can try out in order to keep improving. The methodology behind this is called “keep – drop – try” and seems to me very suitable for private use as well.  So how about 2017? What is there to keep, drop or try out next year?

∞ Keep

Karaoke

I have always sensed that karaoke could be loads of fun and now – since I have awesome colleagues who are as keen on chanting awkward pop-songs with questionable lyrics into sticky microphones as I am – I can finally do it on a regular basis. I don’t know what it does to my brain, but it has a therapeuthic effect on me:  I always feel happy afterwards.  Besides Zumba and riding rollercoasters, karaoke is my personal guarantee for an endorphin rush and therefore definitely a keeper for 2018.

If you are planning to sing your heart out you can do in the Melody Karaoke Bar in Frankfurt or at the Hallertor in Nuremberg (beware of the stickiness!).

Taking impulsive decisions

I remember the moment distinctly: There were only a few tickets left and they were  insanely expensive. Upon refreshing the browser they were suddenly sold out – my heart stopped. I refreshed once more and – shock – the tickets were available again and so I hit “Buy” without thinking. After five months of sheer excitement I finally went to the Rolling Stones concert and it was worth every single penny. This concert is something I will still talk about when I am as old as Mick Jagger is now. And the whole incident taught me that there are some experiences you cannot put a price upon.

Reconnecting with old friends

Since my not-so-new-anymore job requires me to travel to Nuremberg regularly I got the chance to reconnect with an old friend from elementary school. We were very close as kids and fortunately have managed to reestablish this closeness as adults. I remember a particularly nice evening with her at the open-air cinema. It was 10pm, thirty degrees and we were watching a very bad chick flic with Scarlet Johnson seated in beach loungers that got very uncomfortable after a while and one specific joke got us laughing so hard, that tears were streaming down our faces. I definitely want to have a night like this again in 2018.

↓ Drop

Over-economizing

I tend to spend my money very carefully. Which is good on the one hand, but it sometimes gets in my way as far as memorable or even life-changing experiences are concerned (see “Taking impulsive decisions”). Why not book that flight to Singapore? Who knows what might happen in the future and whether I am still able to do all that I want to do when I am older. So maybe I should cut myself some slack and drop the over-economizing on everything. Because surely a mind full of happy memories is worth more than a full bank account. (And yes, this is coming from somebody who works at a bank.)

Finish reading books I don’t like

I really do love books and whenever I occasionally grab one that does not speak to me at all (try reading “The best of Adam Sharp” by Graeme Simsion – I expected a romantic love story and got a weird weepy main character that ends up having a threesome with his lover’s husband) or that is simply too sophisticated for me (did anyone actually understand “Unterwerfung”, the scandalous oevre by Michel Houellebecq?) I feel a strange inner need to finish the book no matter what. This has to stop! At a birthday party last week a former German literature student pointed out to me that life simply is too short for bad books. And she was right. What applies to bad relationsships, unenjoyable food or stupid movies is valid for books as well. Next year I will drop this habit and only focus on books that engage my brain in a positive way.

♥ Try

Climbing and advanced hiking

To try out climbing has actually been on my to-do-list for 2017 but I messed it up somehow. So 2018 is definitely gonna be the year when I grab some gear and climb up a so called “Klettersteig”. Since I have always wondered whether I am afraid of heights this should be a good occasion to find out. Also, after discovering my love for hiking in 2016, I am now planning to try out some of the more advanced trails. The book Wanderlust, which I bought at the Frankfurt book fair in October, provides awesome food for thought as far as hiking is concerned. My number one destination for 2017 is the Malerweg in Saxon Switzerland.

More cooking and baking

It’s not that I don’t cook or bake, but I definitely do have a certain respect for rather complicated recipes. I am afraid of messing it all up – but then again, why would that be such a desaster? Most things in life are trial and error and only practice makes us better. So I am gonna try it all: the badass chocolate cake and the pumpkin risotto. The Spanish paella and the Portuguese pasteis de nata. I already started last week by preparing an awesome pumpkin and chestnut tarte that involved kneading dough, caramelizing chestnuts and cutting pumpkin – the latter being a challenge by itself for somebody with no measurable arm strenght. How it turned out? Delicious and worth every minute it took to prepare.

2018: I am ready for you 🙂

Highs and lows in Austria | 4

Day 4+5: Klaus and Anneliese

The weather had been improving in tiny increments and on day four – to my outmost delight – it rained only a little. We decided to take a trip to Kitzbühel in order to check out this celebrity skiing hotspot.

To make a long story short: Kitzbühel is cute. You can stroll down narrow streets in between beautiful traditional houses, have a nice budget-priced lunch at Huberbräu Stüberl and walk up to Einsiedelei for coffee and a view.

But that’s it, actually. It left no lasting impression on me.

Day 5 was all about hiking again. Together with four other fast walkers I left the main hiking group and stepped on it. We took a tour up to four beautiful mountain cabins (this must have been our tour roughly: Vier Hütten Wanderung), passed waterfalls, crossed stony slopes and ended up at Dientalm where they serve the very best Kaspressknödelsuppe I have ever tasted. Marvelous!

Even more interesting than the wonderful landscape was the company during the hike: I met Klaus and Anneliese, one of those very likable extreme long-term couples who spent half a century together and are still as happy as on day one (or at least it seems like it). Despite their age, which must have been somewhere in their mid-sixties, they were in tremendously good shape and kept pace with the younger people. During the decent Klaus walked next to me and told me about his life. He ran the marathon for 15 years (starting at the age of 46), each year topping his personal best. With his wife he still rides the mountain bike in their vacations and together they have tried several long-distance trails, outpacing other much younger people. They challenge each other physically, all the while being gentle and respectful to each other. It impressed me very much. Klaus and Anneliese were fitter than most people my age and also spread more joie de vivre than most people my age – I listened to Klaus in awestruck silence all the way down the mountain.

And then I suddenly thought: This is what I want to be like in thirty years. Active, healthy, well-balanced, spirited. This is a great goal worth working for. Getting older doesn’t have to be a drag when you have the mental image of Klaus and Anneliese before your eyes – with their hearty laughter and cheeky, witty manner. There should be more people like them, reminding us that getting older does not equal getting passive and weary with a collection of more or less severe ailments.

Lesson learnt today: With a little effort getting older can be awesome.