Just blogging

Moving

For all those who are maybe wondering why I’ve been so quiet the last days, I’m not breaking my new year’s resolutions, but I actually do have good news, that I’m really excited about: I finally got my own website, where I will continue my blog from now on. Just go to jlouisewinter.com to check it out!

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Paris

About Paris

Today, I would like to comment on my post about fanfiction, which depicts very flattering image of Paris. Having lived here for almost five years, I’m not totally sharing the point of view my fictional Rilke character gives voice to. Also, considering that I initially came here for just one year, five years is quite a while and I somehow feel that I’ve seen everything worth seeing. I don’t contest that there’s still something new to discover with every passing day, even after having spent a lifetime here. Nevertheless, going for something new seems much more appealing to me right now. And so thinking about how to take my personal and professional life to a new level, I’m also thinking about moving.

Even though for now, I have no idea where I would like to live instead of Paris or France, staying here for five more years doesn’t seem to fit me anymore. By the way, I never was as psyched about coming to Paris in the first place. I remember how excited all the other students of my year where, and how worried as well. They took months, some of them almost a year, to plan everything. All the hysteria going on at that time never really affected me. Sure, Paris is an amazing city, but for me, it was just one of the European capitals, and so I didn’t expect it to be particularly breath-taking. Having spent a year in France before, it also didn’t seem to me as if it was any trouble to move there. And so I just went. There have been maybe two or three things which weren’t easy to manage, but still, nothing really bad. The only thing which really brought me down was that I arrived for the semester starting in October, and it was quite the opposite of a pleasant autumn, I remember it to be incredibly cold and rainy that year.

Before Paris, I used to live in small towns, where people were used to always go by bike and were going from one end of the town to the other wouldn’t take more than half an hour. In Paris, on the contrary, I spent my first weeks mostly underground, in the metro, away from the sunlight, which was already hard to get, even during the day. going back and forth from one unwelcoming university building to another. And when I finally got out of the the cold and artificially lit classrooms, the sun, or at least what you could have guessed from it, had already disappeared. In addition to that, I happened to finish class right in the middle of rush hour and so my early evening ritual consisted in being crammed into the metro together with crowds of of moody and stressed out looking passengers who were totally absorbed by their phones and apparently didn’t want to engage any sort of human interaction.

I’m definitely not the kind of person who gets in touch with people easily. But seeing a friendly face every now and then might have helped me not being as depressed as I was at that time. I also forgot to mention that I never was interested in becoming besties with the other girls of my year. And I didn’t know anybody else in Paris back then, which made it a little hard at the beginning.

Fortunately, it all changed. I’ve met awesome people, got a job, also quit the studies which I hated and which made me sick. And in the meanwhile, I slowly assimilated.

Not being very comfortable during the first months soon gave me the same facial expression I had noticed on other people since my very first ride on the Parisian metro. I also stopped wearing colors and progressively got rid of everything in my closet which wasn’t black or dark grey. The funny thing is, that although I’m in a much better place now, I’m still sticking to the style I adopted back then, some little changes apart. I’ve reintroduced white and blue items to my wardrobe and if I want to go a little crazy, I also have a few pastel colored pieces. But nothing more eccentric than that. I also kept my habit of only wearing black jeans, except on Sundays – that’s the day when I pull on the only blue jeans I own, combined with a casual sweater or tee. Funnily, it took some time until I realized that changing my style had also been a sign of assimilation. The reason why Parisians have their particular chic is the absence of color, except maybe for red, blue, a dark green or a dark purple. The style of clothing is rather dark in general. I also have the impression that Parisians aren’t very eager in taking risks when it comes to choosing their outfit. The only time I’ve seen a daring way of dressing was during Fashion Week and still, it seemed too strained.

I like understatement, though and I love a rather casual style. Especially if you’re always as late for dates as I am, just grabbing a pullover and some jeans can save you a lot of time. And provided that you’ve chosen some nice fabric, and the right shoes, not trainers!, this kind of outfit doesn’t look too grungy or even neglected. Of course, I love to dress up, too. But from time to time, I also have my moments which aren’t very glorious. The latter doesn’t happen that often any more, but when I still worked in a pub, there were days when I just didn’t care at all. After an intense eight hour shift and the sleep deprivation caused by partying afterwards, I sometimes went grocery shopping in my pajamas, giving off the olfactory traces from the night before in all their nastiness. I only made the effort to brush my teeth before leaving the house. In those moments, I realized that I had become the weirdest person in the metro. And I was relieved, because being aware of being the weirdest passenger also proved that I still wasn’t the craziest, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have noticed. But there’s at least one bad thing about embodying the “strange person”: It also attracts really strange people, sometimes as strange as disturbing. From bumping repeatedly into awkward strangers (one of them kept talking about killing mosquitoes), over sitting in a bus next to a guy with a major bleeding wound on his hand and his toothbrush in his pocket, to being in the same and otherwise empty train wagon as heroin junkies preparing their next shot. And I’ve also been confused with a prostitute (in winter, when I was wrapped up in my huge and bulky coat, showing absolutely no skin, except for the slit between my woolly hat and the scarf I had even pulled over my nose), just because I was in the wrong place for a couple of minutes too long.

For those who haven’t noticed yet, Paris isn’t always as picturesque a my fictional character describes it. But it sure is an adventure. And even though I feel that I will be ready to move to another country, soon-ish, I also know that I will miss Paris, for its beauty, but also for its crazy people.

PS: There are also friendly people here, who are not crazy at all. And there also is sun.

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Culture, Lifestyle

Changes

And it’s Sunday again. It came so suddenly. The last couple of days just flew by. Maybe the last week seemed to pass by so fast because I mostly stuck to my daily routine, consisting of working out, my job and my blog. And seeing friends, of course. Recently, one of my friends came back from a few months travel and so we have been hanging out to catch up. She told me about all the amazing countries she visited, the awesome people she’d met and that she actually didn’t want to come back to Paris. (As a matter of fact, she’s only staying two weeks before flying back to Australia.) She said that people here would probably still have the same jobs, still live in the same place, still have the same troubles in their relationships. Well, although things might not be as boring as that, I do see her point.

After having had a drunk night out yesterday, I went for a walk this afternoon. Looking at the remaining Christmas decoration in the streets, seeing people getting rid of their Christmas tree which finally started to shed it’s needles, I suddenly became oddly aware of how transient everything is and that at the same time, nothing changes. One year just went by and I hardly noticed it. Sure, there have been quite some changes, I realized it as soon I was writing a long letter to someone I haven’t seen since 2013. It might be the fact that I’m turning 25 this year and that I’m about to have a quarter century crisis, but today made me questioning how much I have achieved in life so far.

On Sundays, people take their kids to the park or go see the grandparents, twenty-somethings go home to have lunch with their families, students who came to Paris for their studies are spending the last day of the weekend at home in the suburbs before taking the train back to the city. On Sundays, people take a break from the usual, everyday’s rush. They take the time to go for a stroll or for visiting a museum. On Sundays, everything seems to pause.

Sundays used to make me feel restless and I’m just slowly learning to appreciate them as a day which I can absolutely dedicate to myself. But sometimes, looking at the other park visitors makes me having second thoughts about my life. I awkwardly notice that my mum had already had me when she had the same age. After finishing her studies with successfully, she had found a stable job which gave her enough security and already founded a family. By that time, she was totally independent from her parents.

As for me, I dropped out of university, I don’t have any degree. I worked in the food service industry for a couple of years before getting a better paid job in an e-commerce enterprise. But I surely couldn’t provide for an imaginary kid, I couldn’t even get a cat. The last time I asked my mum to help me out financially is not that long ago and I also still live with my flatmate, which is great, but nevertheless, I think sharing a flat is something that you should only do for a certain period of time. As always, there are also exceptions, of course. But thinking of the people in their mid-thirties I’ve met and who still shared a flat, I know that I definitely do not want to make this my lifestyle.

In the 19th century men were considered as men as soon as they were able to grow a beard or go to war. Women got married at the age of 20 to 22 and often became mothers shortly afterwards.

I remember how weird I found it when the boys I went to school with suddenly started talking about doing their military service. And the girl who was the first one of our year to get married surely surprised me. So what makes us become adults, nowadays? When is the moment that we’re able to say “Now, my life is settled”?

Taking into account how fast our society changes and that there are so many more possibilities and career choices than 200 or even 20 years ago, it’s normal that finding oneself and being able to build one’s independent future has become a much longer process.

The good thing is that I won’t be able to do crazy things like buying a sports car until I figure out my next professional and personal steps. I can save that for my midlife-crisis. Maybe I will have my driver’s licence by then.

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Culture

About fanfiction

Last week, one of my friends asked me to write a short text for her website. She wanted it to be some kind of fanfiction about the impressionist writer Rainer Maria Rilke. Well, she didn’t actually employ the word “fanfiction”, but she wanted me to invent a story about why the writer had spent a part of his life in Paris, mentioning, that it hadn’t necessarily need to be true – so basically fanfiction.

It’s very funny how things happen in life. Only a couple of days before, I had read an article about students being much more into literature than their teachers would have expected. They invent alternative story-endings, or add some funny details to their beloved book or movie characters lives, letting them experience great adventures and unexpected relationships. Although the author of the original book might not be too happy about the fan’s rich and wild imagination, I think that fanfiction is a very interesting and delightful way of interpreting a story. And in some cases, it even gives space to new productions, like Snow White as a horror movie. Well, this is more of a reinterpretation than fanfiction, but I think that it’s pretty close, though.

While reading the article, I was already thinking about what I would do to the characters of Harry Potter. And since the book is so incredibly detailed, I found it quite hard to imagine anything which still would make sense to the book, but be totally new to the story. Also, I’m respecting my childhood heroes way too much to imagine them in a threesome or anything of this kind. (According to the article, people’s imagination is endless and touches all areas.) And so I came to the conclusion, that I would probably never write anything which can be categorized as fanfiction. Despite of all that, I surprisingly did, just a few days later, on the request of my friend. And it was fun! And since I had to do some research as well, like finding out more about Rilke’s biography, learning more about historic and cultural events which were important at that time, I actually upgraded my general knowledge.

And le voilà the text I finally wrote:

The Story of a Youth to Discover Paris

“Why Paris of all cities? That’s a good question.

It mostly was thanks to my friend Auguste Rodin, who had had a big influence on me taking this decision, after all, it was him who had offered me the position as his secretary. I could never have rejected such an offer, particularly as I have always been a great admirer of his artwork. And of course, Paris is a very scenic city, considerably more charming than London, which seems to be a little too gloomy for my taste. And considering that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle probably found the inspiration for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in current events, then I’m feeling a little uneasy about England. Besides, the weather there seems to dampen one’s mood and to make one miserable. I  do not want to deny at all that the English culture has its appeal and that it produced quite a few great and brilliant authors and artists, let’s just name Charles Dickens or William Turner. But it seems as if Paris was more pleasant after all.

I find it especially interesting that the Russian culture, which has always aroused my enthusiasm, has been following the French example. Who knows, if my friend hadn’t made this offer, I maybe would have traveled to Russia first. I think it’s a fascinating country.

Paris isn’t any less splendid, of course. Art and beauty are always celebrated there, even in everyday’s life. Just think of Parisian fashion! This makes me think of how impassioned my mother used to talk about French couture. From my very early age, she tried to share her love for French fashion with me. I suppose, and Sigmund Freud would certainly agree, that the enchantment my mother felt for the French style has left its mark on me in a manner that it explains my curiosity for Paris. Besides, I’m convinced that there’s almost no other city which could be more suitable for an artist. Magnificent beauty always surrounds you, everything is incredibly picturesque. Not to mention the remarkable architecture. And the gardens! They’re just a true paradise. If you have ever been to the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Jardin des Plantes, you know what I’m talking about. It’s almost impossible not to find any inspiration in those places and not to be impressed by Paris.”

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Just blogging, Lifestyle

About my new way of blogging

Now that I’m getting back to blogging, I’m thinking a lot about how I could best promote my blog, of course. Certainly, there are many instructions to read and some researches to make – I noticed that I actually don’t know a thing about wordpress or social media. It was only recently that I’ve found out how to use Instagram, and looking at the accounts followed by thousands of people, I’m still not sure if I’ve totally figured it out. 40 followers, whoop whoop! It was quite the same for Pinterest, my flatmate needed to explain it to me, otherwise, I would definitely still be clueless. And there are still tons of apps which leave me somewhat confused. Snapchat for instance, or Dubsmash, which recently flooded Facebook like a virtual tsunami.

I don’t really mind that my social media skills give room for a lot of improvement, I can always add that to my “Things I want to do or to know or to be better at” list. And since social media can be really important for your personal or professional project, I guess I will start some reading after finishing this post.

After having published my previous post I thought about with whom I wanted to share my blog. Taking a more personal direction, I wasn’t sure if I wanted everybody to read it. Funnily, I wasn’t afraid that my mum could find out anything compromising about me, she already knows everything. I was more afraid of the possible judgement of the people I know, which means friends, friends of friends, some coworkers, some acquaintances. I’m rather introverted and so making friends usually takes quite some time, mostly because my extremely pronounced skepticism makes me dislike most people at first. So of course, I don’t want to ruin a friendship with a couple of stupid lines. But of course, I came to the conclusion that your friends like you for who you are, or in some cases, despite of who you are. So I guess that also counts for blogs. By the way, I’m sorry Linda that your guinea pig got diarrhea. It was me who had fed him all the dandelion. I didn’t know he had a dandelion intolerance. Hope we can still be friends!

Finally and as you can see, I spent way too much time thinking about how I would come across. Also, I’m somehow hoping that those who read my texts will be more inspired by the texts than by my person.

As for music, people tend to recognize themselves in a song and the most successful and powerful songs usually have lyrics which are appealing to many people, so that they can connect to it. Good music provokes an emotion but also responds to the listeners emotional state. When we’re listening to music, the person who wrote and sings the song seems less important and is slightly shoved in the background, becoming a rather abstract figure.

I think it’s the same for fictional literature, and maybe even for some non-fictional books, such as (auto)biographies. Besides a great plot, readers are hooked if one of the book’s characters inspires sympathy. This is mostly the case if the reader finds any kind of common ground between himself and the character. Besides, I think that this even contributes to creating a suspense. In my opinion, as identifying with a character, we’re also looking at an abstract reflection of a part of us. This can lead to questioning our own acts and our behavior towards others. Therefore, identifying with a character also means judging ourselves through this character. And so while reading, we constantly need to be reassured. Is the story going as I expected? What if I was in the same position? Would I have done the same thing?

It has happened to me that I was disappointed by a book’s character I firstly liked. This happened either when the character did something extremely stupid (and so I got frustrated because it was so easy to see it coming), or when the character did something against the values I support. In such a situation, I’m always wondering who’s right and who’s wrong, or if there is such a thing as the right choice. And there again, the author doesn’t take much space in the reader’s mind. At the moment of reception, his role is less important than the role of the hero, except if there are obvious autobiographical traits. But even then, I think that the reader still concentrates more on how the text he’s reading affects him.

Probably, it’s not very different with a blog. The blogger mainly has the role of a mediator and also seems rather abstract to me. Of course, I may see a part of what their life is like and what experiences they make through their eyes, but the blogger as an individual person remains an enigma for me. In the end, and again, it all comes down to just sharing stuff, may it be personal or not. And I will be glad if a few people like my texts. And if they don’t, well, they don’t.

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Culture, Paris

Today’s attack on Charlie Hebdo

Maybe the biggest news in France today was the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Since the news quickly spread, I’m pretty sure many of you heard about it. Personally, I saw the report on the TV this morning and later today, my attention was brought to it by friends who went to show their support for the magazine this evening at Place de la République. I’m positively surprised how fast and to what a big extent people reacted to this attack. In contrast to that, I’m sadly not very surprised at all that the attack took place, simply because the magazine has a history of stirring up controversy and also because there has been an incident in the past. Of course, nothing justifies terror and any kind of violence, no matter of which possible reason is unacceptable. But I do understand that certain publications might be considered as offensive or even insulting. And so I cannot help wondering about how we would react to an article or a caricature which obviously made fun of the beliefs, customs and cultural traditions which are enshrined in our society. (Hopefully not with a terror attack, that’s for sure!) Also, I am convinced that people should be able to make comments, express their opinion as well as criticism without having to be afraid of being persecuted in any way or being attacked, neither verbally, nor physically. Still, how far should you go when speaking your mind? That’s a question almost impossible to answer and there surely is no rule to apply. Maybe, today’s tragedy could have been avoided under different circumstances. And maybe, a better cultural understanding could have helped with that. Now, this said, I will go and read some Utopian novel.

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Culture, Lifestyle

New year, new beginning

Even though I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions – I think people should try to be the best version of themselves throughout the whole year and also make resolutions at any moment it becomes necessary – I actually do have some resolutions for this year.

The first one, which I’ve already started working on since November, are getting fitter, physically and also mentally. Having struggled with eating disorders for the past ten years, I’m becoming aware of the results of the horrible things I did to my body. I’m also noticing how my former lifestyle is affecting my health and how it might affect me in the future. Therefore, I started taking care of myself, which includes working out regularily, eating healthier, drinking less alcohol and sleeping more (and much better without the usual glas, glasses or sometimes masses of wine I used to have).

And since body and mind go hand in hand when it comes to your well-being, I also decided that I would challenge my brain more. At first, I started with the idea of simply increasing my IQ and trained myself by doing some IQ test preparation on my phone everytime I was taking public transports. In the meanwhile, I was thinking about how I could also become more creative. I have to admit that I kind of feel ashamed when people find out that I once started writing a blog, when I’m now totally lacking of inspiration and commitment. So I’m now planning on writing for at least half an hour a day – about anything, regardless of how it it could affect potential readers. (I’ve read that becoming adults, we lose the spontaneity that kids have. Kids just start drawing, writing, being creative without minding how their work will be perceived. As adults, we first of all think about the result we try to achieve, and sometimes get frustrated with our creative attempts, which of course, turn out to not be that creative in the end. So in order to escape this vicious circle, I’m trying to stop overthinking. I can still do that when it finally comes to publishing what I’ve written.) I hope in that way, I will be able to collect some ideas which are worth working with. That being said, I’ve no clue which direction this blog will take. There will certainly be less posts about fashion (there are so many talented people who are alreday doing a great job by writing about fashion). Instead, I will probably share more of my personal thoughts, concerns, opinions. Or to say it in a different way, I will use the blog for its initial purpose.

A few weeks ago, I read an article on the website of The Guardian. It was an critique on a modern artist whose name I forgot. (It also doesn’t matter in is case.) What really striked me in this article was the critivc asking if the artist had ever thought about what she actually wanted to express and in which way her art should affect the recipient. Apparently, she just went from painting to publishing, staying in the childish approach of not thinking about what kind of an impact her art could have. In any case, I thought that the question of purpose was a relevant one. And even though some people might say that art should have no purpose, I never shared this opinion. Also, I sometimes get the impression that modern artists don’t seem to care very much about how their art is received or if it’s accessible. But that’s another chapter. What I initially wanted to express with this rather huge parenthesis is, that even though I’ve given some thought to the possible reactions of potential readers and to the question if I could make an impact with my texts (probably not), I have no answer to that at all. And so I’m satisfied that a blog isn’t a piece of art.

Anyway, I hope I will succeed in sticking to my New Year’s resolutions and maybe, some interesting texts will come out.

Happy New Year!

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