The People We Meet

Sunday 8 June, 2014

They say true wealth is measured not by money, but by how much time we have to do whatever we like. Similarly, we can measure how congruent we are by the people in our lives and the people we meet. This post is a comment on the fact that the people we meet are a reflection of ourselves. They are signposts informing us where we are in life; and our connection with them helps to shed light on whether we should continue on our particular path or make changes. In addressing this, I make a distinction between two environments: one which served me well but was not my goal; and one which brings more harmony.

For years I inhabited the business world, even though I knew it wasn’t for me. I met my best and closest friends on a business degree, worked in London and Frankfurt in software and finance, yet only intermittently questioned what I was doing. I mingled with the airborne suits and their briefcases, looking on as they read and corrected their documents on the move. I even watched one of them fall asleep mid-message, blackberry in hand, whilst sitting next to me in a cab bound for the airport.

I had great times along the way and sometimes I felt I belonged to their world, but deep down I knew I didn’t. I adapt easily so I was able to blend in without much effort. But from a discreet distance I began to notice that the people around me, to a large extent, enjoyed what they were doing. Sure, some were pretending just like me, but there were others who were so suited to their roles, that the distinction between their ease and my discomfort begged to be acknowledged.

I spent 12 years in the corporate world with a break in the middle for my training. Then, six years ago, I entered a more fitting reality. She was quite different to many of the people I knew. She wanted to help the world, just like me, and the people I began meeting because of her were the same. I am additionally thankful because she showed me her land of origin, where I have lived now for almost five years. It’s a country where the ideal of supporting others is more easily fostered, and where common sense lives up to its name.

The Netherlands has bestowed upon me a sense of community greater than I have hitherto known. That should not be much of surprise because I am more open to others than I have ever been. But the people I have met over the last few years are a truer reflection of who I am and who I’ve always been. I feel more at home here than anywhere. Again, that is no real surprise because I also feel more at home with myself these days.

What is interesting – and specific to this country – is that the Dutch have a word for the experience of community. In fact they use it to describe any atmosphere of being with others and enjoying the well-being and comfort of good times together. The word is ‘gezellig’. Its mere existence invites meaning, and being able to convey that meaning (as layered as it is) in only three syllables allows the whole concept to spread meme-like through the population. As a result, awareness inevitably increases and the experience becomes more heightened and more common.

As well as the people I already cherish in my life, I am meeting others who are congruent with my personal and professional pathway; in a country with a deep-rooted appreciation of what it means to experience wholesome togetherness. Gezellig.

Related topic: Linguistic Relativity

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