“Ahhh, amerikai!! Where in America you live?”
The cool thing about Europe is that not many people know that Cleveland isn’t cool. It’s not a New York or a Los Angeles, but try telling someone from SoCal that you live in Oradea, Romania. Chances are they haven’t even heard of Bucharest, so they won’t know that you live in a backwoods town that isn’t really reaping any benefits from the fall of communism outside of those delicious Big Macs. Cleveland even has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and everyone has heard of Rock and Roll.
“I went to school in Cleveland, which is in Ohio, but when I get back I’m moving to Washington D.C., where I’m going to work for the government.”
It’s harder to impress another ex-pat.
“Well, I’m going to work for the patent office. Yeah, I get to review patents and determine if they are new ideas or not. We’ll see how it goes. Uh-huh, yep, that’s what Einstein did. ”
It’s the first day at a new school, excepts it’s everyday. A pack of college students and recent grads sitting in a hostel courtyard, each expecting adventure and insight from this trip. No one knows who is cool, who is weird, who is secretly a complete loser. We’re all instantaneously ourselves, or at least the selves we can project.
“I don’t know. The job sort of came out of nowhere, it wasn’t something I really pursued so much as fell in my lap. I was planning on going to grad school but
(that didn’t pan out) I decided to take a year off.”
The longer you know someone, the less you’re able to change their opinion of you. Be it good, be it bad, it becomes harder and harder to look at the story you’re living objectively, life becomes habit, expectations are set. Most people don’t get asked astonishing questions by people they’ve known for a while. That part is often played by intriguing stranger #5 (always with a scarf), who just happens to be sharing a train compartment with you. Fate proceeds to take its course.
“Beats me. I’ve always kind of thought I’d get a master’s in Computer Science, get a technical job and work my way up. I like coding, but I know I’m better at other things. Part of me thinks about law school, but … I don’t know.”
Backpacks. Guidebooks. Maps. Trains. Mountains. Museums. Cafes. Parks. Benches. Food. Languages. Coins. Postcards. Insignificant compared to a simple question.
“Are you happy with who you’re becoming?”
Twenty three years doesn’t prepare you for much.