Milestone 5

“Every time I go hiking, I come back a different person. It takes a certain mindset to tackle large challenges- Setting goals for yourself, accepting that things might not go as planned, and the conviction that whatever you got yourself into, you chose for it and you choose how it ends. These are things I take home with me.”

The end of July is nearing and I’m wondering where it went. One moment I’m on the highest mountain on Sweden with zero visibility, the next I’m in a skate park in Prague shooting pictures. Then I blink and I’m in my home town, mixing live bands for a couple hundred folk music lovers.

These couple days are the first where I can take it easy, though that doesn’t mean I don’t know what to do. I still have paperwork to fill in for the payment of my last job (more on that later) and I’ve had several direct and indirect job offerings I need to contact people for. Working on the internet? It boggles the mind.

The city is still shaking from the Ghent Festival. A few days after I came home from my trip, 10 days of music, binge drinking and miscellaneous cultural events were unleashed upon our medium-sized town and 48 hours later, they’re still cleaning the mess up. If there’s anything this organization is good at, it’s keeping the city clean.

For tourists it’s a phenomenon to be witnessed, for the locals it’s either a grave annoyance or a keen opportunity to find a job. Many of my friends found some position or other as volunteer security or bartender and I too was lucky enough find work: Sound technician.

Holy shit.

I was trained as “assistant stage technician”, so I could find work at a cultural venue or land me a dead-end job with some audio company. What I was not prepared for, was carrying the responsibility for tens of thousands of euros worth of equipment, building it up and breaking it down every single day, and doing it by my fucking self. But yeah, I pulled it off rather well.

Because I’m usually so involved with the technical side of the festival, and because it is the climax of social interaction throughout the summer, every festival stands as a lighthouse in the locals’ lives and makes an easy mark to look back on the past year. It’s like new year’s, but without awkward long-lasting hugs from single drunk uncles.

It also highlights the situation and condition as it is each July. The first year I really started “doing” the festival, I was a bike taxi driver in the middle of a break-up. The next, I was owner of a free youth hostel (or so it felt) and was merrily enjoying my next relationship for the couple days that it lasted. Last year I was a carpenter in a dance school and translator for Canadian friends who got arrested, and this edition..? Sound tech with an attitude and unhealthy obsession for anything female.

Pretty much every waking moment that I wasn’t hauling subwoofers or experimentally pushing buttons, I was hanging over some bar with my tongue out or skipping after groups of chicks way too big for me to handle. I had no less than four girls sleeping over for the second half of the festivities, and had about 2-3 more that I saw on a daily basis. I went out every single night, buying love with free drinking tickets and getting up early to share some intellect on top of high monuments. With chicks, obviously.

Something, somewhere, went terribly wrong.

There was a time when I didn’t have the gall to approach women and talk to them- at all. That time was, in fact, the past 26 god damn years. There were times when I wanted to reach inside my mind through my ears and manually bust whatever obstacle was keeping it from working properly; that’s how much it bothered me. It feels like some mental handicap and after going through several painful extremes trying to beat it out of myself, I gave up and went to Lapland. This was like, last month.

On my way home through Eastern Europe, I was noticing some significant changes. Where last time solo travelling wore me down alarmingly quickly, I now felt more confident than ever. I was talking to people, smiling, flirting with Polish chicks. I don’t know what Sweden-bound parasite nestled itself in my brain but even if he’s eating away at my temporal lobe, I don’t really mind.

Gah. I don’t know if I should be relieved or worried. Relieved that finally, I stand a fighting chance in this war they call social interaction, or worried that this is, in fact, the road to insanity or I’ll end up scaring people. I got a couple strange looks already and one or more are definitely on to me.

I was relieved to notice it’s not just some hormonal flux or a case of virginity growing back- My whole way of interaction is shifting. I smile more. And I hug.
I’ve had situations where I was convinced I had gotten more hugs than the rest of my single life combined, but I think this year’s edition of the Gentse Feesten, I broke the record of giving them. Short, tight, “I’m glad you’re here” type hugs that are starting to mean a lot to me. I’m even beginning to understand why people seem to believe I am allergic to those, and am calmly trying to work on that, as well.

All in all, I think I’m becoming a much more extroverted person, but it’s hard to see if this is just one more step in whatever process I am swept up in, or a revolutionary change triggered by my trip northeast or some event before that. As often happens in the case of positive change, I’m going to go and not give a shit. I’m going to go with the most plausible, which is that my efforts are paying off. After this long, I think that calls for a fucking celebration.

I did not get laid, did not get thanked repeatedly for my work (but paid instead), did not find my purposefully vague obsessions satisfied, but I still think this year’s “Gentsche Fieste” were a great success.

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