Can you stomach it?

image“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.”
—James Stephens

This is cow stomach soup. It is a traditional Bulgarian dish, often eaten by the youth after nights of heavy drinking. As my time in Sofia drew to a close, I ordered a bowl. Exotic or simply awful, it is a cultural marker and I didn’t want to miss out.

In Rome, do as the strangest of romans.

It’s not bad actually. The soup is fairly good. That is, until you get to the “meat”. The pieces of cow stomach. Chewy, spongy and slimy — quite disgusting.

Still, disregarding the remains of a cow’s stomach, the soup itself was surprisingly tasty.

Adventures in Asunderland

I was at a crossroads. The path ahead split into three, two leading into unexplored terrain and one returning to where I came from. Without an idea where to go, all I knew was that I desired change. None of the unwalked paths seemed worthy traversing, but my lust for something new pushed me ahead nonetheless.

After almost 8 years, it was time to leave Norway.

There were more reasons than just an urge for new horizons. I had considered moving on from Norway for years, and suddenly there were several factors in life suggesting that now was the time to make the big leap.

The options?

France, in a small but beautiful city with a international studio. A good project, but not the role or the place for me.

Bulgaria, in the capital (Sofia) with another international studio. An interesting project, but this time the role was also appealing. But the city proved, after an onsite interview, to be terrible.

Neither option was the life I wanted. Far from it. Still, they were opportunities, and a change was necessary. Or so I thought.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, my intuition screamed “no”. But I would have none of that. I tried to analyze the different offers, engaging my intellect to find the optimal decision, in a constant dialog with myself. But I was still at a loss.

Alice, lost in adventures much more wonderous than the ones I ultimately had, sought guidance from the grinning Cheshire Cat.

`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
`–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.’

And so I simply chose one of the paths, ending up in Sofia.

Sofia. The forgotten capital of Europe. Poor, ugly, broken and corrupt – and here I intended to live.

The city is Eastern Europe at its worst. The communist era apartment complexes litter the city as tombs of crumbling concrete, polluting even otherwise nice areas with their towering desperation. The retired begs for your “leva”, much to poor to survive on their tiny pensions. Packs of wild dogs, with or without rabies, scavenges the dirty streets for food and shelter.

I stayed just short of a month. It would have been difficult for me to be happy there, despite the kind nature of the Bulgarian people and the good food. The wealth a western salary provides in Bulgaria doesn’t matter – in Sofia everyone is poor, because whenever you step outside your luxurius home you’re still in Sofia. Returning to Oslo became the only sane option, and this time my choice felt right.

Steve Jobs, in an inspiring speech given to graduate students at Standford University, delivered the following memorable quote:

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

A simple idea, yet so difficult to internalize. But it’s true, it’s powerful and it’s important to understand. Sheath your intellect, if only for a moment, and listen to your instinct. Then you will know what path is yours, even if the destination still eludes you.

Perhaps my little adventure in Sofia will become meaningful when observed in the mirror years from now. By then I have hopefully learned to trust my intuition.