Being sensible is supposed to be a good thing, but I have disliked the word ever since I learned about it in English. It’s supposed to be a positive characteristic such as compassion and respect, but I feel it is my biggest enemy at times. The problem is that I am actually quite sensible but execute it very poorly, which constantly leaves me feeling conscious of my bad life decisions.
Being too conscious of my poor behaviour and inability to execute my sensible nature, makes me feel guilty towards myself most of my free hours. Every time I’m enjoying a glass of wine (dry, only dry) I could be working on my thesis, or catch up on the political situation in Venezuela, or learn to play the piano, or take an Arabic course… Terrorism is happening, might as well get on board. Okay that last statement was not too thoughtful, I had some wine (ice on the side please).
Having too many ambitions and expectations is the problem, being so damn sensible and all. Why can’t I at least drink my wine (house wine will be just fine) not in a bar but behind my laptop at this very moment so I can wrap up my PhD thesis? There is always too much temptation, distraction… and the next morning I wake up in a weak state, whereas I could’ve set my alarm early to go for a hike or teach unprivileged children how to grow vegetables.
My sensible self conflicts with my behaviour and it’s eating on my conscience. I was that person who graduated a Master in Ecology ‘on the side’, opening study books only when I had to take a train or wait in a queue, because I had too much other shit on my mind. I wasn’t unwilling to study, but I chose to work a minimum of 40 hours a week in restaurants as well, and I couldn’t miss out on social events either. I wanted more than a Master degree and just enough money to survive. I wanted to travel the world in the meantime and see every band that visited Amsterdam, and that’s a lot of bands.
But I managed: I waitressed my ass of, enjoyed life, passed exams, gave up sleep, travelled and dámn did I pop that bottle of Champagne when I finished my Masters. I celebrated by booking a return ticket to Quito; I left Dutch cheese for what it was, said goodbye to my house, quit waitressing, left my lover and friends behind and enjoyed a joyful and carefree life for three months backpacking in South America. Me being unable to execute my sensible nature, again, led to some trouble (robberies, sexual insults, being stuck in the middle of flipping nowhere) but I had the time of my life. And while being in Colombia, I had the unexpected luck to get the job of my dreams.
So half a year later I’m in Africa, specializing in a topic which most people don’t know the existence of, and I’m enjoying it. But South Africa has great wine (sauvignon blanc, preferably), and it’s distracting me from higher purposes in life. I’m not doing too badly on the PhD front, but I know I could’ve done better… Could I really, or is it misplaced guilt? Maybe my sensible self is making a pack with my guilt because she feels left out and wants to get back at me by making me feel useless all the time. Or maybe my sensible self feels hurt because I seem to prefer a glass of wine over her company (chardonnay will do, but only unwooded). It’s always a glass before I catch up on politics – “I don’t have internet at home, how could I possibly get involved?”, or before my piano teacher shows up – “I never really had one so it’s unlikely he’ll get their first”, or before my Arabic course arrives – “I tried to order one online but 150 euros?! that’s like 45 glasses of wine”.
Look, I know what it’s like to feel second best and I don’t wanna do that to my sensible self. After all, she’s constantly with me so we might as well try to get along. In my defence: I rarely get drunk, I never get to a point where I forget stuff, harass people, or can’t find my way home. I really try to good, but it’s never good enough for my Miss Sensible. I always wake up thinking I could have spent my time better.
Because I want to make things up to her, I often find myself cleaning random stuff in my house at late hours. I have been polishing my vacuum cleaner with dishwasher and scraped off dirt from the bottom of my table chairs with a metal brush. I have painted walls that didn’t belong to me and tidied up other people’s store rooms. I have cleaned up rivers, volunteered for various NGO’s, donated money to random funds, nursed ill friends, and fed poor people. But I still don’t know the capital of Kyrgyzstan or the atomic mass of nickel. Because while I could have transferred Wikipedia’s knowledge to my brain, I was chatting to strangers in various bars.
My hero Jerry Lee Lewis once said: “People say I’m a drinker, but I’m sober half the time”. I’m actually fairly often sober, but I still mess up. Men, for instance, illustrate how bad I am at making good decisions. But then again, those things are bloody difficult and how can a woman really get it right? But there is more; I often lose more money than I make, sleep too little to reach full brain capacity, ingest too much E-numbers to have my stomach function properly, and smoke more than my lungs can keep up with. And after occasional grand fuck-ups, I still find it hard to change things for the better; isn’t one supposed to learn from mistakes? Maybe I should be relieved I don’t, it would only stimulate me to make more.
In my world, sensible, wine (“another glass please, last one I promise”), guilt, conscious and mistakes are just synonyms. But I know they are not. I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. I’m still positive I’m gonna finish my PhD, and I still score quite well when it comes to basic knowledge. Of course I could’ve done better, but couldn’t we all? All of us clever people could have finished three Master’s degrees by now, and learned five languages, and played guitar and piano at the same time while rocking the harmonica, and dance salsa better than Shakira, and paint like Mr Van Gogh himself. But whatever knowledge you stuff in your brain, it’s gonna die with you anyway. Six feet down under. We might as well have fun, travel, meet people and sleep in on a Sunday morning, while you should actually be doing some gardening. I think the grass can wait another day.