Fear and Rambling | Many tak and a fond farvel

I thought my last column would be the easiest. I’d set aside my grandiose verbosity and penchant for sesquipedalianism (sorry) and give you something genuine. Or perhaps not. But I hope to leave you with something of my last two years of existence.

Copenhagen is easy to fall in love with. But it’s a detail thing. Like the comforting quirks of a partner learnt over time instead of the more immediate attraction to flawless bone structure and flowing blonde hair. 

For me, it’s the 5am beers in smoky, sticky bodegas surrounded by the 18 to 80-year-olds. It’s learning to open bottles with literally anything. It’s sheepish grins exchanged in communal stairwells. It’s the relaxed approach to trivial human interaction, like customer service or dating. It’s the remoulade, dear god it’s the remoulade. It’s tak for sidst at work on a Wednesday morning from friends you were with three hours ago.

But most of all, it’s the city that lets you go at your own pace. As long as it’s slow.

It takes a while to get used to. I’d arrive at work on time and leave on time (rookie mistake). I’d ride my bicycle as fast as I could, overtaking unimpressed Danes. I learnt to obey the little red man when I crossed the street and to appreciate the slow build-up of a marathon night out instead of the short, vomity sprint I was used to.

There’s an easy and lazy metaphor to be made here, so I’ll make it quickly. It’s the journey not the destination, the taking-part not the winning, various mentions of the word ‘life’ and so on.

But a steady pace isn’t in opposition to ambition or potential. It’s about being far enough back to see the impossible obstacles we set for ourselves, like don’t eat so much cheese. Make that little bit extra a week and you can relax and finally enjoy the fruits of your labour. Maybe take up CrossFit.

Learn the piano and you’ll be far more attractive to the opposite sex and have the confidence to approach the cute French girl in the corner of the café reading Keats, move to Paris, lie naked in a sundrenched apartment in the 10th, eating chocolate croissants while realising it was a cute-French-girl-chocolate-croissant-sized hole all along.

Quit smoking, quit drinking, quit procrastinating, quit quitting. And we wonder why we sit in shameful slumps of our own underachievement. 

Here’s the obligatory Oscar Wilde quote you’ll see mercilessly plastered on the walls of paleo cafes (apparently cavemen had espresso machines and free wi-fi): “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

What’s forgotten or ignored is that it’s not from ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ or ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, but from the essay ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’. Political philosophy aside, the quote in its entirety and context adds layer upon layer of complexity.

Although I admit, “With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live.

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all” is way too long for a menu. The point is this: no-one can reduce the meaning of pleasure, vice and the life worth living to an Instagram post. But it is better to simply exist than live someone else’s idea of a meaningful life.

Most of us are too embarrassed to admit that we move overseas for the romantic promise of three things: discovering oneself, reinventing oneself or finding the one who can make both of those pursuits unnecessary.

It’s so embarrassingly cliché and naïve that we won’t even admit it to ourselves, which is why it’s so hard to let go of. As long as you make friends you love, this all seems trivial soon enough.

I’m so grateful to mine that I won’t embarrass them in print any further. I can only promise to embarrass them in person again some day soon. 

Bring remoulade.