Of warm hearts, free will and different abilites

Or: How to leave the world a better place than you found it.

„Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best.“

This quote goes back to Sir Robert Baden-Powell, a British Army officer and the founder of the world-wide Scout Movement. And if I may say so: It is very ingenious in it’s banality.

As some of my loyal readership might know, I joined the Scout movement when I was about 7 years old. Or my parents made me join, I should say. As you can imagine, I’ve certainly been made fun of for saying that I am a Scout. „Have you helped an elderly lady across the street today? Do you sell Girl Scout cookies?“ You get the point. Kids can be assholes. However, today I am convinced it has been one of the best decisions my folks have ever made for me. Shoutout to Irmi and Klemens, I’ll be eternally grateful!

Scout and Proud

I have written about some of my Scouting experiences in the past. When I saw a troll penis in Iceland in 2017. Or when we raided vending machines for booze in Japan in 2015 (German only, sorry guys). For some inexplicable reason (definitely not a lack of commitment to this blog… nooo way) I never followed up with a post about the last mighty Scout adventure: When I had the pleasure to work as a trash man at the World Scout Jamboree in West Virgina in 2019. It was way more fun than it sounds.

Life as a Scout-Trashman ain’t easy

I’ve volunteered as a Scout youth leader for roughly ten years now and it’s been highly rewarding on so many levels. And one thing’s for sure: There will most certainly be more posts around the Scout Movement on bearnecessities in the near future. However, still inspired by an incredible time, I would like to take a slightly different approach.

The DYVO Project

At the beginning of July I was able to take part in a completely new experience for me: Participating in an Erasmus+ Project and volunteering with a Lithuanian organisation for people with mental disabilities. Or, like another volunteer from Italy pointed out, in order to be even more inclusive: different abilities (shoutout to Martina).

„Jaunuoliu dienos centras“ (or JDC) is an institution in the Lithuanian town of Panevėžys. and literally means Day Center for Young people. JDC is the Lithuanian partner organisation and along with institutions from Italy, Belgium and Austria they are working on the so-called DYVO project. DYVO is aiming to „facilitate and innovate the recognition and validation of competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning in the field of youth volunteering“. What a mouthful of a sentence, hey.

What sounds somewhat abstract in theory is actually a really great idea, if you ask me. Let’s say you have volunteered with the Red Cross, or at an assisted living facility or a kindergarten, or even volunteering to clean in a hostel somewhere in the world. You name it. During that time you acquire certain skills: problem-solving, communication or empathy, just to name a few. Now imagine you could put those in your CV just like language skills? The idea of DYVO is to make just that possible.

Volunteering means learning from each other

Engaging with the Lithuanian students at JDC was not only a new experience, though. I feel like this week really was a time of learning from each other. Of growing together, even if it was just for a week. We prepared for interviews with volunteering organisations, wrote CVs in easy-to-read/easy-to-understand English, or set up LinkedIn profiles together. Topped off with some cultural, sporty and relaxing activities.

Samanta (2nd from left) is a student at JDC. Here she is mock-interviewing for a volunteering organization.

One of the activities at JDC especially resonated with me, and I hope you will appreciate why. For this activity, we were asked to write an essay on volunteering. What has volunteering provided for your personal development? What skills have you learned? What problems in society have you observed during your time volunteering and how would you solve them?

My first thoughts are: „Oh boy, how much time we got? And where the hell to start?“ What our lovely hosts from Lithuania may or may not have considered, is how fucking big those questions are! You might as well be asking how to achieve world peace in our time. But hey, no task is too big, right. So I get going.

Fake alarms and blindfolds

After like 20 minutes or so, I reach somewhat of a flow state. Words are falling together into coherent sentences. I’m writing. Then all of a sudden a pounding alarm goes off. For a second I think it’s a fire alarm. PAAAANIIIIIC! Then I realize something is fishy. Julya, one of the amazing hosts at JDC, asks us to get up, leave everything as it is and move to another room. Less panic! Our new friends at JDC seem way to chill about everything so I sense that something must ben up.

Finding our seats in this new room, we are all being blindfolded and given a new task: In our groups of three we receive a piece of fresh clay and are asked to form a sculpture as a group. As you can imagine, not an easy task and quite the opposite from writing an essay. What a fascinating sequence of events!

Definitely a new experience: Forming something from clay while being blindfolded-

As you can imagine, there was something to be learned here. This whole sequence of events was not only supposed to challenge us and our adaptability. It was supposed to give as some sort of tiny glimpse into what life might feel like for someone with different abilities. At the moment you are finally focussed enough to do something, somebody is already asking you to move on to the next thing. Wow! Quite frankly, for me, that was a goosebump moment. And hopefully it will give you an idea, what that week in Lithuania was more or less about.

Volunteering? But why?

Some people have asked me: „Why would you take a week off work to do something like that? How do you have that energy?“ or, concerning international Scout camps: „Why would you spend thousands of Euros to work a shitty job as a trash man?“ And I get it. A week at the beach somewhere might have been useful to fill up my batteries as well. Staying in a luxury Spa might have a much more relaxing effect on some.

But in a unique way I feel like volunteering – so essentially giving up your own time to be of help, support or service to others – offers more than just that. Every single time I feel like it warms my heart. It might sound silly, but I don’t know how else to describe it. It gives me a feeling of connection to people who I had just previously met. It gives me the sense of a purpose. And it makes me feel like if I were to leave this world tomorrow, I would leave it a little better than I found it!

I’m planning on diving deeper on the whole volunteering thing. So bear with me, there are some cool projects coming up that I would like to share with you!

Until then, kisses on your lovely beach-bellies

Jakob, your friendly neighborhood bear

How it feels to turn 30. Or: Of bears and butterflies

30. The big Three-O. Three decades. A round one, as the Austrian would say. „How does it feel to be 30?“ I’ve been asked that quite a lot over the last week and even before my birthday. A question and an occasion that seem important enough to bring this slumbering bear of a blog back from its years of hibernation. Perhaps at the end of this text it will have become more obvious what bears have in common with butterflies. Or – if you know me, you might have guessed – not.

My instant reaction to that question has been something along the lines of “Stupid question, next question!” (Please don’t feel offended if you’re one of those people who’ve asked me that recently. Love you anyway!) But how do you answer this question as a 30-year-old male animated pile of flesh? It starts with the fact that for the longest time of my existence I haven’t even been aware of what I was feeling whatsoever.

Baby bear with momma bear
Always been a skillful nose-picker.

The feeling of change

The reason for this circumstance is certainly worth a blog entry of its own. I’ll just boil it down to a mixture of „difficult social relationships between men and feelings“ + „fear of confronting one’s own emotional world (greetings from childhood (micro)traumas) + „lack of (self) awareness“. Which makes it all the more difficult to answer what a birthday feels like.

Some may (or have to, depending on perspective) count themselves among the illustrious circle of those who get to regularly enjoy my mumbo-jumbo. If you do, you probably know that in the last few weeks, months, maybe even 2 – 3 years I have tried to learn more about topics such as personality development, psychology, philosophy and also spirituality. And – who would’ve thought – that brought a whole lot of insight with it. I have already shared some of that in previous blog entries. With the end of the bearish hibernation, there will also be a lot to come. Buckle up, it’s gonna be a wild fucking ride!

Sweaty and meditating in Indonesia

One of those insights is definitely that everything is constantly changing. If the scales in my parents‘ bathroom had vocal cords (I don’t have one myself for good reasons 😉), they would sing you a song about it. Most of you will now think “Duh Captain Obvious”. But it is still a realization that – for me at least – comes along with a whole bunch of interferences.

Above all, the fact that there is no way to avoid and escape change. Therefore, we better embrace and accept aging and at some point our own demise. Sorry, if this happens to trigger existential fears in anyone. (The great team of Kurzgesagt has summarized this in a lovely clip) However, it’s part of the game as long as Silicon Valley doesn’t discover the philosopher’s stone. And as long as one doesn’t put their faith in reincarnation. But more on that in another post.

Homemade third-life-crisis

Returning readers may have noticed by now: This is not a good ol’ bearnecessities-travel blog entry. Just like myself, bearnecessities may well be going through some changes. But you’ll know what I’m talking about eventually.

In the first draft of this post, this is where I started blabbering about feeling like a cocooned chrysalis about to become a butterfly. Because change and metamorphoses and ladeeda. But to be honest: fuck that, butterflies my ass!

Frankly, I would have every reason to think turning 30 was really shitty and awful. Don’t get me wrong. I am quite aware of how ridiculously privileged I am. However, there’s a but. I am still being confronted with societal requirements, norms and expectations. And between us, sometimes I struggle coping with that.

“What? You haven’t accumulated any significant property? What, you still haven’t climbed the second step of the corporate ladder? What, you don’t even have someone by your side to increase life on this earth? Well, big PHAT “Yeeearp!” Social media takes it one step further. Stories, reels et cetera essentially suggest to constantly compare ourselves to others. Add some pinches of global circumstances that, all optimism aside, are going to challenge us. Et voila: Ready is your homemade Third-Life-Crisis.

Follow the honey, get stung by bees

Luckily, since last time I looked in the mirror – alongside marvelously thick chest hair – I still had a bear and not a butterfly tattooed on my chest. That is to say: Yes, loving all that change and development. But me personally, I don’t want to be irritated, seduced and led by my own social conditioning.

Evidence: Bears and chest hair

Again, I am aware of my extreme privilege. But my perspective is the only one I can authentically talk about. And to be frank: Your own conditioning, the oftentimes wrong believes we’ve taken on and the goals imposed by society is something that one may want to dismantle at some point anyway. Regardless their personal perspective and privilege.

With all the change in my metaphorical backpack of a character I’d much rather continue to follow the scent of honey, even if at the end of the day there is a hive full of bees waiting for me. I’d much rather screw up and learn from it. I want to go my own way and create my own timeline in this life. I want to collect experiences and memories that nobody can take from me at the end of the day. You catch my drift.

Embrace the paradox

On some given days, this works really well. On others, it does not. At all. Sometimes this… let’s call it “way to live one’s life” feels extremely motivating, almost euphoric. And on other days it feels depressing and sucks ass big time. But if the last few years have taught me one more thing, it’s that life is full of paradoxes and contradictions. It teems with dichotomies and duality. For me, it was a tough pill to swallow but life as an animated pile of flesh on planet Earth is goddamn ambivalent. And the way I see it, the only way is to endure, even embrace that!

Now you have your answer. That’s the essence of what it feels like to be 30. Getting older is awesome and awful at the same time. But once one has accepted that our earthly lives are finite and – loosely based on the Stoics – once one has internalized the concept of “Memento Mori”, one can really begin to live! And now I’m getting a butterfly tattoo, maybe even on my ass!

Until next time, kisses on your bellies.

Your friendly neighborhood butterfly.