No, this is not a story about a transgender pioneer, although I did love that film and Eddie Redmayne looked just as banging in lipstick and heels as he does in real life.
This is a story about how sometimes people can cross your path for only a brief moment and leave an imprint that will stick around…
The Danish Girl
I’d purposely chosen my first volunteering experience to be somewhere that would allow me to be relatively anti-social; I wanted to be somewhere I could isolate myself, avoid small talk, or any talk really, and just be alone with my thoughts.
Week one was settling in, week two was silence and by week three I was missing human contact a little bit, so I crept out of my hermit shell and faced the world.
And that’s when Nina rocked up in her cycling gear, dripping with sweat having just cycled thirty-four kilometres uphill to our centre (sounds like a familiar idea) with a big smile on her face. And I instantly knew we’d get on.
She was here for a week of chilled volunteering before taking her bicycle and pretty little turquoise helmet on an adventure – cycling from Barcelona to Istanbul. A twenty-five year old student of linguistics who speaks god knows how many languages ridiculously well, knows how to cook and lights up a room with her happy-go-luckiness and warmth.
We went cycling together, shared a room full of monkbeds, chatted about lots of stuff but also had a lot of our own space and quiet time. The Danish Girl was the perfect person to ease me back into the social realm.
Hygge & Happiness
I’ve never been but I’ve heard a lot of positive talk on life in Denmark, home of Hygge.
I picture it to be a little Utopia where everybody is tall, fair-haired and naturally pretty. Where they wear simple clothes and ride their bicycles to their coffee-shop-style offices and only work four hours a day. After a brief but productive stint at the office, they go for a rigorous work out then head home to feast on a well-deserved Smørebrødsbord. When the rye bread and toppings have gone down, they have candlelit bubble baths and read books together curled up in a blanket in front of a roaring fire.
Daydreams aside, according to all sorts of reports on that there tinterweb, Denmark is in the top few countries with the highest standard of living.
I’m not sure on the exact forms of measurement, but I’m assuming it’s all about wealth, a good work-life balance, an incredible healthcare and education system, low unemployment rates, high life expectancy, social connections and environmental quality etc. etc. etc.
What these stats don’t mention, but Nina did, is that Denmark is on the leaderboard as one of the most anti-depressant prescribed nations in the world and one of the main contributing factors is their climate and lack of sun.
It’s one of the darkest and coldest regions on earth where winters can last six months and people are only getting a few rays of light each day.
It’s a little bit paradoxical that the world’s happiest nations also take the most antidepressants and there’s probably a thousand debates to be had on the subject.
We zoomed in on how true it is that blue skies fill you with happiness,and even make cycling up mountains a pleasure rather than a chore. And how over the past few days of thunder and greyness, we’ve all been feeling lethargic; staying doors, sleeping longer and wanting to do nothing more strenuous than pick up a book.
I’m Crawlin’ Out
As well as teaching me all of the above and how to make the world’s healthiest and tastiest ice cream, Nina also reminded me of my pre-hermit self.
I’ve done enough reading on anthropology and blue zones to know that our social connections play a huge role in our happiness, health and life expectancy.
I also think people, situations seem to present themselves just at the right time to serve as a lesson – and Nina was one of those people.
So it’s time to leave the silence and solitude behind and start meeting some more Heroes.