How a trip to an ancient city helped me stop complaining

When I look at some of the older videos on this channel, I can notice that I was complaining a lot. I didn’t like my job; I didn’t like pandemic measures; I didn’t like China; I didn’t like the weather, the traffic, the noise, my income, my gear, my YT videos, my writing…

I liked nothing at all, and I used my camera to complain about it all.

But, that wasn’t the end. I used to complain all the time, whenever I had interaction with other people, especially if they were close to me and I could open up to them. I was an emotional vampire, and that’s somebody you don’t want to be around because that can easily become exhausting.

After I’ve first noticed that I’m complaining too much, I’ve even made a video about that, but it didn’t help me make the change I was seeking to make. Realizing that you have a problem is an important first step but to make a change you need to put in the work and I’ve put in some work indeed.

I found a fix but…

I tried fixing my habits and thought patterns; I was reading self-help books; I was reading Stoics; I was meditating, journaling, trying to appreciate things I’ve got, instead of craving the things I didn’t have, I was focusing more on the things that I could control, instead of the things that were out of my control, and gradually, I was making some progress, but it was still, more or less, intellectualizing things, and putting very little into practice. 

And, the best way to put things into practice is to put yourself under some pressure, put yourself out of your comfort zone and see how you perform.

And that’s what I did. I’ve quit my job, I moved to Serbia, and I decided I won’t take just any job, but I’ll be aiming for the one I’ll actually enjoy doing.  

The result is that I’ve entered my fourth month as an unemployed father and a husband, turning down ‌every job offer ‌because of the low payment, or lack of passion for the projects and work itself. I simply don’t see myself as a salesman or dispatcher or anything that involves performing mundane, repetitive tasks, and all there is on the job market is exactly the jobs that nobody else wants to do.

As Steve Martin once said, to do the work you love, you have to be so good that they can’t ignore you.

Realizing that I have slim chances of finding a job that I enjoy, emotionally and mentally, I fell into a dark place, which resulted in less productivity, less clarity and less joy. I knew what I wanted from my life; I wanted a job that involves creativity, problem solving, and some sort of freedom, but I couldn’t get one, because I simply wasn’t good enough or I didn’t get enough exposure or both.

Should I stay or should I go

Then, we got a message from our friends who we met in China. They invited us to come and visit them in the ancient city of Belgrade, which is the capital of Serbia and one of the oldest cities in the world.

At first, I hesitated. I didn’t want to go; I thought I would waste both time and money which is becoming shorter and shorter day by day, but then I realized that changing places, even for a short period‌, can bring new perspectives in people’s lives, and therefore I accepted the offer and I went to Belgrade for a two-day trip.

I found it

Our friends greeted us at the train station, and we started sightseeing immediately. One of the first places we visited was the ancient fortress of Kalemegdan, which is 2000 years old, and it belonged to Romans, Serbians, Ottomans, Hungarians, and finally Serbians again, but archeological findings at the place which nowadays known as Belgrade, provide evidence that this area was populated by ancient civilizations even in 6000 BC. 

Knowing all these facts, and just standing at the same spot where different nations following different religions fought countless battles and claimed this place as their own, gives you some sort of special energy, and you think about all the dead soldiers and all the winners who marched between these walls which guarded this place from enemy invasions, and that entire picture makes your problems insignificant compared to what they had to deal with. 

The view from Kalemegdan on the confluence of Danube and Sava is stunning. Even one of the mighty Roman Emperors, who had everything a man could ever have in that day and age, stood in front of this river and said – This is the end of the Roman Empire, the Gods set up the borders with this mighty river.

Although Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, I’ve visited it only a few times, and most of the time, I would go there to watch football games. My last, proper visit to Belgrade was in 1998, when I was a fifth grader and back then, I couldn’t care less about the history of this, or any other place, nor could I understand any of that stuff. 

Now, it’s a totally different story. This place grew its roots into my entire being and shook them like you shake a person whose head is high in the clouds.

The charry on the top arrived when we bumped into an exhibition of medieval torture instruments.

Yes, there is such a thing. The instruments were shown inside the dungeons of the ancient fortress, and we could see all sorts of bizarre gadgets whose sole purpose was to make people suffer in tremendous agony. 

From knee crushers to… (name a few instruments) 

When I exited the exhibition, my first thought was – Man, aren’t I lucky to be born in this century, where my biggest concern is whether my internet is fast enough, or whether I want to do some boring work ‌for some money. Yes, it’s not ideal. Finding a job, whether cooperate, or pure physical labor, can be daunting, and exhausting, just as much as performing these tasks, but nothing compares to being tortured by some filthy gov. officials just because someone accused you of doing or saying something which they found threatening or blasphemous. 

And thinking about the fact that I ever complained about the weather, or the traffic, or waiting in line to buy the newest iPhone, or whatever… makes me feel like a spoiled brat who cannot appreciate all the good stuff in their life and they only focus on the things and experiences they are yet to achieve.

It felt like my behavior, my thoughts and my point of view, were simply unjust and unreal. 

William B. Irvine, a professor of philosophy at Wright State University, and the author of several books on stoicism, says – We are all living a dream life, but the irony is that the dream we’re living belongs to someone else. 

No matter who you are and where you are, there is someone, somewhere, who had it much worse and who would gladly live your life.

Is the honey moon over

Even a few days later, I still think of that exhibition whenever I’m about to complain about anything, and I still think we live in the best era. So far, at least. 

Yes, you could easily get carried away, and you could easily forget about that feeling you once had and you could put your head back into the clouds and once again you can become oblivious of all the other potential sufferings which will never happen to you.

We have worries and threats of our own, a new economic crisis can make many people hungry and a nuclear war could easily wipe us all out, and we should definitely do something to either prevent these things from happening or simply to get ready for them once they happen, but until they ‌happen, if at all, we should just take the best from things we have, and enjoy the damn thing once in a while and just stop whining about all the little things.