The semester is coming to end which makes me happy. But I am writing my last post today which makes me sad. For me, this blog has been a real journey towards inspiration; I learned a lot and experienced a lot for the last 4 months. And I want to tell you all that happened, so I just don`t know how to start.
I guess I will begin with the things that frustrated me the most while working on “What inspires people?” After all, what I find most valuable about my Multimedia Journalism class, which is the reason for the birth of my blog, is not that I had the opportunity to do what I like but the fact that I also had to do things I was not very fond of. As they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
In my post “What have I learned so far,” I already explained how approaching people for interviews made me feel:
“I was completely inexperienced. And what is even worse, I was really shy and uncomfortable doing it.”
Shooting videos was also a new experience, and turned out to be something that does not come naturally to me. Also, editing those videos was taking me much more time than it should since it did not prove to be one of my talents either. And just when I learned how to talk to interviewees, when I started to enjoy shooting and when I became better in editing, I had to face a brand new challenge. I had to become an actress for a class video. And while I learned that I will never get an Oscar, I also understood that acting is not scary but a lot of fun.
Although I had a few difficulties and concerns connected to my blog, the high points were ten times more. I had the opportunity to embrace my love for writing. I have always enjoyed this activity, but before it was a hard and slow process for me. However, I noticed that with each new post I was starting to write faster and more freely.
Also, I met a lot of people on my journey: people I only vaguely knew, and people I have never met before; people with different professions, people of different ages, and people with different dreams and experiences. But each of them enriched me both emotionally and intellectually. If it was not for my blog, I would have been passing them by indifferently on the streets of Blagoevgrad unaware of their rich inner world, never getting to learn their interesting stories.
Moreover, I was not hearing these stories only for myself. I was able to share them with the world. Yes, the thought that people from 6 different continents are checking my blog was exciting to me, the idea that someone across the globe has read my post made me feel special. But I was not taking this seriously until one particular happening.
A few days after I wrote my story “An Everyday Hero,” where I told about Doctor Tatyana Spasova, a remarkable person who takes care of children with disabilities, a woman from USA connected me on my e-mail. She wanted to know how she can come to Bulgaria and adopt one of these babies. At this moment I realized that what I am doing matters. For the first time I felt with an absolute certainty that I want to become a journalist.
Now that I weighted the pros and cons of having a blog, it`s time to ask myself whether I fulfilled the objectives that I set to myself at the beginning of “What Inspires People?”
What were the main purposes of my blog? First of course, to answer the question “What inspires people?” I found out that inspiration is different to everyone. So I decided to collect one bit of inspiration every week. In my first post, “A Free(lance) Artist,” I stated:
“I am going to gather the little pieces that compose inspiration and gradually assemble this great engine of human spirit.”
“Anyone who wants can be good at being free. And this is where inspiration starts.”
And indeed, I believe that the first necessary condition for a person to be inspired is to be able to freely express oneself. Inspiration exists only for individualists, for people who love and understand themselves.
The second week I suddenly had serious doubts about the topic I picked for my blog:
“Lately I was thinking that my blog, having the topic “What inspires people” can get too sugary and unrealistic. After all, many people find inspiration a luxury. They are sick, or very poor, or have another big problem in their lives that absorbs them and leaves no place for inspiration.”
And then I met a street musician, who did not have money to travel back home, whose wife was hospitalized and whose child was sleeping in the guitar case. Still, the man was playing the most beautiful music I have ever heard. This week, I learned that inspiration can survive in hard moments, as long as you have strength.
On the third week, I encountered Yanka Mihovska, a Bulgarian child poet. I learned something valuable from her as well:
“Inspiration is this uncaused joy which we think is only natural to kids. But the 70 year old woman made me doubt this popular opinion. Maybe inspiration is not a feeling we should expect from time to time. Maybe it is our long-lost but waiting to be rediscovered natural state of mind.”
My journey towards inspiration continued with meeting a very interesting person. Georgi Popov was born in a moment, when the political situation in his country was terribly violating the rights of freedom. However, he managed to escape this reality and make his dreams come true. He taught me that sometimes inspiration is all about courage.
On the fifth week, I met a professor in the department of arts. Georgi Drachev, a professionally accomplished but at the same time unpretentious person, made me believe that another part of inspiration is harmony.
My journey towards inspiration undoubtedly had its emotional peak when I went to a Home for Children deprived from parental care. Visiting institutions like this one has always been a hard experience for me. This time it was even more moving because of the conversation I had with one of the doctors there. From Tatyana Spasova I learned that one of the pieces that compose inspiration is Love:
“Love in all its forms. Love as a professional duty, as tenderness, as warmness that you can give to someone who needs it. Love as in being the right person at the right place, even for one individual in your life.”
Still, I regard my seventh post as my biggest success. I found the number of Yana Georgieva, who is the President of the Bulgarian Association of Cancer Patients, who won the prize “The Benefactor of Bulgaria” and who became “Volunteer of 2011” for the whole European Union. I did not expect her to give me an interview but I had to try. Surprisingly, she agreed to take a few minutes of her time for me. Yana was a cancer victim herself, but chose to dedicate her life to others suffering from the disease. Talking to her, I learned that inspiration is about faith:
“You can be inspired even when something terrible happens to you as long as you believe that you are strong and loved, and that good can defeat evil. Then, you become powerful enough to help others. It turns out that inspiration is not a luxury or a myth created by the poetic minds. Inspiration is real. Inspiration is necessary. Inspiration can save lives.”
And while in my first post I learned that inspiration is for bright and independent individuals, in my last post I also understood that after all inspiration is also about socializing and sharing:
“With the help of Ilko Drenkov, I enriched my collection of inspirational pieces with another one- kindness. Up to now, I have considered inspiration a very intimate and private emotion. Now, I believe that inspiration is cumulative; that it is born in our minds but should not stay only there; that if you share your smile, your poem or your thought with someone else, your inspiration is not lost, but doubled.”
“Every week I will interview an interesting person and ask him or her the question: “What inspires you?” My personal goal with this blog is to ask myself the same question at the end of the semester and to finally have an answer.”
Although I experienced and learned a lot since the first day I started blogging, I have to admit that I don`t have a definite answer to the question. Today should be the stopping point of my journey and I can`t choose one particular activity or feeling that best defines inspiration for me. I realized that inspiration is in the dramatic moments of our lives, but in the small details as well; that inspiration is the driving force for poor and for rich, for young and for old, for healthy and for sick; Today I realized that inspiration is not a destination but the journey itself. And to stop blogging for me would mean to stop my journey towards inspiration. I may take a short break, I may start a new and different blog but I will not stop. Actually, if one day someone asks me “What inspires you?” maybe I will answer: “Writing a blog.”
Take a look at me illustrating my blogging experience:
Cancer. Most of us have met it. Some of us faced it personally; some of us faced it when a beloved one was diagnosed with it; just a few of us have never had to experience it. But the statistics are horrifying: approximately 7.6 million people die of this illness a year. Those who survive can never be the same again. So we are all frightened.
This week I talked to a person who convinced me that we shouldn`t be. Yana Georgieva is one of the breast cancer survivors in Bulgaria and one of the most active fighters against it. She taught me that human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen; she made me believe that sometimes a terrible event can lead to an inspiring outcome.
“Charity begins in home but it should not end there.” This is Yana`s favorite saying and she follows it ever since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yana fought the disease with all her strength but realized that she also has to help others.
Yana launched the establishment of the Bulgarian Association of Cancer Patients and became its President; she is the chairwoman of the “National Association of Women with cancer in Bulgaria.” With the help of her husband, Yana also initiated the construction of the first and only Home for Cancer patients in Bulgaria; Her humanitarian activities brought her a number of prizes: In 2003 she was selected as one of the “13 worthy Bulgarians” in a media competition; In 2004 she was nominated for “Person of the Year in Varna” (Varna is one of Bulgaria’s biggest cities). Yana became “The Benefactor of Bulgaria” for 2006; she also won the European Award for “Volunteer of 2011 – European Year of Volunteering in the European Union.”
I am happy that I can share the priceless advices Yana gave on beating cancer; I believe they will help anyone who is fighting the insidious disease and is willing to follow them. According to her, the first step is realizing that knowledge is the key to spiritual power when we are facing difficulties:
“We shouldn`t hide the diagnosis “cancer” from our loved one in order to protect her; we should call things with their real names. The fight is motivated and real only when you know who you are fighting against.”
Secondly, Yana shared that one of the strongest weapons against the disease is the support of family and friends. Still, she believes that the strength comes from within:
“Love, kindness and warmth of family and friends help a lot. Sometimes even one good word or encouraging advice can help you get out of your depression and bring you back the desire to live. But the strength to survive cannot come from the relatives; the diseased person should find it himself and revive his faith and hope. And most importantly: cancer patients should not let the thought of self-pity conquer them, should not isolate themselves or think that they are a burden for their relatives.”
The President of the Bulgarian Association of Cancer Patients has also become aware of another crucial moment when fighting cancer. She believes that talking to others facing a similar problem to yours is a priceless help.
“When you are in trouble your biggest desire is to meet someone with the same fate. After hearing my diagnosis I only wanted to hear someone telling me “I am like you, I know what you are going through.”
This is why Yana decides to dedicate her time to the cause to help other diseased people. Although she understands this is a difficult mission, she also realizes it gives her life a meaning.
Finally, Yana assures that in order to survive, a person should be consistent, reasonable and determined that he or she will recover. The patient should also follow the advices of the doctors and live a healthy life in harmony with nature.
After I learned the basic anti-cancer reactions, I was eager to also hear the summary that Yana will make in response to my traditional question, “What inspires you?” Here is what she said:
“When you are happy, it is easy to be inspired. Positive things can inspire instantly. The true art of inspiration is finding love and hope in a critical and sad moment of your life. With love, you become stronger, you become extraordinary. And as for the hope, hope creates dreams. And at least one of them becomes true.”
This week I got convinced that one of the required factors for inspiration, especially in difficult situations, is faith. You can be inspired even when something terrible happens to you as long as you believe that you are strong and loved, and that good can defeat evil. Then, you become powerful enough to help others. It turns out that inspiration is not a luxury or a myth created by the poetic minds. Inspiration is real. Inspiration is necessary. Inspiration can save lives.
Listen to the interview I took with Yana (with voice over) and take a look at the President of the Association of Cancer Patients in Bulgaria and her friends:
So here I am, going through the stories and the pictures of my previous posts and wondering. Now that I am halfway through my journey towards inspiration, what have I learned? For sure I learned a lot.
First of all, I learned a lot about other people. At the beginning it was hard for me to find someone to interview. I was angrily thinking that there is no one appropriate. At one point, I started to look at everybody as a possible interviewee rather than as a human being and thought how crazy and rude this was. But suddenly, I realized that it is actually neither crazy nor rude. It hit me that anyone is indeed appropriate to become a part of my blog. Because every single person is inspiring. Everybody has a story. Everyone can tell you something valuable, can teach you, and can affect you. You just have to be there to hear the person, to record and then pass his or her words to the readers.
And here comes the second thing I learned. I learned a lot about the details behind being a journalist. I am so into writing; I can write for days and still be pleased doing it. But when it comes to finding people to interview and actually to go to their places and talk to them, I was completely inexperienced. And what is even worse, I was really shy and uncomfortable doing it. Now, I am not. I am actually truly happy to meet these people and have interesting conversations with them. And transforming these conversations into blog posts has already become my hobby.
But still, not everything was perfect. When I started studying Journalism in the American University in Bulgaria, and later, when I went to an Internship in the Bulgarian National Television, I had a realization that was like throwing cold water on me. Journalists don`t just record and write. They search for stories, call, appoint, sometimes even shoot or tell the cameraman what to do, upload, edit, and finally, hope to have their reportage approved. I really doubted whether all this is for me. Before my Multimedia class, I barely knew what WordPress is all about, have never heard of Souncloud, have never used a twitter account or a Facebook page, and had no idea how to edit audio or shoot and edit video. Right now, although I still have a lot to learn, I know the basics of “Audacity,” and of “Adobe Premiere,”and have shot and edited all by myself. I am one step closer to becoming a journalist.
Still, of all the things I learned, what I find most valuable is the way talking to inspiring people enriched my knowledge and excited me. But I think it`s time I became more specific. Who are actually these people I mention so many times? These are my heroes from Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria: Lyubomir Kanelov, a promising young freelance artist who mastered the computer technologies; Dimcho Paskov, a street musician who was playing for days, earning just few levs, and who actually turned out to be a professional virtuoso; Yanka Mihovska, a light-hearted old lady who reached kids` hearths with her beautiful poems and riddles; Georgi Popov, the highly educated man who never gave up his dreams; Georgi Drachev, the Dean, Professor, artist, collector, and in his own words, student of nature and life; Doctor Tatyana Spasova, the admirable woman who takes care of and gives love to abandoned or sick children.
Let`s sum it up. With my first post, I promised you that at the end of each story, I will tell you one piece of inspiration that I learned for the week. Meeting Lyubomir taught me that inspiration is about:
“Freedom. Freedom to use your strength. Freedom to do what makes you happy. Anyone who wants can be good at being free. And this is where inspiration starts.”
And actually this is where my blog about inspiration started. I met Dimcho and realized:
“…that inspiration is not about feeling as happy and light as if you are two meters above the ground. It is not about being appreciated and successful. It is only about being strong.”
Yanka also helped me find a piece of inspiration:
“It is this uncaused joy which we think is only natural to kids. But the 70 year old woman made me doubt this popular opinion. Maybe inspiration is not a feeling we should expect from time to time. Maybe it is our long-lost but waiting to be rediscovered natural state of mind.”
Later, Georgi Popov taught me, that another part of inspiration is courage.
“Because one can`t choose when or under which circumstances to be born. But he can choose to be brave. Then, even if not exactly as imagined, dreams come true.”
The lesson I got out of my talk with Georgi Drachev was, that:
“..to a big extend, inspiration is about harmony: harmony with oneself and with the surrounding world.“
My emotional meeting with Tatyana Spasova made me believe that:
“…love is one of the most powerful sources of inspiration;that it is a source of inspiration which helps you overcome your pain, surpass your possibilities, give more than you have and become greater than you ever thought you could be.”
So far this is what I`ve learned. And what I`ve learned has inspired me to search for more. If you also wonder what the next pieces of inspiration will be, stay with my blog. Let`s make the picture whole together!
Take a look at me on my journey towards inspiration:
I anxiously entered the light-yellow building. The setting was humble and the wall paint was at places flaking off. Still, the halls were clean and warm; there were plants and toys in the corners. I was in the Blagoevgrad(Bulgaria) Home for Medical and Social Care for Children “St. Stiliyan.” There, I met PhD. Tatiana Spasova for my interview.
Tatiana kindly invited me to her office and started her story. She has been working for the Home for almost 20 years. This Home hosts 46 children deprived from parental care. The kids are up to 3 years old and many of them are born with severe diseases. The pediatrician explained that she has to bear enormous responsibility because the first three years of human life are the most crucial for the physical development. All body functions mature at that time and an error in the treatment of a child could mean the creation of an always suffering person. She added another important element to her professional duties:
“Another thing that makes our profession so specific is that we have to account for the emotional condition of the child, for its personal development, as well. We take the role of the parents. Otherwise, children fall into the so-called state of “emotional deficit” and cannot develop properly.”
Tatiana received ten year training by a social program financed by „Doctors of the World” and aimed exactly at the improvement of the psychological condition of the children. This program was headed by the Bulgarian psychologist Vesela Banova and the French psychologist and psychoanalyst Daniel Roa. This training was directed towards building bonds between the children and the medics, towards creating affection and love.
After learning the most important facts around Tanya`s profession, I wanted to know more about the emotional aspect of being a pediatrician. “What does your job mean to you?” I asked.
“For me, this profession is the foundation of my entire life. I put all my energy in it and I continue to do so. When I was a very young doctor there was one baby that got very sick. I stayed with him all night and felt as if I was holding his life in my hands and that this life could run like sand through my fingers. But I thought that a little kid cannot understand when you put so much of yourself emotionally. ”
Then, Tatiana started crying.
“But at the morning, the baby woke up and looked me in the eyes with a very real, grownup look and smiled with a very special smile. Moments like this is what has given me strength for those 20 years. I love these children.”
Although I already suspected what Tatiana will answer, I wanted to ask her the question “What inspires you?” She replied with a trembling voice:
“What inspires me the most is love. Love in all its forms. Love as a professional duty, as tenderness, as warmness that you can give to someone who needs it. Love as in being the right person at the right place, even for one individual in your life. Then, your existence means something. Then, there is a reason why you were born.”
There was one thing that Tatiana said that echoed most strongly in my head and that helped me get my lesson out of our conversation. She quoted the French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, who said: “The symbolic dimension, where a person gives what he does not possess is called love.” This saying explained to me the paradox of an extremely sensitive woman doing well in her difficult and burdensome profession. I realized that love is one of the most powerful sources of inspiration; that it is a source of inspiration which helps you overcome your pain, surpass your possibilities, give more than you have and become greater than you ever thought you could be.
Take a look at the doctor and hear her introducing herself (with voice over):
As a junior in the American University in Bulgaria I have observed that the international students often consider “Varosha” the most remarkable neighborhood in Blagoevgrad. As a native Blagoevgrad girl, however, I can tell you that “Varosha” is more than a district from the XVIIth century with cobblestone streets, unique architecture and historical monuments. It also hosts most of the cultural activists in the region. Many of the old houses now are in fact ateliers, galleries, and ceramics or literature centers. Lybomir Kanelov, the artist that I introduced to you earlier, started his career in “Varosha;” Yanka Mihovska has lived and created poetry there most of her life.
This Saturday, in one of the most picturesque parts of “Varosha,” I met another prominent member of the art society of the neighborhood. Georgi Drachev is a person with admirable profession and a rare and interesting hobby. He is the Dean of Fine arts in the South-West University in Blagoevgrad. He is also a professor there and a well-known artist himself. I wanted to learn the details around all of Georgi’s activities and he chose to start with painting:
“Art is my main activity. Drawing is the thing that comes from within my heart, the thing that I feel the need to do. To me, it is as important as are the air and the water.”
Georgi also has a special hobby that successfully combines with his profession. He collects minerals from the rich in these stones region of his hometown Kurdzhali. He believes that minerals, with their various shapes and colors, are in a way the drawings of the nature:
“Is is not accidently that there is a term called “landscape agate.” A type of agate, when sliced and polished, looks like a real landscape.”
These natural stones inspired the artist so much that he created a whole cycle of paintings called “Crystals.” What is even more interesting is that for this series of drawings, he combined his interest in minerals with his other big passion –the unique architecture and nature of the Kovachevitza village.
“I have been going to Kovachevitza, either with my students or by myself, for 16 years. This is a unique settlement in the western Rodopi Mountains. Kovachevitza is an architectural Reserve. There, it is forbidden to build in any other way but in the traditional Old Bulgarian style. A famous Bulgarian writer has called Kovatchevitza”A Village outside of the World.” It is surrounded by hills from all sides and this creates a unique mood.”
Recently, the artist has been invited by the mayor of Kovachevitza to range an exhibition there.
I wondered if being a professor was also inspiring to Georgi.
“Of course, it is a pleasure to work with young people, to whom you can give something. But a student can gain something if she wants to. Otherwise, even the best teacher can do nothing. And I am happy that there are students willing to learn and to improve themselves. ”
Georgi explained that although a person should possess talent to become an artist, talent itself is not enough. People also need the desire to know.
“Even Michelangelo said: “A man learns all his live and yet, he leaves the world before he could learn it all.” And the greatest teacher- this is Nature. One should be closer to nature and learn from it. He will find knowledge and inspiration there. Personally, nature is my biggest inspiration.”
The warm and sunny autumn day and the beautiful landscape of “Varosha,” combined with my interesting talk with Georgi helped me easily find the weekly factor of inspiration. I realized that, to a big extend, inspiration is about harmony: harmony with oneself and with the surrounding world. Georgi managed to combine all his passions into one homogenous artistic world. I was impressed that the professor lives with the idea that he has to use and develop his talent in order to pass it to his students. What impressed me even more was that he was humble enough to realize he is himself a student of nature and life. And probably, the most successful formula for inner peace is to be able to give and also to accept knowledge.
Take a look at the professor:
Here are some of his pieces of art:
Here`s Georgi`s interview in Bulgarian:
And here is the interview translated in English by me:
I started my blog with the idea that it will be a metaphorical journey in search of inspiration. Surprisingly enough, I realized that I am literally walking towards it. Every week, I meet someone new and special. I meet a person who enriches my knowledge, broadens my horizon and moves my heart. This week was not an exception.
I am glad to introduce you to Georgi Popov. He is a middle-aged man whose life does not even come close to one of an average person. Georgi was born in Bulgaria during the communist rule. For him, this was a terrible time because there was no freedom. People were not allowed to travel to non-communist countries. Everything connected to the West was a taboo. The only way Georgi, as a teenager, could listen to English music was on the LPs people would secretly bring from the West. He became a great fan of “The Beatles”. Georgi was also in the National Youth Basketball team in Bulgaria. And he was fascinated with NBA matches.
“I had one dream. This dream was to see “The Beatles” live. Live- at a concert. I also desired to watch an NBA match live. But the communist government was not allowing such things. And I was telling my friends that I would give a year of my life just to see “The Beatles” and watch one NBA match.”
At the time Georgi was studying Chemical Cybernetics in a Russian University. However, this serious and challenging major did not stop him from being a singer and having long hair, something unacceptable at that time. Georgi remembers the moment that opened his eyes for the fallacy of the communist regime and helped him take the decision to go to America.
“I was coming home from Moscow for the summer vacation. They stopped me before I could pass the Bulgarian border and they shaved my hair. ”
Georgi spent some more time in Eastern Europe. He could not continue his education because they sent him to the army in Bulgaria. After that, he worked for 3 years for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Then, he left for USA and lived there for roughly 25 years, working in the consulting business. He said that in Bulgaria he could not breathe from the lack of freedom and wanted to live in a free society.
“And the only society that mankind has invented in that area is America because America is build on that. I`m not saying that America is a perfect place. But I lived for 17 years in Texas which is right at the border with Mexico. There is a lot of corruption in Mexico and people live poorly. And when you turn the TV, you can watch how people are making tunnels and dying in the deserts just for the chance to make it to the land of unlimited opportunities. And it is very moving because people die. They die for it. ”
As of today, Georgi lives back in Bulgaria. He explains that this is a temporary choice and believes that people`s freedom is still limited here.
I asked Georgi my traditional question: “What inspires you?” And he made a good summary:
“I have three main inspirational principals. First of all, be the best and do the best you can with God`s help. That`s all you can do in live. Secondly, live in society where you can be free and where everything depends on you. Also, read a lot and always be in touch with great writers and great thinkers.”
However, this time I had one more question to ask: “Did you get to see “The Beatles”?” He laughed.
“No, because “The Beatles” by 1970s… it was over. However, I got to see three times Paul McCartney, I saw Ringo Starr twice… And of course, it was not exactly the same as to see the “Fab Four” but during all these concerts of Paul McCartney, because he is a genius, there were moments during the concert when you just close your eyes and you hear the sound of “The Beatles.”
These final words of the interview made me think. I thought that no matter how much a person dreams about something, not everything is up to him or her. And then I realized that the piece of inspiration that I found this week is courage. Because one can`t choose when or under which circumstances to be born. But he can choose to be brave. Then, even if not exactly as imagined, dreams come true. And with eyes closed, you can tell this is perfection.
Take a look at Georgi on the pictures below:
And here`s more of what Georgi said: