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I was born a sentimental girl. When I was young, I used to cry when I saw someone crying, even if I had no idea why they were crying. Once I even had to skip the school for three full days because I couldn’t stop to cry and felt such a deep sorrow after I finishing to read a book with a sad ending. I was always good at reading other people emotions and always impersonated myself in their feelings. I made emotions of other people mine and felt them as if they were real. My parents worried about me because I looked over-emotional but that’s what I loved about myself.
In my young eyes adults were strange. It seemed that many of the feelings that I felt so strongly didn’t bother them at all. When I was nine my grandmother died. During the funeral, I cried out and sobbed very much but I was the only one doing so. Most of the other older relatives shed a couple of tears at most. I was more shocked by the fact that people didn’t cry than the fact that my grandmother died. Since then I started to be scared about becoming as emotionless as the older people I knew. It seemed like nothing could move them. ‘Am I going to become like them as well?’ I asked myself. This question sparked a huge fear through my teenage years – the fear to be old.
When I was a university freshman, I encountered for the first time the work of Haruki Murakami and I found out that he had almost the same question as I had. In one of his essays he said that when he was young he knew that he had a very keen sensibility. One day he started to fear that he will have the sensibility of a young man within an old man’s body and will feel out of place. Murakami at the end of his essay confessed that once he became a middle-aged man, he didn’t feel out of place at all. He wrote that he found himself became the adult that society expected him to be. After I finished his book I came to the conclusion. ‘It’s hard and scary to accept that my sensibility will simply wane with the passing of years. But by the time I am old I won’t be sensible enough to notice it!’. It didn’t solve my problem but I was relieved by this indirect solution.
When I decided to do this project with an old couple I didn’t expect that it will finally lead me to answer my old question. When you start this kind of work you’ll never know what will, in the end, come out of it. It is all matter of contemplation. I visited the Siegels, my subjects, many times. Sometimes I had a conversation with them and sometimes I just sit on a chair in the kitchen corner and observed them. Once I have slipped into Monika’s room while she was having a nap listening to an audio book. I used to follow Gert and Monika when they went out. I have seen when they cooked and dined together. I saw them smile and I saw them fight. I spent enough time with them so one day Franz – their adopted black cat which is scared of everybody except the Siegels – stopped running away when I entered the house.
What this project taught me is that sensibility can be expressed in many different ways. Crying out loud with tears is not the only way to express one’s sadness. When we age, the way to express our feelings change. We will express our feeling in a more subtle way, but this doesn’t mean that these are in any way less strong. There were many moments that I could observe it. I found a used tissue on Monika’s bed and it told me how sad the audio book, that Monika listened before her afternoon nap, was. I saw that Gert has to take three different pair of glasses when he goes out but at the same time I found many pairs of jeans in his closet and many puppets decorate his bed. It made me understand how this man compromises with his age. I noticed that some treats are carefully positioned in Franz’s bowl. Then I couldn’t help smiling and felt how much affection Monika gives to her cat.
Our feelings don’t die with time, they are just harder to be found or seen by others, maybe also by ourself.