I started to feel anxious in Lviv.
The month-long stay was coming to an end and I didn’t know much more about the city than when I arrived.
The only “museum” I visited was the masochism-themed bar, Masoch, eponymously named for Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the 1800s Lviv author and sexual submissive (obviously). There were no information placards and I didn’t learn much more than he wrote Venus in Furs (about his trip to Italy as a subservient to his mistress). I did see some people get whipped (and took a few licks myself), though.
Reflecting upon my stay in the city, I began formulating answers to “what did you do in Lviv?”. I concluded that I hadn’t “seen” much objectively, relative to the time spent there (and especially compared to the TripAdvisor lists).
Yet, my goals had been achieved:
Climb 3x per week. Check
Hike in the Carpathian Mountains. Check
Try salo (cured back fat from pigs) and varenyky (Ukrainian pierogi). Check
See a play at the Lviv Opera. Check
Still, I kept thinking, “I should have done more.”
The anxiety arose from the delta between what I “thought” I should be doing and what I actually felt like doing.
I should have gone to the observation tower at the top of City Hall, explored the former site of the ghetto (and sneak into the sewers?), perambulated through the various historical museums and art galleries. But I didn’t.
Admittedly, I felt lethargic during my stay and didn’t love the vibe of the city. I spent quite a bit of time on the internet, meandering, and reading. Yes, there was an “exotic” world outside, but I just didn’t feel like seeing more of it.
Expectations shape your experience.
This incident is a microcosm of the larger chain of reactions that occurs in every day life. We adapt to and incorporate expectations, whether self-imposed or from outside forces (we see this in experiments with lab rats, in-group/ out-group, etc.). We don’t typically analyze how we are making decisions or where our ideas about how things should be come from.
The notion that I need to see a lot of a place is not how I like to travel, and yet it was on my mind. I knew this consciously and yet it still proved to be a nuisance.
What else is guiding my behavior away from what I know I want?
Upon further review (in writing this piece) I did actually see a lot in Lviv (thank you very much)…
Yet the point stands that anxiety crops up when reality doesn’t meet expectations, and the gnawing imposition from this generic-expectation-from-ambiguous-other actually influenced how I felt I experienced the city. It can feel like you’re a race horse but your feet are tied…
That’s some expectation-based jedi mind trick shit right there.