It would be difficult to explain to others how I ended up in Kosovo. In all honesty I went there about a guy... which in my life is how a lot of my adventures and lessons have begun.
"So, there was this guy..."
Notice the past tense.
So *there was this guy...* and now there isn't but there's still Kosovo.
My career as a journalist had hit a point of stagnation, my dreams were as uninteresting asleep as they were awake. My beliefs in my industry's future were as dismal as the reality we read on the front page. The precision that had always clearly driven my decision making process in the past, well it was dull and unimaginative. I had no idea what I was doing anymore, in the most cliche of terms, I was *lost*.
Great journalists, my peers in the 35 and under category are increasingly burdened with more and more non-editorial tasks in the ever changing media market of faster deadlines, higher volume of output and less resources to work with. Keywords, publishing responsibilities and administrative hurdles monopolize large parts of our energy and time. The labyrinth of rules and regulatory red tape passed down by middle management squeeze every last ounce of sanity from their greatest assets - the foot soldiers of news - the field journalists.
"NEVER touch anything with half your heart."
I had veered off my path and lost my calling. Sweet words and strong muscles seemed appealing and easy to give into, at a low point, I welcomed the romantic possibility of escape to only be led back harshly farther back from where I began. Although, eventually much further from lost than where I began.
Rejection was painful in Kosovo. It was horrible to experience that disappointment in a country filled with some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met. Every day I experienced many genuine selfless acts made on my behalf to be grateful for, and for that I am so very appreciative. I was humbled by the unselfishness of strangers. Tempted to take my heart off my sleeve and put it back into its rib 'cage', Kosovo resuscitated my broken heart and hurt ego.
"Kosovo - the weak truce with optimism."
Estimates put nearly 70% of Kosovo's population under 30 making it one of the most youthful nations in Europe. Unemployment rates are astounding and this sovereign nation is NOT a welfare state. Its young citizens do not have freedom to travel and opportunities to study or practice English/French/German domestically are nearly non-existent.
I feel for this youthful generation. In a nation with ubiquitous wifi and shops calling Internet "a right", the internationally connected, social media savvy youth are digitally consuming global opportunity but in reality fall prey to their nation's ambiguous independence.
A cruel reality in post-conflict and disaster zones that have not created streams of revenue to support self-sufficiency in education, infrastructure and employment.
This 30ish generation have mounting loads of frustration but a weak truce with their optimism. However as the state fails to yield tangible results to pursue real opportunities the needs for real solution will become more important than the fear of punitive consequences in obtaining them.
Kosovo's apparent wealth in its capital and major metropolitan centres are a bubble illusion ready to pop and drop with a thud to the ground at any moment.
"Panem et Circenses"
Last year the International Olympic Committee accepted Kosovo as a member and at Rio 2016 the tiny nation of less than 2 million will very likely receive at least one gold medal. Over time the perceived meritocracy of sports and entertainment will provide ample parts distraction and discipline for those seeking the glory of gold or sponsorship.
Could athletes be a solution for Kosovo? With such an adolescent population the timing is tight, both as competitors and spectators.
Sports leads to nationalism, infrastructure, sponsorship and international recognition, it may be that nation building may be founded on the backs of athletics and wifi.