Are you a ‘have’ person or a ‘be’ person?

S and I were talking about this last night about ‘have’ and ‘be’ people. This sounds weird in English but it stems from ‘haben’ and ‘sein’, I believe.

(Strangely, I had to think extra hard to remember that it’s ‘avoir’ and ‘être’ in French. While typing in French, I also thought of ‘Flughafen’ before ‘aéroport’, though the latter was much closer to ‘airport’. S must be pleased. Anyway, I digress.)

He was talking about a friend who grew up in a village in Germany with few inhabitants, and never ventured far for most of his life, until he moved to a different city for university, and then to China for an exchange semester. Now he has graduated and is in India doing an internship.

While I was in awe of his sense of adventure, I had wondered if he was really enjoying himself there. To be constantly close to your family (in a village!) all your life, then move to a continent so far away, in a country with language and culture extremely different from your own, it sounded like a lot, a lot of adapting to do.

S said that his friend was happy, and that he was a ‘be’ person. He needed little things to be happy; he lived for the moment. He was that kind of guy.

Then we also established that S was that kind of guy too. He didn’t need material things, he didn’t need photographs to capture the moment, he just lived it and retold stories from memory – not from physical evidence.

In fact, while he was in Asia for two and a half weeks, he only took out his camera on the night before he left – to take one picture. It didn’t turn out well, so he kept it again. I wasn’t even sure he brought his camera all trip long.

If ‘have’ and ‘be’ were a spectrum, I think I would fall in the middle, perhaps an inch or two closer to ‘have’. I used to be a ‘have’ extremist. I didn’t own material things but I enjoyed the thought of having them. I idolized people who did. And I liked keeping evidence of everything.

At a concert, I would take a million pictures of the band on stage while I was extremely far away. While people jumped, I tried to keep still filming a video of them singing my favourite songs. When I was first in Europe, I snapped pictures of everything because I wanted to remember everything – the street signs, roads, cars, landmarks, and possibly every dish I tried. I kept every city map and every ticket stub.

I think somewhere along the line I started inching towards ‘be’. At concerts, I only take a picture to show I-was-here-damn-it! I’m enjoying the songs now. While traveling, I’m busy lying on the grass or wandering down streets to snap many pictures.

I’m also beginning to realize I need much less to feel safe now. Perhaps it’s has to do with being comfortable by myself. Or with someone. With S, it was always little worries. He’d ask if I wanted to do something and if I said yes, we’d just do it. I mean, after all, he was the sort of guy who spins me around into a dance when we hear a good song on the streets.

Yes, on the streets. Where people are.

Nevertheless, I’ve still got ‘have’ in me. I still like having physical things to look back on. I just cannot fathom travelling without a camera. But I’m full of admiration of the ‘be’ people. I think the ‘be’ people live with much less worries about whether they’ve captured enough memories.

This will sound cheesy, but perhaps every once in a while, we should really try to live for the moment.

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