My thoughts are just not giving me a rest this week, probably everything will still all come out a jumble as I sit down to write this.
I’m fluctuating as one does, between the two extremes of all the exciting possibilities and all the hard unfamiliar work. I mean why move at all except for the chance to move one’s life in another direction than the course it was previously taken.
As soon as you arrive all the opportunities for you to do “everything right this time” jump out and leave you with a giddy feeling of having the world on a string. Despite your logic arguing with you, that just are there is and never will be a utopian society, so too, will you never become a perfect person, (fallen nature of man, anyone?) it is still a hard pull to resist. It must be like that “honeymoon” phase of relationships, or even friendships:everything is viewed as being unique and cool and without flaws.
Now currently I am keeping my expectations very low, because those are the things which tend to disappoint you deeply later. But not too low so I have nothing to look forward to, or so that I can’t envision my own success. Yes these are some crafty mental gymnastics. But when you move beyond everything you’ve gotten used to, it can be a wild roller coaster of ups and downs and somehow you’ve got to reign in these fluctuations as best you can.
When you get too down and frustrated by the fact that nothing happens the way they did things in your old place, you start to become very defeatist and self-critical. Then you start making sweeping generalizations about your new place and the people that fill it. That is why I no longer hang out with Americans/English speakers/other new groups of foreign newbies here in Germany; I am well and done with rehashing everything that “the Germans do” because it’s no longer new and interesting.
(Ha ok it’s still interesting cause I’m rather fond of these people, who very generously let me live in their country, study at their university*FOR FREE* and patiently explain to me all the answers to my questions, and also their rather endearing obsession with self-criticism and national soul-searching.)
I suppose I really don’t need to spell out the fact that I am as cynical and pessimistic as it gets, which recently has meant only that despite what I know deep in my heart, it is sometimes very easy to convince my brain that my bf will just get used to me not being there and just one day prefer it to my compulsive worrying ways. Luckily my bf pays no mind to my flipping out about how our relationship will never survive this. Thank God.
You can laugh at me it’s ok. When I’m not busy worrying myself, it’s usually what I’m doing. On the other hand, this dark side is what allows me to appreciate the little moments as they come. I’m not really expecting anything particularly big and beautiful to happen in my life. But I’m not bitter, I’m just realistic, I think. Is it really realistic to think that every being “deserves” from some universal mandate to live a life without tragedy or suffering and have a fairy tale come true?
*Tangent* Honestly if I were to die tomorrow, statistically speaking as a young woman being born in modern times, I have already been given more chances and had better health than almost every female in all of history. Who’s to say I deserve more somehow? That’s the aspect of American exceptionalism and naive egoism that I like the least about my country, us “special” 90’s children & our national religion of self-esteem.
My favorite lesson the kids taught me was when I complimented them on something, as a sort of natural American’s response to a child’s effort, and they called me out for lying to them about their crap work. They had known they’d done a bad job and they expected me to know that too, otherwise I was an idiot and not a very good teacher. Directly afterwards, I was like, “damn, America you rubbed off on me again, just when I stopped expecting it!”
We are good though, the bf and me. He came, he stocked me up on my sparkling water, he left and I cried and cried and then went to work, got stressed out and cried some more. Gosh darn you love, you have totally transformed hard-core rachie into a complete softie! Whatevs, I let all the stress out and cried because my life in Nuremberg is over and finally being away from it crystallizes the things about it that made it special. All of the cities I’ve moved away from seem so perfect in my idealized memories.
And that’s the beauty of moving isn’t it? Before you go, you have hopes and dreams and excitement about all the new things your old town couldn’t offer you and then once you get there, you realize all the things from your old town, that your really quite liked and maybe took for granted that you will have to say goodbye to, possibly forever.
Ach ach ach. German has two beautiful one-word concepts (of course they do!): Heimweh & Fernweh. The first is homesickness, but the second is when you are homesick to be away from your home. And what do I feel now but both. Home is where my family is, and where my bf is, and where my students are. But none of these are the homes I have. At every single point in time since the age of 16, I have not “been” somewhere without simultaneously wanting to “be” somewhere else (small exception Crete, more later). To say that I recognize these two concepts very well, would be an understatement.
And who are my friends, but those who, if not having the same moving experience, at least can understand my feelings of being out-of-place. But here with all these new people, who do they see, “just” an American, or a native speaker of the “most important” language for their future success. And since as I mentioned, I don’t really need to discuss in-depth all the things about living in Germany that they have yet to discover, nor am I prepared to use my valuable and rare expertise for free when I spent the last 3 years getting good money for it, even if that means people might not become my “friends”. (On a side note, who would agree with me, that the day you really become an adult is when you learn how to say no to people’s demands and not care if it makes them think less of you?)
And some Germans really go crazy for Americans, to the point where I am embarrassed for them and when they make no comment I am so relieved, that I would sincerely like to hug them my thanks. Nevermind that at university in a program that’s dual English everyone kowtows to native speakers and bemoans their non-native skills. Such a waste of time! We all make mistakes and I make a lot of mistakes when I know better in German. But you know, uni classes in general are so full of people looking to stroke their ego by praising themselves through over-correcting others, it makes it a very competitive environment, which makes getting to know people even harder. For instance, because of my German skills, I already seem to belong to the “German gang”, but not being known as the most open, throw-caution-to-the-wind sort of people, I might be in for a long haul that yields nothing. Whereas I could also waste lots of time now, going out with every international/nice new “friend”, but that still might leave me with nothing at the end of the year. *SIGH* It isn’t easy meeting lots of new people and deciding who you can trust.
So where does that leave me friend-wise? I don’t know yet. But as true friendship develops slowly and my experience and age puts me in an odd position where I don’t automatically have a lot in common with 24 year-olds who have only ever known university, I’m not exactly in a rush to force anything that’s not meant to be. Being friendly and open and accepting invitations when my work is done and I have the money for it will have to be enough for now.
I can see that I approach many things much differently, both from my fellow German students and my fellow native English speaking students. Honestly it’s a good thing; I’ve learned so many valuable lessons working as hard as I did. I’ve outgrown much of my old procrastination habits, I’m no longer afraid of speaking in front of a group, whatever the language, I’m motivated and on top of my finances and I have only a billion ideas that I’d like to research.
Oh yes, have I painted a clear enough picture of why my first few weeks at university have been mentally and emotionally demanding?
Moving is not easy. I miss having the kiddos everyday. I miss our genuine interactions and I miss the trust we built up. I miss their laughter and their easygoing uncomplicated little Wesen! I even miss the seniors and the polite German they spoke with their dialect. Speaking English or German with people my age confuses me sometimes.
But on the other hand, the more I discover about Freiburg, the more I like things here. Like going to a new tram stop and discovering that the little stream turns into a big dam here. Or that there is a quite little secluded forest lake, or looking out the tram in the mornings and floating through a sea of golden leaves.
The bf and I spent a few hours tonight already talking about our possible options of residency for the future. I don’t know how it happened but somehow I became open to the idea of returning for maybe a few years to do some work at an American University after my doctorate And because, well there are just too many people there I still love, and if I continue being so isolated all my relationships there will suffer. It’s a funny new realization. I also convinced him to not rule out Crete, so one point for me!
And that’s enough I think. Much love to all of you reading this!