Taking stock and finding balance: a lifelong journey

Right now I’m in my lovely office eating strawberries and yogurt. My window is cracked open and I can smell the neighbor’s wood-burning stove going. I am feeling pretty spoiled at the moment. I ran down to the bakers this morning, about 200 feet down the road. We don’t usually go there, because it’s a bit pricey, but I wanted to surprise the hubby with fresh bread. On the way I passed a stand, selling cherries at rock bottom prices from their backyard and I couldn’t resist.

I get teased by a certain somebody that I will miss the excitement of a city, and moving around, but I don’t know if he maybe underestimates my love of nature.It is absolutely wonderful living somewhere where people are more connected to the land and seasons. You can get plenty of fresh produce in the city, but you can’t go to your neighborhood, throw-your-money-in-a-box fruit and veg stand, and happen to meet her coming over with a freshly picked packet of cherries. They also sell eggs, from their chickens, fed with the very grain they grow in their field. Now we are not out in the country. A 15 minute train ride gets me in the middle of a university city. It’s not a heaving metropolis, but still a city.I guess I should have known what was in store for me though when I moved onto “village street”. 😉

Anyway it’s nice to have these small things. As per usual, everything in my life worth having requires more patience. More patience for myself and others and the world, while trying to create good habits and strike a good balance. I think it’s this way for everybody, (especially women), but if I had to choose between constant struggle, or one large tragedy, It’d be an easy choice: the former.

Life isn’t easy. The last time it felt was 2005, when I came here for study abroad with enough money and naivete to enjoy the moment. I think everyone deserves that at least once, but some people spend their whole lives naively ignoring reality and creating problems their loved ones have to solve, and other people never have a carefree moment in their whole life. That is injustice to me. So I try to remember that when I catch myself thinking, that for all my hard work and efforts, I really deserve to not have to wait so long for every single step and always scraping by with money.

It’s all about give and take and finding balance. That’s why honestly I really don’t think adding kids into the mix will be any tougher on me overall. I’m not being naive about the physical exhaustion and never having enough time. Apparently a new study shows that after moms have kids they never go back to the level of pre-kids time stress, EVER, while men do. And obviously, it changes your outlook, but overall my whole life has been adjusting to new circumstances and trying to juggle as many commitments as possible. without going insane. I do not shy away from pursuing things I want, just because it’s hard. In many respects having kids will probably be easier on me than many other things I’ve attempted/achieved.

Moving forward with my career and studies is a huge struggle for me right now. Promised job offers fell through, there is still no end to no income in sight, or at least it’s all swirling around very haphazardly. What I’d really like, is still uncertain, and what I’d like to avoid is a sure thing. I wanted to have everything resolved by now. If I am lucky, in a month or so, I’ll have submitted my first scholarship application and will at least be invited for an interview. I feel positive about it overall, since it is clear I’d be a good fit, but will have to have the interview in German and I have a horrible track record of getting nervous in these situations. I’ll probably ask my friend to practice with me.

It’s actually something strange and cool about Germany. So here’s the deal, Germany has really strange citizenship laws first off because for nearly its entire existence the only way you could take on German citizenship was by blood (side note to Downtown Abbey fans, unless there is a clause I am not aware of, like you could just buy your way into it, there’s no way Lady Edith’s boyfriend could become German, unless he had German forefathers). So they’ve been slowly relaxing these laws, but very slowly. It was only after I had been here for a year that those in the Turkish community who had been here for three generations could become German at all. Just recently Germany has generously provided that they may even be dual citizens instead of making them choose one or the other at 18. But we Americans, who don’t have German parents are put in the same category as refugees. There is no dual citizenship for us, and without citizenship I can only vote on local elections, like for mayor. I know I can vote for councils and things like that, but I’m not actually sure where exactly they draw the line.

Anyway so even though I can’t really be invested in Germany’s political system, I can still apply for politically funded scholarships.  I actually think this is pretty cool. So that’s what I am applying for and it is a strange thing, to pick a political affiliation after all these years of living here, but the one I found believes in Europe and the worth of educating migrants and since that is what my research is about I am actually really excited to send off this application.

We’ll just see. So I am being patient. I need to do this right, so I don’t send off something too hasty and full of grammatical German and political errors. I need to write a research proposal, which means getting my very distracted advisor to meet with me (took her 3 months to send me a list of literature to get started) and hammer out my research ideas, and I need to make sure I do the right reading. If this works, it would double our income, give me a 300 Euro a month book budget, I’d get paid maternity leave, as well as an extra monetary boost once any children are born. I think anyone can see that I would be stupid not to at least try. I mean my grades are good enough and I am highly highly interested in politics and the development of a more equal society. But it’s a risk. There are others, but you can’t send the same application out, so I’m taking them one at a time.  Chances are about 33%

So there you go.

Some well-meaning peers here, after hearing my struggles with suddenly not having an income were like, “oh go apply to other doctoral programs”. And I’m like, “excuse me, do you understand the concept of being married?” I can’t just go wherever I get accepted first. It took me 2 1/2 years to get the person who claimed he wanted this long distance to end asap, out here. And actually the only reason he did was because I forced his hand and gave my notice in the dorms. I can’t just uproot our lives 4 months after he got here. I want to be married, I want to enjoy spending time with my husband and finally making memories in what’s been my home for 3 years now, together. If I want that, I can’t have other things. So strange to have to explain that to people. If you don’t want to be alone, you can’t be selfish. But then again, most people don’t understand me anyway. I mean I try to be honest with people, but if they don’t care to find out where I’ve been and how I’ve got there, then there’s just really no way our friendship will go beyond the surface. But I can’t just bore 24 years olds with a summary of my last ten+ years. That’s what my husband is for, hahahaha.

And that’s enough. I am strange. I have friends that get that, put up with me, love me. I never see them, but I trust in what we’ve shared the last decade of my life. I try to invest in my relationship, especially as right now, shift work is a killer, one week early, one week night and the next week late. So even though it means getting less work done, I still make sure I make dinner and free up the weekends to reconnect.

But cleaning the house happens only on the weekends, friends I see once a month, working out is nearly impossible, except for bike rides to the train station. My priority is my marriage, scholarship applications and working on my Greek, and these are all things that will not give me any quick results. So I am constantly figuring out what to drop and how to come close to “having it all”.

Now here’s where living abroad, and specifically Germany is nice. Not everything here is a rat race. We went out a few weeks ago to a restaurant, I can’t even remember where, but it was so cosy and adorable and I remember sighing and saying “I wish my parents could feel what it’s like to go out to eat and sit around for hours somewhere without a waiter breathing down your neck.” My husband realized to his surprise that it’d never occurred to him that almost every time we ate in America, it was rushed. Then we tried to remember if we had lounged in a restaurant like that with them, but could only think of one time in a bakery. Oh it’s so luxurious to go out to eat with no pressure. Or go to cafe and people watch for hours. Or meander through a market. Sit on your balcony when the sun is shining. Everything here is more relaxed that way. Doctors don’t forbid stressed out pregnant women from drinking half a glass of wine, or a shandy. Vacation time is sacred. Dads can take 3 months++ off for maternity leave, and some choose to spend it lounging in the summer on the beach somewhere. You can ride your bike around town if you are sick of waiting in traffic.

Finally for me, personally and as a woman, who will be told for the rest of my life, by complete strangers what I ‘ought to be doing’ it is nice to be an expat, and know that most people don’t get how my life really is. It’s like what I talked about last time I guess. If my friends have something to suggest, or an opinion about how they do things, I’ll take it into consideration. Otherwise it’s just noise and judgments from busy-bodies who don’t get it. I won’t go crazy trying to meet society’s expectations of what it means to be a career women and/or mother, when I belong to many societies and none at the same time.

So I’ll continue on. Maybe I make it harder on myself with my ambition and wanting to achieve various things, but I have a relaxed pace of life and beautiful neighborhood to do it in, a husband that supports me and the knowledge that I may not always be right about the best way to do things, but the people who barely know me, are not allowed to become the voices in my head, filling me with self-doubt.

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