I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this post I wrote in December 2010. I described my year as being one of rest, of starting my first year in Germany with a sense of peace and replenishment. Now it’s amazingly and shockingly December of 2013, and I feel like that post, and that feeling of rest, is as far from my experience this year as possible. In fact, I’m more burned out and exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. My body feels as if it’s completely without power or strength.
I’ve been working too much. Way too much. My life is sadly unbalanced, and I know it. Another big project at work ended on Tuesday, and I found myself suddenly looking up, at the past months that are somehow gone from me, and asking, “What the hell happened?” How long has it been since I experienced fun or happiness? I want my life back again, and it starts now.
This past year has been one of great change and upheaval, but in a necessary and good way. It became clear that I could no longer happily live a split life, riding the trains every weekend to commute to the Frankfurt area. It got to the point where I couldn’t even step into an ICE without having some kind of internal meltdown. I couldn’t live split between two apartments, while having neither one of them feel like and really be my “home.” So I transitioned my life fully to Cologne, moved everything to my apartment here, and put in a new kitchen this past summer to make the place more comfortable. Yet I still miss and long for the area around Frankfurt, the beauty of Hessen’s landscape. I don’t feel a bond with Cologne and haven’t found a sense of place here.
I’ve suffered my share of various heartbreaks this past year, yet in the end I feel stronger and more hopeful than ever for the future. I’m still quite happy with my life in Germany. I’m happy with the path I’m on in life.
This past April I traveled to Japan to experience Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, where the Japanese sit under the blossoming trees on big blue tarps, eat and drink, and look up at the blossoms. The trip was truly an amazing dream come true, and I can’t wait to go back.
I also traveled to the Shetland Islands in Scotland with friends to drive around and see the ponies and landscape. Another really amazing trip.
I had an enlightening and troublesome three weeks in the U.S in September for a business trip and vacation, where it only confirmed to me how much I love my life in Germany. I hadn’t been to the U.S. for two years, and it was fascinating that now it was the foreign country to me, a country where things just didn’t make sense. The first week there I just kept staring at everything and trying to figure out how things work again. What struck me, among a great many things, is how terrible and outdated the infrastructure is in the U.S. (streets, airports, rail, trains, etc.), how much gun violence/shootings/murder saturated the daily news on a local and national level, how terrible Americans dress and how poor the quality of clothes are (trust me, I’m not a fashion snob, it just stood out to me), the incredible conservatism (religious or otherwise) of the people, and the incredibly narrow-minded view and understanding the average American has of the world. The U.S. just seemed so…harsh, brutal, and frightening to me. I had changed and was now a stranger.
The trip made me soften my held views of what was good or bad about the U.S. vs. Germany. It made me rethink previous opinions about what I didn’t like in Germany. The trip blew apart everything I thought I knew about my native country and what it taught me about how to live. Now I was viewing it from a different perspective, from the outside, as a foreigner. I didn’t like what I saw and it confirmed my decision to live in Germany.
While in the U.S., I finally cleared out my storage unit of stuff and shipped the rest to Germany. I felt unburdened. I was saying good-bye to that country and fully embracing my life here.
So here I am, at the end of another year. My four-year anniversary of living in Germany. At the moment, I’m overwhelmed. There’s just too much of everything. I’m tired. I will spend my Christmas week in solitary confinement on the island of Mallorca. I rented a medieval stone cottage in a village in the mountains, where I will rest, read before the fireplace, empty my mind, and think. I can only hope that I will get my energy back to start the next year.