Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Letting Go and Hanging On

It’s a cliché, but it’s also true: my life in Germany has been a roller coaster. And not one of those pansy-ass roller coasters that children ride. No, this has been a Six Flags roller coaster… the kind where they strap you in so tight you can barely breathe and your life is flashing before your eyes almost before you’ve made it around the first corner. This is one of those roller coasters that make you want to puke your guts out, cry for your mother and shout with joy as your cheeks flap crazily in the 100mph wind. It’s the kind of roller coaster adrenaline junkies eat for breakfast.

The problem is that I am not an adrenaline junkie and the one time I road Superman at Six Flags in Illinois I was saying The Lord’s Prayer under my breath the entire time. And so, in an effort to regain some sort of equilibrium, I have been thinking a lot about what it is that’s throwing me off balance. Sure, there’s a significant language barrier to contend with and an ocean between me and everyone I love, but it’s more than that, somehow. After all, I’ve lived abroad before and… (momentary pause for internal contemplation and then cue light bulb)… I’ve lived abroad before and have expectations about Germany based on my time in England.

And, really, that isn’t fair.

The semester I spent studying abroad in England was, hands down, the best four months of my life. It was also the first time I had been out of the country or traveled independently. I was nineteen years old and I had never been on a train (unless you count a 3-hour sightseeing tour in Canada), never seen a building older than Independence Hall in Philadelphia, never used currency that wasn’t the American dollar. I love England because I grew up there. I arrived as an American teenager and I left as a woman who knew she was going to make something of her life.

England was my coming of age story and, as every great author knows, you only get one of those. Germany cannot be a repeat. Indeed, I do not need to “grow up” again. I am two weeks short of my 24th birthday. I have finished college, completed a year of national service, lived on my own and even considered things like retirement plans and health insurance.

I am no longer a study abroad participant. I am a community member who is trying to juggle a job, language classes, foreign banking, travel plans and a whole host of other things. I am learning to use the library, joining a German church and becoming a regular at the local supermarket. I’m building a life here and while I cannot say that it is everything I had hoped for or dreamed of, it is still good, still meaningful.

Thanks, Mom-- you're pretty awesome yourself!
And, on days like today, when I have to head down to the customs office to claim a package sent by my parents and the burly German customs agent laughs when I open the box for the security check and we find a note from my mom telling me that I’m awesome, I can laugh, too. I can throw the semi-embarrassing moment into the pile entitled “Stories for the Grandchildren,” and when the agent compliments my German as I am on my way out the door, I can smile a genuine smile and be thankful for a new chapter in my life. 


  1. I just happened to be passing by your blog and saw you had a new post. So proud of you! Miss you, but so proud.

  2. Oh the stories you will tell!
    I love your honesty!
    Miss you so much!

  3. Please don't grow up too much. Being an adult ALL the time is NOT that much fun. Love the rollercoaster comparison. You are truly awesome - your mom is right.
    Love ya lots,

  4. I feel so many things as I ponder your blog. It is a crazy ride this life of yours. Think of all the rocking chair memories you are collecting. Some people will sit in their chairs one day, and not have much to contemplate. You on the other hand, will not have time to think about anything twice. You are living your experience with zest! Your transition into your new surroundings sound challenging. Know that everyone back home sends support...some literally! :-) Gotta love your mom...that was a good one....at just the right time!

  5. You are awesome Christina, and Happy Birthday -- early. I just love reading your experiences and medifores, they are so right on and true. Your examples of what you are doing are facinating and engageing for us to read. You surely will have great bedtime stories to tell your children some day and they will love to listen to your adventures and might not even believe your stories are real and not just made up - how cool will that be. You are living a dream and having a good time doing so, hang in there and have a wonderful day / weekend.
    Aunt Janet