The two years since my graduation from college have been filled with the types of ups and downs that would make a roller coaster jealous…
I generally tell people I couldn’t be paid enough to repeat 2010 (a quarter life crisis + a soul-sucking job + being forced to move back home = A recipe for getting your ass handed to you).
|Starting 2012 at the Berlin Wall|
2011 was significantly improved (AmeriCorps VISTA and a few pretty epic weddings come to mind) but all in all, I still dealt with declining my acceptance to graduate school (again), a difficult move to another country (Hello, Germany, thanks for kicking me in the face) and an existential crisis about growing up (It only took me 24 years to get there...).
So, you’ll understand my reservations about admitting that I have a good feeling about 2012. In fact, a few weeks ago I sent an email to a very dear friend detailing my tentatively hopefully feelings about the upcoming year and as soon as I hit the send button all I could think was, “Way to go, dummy, you probably just jinxed yourself.”
And maybe that is true. Maybe I jinxed myself in some horrible way and I am now destined to spend the rest of the year making up for my overly self-confident attitude. But then again, maybe not…
Because in spite of the rational part of my brain reminding me that in 7 weeks I will be jobless, homeless and virtually penniless, the irrational part of my brain is eternally optimistic, devastatingly hopefully. And it is this irrational part that tells me no New Year’s Eve as epic as the one I just rang in could possibly herald a dud of a year.
See, I spent this New Year’s Eve in Berlin with a bunch of strangers and a few good friends. And when I think about that weekend it all seems like flashes of light…
|Berlin from Above|
I am tired of waiting for my jet-lagged friends to wake up (those flights from the States are killer) and so I leave the hotel and set out into Berlin on my own. I love this city in a way I love few places and even though I haven’t spent a lot of time here I already know it well. I don’t even bother with a map, instead I just hop on the subway and go.
I love the freedom of being alone in a huge place that is on the brink of something new. I end up in East Berlin, studying the old Soviet buildings. It starts to snow, crisp and white. I had forgotten that I love snow. I take off my hat, tilt my face upwards and enjoy the white.
I am standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, arguably the most recognizable monument in Berlin, and I am singing “I Will Survive.” It is only 2 o’clock in the afternoon but the entire street is filled with people. Live music blasts from the stage and street vendors sell everything from bratwurst to hard alcohol (this is Germany after all). Suddenly, one of my friends grabs my arm and we’re off, dancing through the crowd. As we turn I catch the eye of a middle-aged German man. He is laughing. At me. I think of that Angela Monet quote that goes something like this: Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn’t hear the music. And I dance some more.
I am standing in a crowded park in Berlin. It is almost midnight on New Year’s Eve. Behind me is the German couple (friends of a friend) who have opened their home to us. They cooked us dinner, poured us drinks and invited us to accompany them to watch the fireworks—it doesn’t matter that everyone else at the party is a family member or a close friend. For tonight, we fit the bill, too.
|Lifelong friends on an epic Berlin night|
Next to me is a woman I have known since childhood. Our grandmothers are friends, our mothers are friends and we are friends, too. I have celebrated most of my New Year’s Eves with her at my side (and a lot of Thanksgivings and family vacations, as well), and it means more to me than I could have imagined that she is with me on this night. She passes me sparkling wine and I take a drink, straight from the bottle. I am more than a little buzzed and the fireworks that are being shot off all around us make me laugh.
Suddenly, I hear the countdown, in German of course. The fireworks blaze so hot I can feel their heat and smell the sulfur everywhere. The sky is thick with their smoke. Another bottle is passed to me and I drink again. I glance down the hill and I can see the whole city. “That’s Berlin, baby,” I think to myself.
Everyone has taken to the streets to celebrate this passage of time and for a moment it feels like the entire world is laughing. The countdown ends and everyone is kissing, screaming, crying, singing, drinking. It is joy. Sheer, naked, human joy.
It is two o’clock in the morning and I am standing in a Berlin apartment teaching Germans to line dance while "Cotton Eye Joe" blasts through the speakers (courtesy of YouTube, of course). My fellow Americans and I try very hard to convey the importance of this cultural gem to our friends from across the ocean but I am quite certain the point is not getting across as clearly as we would like. It doesn’t matter though because, in the end, we all stumble into the middle of the living room when someone turns on Culture Beat’s “Mr. Vain.”
“I know what I want and I want it now!” we all sing in varying accents. We dance around the sofa and down the hall as, outside, fireworks still boom loud enough to shake the window panes… or maybe that’s us. Who can tell anymore?