life · living abroad

Das Neue Jahr

translation: the New Year

our translation: how is it already 2016?!?

On the first of January, each and every year, I have the same thought: how can it be ‘insert appropriate year here’ already? And then I continue to think that it’s still the previous year for another couple of months. But the New Year makes us think about more than just what to put down when we have to actually remember the date.

The New Year prompts us to contemplate our lives. There are few holidays or times in the year that really make us stop and think about what we’re doing in life, and I love New Years for that. Most of us ponder the same questions every year. What resolutions should I make? What have I accomplished? What are the things I want to change going forward?

One of my favorite New Year’s memories is from my childhood in Pratt. I think it was the late 90s or maybe even Y2K, and my mom had gotten very gung ho about making sure we (her kids) were being contemplative about our lives. I think  I was in maybe 5th or 6th grade at the time, and she had bought us notebooks that we could journal our New Year’s thoughts in. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what I wrote down, but I do remember how important it felt to have that task, to actually stop and think and remember what had been accomplished in the past year. Pretty heavy stuff for a 10 year old, but a tradition that I’ve kept. This year, this blog is my journal.

So what has happened this year?

2015 has been a big one for me and Matt – so many life changes, accomplishments, and periods of growth.

In February, Matt was offered a position at a university in Germany, and we had to make one of our biggest decisions ever during one of our busiest seasons ever…and then had to wait 5 more months to start this next adventure, teaching us some hard lessons about patience. We also welcomed a new member into our extended family with the birth of our niece, Anna, who is already almost 1 year old!

In May, we both finished our degrees with honors – a PhD in Social Psychology for him and a MA in French Literature for me – and ended our time as students forever. A huge identity shift for us both. We had been in school for so long that not being able to call ourselves students was at the same time liberating (yay, we’re real adults now!) and scary (oh my gosh, we have to be real adults now…).

We also celebrated the birth of our closest friends’ first child, and my 26th birthday, which coincided with our graduations. Although it’s always been hard to have a birthday at the same time as graduation season, this year, it worked out in my favor as both sides of our family were in town to celebrate!

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In June, we had to say goodbye to our much-loved Lawrence, my family, and our friends. We have never loved a town or its people so much before and leaving was a very hard thing to do. We were lucky enough to be loved back and had an amazing and bittersweet going away party right at the end.

We also gave away or sold almost all of our possessions. I never thought of myself as being sentimental or needing to have things, but there are still times that I remember that [item-x] is gone forever I feel a pang of sadness. Luckily for us, we did put several boxes of our most prized possessions and our keepsake items into storage, and my mother, who knows me better than I do myself sometimes, bought quite a bit of our things, knowing that we would want them again down the line.

Before leaving the country for good, we decided to spend some quality time with those we don’t see often enough. Our first stop was Ohio to see Matt’s childhood friend, Andrew, his wife, Jenny, and their new son, Murray.

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Then it was off to North Carolina to stay with Matt’s family for a few weeks, one of which we spent lazing about the beach with the whole extended family.

At the end of July, we packed out giant bags, and headed to D.C. to catch our flight. It was my first trip to the capitol, and a very fitting last view before leaving the States.

And then we were off!

To Germany.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be living here, but here I am! We arrived with only what we could carry (luckily we could carry a lot) and made it to our new apartment without too much trouble.

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Since arriving, we’ve had some great experiences. In October, my mom was our first visitor and stayed with us for a few days after she completed a contemplative and inspiring pilgrimage along the Camino trail in Spain.

We’ve also had some fun meals at cool restaurants, got bikes at a bike market, celebrated (pre)Carnival with friends, landed a fun job at the Paralympic Committee headquarters, hosted a Thanksgiving meal for our friends, went to Christmas markets, watched fireworks along the Rhine at New Year, etc.

We had no idea what to expect of our new life here. Would we pick up German and be fluent with a few months? Would I find a job? Would we be able to get around the city without a car? Would we like it? Would we go on crazy trips to exotic places every month? (Hey, a girl can dream!)

So what’s the reality of it?

We aren’t fluent in German, not even close, which doesn’t impede any of our daily interactions – we both work in English speaking offices – or getting by in the city, but we can’t understand the conversations around us, which can start to feel isolating.

I did find a job, but not for several months. At first, I enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever, whenever, but unemployment doesn’t suit me. I learned quite a bit about myself during that time. I really love having a consistent schedule. Not that I don’t love having free time, but after a while, when all of your time is “free”, it just starts to feel lazy. Luckily, the job I landed is an administrative assistant position at the International Paralympic Committee, which is awesome! I am so thankful for employment.

We are able to get around the city without a car. Easily and usually pretty quickly. But there are certain times when we miss having one, especially when we’re lugging home too many bags from the grocery store, in the dark, when it’s drizzling. We also miss the freedom granted with owning a car – mostly being able to decide last minute to drive to a neighboring town and visit for a few hours. Yes, there are trains to just about anywhere, but there’s just something about being able to do things on your own time and schedule.

Do we like it? I think that anyone who has made a big move like this can agree that it’s a mixed emotions sort of feeling. We absolutely love the culture here. No gun violence, safe streets, a variety of cultures, peoples, and food, just to name a few. We love our jobs and the people we work with. We love the experience of living in another country and gaining a new perspective on the one we’ve come from. But at the same time, we are so far from our friends and family. We live in an apartment furnished with someone else’s things. We love the experience of living here, but at the same time, our “life” seems to be on hold until we move back. I guess in a way, it feels like an extended study abroad trip, that we’re just here to visit.

And do we take trips? In theory, it feels crazy to be living here in Europe and not see at least some of it. But in reality, we both have jobs, bills to pay, and a fixed number of vacations days, so taking long trips is hard and short trips are still quite pricey.

And this is where my New Year’s contemplations and resolutions come in. We aren’t tourists here, although sometimes it feels that way. We live here. This is our life. Our life in translation. Life never looks the way we think it should, and sometimes it can be even better than we expect. But it is always our life. Sometimes we don’t understand it, and need a “translator”, but we can’t think that we have to wait until x to happen for our life to start. It’s running now, moving, growing, changing, and we just have to live it. If we always think that our life isn’t started yet, eventually, it’ll be over and we’ll have missed it.

Matt and I have had an amazing life this year, all the ups and the downs included. The changes that push us forward and keep us growing. New family members for us to love forever, new friends to grow with, new cities to explore and a new country to experience. We accomplished huge goals in getting our degrees and embarked on an adventure that few are offered. Yes, at times it’s hard, but it is also just so freaking unbelievable!

We can hardly wait for what 2016 will bring – our only year spent entirely in Germany!

Happy New Year you guys!

 

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