connecting

It’s funny how you can go years without seeing someone and when you finally talk about you realize you had nothing in common with them except that you both existed at the same time and place? Or how with other people you can meet again after years and its as if you’ve never really been apart?

Yesterday I met with one of those friends. She moved back to Germany two years ago and I hadn’t talked to her since. I was a little bit nervous because I don’t do well in social situations, especially with people I don’t know really well. But we got to talking about our lives, our futures, our interests, our fears, our dreams, etc for hours. It was like it had been days not years.

Connecting with her so well made me start to question some of my current relationships. Am I missing this connection with my current friends? If we didn’t talk for two years, would we have anything more to say? Are we just a product of being in the same place at the same time?

Sometimes I feel as if I don’t really fit well with the people around me because we prioritize different things. I have yet to meet someone in America who prioritizes travel, living abroad, learning languages, finding adventures, etc over finding a stable job and moving to a yellow house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a cute cat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this life it’s just not what I want. For me personally, I’ve always put seeing the world and going somewhere new over my career and my relationships.

Are there actually people here like me? Am I just looking in the wrong places?

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the white noise of familiarity

In a few short months, I’ll be leaving my life as I know it to move halfway across the world with just a backpack. Many people might be anxious about the backpack part of that sentence. The idea of giving up the things you’ve bought and collected over the years seems daunting, especially when you’ve grown attached to the world around you. But that’s not really me.

I’ve known for nearly a decade that I’ve wanted to move far away and as a result, I’ve kept myself from growing attached to my things. My books, my clothes, my shoes, my knick-knacks can all be easily rebought and replaced. For me, this is a small price to pay for a chance at a new life, a new adventure. But there was one thing I was leaving that I had never really taken into consideration before now: the people.

This seems a little silly now that I write it down. Of course, I have to leave behind my family and close friends. I’ve always known this and I’ve always known it wouldn’t be easy. No, what I hadn’t really considered is the everyday people I walk by- the people I took a class with once, my neighbors, past teachers and professors, the barista that’s at Starbucks literally every single time I go. I walk by these people and it suddenly hits me that I don’t know the next time I’ll see or even think about this person again. All these people become a part of your world, spinning around your orbit and emitting a reassuring and steady white noise.

This atmosphere of familiar faces will give way to a strange new world, in which I don’t recognize a single soul. That is the feeling I didn’t know I would miss. The comfort of walking down a familiar road and giving a half smile of recognition to the man who lived down the street but you’ve never once talked to or the girl who makes your morning latte. I’m sure that eventually these roles will be filled with new neighbors and new baristas as you begin to fill in the cracks of your life that were torn open when you pulled up your roots and began again. But until then, you’re stuck navigating a new landscape of unfamiliarity and anonymous faces, waiting for the day they become recognizable.

a different girl

How do I cope with who I am when the person in my head isn’t really me?

Do you ever imagine future scenarios and then watch them play out in your head like a movie? The answer is probably yes, I’m fairly certain almost everyone does this. I’ve been doing this a lot, especially lately when I think about going to Germany. I picture myself walking through foreign cities, having afternoon coffee in cute outdoor cafes, meeting new people and making friends. I imagine my outfits and how I’ll do my hair and makeup. The only problem is when I put all these things together and begin to watch all the scenes unfold in my head, I’ve found the person staring back at me isn’t really me.

Since the time I was little, I’ve always known I was fat and I have a lot of self-esteem issues because of it. I let how I look hold me back from a lot of things and to counteract the discomfort I feel in my own skin I’ve created a new person in my head. They are the me I’ve tricked myself into believing that I am. The girl in my head is not me because the girl in my head is beautiful. Her beauty makes her confident and brave. Her beauty allows her to travel the world, doing all the things the real me has always dreamed about.

But what happens when me and this person in my head collide? In a few months, the girl exploring Europe and living her dreams will be me- not the girl I’ve built in my head. I will have to be confident and brave, but unlike the girl in my head, I don’t have my beauty to shield me from my fears. How do I become this person when I still look like me?

sidewalks

I’m not sure what the word for this is, nostalgia maybe? That feeling when you hear or taste or see or smell something and it takes you back to a different time and place. Not just mentally, like a memory, but you feel it in your body, like an ache in your bones and a knot in your stomach. You feel your soul being ripped from your chest, as it travels back to that one moment that suddenly feels worlds and lifetimes away. Then, just like that, the feeling is gone and you’re left mourning the piece of yourself you didn’t know you had left behind.

Yesterday I was looking up information for my study abroad next year and a picture of a building came up. It was just an ordinary picture, an ordinary street, in a part of the city I’d never been to before but something about it caught my eye. The sidewalks. I’ve never thought twice about sidewalks before. I’m not really sure anyone has. They’re such mundane details, yet throughout our lives, we’ve walked hundreds of thousands of miles on them without giving them a second thought. When I saw that sidewalk I was suddenly there and all the memories of that trip came flooding back to me. Flooding is a tame word, it was more like a hurricane or a tsunami wave. I was struck down with all the feelings, sights, tastes, and smells and then just as quickly as it came, it was gone.

Now I’m stuck here, forced to return back to my reality while I grieve the loss of the person I was at that moment and place. It’s so hard to turn back when you know the place you came from will never feel like home again. Although for some people “I left my heart in San Francisco” will never be more than an old jazz song or a cliche postcard, for me it’s a sobering reminder that I can never be the person I was before because a part of me is still walking those sidewalks on the other side of the world.

 

answers

Growing up I was always the smartest in the class. I’m not saying this to brag about my intelligence or anything, but it’s true. I always raised my hand for nearly every question and got the best grades. For the majority of my life, I had all the answers and then somehow I just didn’t.

We take for granted the simplicity of our childhood and the questions that defined it. What’s the capital of New York? Should I play on the monkey bars or the swings at recess? How many cups in a pint and how many pints in a gallon? As we grow up the questions get more complicated, not just in school but in life as well. What do I want to be? Does he love me? Am I happy? Am I a good person?

Some people may look at these four questions and answer them in four simple words. Doctor, yes, yes, yes. And maybe these people are right. Maybe they really do have all the answers.  Or maybe they’re just confident at guessing. These are the questions that plague my daily thoughts because, for the first time in my entire life, I don’t have any of the answers. Is this normal? I can’t be the only one who feels this way. But at the same time a part of me, the part that got straight A’s and never went into a test without studying, is absolutely terrified.

 

a love letter

this is a love letter to the language that taught me to be silent

I’ve always loved languages. Speaking, reading, writing, learning. But I’ve always been a shy person, especially when it comes to speaking. Last week I talked about how much speaking German scares me and how I can never seem to find the right words to say. As frustrating as it is, it’s not the whole story.

When I visited my friends in Germany last summer, I struggled with speaking a lot. Although I was frustrated with myself, most of the people I was with spoke enough English to understand me when I couldn’t bring myself to speak German.

Except for Josef.

Josef is the 10-year-old brother of a friend I was staying with and he doesn’t speak any English. Despite this language barrier, we became fast friends. We laughed and had inside jokes, we played silly games, and genuinely enjoyed spending time together. In the three weeks I was there neither of us said much because we realized we didn’t need to.

Our friendship taught me that the words we speak aren’t nearly as important as the moments in between. I learned that no matter what language you speak, laughter and silly faces are universal and that smiles say more than words ever could. I learned another language to connect with people, but I found that the moments I didn’t speak were the ones that really mattered.

so here’s to the silent moments, may they speak louder than we ever could

tongue tied

Perfectionism is a tricky little thing. In Germany last summer I struggled to speak even the simplest of words. Entschuldigung. The first german word I ever learned a lifetime ago and as I stood in the airport I was frozen. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it.

For me, the only thing more difficult than learning a language is bringing myself to speak it. I’m not entirely sure what stops me. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I can never be perfect or the that I struggle with something so many people can do effortlessly. But either way, I’m still frozen while my mouth and my brain battle it out for control. And I know in a few months I’m going to just have to do it because that just how it goes. There’s a tricky little thing called irony. I don’t want to speak because I’m not very good but the only way to become good is by speaking.

There’s a tricky little thing called irony. I don’t want to speak because I’m not very good but the only way to become good is by speaking. I try to prepare and practice and speak as much as I can now so that when I arrive my German is the best it can possibly be. But the thing is that I know I can always be better. I will never be one hundred percent perfect at German just like I am not perfect when I speak English. For me, it’s a struggle of knowing I can be better but accepting that maybe I don’t need to be.

Accepting that mistakes are okay and that every word is a success.