- A wild boar (prevalent in my small forested town) ate my laptop.
- I've been too busy eating döner and Berlin currywurst.
- I can no longer English.
Only the last statement is true. These are all the possible excuses I thought of to explain the embarrassing lack of blog activity from October to May to my reader(s) (hi mom!). There's been a persistent little voice in the back of my head that's been cheering me on: "Blog! Blog! Blog! Just write something down. I loved all of your posts so far, all 1 of them." Ok, maybe this voice is just that of Beth Siegling, my dear dear friend and fellow CBYX-er who is amazingly and frustratingly consistent with her blog.
It's been a minute and a half, friends.
And I only have a second left. In a month, the constant forward-pulsing momentum of this year will come to a crashing halt. This year, a year of building woodblock skyscrapers with Alex, my seven-year-old host brother, of heart to hearts with my incredible host mom Gabi, of laughing and crying and dancing and doing all of it in German, will soon be done.
As I look back on this beautiful crazy mountain of a year, I end up coming back to where I started in August. In some ways I am the same and my goals are the same. Take every opportunity to challenge yourself. Be kind to others. Completely immerse yourself in German (that means no English since day one). Learn a whole freaking lot. Above all, there was a goal that's shaped every moment here: Say yes to everything!
When I came here, I wanted to get as much out of everything as possible. Try every cake and ice cream flavor. (Update: still going strong. Two days ago I ate sand buckthorn ice cream at Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle 9 in Kreuzberg, Berlin. What a sand buckthorn is I still have no idea, but my friend tells me that it is mildly poisonous for humans and horses.) Make a ton of friends at my school and host community and everywhere. Have a lot of 'firsts'.
I have been so privileged this year to have experienced so many new things. I rode a horse for the first time, traveled with my awesome friend Bria to London to bask in the momentous architecture and mourn the end of Great Britain's EU thing, went clubbing for the first time, and spent many moments in awed, jaw-dropped appreciation of street art and museum art and all kinds of art.
New experiences are shiny and exhilarating and fun. But then, they are over.
Life is a series of trade-offs. When there are a million different coinciding and conflicting opportunities calling my name, balance is the golden counterweight. As I rushed head-first into my life in Germany, I thought I was winning in my personal game of collecting experiences and digging for meaning. Instead, I missed out on the essential.
For every time I rushed out after school to seek adventure in Berlin, I missed out on a comfortable evening watching the cult-favorite Germany's Next Top Model (where Heidi Klum decides the fates and fortunes of poor hopeful girls), eating cheese, and bonding with my wonderful host family.
For every school break I spent flitting around like a butterfly among my different friends, I missed out on the consistency and trust of being deeply integrated into one friend group.
For every time I refused to spend a single second in my room for fear of "missing out" on an experience, I passed over an opportunity to read, journal, blog (haha), play ukulele, knit, answer my messages, and recharge like a normal human being.
For the first half of my exchange year, I chose novelty time and time again. In doing that, I missed out on many small, important opportunities to seep deeper into German culture and learn more about myself. The most rewarding parts of exchange (and life) are built upon a solid foundation. Progress, whether in my German, character, or relationships, stems seldom from fun, excitement, or going clubbing. A foundation is built from unexciting albeit essential bricks: time spent alone in one's thoughts, frustrating plateaus and sometimes even regression, and a lot of pure hard work.
Three months into living with my host family, Gabi sat me down. "Flatterhaft" is the German word for what you are, she gently and firmly explained. Flighty, in English. I am easily drawn to new possibilities, but am unlikely to follow through when it gets boring or difficult. Like a butterfly, I flutter from flower to flower, friend to friend, hobby to hobby, never really landing.
Especially in a culture that strongly values reliability and dependency, being a butterfly hindered me from establishing my roots. It doesn't help that Americans, with their many friends and few confidants, their megawatt smiles to strangers on the street for no reason, are perceived as superficial in Germany.
In this last second of this year of many wonderful seconds, I'm prioritizing. I've already fulfilled my goals from the beginning of the year. I've challenged myself, embraced German, and learned a whole freaking lot.
But now my goals have shifted. They centralize on building a foundation of things that will last. What will I be taking away from this year? What and who will still be in my life in 10 years? My goals are to learn flawless German (still far from it but I still have a month!), to spend time with my blessing of a host family, and to focus on the lifelong friendships I've made.
Of course, I will still enjoy my time and have fun. I'm looking forward to Kirchentag in Berlin, a celebration of the 500 years anniversary of Martin Luther's epic posting of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door (where OBAMA will be coming to speak!), of an international Model United Nations conference in the Netherlands, and of seeing Heidi finally put the tragically beautiful aspiring models out of their misery and just finally choose one as Germany's next top model.
Most of all, I'm looking forward to the boring, slow, challenging, unexciting, not shiny experiences that are essential to me making the most out of my time here. Maybe they'll even help me to blog more often.
Until the next minute and a half, Virginia
Link to original post: https://itsalwayssunnyinvirginia.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/a-minute-and-a-halfa-reflection/