In some ways, it feels like nothing has changed. Three weeks ago, my partner and I moved from our furnished apartment in Nanzdietschweiler to a new, unfurnished, beautiful little apartment in Bann. Two weeks ago, my partner had to start looking for new jobs when he got the news that his company might lose its government contract. One week ago, we discovered that if his contract doesn’t go through, we’ll have to move back to the States. And one day ago, I started crying when the realization hit me that our Grand European Adventure might be significantly shorter than expected.
It’s been a hell of a year, to say the least. When Go Girl Magazine was born, I had just started my final year of graduate school and was planning a wedding and the move overseas. The enormous amount of stress involved with each of these tasks seemed ludicrous at times. It’s no wonder the slightest wrinkle in planning or preparing made me freak out with worry- honestly, taking a cat on a plane isn’t nearly as anxiety-producing as it seemed at the time. But to be fair, trying to do everything at once- no matter how successfully- could be an overwhelming burden on some days. Every time I thought about what I needed to do next, what each major event was going to be, all I could think was, “I’ll be fine once this is over. All I have to do is graduate, and then I can worry about the move. Once I move, I can worry about the wedding. Once the wedding’s over, I’ll be fine.” It became my mantra, a soothing reminder that eventually things would calm down.
Of course, I’ve been discovering, life isn’t like that. When my friend Ali died in March, the whole world turned upside down for a while. I basked in the technological miracle that allowed me to listen to her funeral live, from my couch in Philadelphia, while I cried my heart out without interrupting anyone. I made the pilgrimage to Montreal for a memorial service a week later, so all of us who knew her could talk about her, get blitzed out of our skulls, and soothe ourselves with each others’ company. And yet the days marched on. I worked on a term paper before heading to the chapel, and when I got back to Philly my classes and field placement resumed. It was as though I was too busy to stop and be sad, even though grieving was all it felt like I was doing. And every particle in my skull screamed “SLOW DOWN!” because everything was happening so quickly. What ifs were piling up all around me as I started to come to terms with the fact that Grand European Adventures continue after all the major work seems to be done. Had I already been in Germany when Ali died, for example, I would’ve missed being able to celebrate her life in Montreal.
In spite of freaking out, the graduation, the move, and the wedding went fairly seamlessly. It’s funny to try and talk about milestones like these, especially knowing that they all occurred within the last four months, because they wrought so much change they seem to have happened eons ago. My life in Germany is so radically different from my life in Philadelphia — I work a rigid full-time schedule, I’m learning German so I can communicate with my neighbours, I take a 30€ train to visit Paris, Amsterdam, or Berlin –that I’m not sure how things could have changed so completely and so quickly while still feeling mostly natural. There’s something funny about the fact that my biggest culture shock has been with working full-time for the U.S. Army, not with living in Germany- I was expecting the military to be the less foreign-feeling of the two. The whole transition, after all that buildup and waiting, has gone by with an inexplicable rapidity.
The only time I’ve felt any recognition of how normal my new life has felt to me has been when it’s been threatened with significant change- as has been the story of the last few weeks. It’s when Nick and I discuss where we might be next month- Germany, the States, or Montreal?- that it hits me how the normalcy of my day-to-day life is still a new thing, and something of which I’ve become fiercely protective. “I’ve only JUST settled in,” I told him the other day. “I don’t want to move AGAIN.” I’m not even that attached to my job or The Mission- something that the military community loves to discuss but never quite specifies. It’s just that on some subterranean level I’m able to recognize the enormous changes my life has undergone this year, no matter how distant they seem now, and I want to cling to some stability for a little while. Long enough, at least, to recover from the anxiety of the last year.
As I said before though, life isn’t like that. Traveling, adventures, and tales of woe and whoa don’t happen because they’re scheduled or because we managed to find some vacation time- they happen because jobs change, visas disappear, friends move away, things happen. Life happens. One year can make a huge difference in a person’s life- just look at mine!- but that doesn’t mean, as I’d been naively hoping, that the next year won’t be just as crazy. All we can do is take a deep breath, open our eyes, and exhale a short prayer that we’ll be okay as we take the next leap.
So happy birthday, Go Girl! Thank you for being the release for my woe, my whoa, my yesss!, and my ugh. You’ve come a long way in one year- from a handful of writers with occasional deadlines to a writing staff producing more amazing articles than I can keep up with on a daily basis. I promised to spend this year writing about all the changes, expecting that next year would be a series of articles about how cool it is to live in central Europe. But now, who knows? All I can say is that the second year looks to be just as full of excitement, uncertainty, change, and promise as the first. Regardless…I look forward to the ride.