June 22, 2011

Reflections from California

Well… for the first time in over a year, this blog update comes to you from the great state of California. I am home, I have arrived, and I am alive. Despite having to travel on a bum foot, I made it across three countries (Germany, Canada, and the US), the Atlantic ocean, and am only six hours away from reuniting with my mom in San Luis Obispo. I am writing this to you from the cabin of an Amtrak train where just ten minutes ago, my dearest friend Lauren, put me on a train at the infamous Union Station in Los Angeles. She picked me up the night before at LAX and together, with her lovely German boyfriend, Basti (Queue inside joke: “Put ze baby on my butt!”), we went to In-N-Out where I had a worthy “welcome home” meal – a Double Double with mustard, no sauce, In-N-Out’s delicious crispy french fries, and a not-so-good American Coke (I miss Germany’s version!).

And yeah… I’m home. Wow. I haven’t really had a moment to myself to sit back and think about what that means to me. It’s weird though and I’m sure it will feel this way for days. During the eleven hour plane ride all I could focus on was whether or not my foot was going to explode due to cabin pressure. I couldn’t really focus on my inevitable to descent to American soil. At the airport, all I could think about was how stupid Lauren and I had been for not exchanging better contact details – I hoped she would find me. And find me she did! And once we were together, all I could think about was In-N-Out and how happy I was to see her again. And to hear Basti’s unmistakable Bavarian accent – I might as well have still been there. And then, it kind of started to hit me as I iced my foot and watched Kate Plus 8 and Cake Boss and ate delicious ice cream sandwiches from the comfort of Lauren’s blessedly massive couch.

“This is the first American TV on actual TV that I’ve watched in over a year!” I exclaimed, as the realization of my return started to set in. And, in my opinion, TLC  was a worthy channel to initiate my return to American media. (I love that channel! If it had been 19 Kids and Counting, I would have been in heaven!) And then – all of a sudden – I was tired. It hit me that back in Munich, it was pushing 4 am and I’d slept a total of 2 hours during my travels. I needed to go to bed. So, I took a shower (I missed you stationary shower heads!) and then crashed. Sleep was easy – I passed out right away. But staying asleep was the tricky part. I woke up about three or four times over the course of my eight hour night and kept checking the clock. 12:42, 2:34, 3:45. In Munich, it would have been late morning to mid afternoon. In fact, I went to bed in California at about the same time that I would have woken up in Munich to start a regular work day.

When I did wake up, at 5:45, it was to the sound of the Harry Potter theme song on my Verizon cell phone – a phone that I hadn’t been able to use for a over a year. My ankle was throbbing – I hadn’t felt that much pain in the thing since the morning before I went to have the injury diagnosed. I quickly swallowed an IBU 600 (I love prescription strength drugs!) and readied myself for the rest of the day – my final travels through California. (Kind of.) Lauren fed me toast and orange juice and Basti loaded my suitcases into the car and then we were on our way – and not with a moment to spare. We arrived at Union Station within 20 minutes of my train’s departure. I checked in, checked my bags (which would arrive in San Luis Obispo on a later train), and then we got a go cart to drive me to the platform. As a result, our goodbye was kind of muddled but I know I’ll see her again soon. That’s the beauty of having friends that live in California. You’ll always reunite.

And now… here I am. Riding in a four-seater with my foot elevated and an electrical outlet to my right – rightfully blogging, something I feel I haven’t done properly in weeks. But, strangely enough, it’s still all so surreal. I don’t think it’s really hit me quite yet. Even as the train passes through the ghetto of Los Angeles and winds it way through Glendale, Burbank, Northridge, and Camarillo – all places that I’ve been through and seen a thousand times – it stills feel so foreign to me. Maybe it’s because my heart really is lost in Bavaria. Eventually it will find it’s way back to California but for now, it’s still in Germany and although I am very happy and excited to get back to my life here, I really miss the year of my life that I just left behind.

I don’t even know if I could put into words how much that year of my life meant to me. Being in Germany changed me – at first, it was a rough and emotional change but then it turned around and I learned a lot about my past situations and turned my regrets into opportunities of renewal. I learned from everything that happened to me while I was in Germany and I know that my entire experience changed me into a person who is so completely different from when I first left to start my adventure.

I met so many incredible people on my journey – friends that I will have and cherish for the rest of my life. Soulmates, sisters, brothers, lovers. I met each and every one for a specific reason and they all came into my life because they were supposed to be there. Who would I have been if I had not met them? What kind of an experience would I have had if they had not been there? Through the long nights of binge drinking, club dancing, gossiping, debauchery, fighting, and whatever else we got into we sealed our own fates. We will never forget those moments that we shared. We built our lives around each other and those people and the memories that we made together will forever shape me. To each and every one of you, from June of last year until just last week, you are forever in my heart and I love you so much. Thank you for being there with me and sharing the year with me.

Of course, I went to Germany to work but it ended up being nothing more than background noise to my entire adventure. I love the girls and I will miss them – of course, in the same way that I miss and love any other children that have come and gone from my life. They were great girls – so smart and sharp, full of sunshine and so sweet. They had their moments, like any normal child would, but for the most part, they were well-adjusted and strong little girls. They will have some rough years ahead of them, no doubt, but it is my hope that they will overcome and grow into beautiful, strong, and respectful young women. Hopefully I can visit them again throughout the years and keep up with them. I’d hate to lose touch with them. Their mother, however crazy she was and however difficult she made my life at times, will never be forgotten. Infamously – of course, but I am grateful for the chance that she gave me to come into her family and take part in her culture and be a part of the city. I never felt like she was a mother figure to me but to be fair, she didn’t really try very hard sometimes. Haha. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the opportunity that she gave me. I wish her the best with her future au pairs and hope that she realizes soon that she doesn’t really need one and could save herself a lot of money every year on that realization. Haha.

Being a part of Germany was an incredible experience for me. I’d never been to Europe before I started this adventure. I’d never really traveled anywhere or done anything very remarkable with my life. Well, except for my summer camp counselor adventure but these two experiences wouldn’t exist without the other so… I take that back. My summer camp adventure was the first remarkable thing that I’d ever done and, even though I didn’t know it then, it changed my life. Germany changed my life. I keep saying that and I’m not really backing it up with any evidence, am I?

Being in Germany taught me a lot about myself and helped me discover parts of my heart and soul that I didn’t even know I had. I went through a lot of emotions while I was in Germany. I was hurt and battered by a lot of men and I made a lot of stupid decisions, usually while I was drunk, but I learned a lesson every time. Sometimes I repeated the same stupid mistakes and hated myself for it but in the end, I came to realize that I wouldn’t get anything of life if I didn’t have those mistakes to learn from. I didn’t go looking for them, of course, but when they happened – I tried not to beat myself up about it. Life will, most definitely, change now that I am home but the life that I had in Germany was worth living. I will forever be a different person because of the things that I experienced while I was there. For the rest of my life I will always have those “one year in Germany” stories to tell every new person that I meet and I’ll always have that interesting edge over the less traveled and more stationary people that I meet. Gives me something to look forward to as I go out into the world and introduce myself to new people and new opportunities.

I can’t really identify with how it feels to be home. I think those words will come over the next few weeks and months as I get settled into my life again. Right now, I am happy to be home but I am missing Germany. In a few weeks, I will probably be bored of home and crying for Germany. And then something will come up – I’ll start my new job or I’ll meet a sweet, handsome new boy – and I’ll love California again and Germany will be just a fleeting thought. It will come and go and fluctuate as my life changes. All that I can do now is remain grateful and appreciative for the year that I spent in Germany and know that nothing I do, from here on out, will ever compare to the adventure that I just experienced.

And do I dare quote and improvise Rihanna lyrics? Somehow, given the year of my life and the amount of Rihanna that I listened to, danced to at clubs, and sang karaoke too, it seems appropriate (and not to mention the amount of times that it rained while I was in Munich). She’s kind of become synonymous with my time in Germany, anyway.

Germany, you had my heart
And we’ll never be worlds apart

Blahblahblah.
You can stand under my umbrella.

No? It doesn’t work? Haha. Oh well. Germany, I will miss you. Thank you for everything. You have my heart. Forever.

3 comments:

valid said...

Welcome home, Heather! I am glad you are safe and sound. Best of luck with your readjusting-- I know how hard it was for me to get back into the swing after a mere four weeks in Ireland, so I can only imagine what you have ahead of you! I am terribly excited to see you in July, and please please please, don't stop writing. I need to read your words! If I can't live vicariously through you I don't know what I'll do with myself. :)

Love!

Nuno Laranja said...

I will keep safe a small part of your heart here with me in Munich, if you don't mind. (:

Alex said...

Amazing! I just got to Germany on Sunday and this has made me so excited for my adventure, even though Karlsruhe is no Munich :)

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