Friday, August 31, 2012


Packing Up My Suitcase Heart
     Well, dear, dear, readers, we have officially come full circle.

     One year ago today, I arrived in Germany, scared out of my mind for the year that was to come, and having no idea what to expect.

     And exactly 366 days later ( it was a leap year), here I am, sitting on my parents' couch in Yucaipa.

    I've been back for about four days at this point. I know I should be saying how amazing it is to be home, how much I've missed the spirit of America and the beauty of our country and the freedom we have like nowhere else in the world...but in all honesty, after four days, I've had enough of America to keep me going for at least another year. When's my flight back to Germany again?

    I'm not trying to be depressing, just to be honest. There are things here that I have missed. I did my laundry yesterday in ONE HOUR. WASHING AND DRYING. It was incredible. And I went to a restaurant last night, and not only did I get free refills on my coke, there was unlimited ice water! Without having to ask for it! Ah, the beauty. I do get carded at restaurants again, though, which is kind of annoying. It's wonderful to see my parents and sister (and dog!!), and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of my family this weekend and getting together with some friends I've missed. Tomorrow is move-in day at a condo in Long Beach, and then life shall begin in earnest. Life here, I mean.

    In the interest of full disclosure, this blog title is a lie. I have not unpacked. At all. Other than like four underwears and my camera cord.

    Moving on, I'll save you some time and answer some of the more obvious questions you may have:
  • Yes, I'm glad to be home...but only about 30% glad.
  • No, it is not the most amazing thing ever to get to drive again. I mean, really? Cars aren't that exciting. And as to the comparison in commutes...

Typical drive in Germany (I mean, not THAT typical, but not that extraordinary either)
Typical drive in Southern California. Mmm, smell those auto fumes. It's kind of like coming home to a third-world
  • No, I did not miss American beer. (I don't really know who would be dumb enough to ask that, but just in case). 
  • Yes, I do love how cheap everything is here.
  • Yes, I did go to the Disneyland castle in Germany.
  • The food I missed the most was [good] Mexican. And Reese's. NOM.
For any inquiries you may apply to me personally.

    The weird thing about being back in the home that I grew up in is how familiar everything is. I'm starting to feel like I was never away at all. It was weird and new to be home and see my parents and sister for maybe...five minutes. And then it was like it always has been. Except my mom's redone the kitchen and I can't find ANYTHING. And I had a minor panic attack when I forgot to take off my shoes when I walked into the family room. And, you know, I tried to speak German to the Hispanic cleaning lady yesterday. Also, my parents got an electric couch. What? I don't know either. But other than that? I might as well have never left.

    It scares me to think of that happening. Of getting sucked back in to the person I always was, always have been in this place and this world. My niche is still waiting for me and it would be so easy to be that person again. But I don't want to be that person! I feel like I grew so much this year--I went through the toughest breakup of my life, and not only did I not let it break me, I thrived! It took me awhile, but I think towards the end I really jumped in both feet first (is that how that metaphor goes?). I spoke German with strangers, I went to bars alone and met random people, I swam in rivers and drank beer on public monuments, drove for extended periods of time in strangers' cars with large men who didn't speak anything but Hungarian, and managed to keep two children alive and healthy for a year.

   I am so, so grateful for the chance I had to live abroad for the year. That, somehow, the stars aligned for me to end up in the most amazing city I have ever been, with the best host family, the coolest choir, and the most wonderful friends. Considering I jumped into the whole au pair thing with about half an hour of consideration (and even less time deliberating about the family that had asked me to come), I got so, so, so incredibly lucky.

    Living away from home--and I mean far away, not college in the next town--taught me so much. It sounds trite, but it really is true.
  • You don't have to have a shared background, history, homeland, or even language to be friends with someone.
  • There are vastly more good, interesting, genuinely kind people walking this earth than we give it credit for.
  • For so many people, out of sight really is out of mind, and it's a sobering thing to come home to. 
  •  You can give someone everything you know how to give them and it still won't be enough.
  • SAD (seasonal affected disorder) is totally a real thing. Everyone but the Californians have long since accepted this. 
  • And where your home is has nothing to do with where you were born, where you grew up, or the people you know. Your home is where your heart wants it to be. 

     It feels trite and silly to say that Munich is my home. Obviously I've spent the better portion of my 23 years in Southern California. But being back here gives me nothing of the sense of contentment I found in Munich toward the end of my time there. And as silly as it sounds, I really did lose my heart there. Or found myself there. Or any cliche of the sort. And funny enough, I went through a year in a foreign country with only the teensiest bit of homesickness. But this week, back at home? Crazy homesick. For brez'n, spätzle, die U-Bahn, Nußschnecken, Weißbier...the list goes on.

     Right now, fresh off a plane, I know I see the imperfections and flaws much more than anything else. That's natural. If you showed me a gorgeous view of the LA skyline at sunset, I would be disgusted at the smog. And I hope know that will pass. But right now...I just want to go back home. I don't know if I hope California will become home for me again or not. But I've always wanted the option of living somewhere else, and it's gratifying to know that I am not so attached to Southern California that I couldn't live anywhere else.  I suppose to have this all work out perfectly, something awful would have happened my last day in Munich so I could have left angrily and been overjoyed to leave Germany behind and be in California again. But that didn't happen. And that's okay. I'd rather stay in love with Germany than end our beautiful time together with a fight. We'll just have to be long-distance lovers for a while.

     To my wonderful family and friends who have been so faithful about reading this blog, I appreciate it so much, and really, it means more to me than I can say. Every comment and "like" warmed my heart, and it made the hard parts of this year so much easier to have so much love and support coming at me from afar!

    As of the posting of this blog, I have 4,774 views (so please look 226 more times so I can break 5,000! And remember, if anyone goes to Antarctica, please take a look. For me?) And though you probably don't care, I find it fascinating--the country ranking! And please tell me who all my friends in Russia are.

    I've had some requests to continue this blog, so if that would be something you'd be interested in...let me know? Send encouraging telepathic thoughts? I've never kept a blog before, but this year really taught me how useful and fun they can be! There's no way I could have told even a fraction of my readers about the things I did without good old Packing Up My Suitcase Heart.

     For anyone who's curious, the name of this blog is taken from one of my favorite songs by The Weepies: 
"And all that time, I felt just fine
I held so many people in my suitcase heart
That I had to let the whole thing go
It was taken by the wind and snow
And I still didn't know that I was waiting
For a girl on a slow pony home"

    And to my friends back on the other side of the Atlantic, thank you, more than I can say, for playing your part in this incredible experience. I miss you all, and if any of you wins the Lotto, I expect your presence to come to this continent to see me as soon as possible.

Paolo, Sean, ME, Noe, Sarah, Flo, Louise

   And to you, Munich? Well...don't forget me, please. I'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your blog. Definitely keep it going please! Was so lovely reading about your experience, but hard to read this last blog. I have two weeks left, and you made everything seem so real for me now.