The Month of Change

For me, October has always been a month of change and growth. I’ve experienced my first heartache, the beginning of my marriage, the loss of a child, the reality of my parents’ mortality during my mom’s battle with cancer, the exquisite pain of the end of my marriage, and the adjustment of moving back to the states from Germany all in the month of October over the years.

It’s a transformative time for me, and this year is no different. As I’ve written about before, my move back to Arkansas is coming up very quickly, and my mind is racing to catch up with the plans I’ve made for myself. I’m ready for the change. Despite the nervousness connected to the knowledge that I’ll be completely on my own for the first time in my life, it’s time. It’s time to prove to myself that I can survive, that I can be the independent person I’ve always embraced the idea of.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was leaving Germany. More than any other time in my life, 2014 was the year that I really began to discover who I was and what I was made of. I feel like I’m equal parts older and younger than my age. Older because I’ve already been through so many experiences, but younger because until last year, I had no inkling of how I saw my future. In my marriage, I had given up my identity and lost some of the most important years of self-discovery, so I’ve learned to turn my mid-twenties into those experimental years.

Germany changed me. It was the initial push that caused me to really start enjoying writing for the sake of recording thoughts and allowing my emotions a place to rest. I began to embrace the parts about me that I previously viewed as weak things to be ashamed of. It was a pivotal moment in my life, a realization that sharing my true story, struggles and all, was the only way to truly heal. So I shared. I made friends with people with whom I knew would be loving toward me no matter what mistakes I made, no matter the battles I still had waging within me. I truly believe that last year in Germany saved me.

Coming back, I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I wasn’t ready to be surrounded by the world that wants so hard to be vulnerable and open, but hides their real weaknesses in order to look strong and put together. I wasn’t expecting to relapse into the emotional tug-of-war, the sense that people are only willing to help when it satisfies their own needs first. That’s not the way that everyone is here, it’s just a generalization based primarily on experiences I’ve had over and over again in this small town I live in.

Perhaps it’s just a feeling that comes with the knowledge that it’s time for me to move on to the next thing. Perhaps my negative feelings of this place come from situations I’ve only got myself to blame for. Perhaps it’s just knowing that with October comes change. With the autumn comes the end of a chapter. When the leaves start changing and the world is covered in a blanket of reds and oranges, it’s a beautiful symbol of saying goodbye to everything I’ve known from the year, of preparing myself for the birth of something new and exciting.

Kelsterbach, Germany - October 2014
Kelsterbach, Germany – October 2014

listening to: Bear’s Den

Back Again

I’m moving soon. I realize I’ve declared an intention of moving before and not followed through with it, but this is a move that is 100% for me and nobody else. It’s a move to reflect the changing of life seasons, a move of growth, and a move of necessity.

In 2006, I visited Fayetteville, Arkansas for the first time on a campus tour during Thanksgiving break. I think I fell in love with the town just in the drive up there. There are all sorts of winding road for the last hour of the drive, and during that time of year, all the hills are covered in red, orange, and yellow trees. For a girl who had been stuck in Texas for five years, the idea of living somewhere where seasons existed was a dream. The University of Arkansas was the only school I even applied to when it came to college, mostly because I’ve got a major stubborn streak and was determined to only go there for school.

Fayetteville was a town I chose just for me. It’s the town where I first began to come into my own. I experienced so many firsts, both good and bad, but every first is interwoven with growth. I think there are some places that are somehow tailored to fit a person’s personality, and Fayetteville is one of those towns for me.

After my divorce, I moved back to Texas for a month before spending most of 2014 in Germany. I remember crying as I drove away from Fayetteville, not because of the divorce or some of the broken relationships tied into that, but because I was leaving a place that truly felt like home. I’ve visited a few times since then, and that strange combination of peace and excitement washes over me during every drive up there.

I’ve now been back in Tyler for ten long months. Ten months of adjusting. Ten months of struggle. Ten months of fighting that depression-monster again. However, it’s also been ten months of learning who I am. Ten months of finding what truly makes me heart happy. Ten months of growing into the person I want to be. It’s been a strange ten months, but I think that it’s a chapter in my life that needs to end as soon as possible. It’s necessary for the growth of the character, but you struggle through every word.

I’m taking control of my story. In just about two months, I’ll be moving back to Fayetteville. This week, I started back to school in the form of one online class, and in the spring, I’ll be back to going to school full time. It’s going to be a struggle. I’ve never been very good with going to class or studying or even really staying disciplined enough to complete many things, but I’ve got a long-term goal this time. I got accepted into the English department, studying a combination of creative writing and journalism, which is a perfect fit for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to translate that degree into a job in the editing/writing/publishing industry back in Frankfurt in a couple years.

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement. I’m scared of so many things. I’m scared that I won’t do as well in my classes as I hope. I’m worried that school will wear on my psyche again. More than anything, I’m terrified that the depression that has been consistently lurking in the semi-shadows these past few months will step out and try to take over my life again. However, I think that this is the best time in my life to do this, to take these chances. I’ve got nothing tying me down, no reason to keep me where I am. In any case, moving back to Fayetteville is a temporary step in the grand process of moving back to Germany. And anything that can allow me to live in Germany for more of a full-time experience has to be worth the effort.

Old Main at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas - May 2015
Old Main at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas – May 2015

Transition Time

It’s already been three weeks since I left Germany, and I can’t believe the weeks have gone by so quickly. I’ve been so busy that all of this writing has kinda taken a back seat, but I’m trying to figure out a way to schedule my time better to get all of my thoughts out.

I think that the time period of adjusting back to a way of living you were once accustomed to, but had changed, is a very interesting one. I’ve picked habits and behaviors back up without really being aware of why I’m doing them. The way I eat, sleeping routines, and my attitude all had slight shifts while I was in Germany, and part of me is almost worried that those changes I made will disappear completely if I don’t make a very conscious effort to keep them around.

A little rundown of what all has happened in the past three weeks is probably a good way to continue this post. I find that when I stop writing for a while, the first thing I hit “publish” on can be a little robotic and awkward in the sense that I’m trying to rediscover my voice.

I flew back into the states on October 15. I only spent a little over 12 hours outside of the airport because the next morning, I flew from Texas to New York to see Damien Rice on the end of his American tour for his new album. I’ve never flown anywhere for a concert before, so that by itself was an exciting experience, but the fact that I got to go with one of my closest friends from high school and stay with another friend while we were up there put the trip at an entirely different level. We only spent two nights in the city and flew back to Texas on Saturday morning, but it was a trip I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. Shameless plug: if you want to see some of the photos I took while up there, make sure to be following my InstagramWe did the entire trip very cheaply, because cheap trips are quickly becoming my speciality, so I’ll be trying to break down everything like I did for my Paris trip.

I had one day at home with my parents before my mom and I drove eight hours west on I-20 through Texas to visit her side of the family. It had been almost a year since I had seen all of them, and my grandmother hasn’t been in the best state of health this year, so it was really important to visit while I had some free time. There were multiple choir concerts attended, hugs for days, and even an incident involving my mom and aunt embarrassing me by having me sing an impromptu song at the nursing home for my grandmother. It was a fun trip, and I think what I needed to help with the adjustment process of living in Texas again.

Coming back to Texas meant one major thing: finding a job was the necessary next step. Lucky for me, I have plenty of friends still in the area and two days after spending time with some of those friends, I got hired to be a server at one of the local hibachi restaurants in town. I’ve never worked as a server or really in any sort of food service job, unless you count my first summer job at a snow cone stand, so it’s been an interesting transition into this kind of work. The hours are the complete opposite of what I’ve spent the last 10 months working, but the late nights suit me much better than early mornings. I keep telling myself that there are all sorts of lessons and experiences to be learned from a serving job, so it’ll be interesting to reflect on those once I’ve had a little more exposure in this field.

Cotton fields and wind turbines- West Texas
Cotton fields and wind turbines- West Texas

Bis Später

Ten days ago, I had to say tschüß to Deustchland.

I’ve never been very good at goodbyes. I tend to get all choked up and teary eyed. While I’ve said goodbye multiple times before during various moves, this was by far the hardest. There’s something about the bond you form with people when you’ve moved to another country and are surrounded by people who have done the same. When you aren’t surrounded by friends and family back home, those new friends become closer than any family that I’ve ever had

However hard all of this has been and will be, I do still believe that it will be worth it. I know there are bigger and better things ahead for me, but I think the key in all of this is just learning to take the chance. In my opinion, life should be all about opportunities…what experiences and lessons you can learn, if you will. Every experience will be a learning one, whether you realize it in the moment or not. Moving to Germany, I knew I would learn a lot, maybe even completely change my outlook on life, but I don’t think I was really mentally prepared for how much would be learned through living in another country. I’ve read all sorts of online articles about the difficulties of returning back home after living the ex-pat lifestyle, but it still didn’t prepare me for the change when I got back

Moving again just means more lessons, more hardship, but also more rewards. I believe every difficulty prepares you for something harder, and every hardship creates character and allows you to learn how to handle more in life. Comfort zones are broken down and you realize just how strong you can be when pushed to do something you previously thought was impossible.

Obviously, I’m still adjusting. I’m still getting used to being around a whole different breed of people again. I’m sure I’ll write about it more later, but the German lifestyle and the Texan one are very much opposites. It’s hard to explain this to people who haven’t traveled or done much outside of their hometown bubble, but I’m sure that even people who have visited another country for a month or so can relate. If I’m honest, I completely prefer Germany over Texas. I feel that the way people live over there is much more in tune with the way I want to live my life. I could go on for ages about the differences, but that’s a whole other topic entirely.

So Germany, it’s not really a final goodbye. I miss you terribly. I’ll see you later.

Zeil, Frankfurt, Germany - July 2014
Zeil, Frankfurt, Germany – July 2014

The Struggle And The Growth

I spent yesterday wandering around what has easily become one of my favorite cities. I’ve got two weeks and two days left to say that I’m a resident of the Frankfurt area, so I’m trying to soak up every moment possible. I walked down Kaiserstraße, through the Zeil area, next to the Dom Römer, across the river on the Eiserner Steg (the bridge covered in locks), and along the banks of the Main River. In my opinion, the best part of the city is that it is situated around a body of water, and there’s nothing like being able to sit along the bank of that river and enjoy a sunny day. I also enjoy the face that Frankfurt still isn’t very touristy, but it’s a big international city, so you don’t often have to deal with massive groups of people.

I read an article months ago about the ex-pat life, and how it’s hard to really feel like you completely fit in back home after living in another country. I haven’t even moved back yet, but I’m already starting to feel that way. While the German culture isn’t as different from the American culture as some others might be, there are still many differences. I’ve gotten fond of the language barriers because I feel a strong sense of pride when I understand and can answer questions. My diet has completely changed, and the idea of throwing all of my trash in one big bin seems almost foreign now. Because of the heavy British influences in my friendships, some of the words I use in everyday language is different, and some people have even pointed out that my accent has changed somehow. Even now while I sit writing this, I think I’ll miss the German way of living far more than I would ever miss the American one.

Of course, whenever you go through a big move, you simultaneously go through a big change. If you chose to move back to your original location, it will never the same. You may look the same and you may continue to enjoy the same friendships, but you as a person will have grown and changed. With an international move, that change will inevitably include an expanded worldview.

I’m not looking forward to moving back to Texas (even though I know it’s just a temporary move) for that very reason. I’m excited to see friends and family, but I know I’m not the same person that I was when I moved away. In some ways, I feel like they might be meeting an entirely different person. At the risk of sounding conceited or overly proud or whatever you might call it, I feel like I’ve gained a sort of quiet confidence. I’ve become even more independent than before, and I know that the limits I used to believe were holding me back are now mostly nonexistent. I will have only been gone for nine months, but when you move away like I did, you’re forced to hit the fast forward button on changing and maturing.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “I’m not sure what I’ll do, but — well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” This sentiment is one of the biggest reasons I want to travel and live in different places and immerse myself in different cultures- I want to grow. I don’t want to be stuck in some small town and keep a small worldview. It’s been so long since I’ve lived in Alaska that I’m not expecting anything to be as it was when I was a child. I’m excited to be back because I know there will be struggles and lessons to go through. Of course, the gorgeous scenery and a wonderful man are big things to look forward to, but most importantly, it’s a chance for me to grow even more. It’s time for that next chapter.

Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

Frankfurt, Germany- September 2014

listening to: Jason Mraz