Thursday, March 20, 2014

A very personal account on leaving a country

I have this friend on facebook who posts a lot. He lives in Glasgow but he was born and raised in Maryland, USA. Every time he goes back home he posts up a storm about how awesome Maryland is, and when he's in Glasgow he posts about how much he misses being home. Through John's social media behavior I realized how different our emigration efforts were. John left a home he loved. His posts make me think "why did he even leave?" because his life back home sounds awesome. Every time I left Germany I really wanted to, and if that wasn't the case I don't think I would have gone. That is a crucial difference between me and John. He left something behind. The times I moved I left my family, not a life!

The first time I left to California I was leaving behind a school I didn't like which I had left a year prior to my departure to find some new friends but got bullied rotten instead. So I was attending my old school in which I had acquaintances but few friends. My general attitude towards Germany was no secret either. Although I didn't know anything else I knew from age 10 that Germany wasn't really where I was supposed to be, or at the very least didn't want to be. I didn't know as specifically as today why Germany is a rather lame place to live but I knew it was deep down. I remember being on the plane to JFK, listening to REM's "Leaving New York" in which Michael Stipe recalls leaving a place he loves and thinking "I have no idea what he means!" From this day on I sometimes missed my family but I never missed Germany! Soon I would learn what he meant though...

Since Day one I had loved California. The problems I had there with the people I was living with once made me want to go home, back to the comfort of my family, but I always knew that fighting through the problems and staying was going to be worth it. California was the first place I felt I fit in: people were like me, I wasn't considered "crazy" and for the first time I had friends I would actually consider family (and do to this day). The only reason I got on the plane on June 11, 2006 to go home was knowing I would come back after the summer. Little did I know that three days from then my Dad would be dead and I would never be able to come back. If I had known there is no way that plane would have left with me on it. I was sitting at the boarding gate crying, listening to two German exchange students talking about how fat Americans were and how cheesy the Christmas lights were. That's what they chose to discuss after a year in California. It goes without saying I was not excited to return...

Unexpected things happen though so I actually ended up staying in Germany for another couple of years, taking care of my family who was obviously affected by my father's death for a bit. There was nowhere I could have gone back then, and I'm glad I spent this time with my family. On January 1, 2009 however I came home from a New Years' party and finalized my application for university in Scotland at 5am in the morning because I couldn't believe how little fun I was having. Germany had been better than ever but at no point did I have the feeling I could stay. I was definitely going to university but three or four more years in Germany? That never sounded appealing to me. Two days later I got into Dundee, at the time my fourth choice, so my decision to go to Scotland had been made for me. I had never been to Scotland but I knew it couldn't get worse. Different it would be but coming from Germany that was something I warmly welcomed.

The day I arrived in Scotland I realized I hadn't thought about this move properly at all. It was always so obvious to me I would leave Germany again I didn't realize it had happened again. Fortunately, on my first day in Dundee my new flatmate took me to a party and I had a great time so I never actually ended up thinking about what I had just done. It wasn't my first time away from home and I didn't struggle at all. As harsh as it sounds, I had gotten used to missing people in my life. If I was in Germany I missed my American family and friends, if I was in California or Scotland I missed my Mom and sister. At some point I just had to accept I will never ever not miss anyone, so I decided to not miss people all together. My time in Dundee was virtually perfect and I can honestly say that I might have been annoyed here and there but never, ever considered going back home. In Glasgow I was very unhappy, and if I had had a plan B I might have dropped out and returned. I didn't have a plan B though!

By the end of my Masters' I was, for the first time, excited to go back to Germany. I had found a place in Glasgow that I hated more than Germany which was new to me. Leaving Scotland, however, was the worst thing I ever had to do. Most of my friends were leaving, I was single, and there was more than likely no jobs I'd want to do in Dundee to stay there. However, my whole life was there. I had completely lost touch to Germany, not just its people, and I was leaving to uncertainty. And, before we forget, I love Dundee more than I love myself. Retrospectively, my last week in Scotland was the most emotional time in recent memory. The reality of leaving was constantly on my mind. The mere thought about it now makes my eyes tear up. I knew it had to happen but I didn't want it to happen at all. It was California all over again, just knowing I wouldn't be back.

I have constantly been looking for the place that makes me happiest, and even after I found it I still don't live there. Missing Scotland shows me what John is feeling: I had no reason to leave other than the fact the time had come. Much like John, I wanted to reach out a little bit more which had nothing to do with not loving Scotland anymore. I feel about Scotland the way John feels about his actual home: I miss it every day and I'd do anything to be there today but bigger things are waiting. I have taken everything away from it I still need. Although I don't hang out with them in person anymore my friends are still the same, I talk to them regularly and they will dance at my wedding. I wouldn't mind leaving Germany again but if I learned one thing over the years is that you can find happiness everywhere. In Germany it's much (much) harder to find than elsewhere but I believe I can. I've waited 25 years to start loving, not tolerating, living in Germany and I don't think it will happen. Maybe leaving Germany will one day actually become hard for me... I suppose I believe it when I see it!

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