Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jesuit Living to Jadedness

Most everyone knows I've been waitressing in Nashville for just over six months now at a restaurant right by Vanderbilt and the Vandy hospitals.  It was a completely fortuitous occurrence that I got a job there--on St. Patrick's Day, my 4:00PM class was canceled, so a bunch of us decided to go celebrate and get some Guinnesses and we went to Sportsman's, which was right by school and had Guinness on tap.  I loved the atmosphere of the place and there was a hiring sign out front, so I filled out an application and got hired that weekend and started the next week and the rest is history!

Although I had a lot of experience in food service, I had never served, so it was a steep learning curve.  Sportsman's was a good place to start because we're such a low-key restaurant and are not usually super busy, so it was a good place to learn; but since it's not corporate, the training was not defined, and it was just kind of learn-as-you-go.  Six months later, I'd say I'm pretty good, and I still love working there (well, most days...but that's every job) and I know the regulars that I serve, and I just go through auto-pilot now and don't have to think twice about what I'm doing.

Tonight's shift made me stop and think though.  Fridays start getting really busy at 4, which is when I came in and then I stayed until close, which was 10:15 tonight.  We've been pretty slow the last few weeks with a few minor exceptions where we'll be busy for an hour or two-- tonight was just nonstop though.  I didn't sit down until about 9:00 and I didn't snack on anything but a granola bar until 9:30 and was practically delirious from how exhausted I was.  That's how servers make money though, and the work definitely paid off tonight.

But this got me thinking about all of my shifts the last few months.  Part of what I like about serving is having that complete relationship with your customers: you greet them, you bring them their drinks, you take their order, you check on them, you take their money, and you wish them a nice rest of their day.  You are the face of their experience for that hour or so.  In my first couple months, I worked only a couple shifts a week because finals were approaching as well as the marathon, and then I was spending a lot of time with George.  Once summer hit though and George was gone, I was working usually 25-30 hours a week just there, and even with school back in session I'm still usually closing Friday-Monday nights, and this has led me to become rather jaded and just kind of annoyed at everyone.  When we're slow, I get in a slow-mood and don't want to do anything, so when people come in, I get annoyed.  And then when we're busy like we were tonight, I get so stressed that every person at every table needs something different every two minutes and it's so hard to keep track of and I want to punch them all in the face.  I've started pre-stereotyping people when they come in, and will pay less attention to tables that I project aren't going to tip me. 

All servers pre-stereotype--it comes with the territory.  But it hit me tonight how annoyed I was getting at everyone.  I had several big groups going at one time--one was pretty awful, but the others were friendly enough.  But some of them kept trying to talk to me-- like chit chat, but I was so busy that I didn't have the time to do so, and I was getting so annoyed that they couldn't recognize that I didn't have time to talk to them.  But then when I closed out several more tables and had a moment to breathe, I was still getting annoyed at all this.  I remember telling two of my coworkers, "why does everyone want to tell me their life stories?! I DON'T CARE!!!!"

And then I realized that I've gone from valuing my server-customer relationship to solely seeing my tables as a tip I'll get once they leave, and I felt really sad about that.  My last table of the night was a rather awkward couple not much older than me, and they kept moving and were super shy and took forever to order, but like a good server, I was completely accommodating and nice and friendly, and they were really gracious and wrote "Thank You" on their receipt when they closed out.  Something so small really meant the world to me!  It sounds silly, but that made me realize that maybe just giving them a friendly smile and being nice could've made their night (just as them making an effort to write an affirmation on their check made my night!).  An older couple I had right before them were the most chatty folks I've probably ever waited on.  When it died down I actually sat down and talked to them for a bit just about lots of things--they were very interested in what I was doing in my life (grad school, future plans, etc.) and they were very pleasant, and then left me a huge tip.  And like that example--some people are genuinely interested and I want to get back in the spirit of being interested in people back.

My restaurant is right next to the big Vanderbilt hospitals so we get a lotttttt of people who have loved ones in the hospitals.  And they usually want to talk all about everything.  And it's such a regular occurrence now that I get sick of hearing about it, but then I remembered tonight all the Jesuit ideals I learned back at BC.  We harped so often on the importance of just listening to people.  What so many people so often need is just an ear from someone so they can rant.  And when your child or your parent or your spouse is in a major surgery or attached to life support, there's a lot you want to talk about.  I've become so jaded though that I don't want to listen to these people anymore, and am just ready for them to eat and go, and it makes me sad that I feel like that after working here for six months. 

There's not really a solution or revelation for this post-- but it was something I wanted to write about.  I want to be better about this from now on, and remember that everyone who comes in has their own story and their own problems they're dealing with.  Some people are just assholes and get pleasure out of being mean to servers--that's a fact.  But I'd like to believe that for a majority of people who come in that don't tip well or aren't friendly, or are super needy and high-maintenance, they all have a million things going on and having someone meet their needs for one meal is a blessing, and even having someone to listen to them rant about some of those problems.  Would I go in a restaurant and tell my server all about what's going on in my life or try to chit chat with them about things they don't care about? No.  But everyone's not me, and everyone's different, and everyone has value and deserves to be served with a friendly smile and with an ear to listen and with a chance.

Wow, this is getting kind of deep.  But for anyone reading this-- remember it goes both ways!! Some servers are just mean and grumpy and hate everyone, but for the most part, if your server isn't super friendly to you, he or she probably has a million other things he or she is worrying about, so you gotta cut some slack as well!

Again, no big point to this post-- it was more of a reflection for myself, because I was thinking about this all during my shift tonight and I want to get back to that relationship idea of serving, rather than seeing every table as a tip.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This too shall pass

I've been thinking a lot lately about time and about waiting.  I guess this all started when George left and was only magnified after I fractured my foot.  The "accident" happened almost three weeks ago and I remember when I found out that I'd have to walk around in a massive walking boot for anywhere from four to twelve weeks, I was devastated.  I called up my mom crying; I called up George sobbing ever harder; and they both basically told me that this would pass, that the time would fly.  Well sure enough, I've already been in the boot for over two weeks and the doctor told me on Tuesday that I probably will only have to wear it another two weeks, which was fantastic news. 

Not being able to run has been the hardest part of all of this.  It's already been over three weeks since I've run, and I think the longest I've gone without running in probably four years is maybe two weeks, and those hiatuses were always my choice--maybe it was because I was traveling, was sick, or some other circumstance.  This time around, it's not my choice.  And it's taken this break to realize why I've always considered myself less stressed than my peers.  Most people say they run to relieve stress and blow off steam, but I began running to prove to myself that I could do it (to ultimately work up to a marathon, of which I've now run two!) and I guess, simultaneously and unnoticed by myself, this act always kept my stress levels down and kept my wandering mind at ease because when I'm running, I don't think about anything else.  I've lacked those breaks from my usual and zealous overthinking these last three weeks, and I, as well as those with whom I interact on a daily or weekly basis, have definitely noticed. 

Lately I've just been sad and lethargic and apathetic.  I'm still working out every day and am working nonstop, but it's just so weird that by taking away running, my whole mood and outlook about everything changes.  I guess I've never really appreciated running, and especially during training, it's just one more thing that has to be checked off on my diurnal list of things to do, but after this forced hiatus, I will definitely be more appreciative of the calming powers the exercise has on me, because the elliptical and lifting are just not cutting it. 

So, as the saying goes, this too shall pass.  Sometimes things happen and you get put in situations where the only direction is forward.  This is terrible analogy, but I always think of the two times I've been bungee jumping, but most specifically when I went in Switzerland--134 meters high--and I was completely terrified and didn't think I could do it.  But standing up in this little gondola suspended over an Alpine lake, I realized that I didn't have a choice of which direction I could go.  I had to jump and whatever happened, happened.

Okay actually, here's a better analogy.  When I moved to Germany in September 2012, I absolutely did not want to go.  I had just completed one of the happiest summers of my life spent in Boston with my best friends, after completing an absolutely amazing four years at Boston College.  I didn't want to move to Germany at all.  I remember sitting on the plane and once it took off, saying to myself, well I guess I can't turn back now.  I remember moving into my room in Münster and crawling up into a ball that first night and trying to visualize and comprehend ten months and I couldn't do it.  And I told myself that I would just make a life in Germany and have a wonderful time, and the ten months would go by, because it was my life.  Those ten months were a series of really high highs but really low lows as well, but that's life.  And that's where I stand now.  I'm sure a lot of you who are close to me can guess to what I'm actually referring during this tangent.  It's been one and a half months and under five months to go.  I see the time as moving neither fast nor slow--just kind of statically existing, as I get up every morning and go through my routine. 

I'd like to say that I've faced a lot of challenges and changes and adaptations in my life thus far, but this is the first challenge I've faced that isn't all about me, and that's actually the hardest part.  There is someone else who is facing a bigger challenge than I am, and I hope that these circumstances have helped me to grow and become more mature as I become less selfish and realize that I'm getting to a point in my life where it's not just about me anymore, and that I have to think about other people.  In our society today, I personally think being independent is a more lauded trait of people, but I would perhaps argue against that after all of this.  I've been independent my whole life (in the sense of always going after what I want and focusing on being the best I can be so that I can succeed in everything I do), but when it's just you, it's easier.  I think adding another person to challenges and changing your outlook so that it's not just focused on you anymore is what's truly challenging.

This is new for me.  It's really hard, but as my title says, this too shall pass.

(And I'm sure I'll automatically be in better spirits once I can start running again!)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

You're gonna hear me roar (here's to 2014)

When Katy Perry's single "Roar" came out several months ago, I honestly was not a fan of the song and actually found it quite annoying.  I still find the song kind of annoying, but the lyrics fit my mentality for 2014.

"I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
scared to rock the boat and make a mess.
So I sat quietly, agreed politely.
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything."

2013 was basically a year of me being that person described in the song.  I lacked any agency in my decisions and in my life and was forgetting about my own happiness.  A number of events, the main one being what I alluded to in my last post, have provided me with a wake up call and my goal for this new year is to be a stronger individual, focusing on my own goals and dreams and aspirations and just being a good friend, but also staying aware of my own mental and emotional well-being.  I went from being completely numb the first half of the year to being an emotional crying train-wreck the second half of the year and both of those versions of me were terrible.

During these last few weeks at home I've been so surrounded by love and warmth from family and my oldest friends and have realized how much I have to be thankful for, and that because I'm blessed in so many ways, I owe it to the people in my life who have helped me grow to be the best version of myself and be happy and appreciate all the wonderful things in my life, even if sometimes it's wicked hard to be away from Boston and even from Virginia.  I've got a wonderful group of friends in my new home in Nashville though, and so many things coming up to work towards like a brand new semester and the Nashville marathon at the end of April.  This year is about me refocusing my priorities and just being the best version of myself.

So, to 2013 I say good riddance, but I guess thank you for the learning experiences.  And here's to a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

On Dignity

My Jesuit education at BC taught me the power of empathy, especially when it comes to the human condition and dignity.  I took several courses about human rights for my Faith, Peace, and Justice minor, which focused on the inherent worth of every human being and the undeniable fact that, although we are all different, we are really all the same, and that most humans are after the same things--love, friendship, community, and belonging.  I found all of these during my time at BC, and for that, I can never be more thankful, especially during this holiday season.  A little over a year ago when I was facing a lot of sadness and confusion during my year in Germany, I wrote a blog post about not being "over" BC--and those sentiments are still true.  I've found a wonderful community and group of friends in Nashville and I'm growing to love the city, but my heart still pines for Boston and the general feeling that the BC community gave me every day, a feeling that I never really noticed until I left. 

After I graduated BC, I went right to Germany and many of you know how sad I was over there, so I never really got a chance to put my Jesuit education to the test; to really see if everything I had learned and been introduced to would stick with me outside of BC's beautiful campus.  These last few months though, I have proven to myself that my Jesuit education has absolutely made me a better, stronger, and more empathetic person, truly concerned with the well-being of those close to me, and much less selfish than when I began undergrad, and for that I am thankful.

A large number of my friends know what I was dealing with the last few months, and how the situation of someone I knew was tearing me apart.  I was upset every day, crying more than I ever have in my life (if you're close to me, you know that I rarely cry, except at certain movies and sentimental commercials), wondering about life, questioning my already shaky faith, wondering how on earth bad things could happen to good people, and I turned myself inside out so that I was really only thinking of this other person and how I could act to be supportive and loving and accepting--all things BC taught me how to do.

Since arriving home for the holidays though, I have discovered that I was part of a complete fabrication and was being completely lied to and deceived.  I won't go into details, some of you already know what happened, but this isn't a story to be divulged on my public blog.  Since these recent discoveries, I've gone through a number of different emotions, but none of them has been hate and not really anger either.  My feelings about one person's situation merely switched to another person in the situation, but were never directed towards myself.

It's been a few days now since the truth was revealed, and I'm slowly getting over it, but the feeling I am most overwhelmed with is embarrassment and humiliation, which leads me to the title of this post-- on dignity.  We discussed the concept of dignity to death in so many of my courses, and I understood it, but I understand the concept on such a deeper level after this experience.  Those who have listened to me speak about what happened wonder how I'm not angry or pissed off and aren't understanding why I feel so humiliated, but it all goes back to the idea of human dignity.  Someone made a complete fool of me and a mockery of my life and everything I value and hold dear, and to discover this so far down the road is honestly not just heart-breaking, but humiliating.  It's bad enough to know that someone could lie to such an extent and fabricate such a story, but to realize that someone had such little respect for me that I could be pulled into all of this--opening up my heart and life, not knowing at all that it was a lie.  Someone literally took away my dignity and sense of self-worth, and that is what is the hardest for me to get over right now.  Also realizing that I will never get an apology.  Others in the situation will, but the way it works out makes me the one that has to be stepped on if things are to be fixed on the other side of it all, but it is hard to reconcile that I'll never get full closure in any of this, and that's what makes me question all my views on the world and on human nature,

I'm treating this all as a learning experience--I now know that it's okay to stand up for myself, but I can also look back at all of this and be thankful that my BC education has made me the best version of myself.  Even though I have not been the best version of myself for a couple months now, and have been jeopardizing some of my strongest relationships, I have learned that I am indeed capable of loving very selflessly, and that's an important thing to realize.  Time heals all wounds, and this will soon be something that happened that I look back on without anger or resentment, and hopefully without embarrassment once the time comes.  I will continue to wish the best for people, no matter how they have hurt me in my own life, because seeking to hurt people reflects a lack of love in someone's life.  Ugly stuff happened to me but I don't seek to hurt anyone, and I think that reflects the immense love and support I feel from so many people in my life, and during this holiday season, for that, I can never be thankful enough.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Der Sommer ist endlich angekommen

"Summer has finally arrived"

This was one of the headlines on the news channels while I was at the gym yesterday-- a headline squished between Obama's visit to Berlin this week and the major flooding that southern Germany is still dealing with, but it was this headline that stuck with me.  I didn't think northwestern Germany was capable of dealing with such high temperatures, but it somehow managed.  Yesterday and today it remained in the high 90s with high humidity.  As stated on my Facebook post, I don't think my body has actually felt such heat in nearly a year, but I loved it.  Yesterday I left for work around 8:30 wearing only a short sleeved shirt and capris-- I don't think I've ever left without a cardigan or jacket.  I went to the gym in around noon and afterwards, my friend Laura suggested going to the Kanal (canal) to sunbathe and swim (I live next the Aasee which is the big lake in the city where many people run, bike, walk, and just hang out, but if you want to swim, you head over to the eastern outskirts of the city to the Kanal, where you can swim--just gotta watch out for the massive transport ferries passing through!)

Laura and I headed down around 3:30 and Katie met up with us a bit later.  When we got there, we quickly stripped to bikinis and laid on our towels, but after about ten minutes the heat and sun were so unbearable that we had no choice but to jump into the water-- the freezing temperature was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat, which was no longer oppressive once we got back out after our swim.  The rest of Münster had the same idea as us and people were packed like sardines along the narrow banks of the Kanal, escaping the heat by frequent dips into the water. 

Every so often we would see a pair or a group of Germans walk up to the bridge that goes over the Kanal, climb onto the railings, and jump off, plunging feet first into the water.  Laura is quite daring and said she wanted to jump and I agreed to try it with her.  We walked up to the top of the bridge, and it actually wasn't that high- maybe ten meters (tall enough for a massive transport vessel to sail under), but we then realized that the hardest part was actually climbing over the railing as to allow yourself to jump off.

I stood as Laura straddled the railing and ended up on the other side, and continued to watch as she jumped down into the water.  She climbed back up and urged me to do it, and I told her I would if she did it again with me.  Despite having bungee jumped twice in my life-- first, off the harbor bridge in Auckland, New Zealand in January 2010, and second, off a gondola over a lake in Interlaken, Switzerland in July 2011 (about 150 meters)...despite these two jumps though, I actually have a pretty big fear of heights.  Both times I bungee jumped, the instructors had to persuade me to jump and I remained at the platform longer than anyone else.  Sometimes when I'm on a high platform or building looking down, I start to feel nauseous and try to think how on earth I managed the courage to bungee jump twice.  For any who have heard my story about that, even if you're not afraid of heights, you're literally putting your faith in another power and accepting the fact that once you jump, you might never experience anything again after that exhilaration-- but to feel something so incredible might be worth it.

Well, ten meters should be nothing, right?  Wrong.

Laura scrambled over the railing again, and I attempted about three times, each time being too scared to hoist myself all the way over, fearing that I would plunge to my death off the bridge, but finally managed to set myself on the other side.  I thought that was the hard part, but with no ledge to stand over, I couldn't figure out the best way to jump.  A German guy came up next to us, and within ten seconds, had climbed over and done an elegant back-flip off the railing, and when we came back up five minutes later, I was still standing on that ledge, as hundreds of bikers and cars had passed me, driving over the bridge.  He climbed over and stood, striking up a conversation with me and Laura, and in my anxiety, I couldn't process speaking German, and then he started speaking English to us.

"Oh!  You speak English!"
"Of course..!"

Ohhhhh, zee Germans and their love of English.

Anyways, he told me we would all jump together, and after counting to three about ten times, he informed me that we really had to jump because the police would come fine us if we stood up there too long-- at this point there was only one way down, as it would be way too humiliating to climb back over the ledge and walk back down to the banks, especially since every German under the bridge had now been staring at me for the last ten minutes-- leave it to the American to create the spectacle, huh?!

Finally, we counted to three and we jumped off (of course the German elegantly carrying out a back-flip again).  I let out a shriek and after an instant of exhilarating free-fall, I landed in the water, smacking my thigh on the surface, and it's still bruised a day later- ouch!  But the point is, I DID IT.  Once I was up there, I knew I would end up jumping, I just needed time (which only makes it worse, I know)

Honestly though, it was the most alive I've felt probably this entire year in Germany .  I sent my mother a picture that Katie had snapped and she chided me for being an idiot, but I don't regret it at all.  Just as I didn't regret bungee jumping either time, and I guess why I continue to test myself in situations that are most fearful for me-- aka, heights.  I'm not saying you have to go get involved in extreme sports or put your life in danger, but to test your limits and to test your fears I think is good for the spirit and the heart and the mind-- it makes you feel alive and makes you remember that you're living and that there is so much to experience in this life.

I've been so numb since I got to Germany, and the endless winter didn't help it, but finally feeling the rays of the sun and the heat seep into my skin and feeling myself free-fall was such an incredible experience after feeling nothing for so long.

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning feeling quite ill-- just a headache and a really sore throat that had started a few days ago.  I figured that perhaps I had been spending a bit too much time at the gym and decided to take it easy again.  I left for school just before 10:00 and was already sweating when I arrived.  This being Germany, there's no AC (absolutely no need for it), so after teaching just once lesson, I was feeling faint and again, sweating like a pig.  Went through one more class and came home and relaxed, and then had to bike a few miles to go do tutoring.  Again, after my arrival and after getting back-- soaked in sweat; it was another day in the 90s.  I relaxed some more in bed, just watching some TV and whatnot, and around 8:30 I started getting a little restless. 

We had just had a massive thunderstorm which thankfully dropped the temperature down to the low 70s, and around 9:15 I decided to go for a bike ride.  Although Germans love going for walks and just chilling in biergartens and out on the grass, they are also always on the move, and I realized that in all my time here, I've never just gone on a leisurely bike ride.  When I was in Heidelberg, we went on quite a few bike rides out away from the city, through the miles and miles of farm fields and discovered little towns spotted around the area,  The weather here is unfortunately not good enough to really do that. 

But since it had cooled down so much, I decided what better time than now.  Hopped on my bike and rode about six miles-- around the whole Promenade and then around the Aasee.  I've biked these areas before and have run the paths maybe 100 times, but I've never just been on them to enjoy them.  The Promenade circles the downtown area of Münster and is about three miles in circumference.  It was beautiful in the fall when the leaves were changing and quite romantically beautiful in winter when the trees were bare and covered in white snow, but now, the trees are in full bloom and so incredibly luscious-- although it was light outside, the paths were quite dark because the foliage is so thick that it's almost like walking through a forest.  It was absolutely beautiful and it was so nice and pleasant to have no destination or nowhere to be, but rather just enjoying the beauty.  I then biked around the Aasee, and the sun was just beginning to set and the water of the lake was so calm that it was eerily beautiful.  Because of the storm just a couple hours ago, there weren't too many people out on the banks and fields, which made it that much prettier. 

Although quite less exhilirating than jumping off a bridge, this ride was also a great feeling.  The slightly humid but cool breeze on my bare shoulders and arms and legs was just so pleasant after the oppressive heat of the last couple days.  Münster really is a beautiful city, and although I haven't really come to love it, I do appreciate being places here.  I've just frequently found it boring.  It's great to raise a family and it's great to study because it's so safe and there are so many restaurants and bars and soooooo much green space, but there's just not a lot to do, and with only a limited friend group this whole year and now most of them gone, it's quite uneventful and dull.  But I guess that's just for me personally, after spending the majority of my life in Washington, DC and Boston-- two major American cities that always have a ton going on, between sports, arts, and nightlife. 

Another reason I was so enthused to take this late bike ride today is because today is June 19th and either tomorrow, the 20th, or the next day, the 21st, is the longest day of the year (it's actually quite a depressing thought, that in the next few days, the days will only be getting shorter...)  Now, I never realized just how much farther north Europe is than America, and if you want to really see the difference, take a look at a world map.  I remember being in such shock when I was in Heidelberg for the summer months that it got dark so late, and I'm even farther north this year, so the difference is even starker. 

It is now 10:50pm and it just now got completely dark.  The sun will begin to rise before 4:00am.  If you haven't spent time this far north during the summer months, it's really something you should do because it's pretty incredible to experience days with just five hours of darkness.  (It is equally just as terrible to experience days with six-seven hours of daylight during the winter months....but hey, it's gotta balance!)  It's so easy to lose track of time and the freedom to do whatever for the majority of the day without worrying about it being dark is pretty amazing.  That'll actually be a big shock going home in a week and a half because down in Virginia, it'll be getting dark around 8pm!

As I was biking though, I was passing groups of Germans hanging out on the grassy areas, either along the Promenade or the Aasee, and passing biergartens and outdoor seating of restaurants hearing the laughter of friends resonating through the cool air, and I realized that it really is time to go.  There is so much about the German culture that I absolutely love and am going to be so sad to leave and it will take a long time for me to get over not having anymore back in America, but I've also realized that as much as I love the German culture, it's just not my culture.  There is still so much, that although I now understand better, I just don't agree with or still drives me crazy, and that's when I realize that I am an American through and through, but just because I'm an American doesn't mean that I need to be isolated from the world and naive and clueless about the world beyond our expansive borders.  I will always factor in my international experiences when figuring out what I want from my life, and will no doubt continue to travel.  I will be sad to leave and it might take a while to deal with reverse culture shock, but at the root of it all, I am sincerely excited to go home again.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dirty Little Secret

In two weeks from tomorrow, I'll be back home in Virginia, and I'm feeling a lot of mixed emotions.  Nearly all the assistants in Münster left a couple weeks ago and the Americans in the area are now beginning to trickle out.  We all got together last night at Bradon's in Essen as kind of a farewell bash because it was the last time that we would all be together in a big group.  So, on the one hand I'm actually kind of bored and am just kind of counting down the days until it's time to go home and see my friends and family whom I've missed so much...but on the other hand, I see my kids in class and some of my co-workers with whom I've formed good relationships and we all know that we only have a limited time left, and that's really sad and I'm starting to get emotional about that.  And of course, as I did when I was abroad, I'm starting to make lists of all the things I'm excited about, but also the things I'm really going to miss.  When I returned home from abroad, there was a possibility that I would be returning to Germany really soon, and sure enough I was awarded the Fulbright, and just a year after I returned home, I set off for Germany again.  This time though, I'm returning home to start a two-year Masters program and will most likely begin teaching after that, so Germany is not in my near future at all, and that fact makes it all that more final.

Since we had a late night in Essen last night (I should really say early morning haha) I didn't get out of bed until almost three and I haven't even left the apartment today.  I've just been starting to pack up things, like a big box of winter stuff to mail home, and going through stacks and stacks of papers and brochures I have, deciding what stays and what goes.

In one word- purging.

Oh yes, the infamous purging.  And after thinking about it a bit more, I realized that this whole month is about purging in so many ways.  I've been living in Germany nearly a year now, and I must pack up my life into a few suitcases to move back to America, and that requires lots of purging of papers and clothes and everything that I've amassed throughout all my travels and activities this year.  I'm by no means a hoarder, but I'm definitely not a good purger.  I get very attached to all of my things and find it very hard to get rid of anything- but I'm doing pretty well so far.

This attachment doesn't just stop at material things though, I grow very attached to people and social connections.  Just a little while ago, I went through the contacts on my phone, which had gotten to be over 200, and deleted about 70 numbers of people whom I know I'll never talk to again, and people in Germany whose number I would never ever need again (plus these numbers won't even work when I'm back in the States).  When I graduated from BC last May, I spent a solid hour on Facebook and deleted about 400 "friends" and I've started going through and doing that again-- people I may have met once or people I haven't talked to in years, and that's definitely tough for me.  I'm a very social person and I always like seeing what old acquaintances are up to and there's no denying the way that Facebook helps our social lives-- sometimes I'll post things and people will respond, people whom I didn't even remember I was friends with, and it was something really useful.  I'm trying to look at this purge in a different light, and think of it more as a purging of people I just really don't need to know about anymore.  It sometimes blows my mind, when I meet someone randomly and we exchange numbers and then continue contact for a while via phone or Facebook and then if I never see them again, I just get annoyed.  But twenty years ago--hell, even ten years ago, social media and texting weren't dominant so perhaps you'd meet someone, and okay, that was it!  Seriously. Mind-blowing.

Also, since most of my friends are now gone, I'm using that to my advantage to not spend money so I can at least take a bit of money home at the end of the month and since I've already paid for my gym membership for the month, I figure that what better way to not spend extra money or consume extra calories then spending most of my time at the gym!?  And there's more purging for you- purging excess pounds just in time for bikini season ;)  I actually have grown to really like my gym after the last six months and I'm going to be sad to leave it!  I finally know some of the people there and recognize the other regulars and know who will be there when I go on what days and certain times.  Just like a regular ;)

Seriously, I've already winked too many times in this post.  Please see my last post about winking.  It's becoming a problem.

I'm sure you saw the title of this post though, and thought I was going to reveal some juicy gossip.  Sorry, folks.  I know I'm not one to keep any kind of secret, but even I'm not bold enough to release my "dirty little secrets" into cyberspace.   The song of that name by All-American Rejects came on shuffle earlier while I was puuurging, and I listened to the lyrics and decided that part of this purging is purging such dirty little secrets and getting over things I've done or things that have happened that make me upset with myself or with society or certain people.  I'm starting the next chapter in my life in just a couple months when I move to Nashville to start my Masters at Vandy-- new subject matter, new university, new city, new friends, new region of the country-- so many new things to look forward to, and I don't want to spend any more time lamenting and being emo about things that have or haven't happened in the last year-- so I'm trying to purge myself of those negative thoughts!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why I'll Never Be German

Here it is- the home stretch.  We're now into mid-June and I've got 18 days left over here in dear old Germany.  I've lived in this country now for nearly a year and a half (nonconsecutive) and with two and a half weeks left I just now realized why I'll never fit in with the Germans.

You ready?

I can't wink.

Yep.  That's the sole reason why.  Haha kidding.  It's not the sole reason, but it is a pretty big reason.  For those of you who have lived abroad, particularly in Europe, or who communicate frequently with Europeans, you'll notice that they really abuse the emoticons, most notably, the winky face.


See, in American texting and chatting culture, those two characters, the semicolon and the end parentheses are quite daring to send.  You usually send them if you're trying to flirt or be suggestive, or if you're making a joke or implying something suggestive to one of your friends.  I've been told by Germans themselves that this connotation does not exist at all behind the infamous winky face.  It's basically an equivalent for the :) face.  These two are also interchangeable with the tongue face :P

I look at my texting and chatting conversation history with Germans and emoticons are used multiple times in one message.  That's how I knew I had really adapted to the culture- for so long I refused to use these stupid smileys unless they were really deserved, and now I abuse them like the rest of Germans.  When I get home and start texting regularly again with Americans, people are going to think I'm crazy or just forward every single day.

Regardless, the winky face emoticon is easy enough to type... a real wink, though- now that's a different story.  Again, if you wink at someone in America, it's usually seen as some kind of flirtation-- not with Germans.  I don't really see them associating the two together.  Sometimes when I'm at school, I'll see a teacher in the hallway and I give a smile and they give a wink; today, Karim and I were at spinning class and it was a particularly tough class today and we looked at each other and I gave a face of exhaustion and he winked; and then when I was leaving the gym, the gorgeous guy that works at the gym (I should say one of the gorgeous guys because they're all insanely attractive) said to take care and shot me a wink.  Now, here's a time I wish a wink would mean a little more! Hahahahaha.

And this is the sad story of why I will never be German.  I can't wink.  I can't do most normal things that people can do with their faces.  I can't wink with either eye, I can't roll my tongue, and you know, there's my infamous squinty differently sized eyes.  Next to the Germans and their perfect symmetrical faces, would just never work! ;)

(Perfect example of abusing the winky face that I now do right there above...)

 Germans and Europeans... take note of the above GIFs.  Americans have a lot of anxiety over such faces and then you guys go and throw that anxiety in the trash! :P (what could I mean by the tongue face?  I don't even know.)