The Time it Takes

It’s the start of a new year and for most people it’s a time for taking stock, seeing where we are and getting started. At the end of 2016 I started a free lance writing job, my first real job here in Germany. Finally getting paid to write is a dream come true. And so it appears that with relative ease, one by one, things have simply fallen into place.

love…

marriage…

moving to Europe…

language…

baby…

job…

Just. like. that…

But in reality, it wasn’t just like that. Because up until the point at which the job opportunity presented itself, I was clueless about finding meaningful work in Germany. I just couldn’t see any possibilities. And while I can talk all day about the beautiful love story, the great adventure of moving to Europe, and the honor of being someone’s mommy–without work, a big part of myself has been missing.

Moving and finding out that we were expecting a baby happened almost simultaneously, so in between all the wonder and the love and the awesomeness, there was a kind of freaking out, a mourning over the seeming loss of my career, my homeland, my freedom, myself. Everything I’d prepared for was nothing I was doing. All my practice and education, all my areas of expertise were going unused, sitting on a shelf, while I spent my days in unfamiliar territory being challenged by the mundane.

It’s important to note I didn’t go into this blind and that I didn’t go in to it alone. When I made the decision to move to Germany, I had a partner and a family built in AND I knew what I was getting into. I had a conversation with myself and made an agreement. It was an agreement to take a break from my normal in order to pursue a new path. The relationship, marriage and subsequent move to Germany each presented an opportunity to vier from the familiar and to hopefully experience something much bigger than I could do alone. I was sure that eventually I would have the time and the possibility to pursue my career dreams and I figured until then I would be busy with other things and not really notice.

But I didn’t think about the fact that it would be hard and I didn’t even consider that it might take a long time to find my way.

The idea I had was that I would kind of cut myself in two. I would leave a part of myself behind, on hold so to speak. I would send the new me on a kind of jug-handle curve of adventure–at a much faster pace (I thought)–and eventually we would find each other. That was the idea.

And I figured it would be quick and relatively painless. I would just hurry up with the challenging parts.

I didn’t think I would miss my old self or miss feeling like an expert at something. I didn’t anticipate feeling lost.

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Now that I’m metaphorically, out of the woods, I can admit that the jug-handle curve of adventure was certainly not paved. I would go as far as saying that at points it was very dark AND that it felt like it took forever. I wasn’t looking at the map from above. I wasn’t navigating toward my ultimate goal from a bird’s eye view. No, like everyone else, I was in the trenches. And I spent more than a few moments silently screaming, This is not what I meant by adventure!

Life consisted of having so many cool opportunities and loving my new family so much juxtaposed with months of looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself. Not speaking my own language, not fitting into my old clothes, not knowing where to buy things, not having a project to work on or a career achievement to go after. And however strong I was, I missed the familiar.

I see now that in thinking I could hurry up with the challenging parts, I missed the point of the whole adventure. I thought the next phase of life was about being comfortable, experiencing love mixed with the taste of champagne while basking in the shine shine, seeing new sights and looking better than ever.

While thinking I was going to run around Europe becoming a Franconian, I missed all the other things I was going to become. Even more I had no idea that the next phase of life would be transformative. The introduction to becoming a mother included the refining fire of pregnancy and labor, so I don’t know why I thought that becoming other things was going to be any easier. The point is: becoming is hard and it’s time consuming.

I like to think of it in terms of Gandalf (The wizard from the Lord of the Rings). When the story begins, he is Gandalf the Gray. He is good and wise and funny. He is not lacking in any way. I don’t think he imagined himself ever becoming Gandalf the White. I don’t think he had his sights set on becoming a White Wizard. Who wants to die in a pit of fire with a dragon just to become a better wizard? And even the readers (or viewers) couldn’t have imagined that Gandalf’s fall was not his end. But life knows better that the endings are the real beginnings. This truth was not something out of Tolkien’s imagination. This is how it is with us as well–During the dark moments on my adventure path, I mourned the aspects of myself and my life that were lost. But I could not fathom or visualize all that I was going to gain as a result. This shedding, this becoming–no one talks about this. No one talks about the time it takes to become the next version of yourself.

And so after two and a half years, I have fallen more and more in love with Franconia and its people. I am raising a Franconian and I love a Franconian. I’m shocked to realize that I have become a whole list of things in this time — wife, mother, friend, organizer, cook, shopper, immigrant, bi-lingual person and a professional story teller but as it turns out–I have not become a Franconian. No– lucky for me I can speak German and understand the Franconian accent, but I will always be the American ballerina-turned-gardener, who met her husband on the Amazon River and moved to Germany. And isn’t that enough? Finally, I think so.

 

 

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