Goodbye Germany! (for real this time)

img_3080If you scroll through the archives of this blog, you will see several posts with titles similar to this one. I think I’ve said goodbye to Germany at least four times without knowing if or when I would return. But each time I knew I wanted to return, so I pushed to make it happen: I connected with a family to work as an Au Pair, I found an internship, I applied for a Fulbright and then a graduate program. I knocked on doors (or kicked down doors) to get myself back across the pond. I have not one, not two, but three visas from the German government. They’re probably like “Really, this girl again?!”

I say all this to show what a big role Germany has played in my formative years. I grew up a lot here. This country has taught me so much, and for that I am forever grateful. I have friends here who I know will always welcome me with open arms and host me on their sofas when I visit.

But I feel so much peace about saying goodbye. Once I made the decision to leave, I’ve felt zero regret or doubt. This time I am saying goodbye without the intention of finding my way back. Sure, I’m young and who knows where life will take me, but I am thrilled to live near family and friends in my home culture. I can’t wait to start my career and make friend and call people in the same time zone.

So goodbye, Germany (for real this time!). You have been true to me and of me. Thank you for everything.

 

How I Met My Boyfriend

dba90e31-5112-4655-b0f7-480512fb0cefFor some reason, I really enjoy hearing about how people met. Like, it brings me an absurd amount of joy.

So, dear reader, I will recount for you how I met my boyfriend, Trey. This is partly for your enjoyment and partly so I don’t forget any of the details!

I had just finished my Fulbright and was living with my parents in Fort Worth for the summer. I had was waiting to hear whether or not I had been accepted to the graduate program I’d applied to. Since Fort Worth is not where I grew up, I didn’t have any many friends there. I decided to download an online dating app mostly just to laugh at the Texan cowboys’ profile pictures with their camouflage outfits holding a fish they’d recently caught. I’m an LA snob, I know.

I went on one date that was mediocre. Then I swiped upon Trey’s profile. He was cute. I liked his glasses. He went to Baylor University, where my little brother currently goes. I messaged him something casual: Hey, my brother goes to Baylor.

Genius.

He wrote back and we ended up discovering that we’d both taught English abroad– him Spain, her Germany. We decided to meet up a few days later (jokingly at a German/Spanish fusion place).

We met at a cafe called Black Walnut. It was a nice place, but casual. I was so nervous I changed my shoes two times in the car!

The first few minutes were a bit awkward as is usual with online dating, but soon we got into discussing our mutual childhoods in the church, funny youth group culture, teaching abroad, going to small christian liberal arts colleges, having two siblings, and so much more. We had a lot in common…

The date was off to a great start but we were done with our food. So we decided to continue at a local coffee shop. We drove over there, ordered and sat down. After about five minutes, I see a woman walk past and I say, “That’s my mom.”

Yes, my mom had accidentally wondered into our first date!

She was so embarrassed haha. She drank her drink in the corner and left ASAP like a trooper. Luckily Trey thought it was funny and not too creepy.

My house wasn’t far from the coffee shop so Trey walked me home afterwards. It was sweltering Texan heat, and the poor kid had to walk back to his car drenched in sweat. The things we do for love!

We decided to go out again later that week and I said goodbye. On the other side of the door I remember smiling and thinking, That was the best first date of my life.

It was. And every date since has only been better 🙂

A Big Decision

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAre you good at making decisions? I am not. It is not my spiritual gift. In fact, I think one of the hardest lessons for me to internalize in life is that I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. Making a choice inherently means giving up the other choices. I ask because I have recently made a big decision. I’ve decided to quit my graduate program and move home to Texas. Boom. There it is. There are many reasons, some more private, but the main one is that the program was not the right fit for me.

As I was thinking and praying about what to do, I talked with my friend Sean on the phone. I was bemoaning how people might perceive me (re: You’re back? What happened? You quit?), when he said, “Micah, nobody cares.” Dang, haha! HE IS RIGHT. Nobody is paying as much attention to us as we think they are! Of course my family and close friends care, but his point was that if it’s the right decision for you, don’t let what others might think stop you.

My generation has so many doors open to us, that we get paralyzed. Decision fatigue sets in and so we just don’t decide. Of course, not deciding is a decision. So I’ve decided. I am going to go home, reassess, and move forward. Emphasis on the moving forward.

Remember friends, just because something is over doesn’t mean it was bad. I’m excited for this new season, and of course I’ll be blogging my way through it, so don’t go anywhere!

Happy New Year!

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetHappy New Year! Two days in and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be a big one. My head spins when I think about all the things that happened in 2018- finishing my Fulbright, moving to Texas for the summer, meeting my boyfriend, moving to Muenster for grad school, making many new friends, etc. 

I read that January is a hard month for many people. It is dark and cold without holiday festivities. Plus, there’s the feeling that you can change things about your life with a fresh start to the year, but often those changes or goals go unmet early on.

This year I am keeping things simple. I want to knit a scarf, read a book a month, keep up with my homework more consistently, and a few other small things. I hope that I can continue to create healthy habits that will last throughout the year.

Have a happy start, friends!

Muenster, Texas

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetYesterday we took a quick detour to stop in Muenster, Texas, a small town in the middle of farm land that was settled by German immigrants from Muenster, Germany (where I study) in 1889. It was so fun to see German heritage in my home! Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Happy Thanksgiving

a-charlie-brown-thanksgiving.jpgAnother year, anther missed Thanksgiving. Oops! I always miss home terribly this time of year, and I can’t wait to celebrate full force in future years. I will be a forced to be recognized with as I try to make up for all my missed celebrating! Below are a few things I am thankful for:

  1. A family that loves and supports me
  2. A sweet boyfriend with a great reading voice and rockin’ mustache
  3. The opportunity to use my mind in the classroom and further my education
  4. The chance to experience German culture
  5. Coffee. Always.
  6. My health
  7. My bed that is always there for me with open arms
  8. Old and new friends
  9. Chocolate chip cookies
  10. The chance to experience life. Cheesy, but true. Very true.

Enough.

On Wednesday night, a gunman shot and killed 12 people at a line dancing bar in Thousand Oaks. I have been to this bar. One of the victims was a student from Pepperdine, my alma mater. It’s finally up close and personal. It was only a matter of time.

People have been saying, “I can’t believe it could happen here. I never though it would happen in a community like this.” But that’s the thing. It does. It will. It’s always someone else until it’s you. Your family. Your friends. Your life. No community is immune in this country, and we have to stop feeling like we are.

We need to stop sympathizing for ‘the others’ and start doing something NOW, because we could be next. And I don’t just say that to scare people, although it is scary. I say that because it’s the absolute truth. The cold, hard truth about our daily lives as Americans.

I’m tired of the cycle: outpouring of sympathy on social media, the president’s condolences, then sitting back and waiting for the next shooting in a week or two.

It’s not right. I don’t want more posts or more prayers. I want gun control. I don’t want to live in a country where I could be shot and killed at any second for no reason at all. Currently, I don’t live in a country where that happens. I remember someone saying to me before I left for Germany, “Are you sure it’s safe over there?” HA! It’s not safe in America, and it’s foolish to think otherwise.

Regardless of how you vote– we should all be pro human life. And we are losing human lives left and right. We lost 12 on Wednesday in Thousand Oaks, 90 per day, 35,000 per year to gun violence. This phenomenon won’t just go away. We can’t just wait it out. What’s it going to take to change? 100 lives lost in one setting? 200? 1,000? At what point does out government stand up and fight for its citizens? At what point do they say ENOUGH.

I am tired. I am disillusioned. I’ve heard every side of every pro-gun argument and I will never be convinced. I am in mourning for my university community. But most of all I am angry. And ready to do something.

Nationalism vs. Localism

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I am an American. Nothing has made me more aware of this fact than living and studying abroad in Germany for an extended period of time. I am growing increasingly aware of how much my nationality matters and, conversely, how little it matters in the big picture.

In my studies, we are currently focusing on the concept of nationalism– a buzz word if ever there was one in our current media. I get asked about Trump on a daily basis (in the grocery store, in line for the bathroom, in my own home), and the topic of nationalism is never far behind. Germans are hyper aware of the dangerous sides of nationalism because of, well, history. You’d be hard pressed to find a German flag waving from a front porch, or to hear the national anthem sung in a public place. So naturally, I have begun to ask myself the questions: is nationalism always bad? Can it be good? And how does this newly emerging term localism factor into the discussion?

I read a New York Times article from columnist David Brooks that shed some light on the subject. He says:

Though we’ve moved around a lot, my family has a clear home base. If you start at East 15th Street in Lower Manhattan and walk two miles south, you will have walked by where my great-grandfather had his butcher shop, where my maternal grandfather practiced law, where my father lived during high school, where I went to elementary school and where my youngest son now attends college. That’s five generations within two miles. I feel a magical attachment to that neighborhood. The blocks and street names enchant in my mind. And yet I have to say my strongest attachment is to the nation, to the United States. You could take New York out of my identity and I’d be sort of the same. If you took America out of my identity I’d be unrecognizable to myself. What does this national attachment feel like? It feels a bit like any other kind of love — a romantic love, or a love between friends. It is not one thing that you love but the confluence of a hundred things. Yes, it is the beauty of the Rockies, but it is not just the land. It is the Declaration of Independence, but not just the creed. It’s winning World War II and Silicon Valley, but it is not just the accomplishments. It is the craziness, the diversity, our particular brand of madness.

Like Brookes, I feel a fierce attachment to and pride in my American identity. And yet, I also notice how I often distance myself from America in conversations about certain topics while abroad– “No, I don’t agree with America, I’m not like that!”

Writer Taiye Selasi proposes another approach. She speaks to “multi-local” people, who feel at home in many places. “How can I come from a country?” she asks. “How can a human being come from a concept?…my experience is where I am from. Instead of where are you from, what if we asked, where are you a local?”

This concept makes sense to me on some levels as well. I feel a deep attachment to certain places in America: the California coast with her rugged cliffs and Red Wood trees, the corn fields of Iowa where we spent holidays driving tractor and combine, the hot planes of Texas where I ate BBQ and attempted to understand the rules of football. I have no deep attachment to all fifty of the United States. I’ve haven’t spent much time on the East Coast or in the North West or the South West. I have, however, had experiences all over Germany– in Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Hildesheim, Weinheim, Münster. And yet, to say I am a local of Germany above an American still feels odd and lacking in a major way. I can study here in Germany, but my American passport and the fact that German is not my mother tongue prevent me from gaining meaningful employment after graduation. Can I really be a local of a place that prevents me from participating in that crucial part of life we call career? Sure, I have dear friends here, but the fact that I did not grow up in the German school system excludes me from understanding so much of their common experience on an intrinsic level.

I’m not sure I could ever do away with the concept of nationality completely and replace it with localism or vice versa.

Perhaps the trick to strike a meaningful balance between the two. To validate overlapping experiences that create a richer identity than any single one could on its own. To rob someone of their American identity is to rob them of shared history, culture, and collective community. But to confine someone to the label of their country– to ignore their localized experiences completely– is equally dangerous. Nationalism has been one of the great sources of joy and stability in my life, and is what allows me to move comfortably though this wide world in many ways. But too much, or a tainted strain, can prove dangerous.

I am an American. I am a local of Germany. I am many, many things. We all are.

So I ask you: Where are you a national, and where are you a local? And what do your answers to those questions reveal about you?

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