Today I Turn 23!

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetToday I am 23!

The typical response I hear is, “That’s so young!”

And while yes, it is young, I can’t help but think of all the millions upon billions of things that have happened in these 23 short years. And when I do, it actually feels quite old.

In the last 23 years…

I was born.

I grew up in Malibu, surrounded by two kind, handsome brothers, a mom who packed stellar school lunches and plans vacations like a pro, and a dad who’s easy laugh makes everyone love him. I passed afternoons playing in the Santa Monica mountains and summers swimming in the salty Pacific.

I moved to El Segundo, where I learned to drive, kissed a boy for the first time, attempted geometry and politics and biology but discovered the only thing I really like is writing.

I attended university, where I had an endless turnstyle of rooms and roommates and unrequited crushes. I learned to speak mediocre German and studied abroad in Heidelberg, where I was introduced to good coffee and train travel for the first time.

I graduated and moved to Weinheim on my own with two suitcases and tried my best to figure life out. I found an apartment and held a job and attempted to teach kids and get to know my coworkers. I cleaned a cooked and shopped and budgeted for myself. I rode a childs-sized bike everywhere in all manner of wild weather and dreamt longingly of my Honda CRV. I paid bills and made a few friends and deciphered what it means to feel simultaneously like a kid and an adult. I experienced genuine loneliness and joy and depression and elation and anxiety and triumph and love, to name a few. I felt the kindness of strangers and friends alike, who stuck with me through it all even when it might have been easier not to at times.

Thank you to so many people, near and far, who have supported me this year. From the friend who sat with me in a cafe when I was depressed and just listened, to the neighbor who brought me furniture when I had none, to the girlfriend who sent me a letter just because, the mom who mailed me socks when my feet were cold, the family who flew across oceans to visit me, the coworker who bought me american peanut butter, and so many others. I know without a doubt that I couldn’t have done it without you.

And that’s just scratching the surface! So yeah, can you blame me for thinking 23 is actually quite old in the grand scheme of things?! Even though there were times when it wasn’t easy or fun, I’m so grateful to have had the chance to do it all. I don’t deserve these blessings but hey, look, there they are anyways. I think maybe, just maybe, I am finally learning the meaning of gratitude at my advanced age :p

So here’s to 23+ more years of living in and learning about this beautiful world and trying my best to do myself and others proud. What a gift.

Things I’ve Learned

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  1. How to fix the chain on my bike when it falls off
  2. Why the internet won’t stop talking about how good this show is
  3. How long to boil pasta for the perfect consistency
  4. How to combine two PDFs into one
  5. It only takes one good friend to turn your day around

P.s. Photo of Weinheim in spring 🙂

A Personal Note

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetI just want to say a little something. Before this year, I had never really struggled with depression or loneliness or hopelessness. I was always the motivated, ambitious girl with a smile on her face and a certainty that her future was bright. I hate to admit it, but when I used to encounter other people with problems like depression or anxiety, I would secretly think to myself, “Can’t they just shake it off?”

Well, never again.

This year has taught me so much about empathy. Over the last few months I have often felt like I just can’t connect deeply with people. They are all around me– on the train, in the coffee shop, at work– but I felt unable to reach out in any meaningful sense. This made me lonely in a new, profound way. And this loneliness led to depression. There were many other factors (ahem, bad winter weather, I’m looking at you!), but it was heavy. Really heavy.

I lost motivation for a long time. I struggled to do even little things like cook a healthy meal or send an important email. And if I could barely do those things, how could I possibly have a bright future?!  I deleted my Instagram because I didn’t know how to respond to people’s comments on my photos like “You’re living the dream! I’m so jealous!” when in reality I felt so bad. Then I would feel bad about feeling bad! It was a negative cycle.

Now that’s I’m feeling so so much better for a myriad of reasons, I just wanted to share this little piece of my story in the hopes that maybe it might help someone out there reading. I now have so much more empathy and compassion for

Foreigners

People who just moved to a new place

Refugees

Lonely people

Those who are going through a breakup of any kind

People who just started a new job

Recent graduates who are disoriented

Singles who just want someone to do fun things with

People struggling with depression, anxiety, chronic stress, etc.

People grieving

Language learners

The list goes on! It is so cliche to say that you can’t truly understand something until you’ve gone through it yourself. But in my case, I think the cliche holds true. I am sending love, encouragement and hope to anyone out there going through something heavy today. Thank you all for reading along this year. It means a lot to me.

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P.s. Photos from London, where I visited a friend 🙂

Why I Call My Apartment Building the United Nations

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When I was younger, I thought being a ‘migrant’, or a ‘foreigner’ or an ‘expat’ were things that made a person different– an outsider. I thought it was easy to separate people into two categories: native and other. My world was small and my thinking black and white. But on this ever globalizing planet, where the pace of change keeps accelerating exponentially, it is becoming harder and harder to maintain such clear categories. Everyone is beginning to feel a bit foreign, because all of us, whether we’ve never left our hometowns or traversed the globe, are migrants through time. Parents feel foreign to their children and vice versa, as the lives they lead look more and more dissimilar. The borders and languages of today are a far cry from those of even just 20 years ago. Minds are educated differently in the classroom with new techniques and types of information. A child of the seventies becomes a mother of the two thousands, and then a grandmother of what is sure to be a new reality all together.

And so this year spent living abroad in a little apartment in a little corner of a ‘foreign country’ has forced me to accept my differentness and to explore the empathy that arises from the shared experience of being different. I’ve learned more about the interconnectedness of our diverse world this year than ever before, and much of that learning has occurred without having to leave my building.

On the bottom floor of my building lives a Syrian family with three children. They came to this country as refugees two years ago and have since taken up the noble and heavy task of remaking their lives. The first night I moved in they were there to greet me and carry my belongings up the stairs. They brought me toilet paper and dinner and a warm cup of tea. We laughed immediately over our shared struggle with the German language and how much paperwork is required just to survive here. Over the months, they have fixed my bike, changed my light bulbs, reset my heater, driven me to the airport, invited me over for cake and so much more. Their daughters come upstairs for a glimpse into the “glamorous” life of an older girl, and I go downstairs for a taste of the stable life of a family. In our differentness, we are one.

The second floor is inhabited by a German couple in their seventies who have lived there for thirty years. Their names are old school German and their English is broken- the tail end of a generation that did not learn it in school and did not need it in their daily lives. They are grandparents and retired insurance brokers. My first interaction with them was one of remorse- I had broken one of their hallway plants moving in a sofa and knocked on their door to apologize in murderous german. They smiled and waved it off, “es macht nichts.” Through the next few months they brought me pots and pans when I mentioned my need, left their door open when I locked my keys inside my apartment, brought my chocolate for Christmas and giving me missing ingredients to finish my half-completed muffins.

Though sometimes awkward, sometimes challenging, my interactions with my neighbors have been a highlight of my year. They teach me about kindness, generosity and community. We are a group that has almost nothing in common, and yet we decided to look out for each other simply because we are neighbors. That’s all.

I wish this for anyone, anywhere, foreign or national, young or old, rich or poor. I have felt alone much of this year, but when I see my neighbors I immediately feel less so. They brighten my day and I know I could go to them if anything were to happen. With all the xenophobia and fear mongering  in culture today, it’s easy to forget how simple it is. We all need a helping hand. We all need a smile in the hallway. We all need to realize that foreignness is a shared human experience, and it is beautiful.

When my parents came for a visit, I joked that our building is the United Nations, except with less arguing. They agreed and felt reassured that their daughter was going to be alright at the end of the day. And I am. And when I move out at the end of June, I will be happy to move on to the next phase, but sad to leave the UN.

Who knows where I’ll live next– LA? New York? Frankfurt? But I do know that wherever that may be, I will try to be the first person to greet my neighbors with a smile and say “I’m here if you need anything.” Always.

P.s. Photo from here

Ten Moments

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  1. I was crying on the train and the man sitting across from me handed me an entire packet of tissues to keep.
  2. A little Kurdish boy started at our school this week. He doesn’t speak a word of German, so he and I colored together all class long. He is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, with long eyelashes and dark hair that sticks up in the back.
  3. I taught a lesson about California, and at the end asked the kids to break up into groups to prepare a typical news broadcast. It was so fun to see them stand in front of everyone and talk about the weather, sports and breaking news in California. One boy even said, “Grab your snowboots everyone, it’s going to be minus fourty degrees in Los Angeles”(!)
  4. Today is the school festival, where prospective students and their parents come to check out the school. I will do facepaint. Fingerscrossed that I don’t make anyone look too weird.
  5. I visited a friend and her thirteen year old daughter the other night. We sang songs on the piano and ate sugar cookies. The daughter turned to me before I left and said, “I like you, Micah.” It was sweeter than the cookies.
  6. I found Cup o’ Noodles at the supermarket. I’m never going back to regular cooking again, nutrients be damned!
  7. I visited a student Christian group at the nearby university last night. Everyone was so welcoming, and when one girl discovered I’d been to Texas she freaked out, because she lived there for a year. I do what I can.
  8. In my English conversation club, we wrote Valentines day cards. One boy wrote, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I love Trump as much as I love you…I don’t.” Haha!
  9. My little brother makes me proud. I read his university essay recently and it is so good!
  10. I went to Mainz for Fasching (a German holiday like Halloween), and they throw candy from floats. Someone threw candy and it hit me in the nose SO hard that I burst into tears. It’s still bruised. At least I experienced the culture in all it’s glory, for better or worse, and have a story to tell!

P.s. Photo from here

iPhone Photos from Life Lately

IMG_7548Hello friends! How are you? What’s new? My mood is much improved lately because the sunshine has been visiting us here in Germany, which does wonders for a person. I can’t tell you how much I missed it. If you live in a consistently sunny place, don’t take it for granted haha! Below are a few random iPhone photos from life lately. Enjoy 🙂IMG_7561I went to Hildesheim last weekend to visit my friends from the summer I spent there. Above is a part of the University of Hildesheim campus. Isn’t it pretty?IMG_7568Drinks with my sweet friend Alena! She is such a doll. I miss her!Processed with VSCO with g3 presetWoke up to fresh snow on Sunday. Such magic.IMG_7579Chillin with my favorite little guy Lasse, the son of friends 🙂F8B6B83F-801F-4701-8192-144CC2865847My other main squeeze. He was only a week old when I arrived that summer and lived with his family as an Au Pair!IMG_7603Snow AND sunshine at my school.IMG_7620Found this cutie behind my school and petted his nose!IMG_7630Breakfast with my girl Elena. I may have spoon eaten Nutella…IMG_7637IMG_7638Colorful houses in the village where I work.IMG_7642A trip to Ikea in which I bought more than I needed. That place is like a casino- no windows, no natural light so you loose track of time. You could spend a week and all your money in there if you’re not careful!IMG_7646A bought this striped rug and I do not regret it.

Have a good one friends!

What I’ve Learned

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1. Yoga is not necessarily relaxing, especially in another language.

2. You don’t have to justify your life or tell people your ‘plan for the future’ if you don’t want to. It’s not required or even necessary

3. Any amount of sunshine is some kind of magic in late January.

4. Patience and all is coming.

5. For the love of God, you need to take out the trash more than once a month!

Notice

IMG_2048.jpgNotice things.

Notice the men in their dark overcoats and thick scarves, huddled together on the train platform talking on the phone to their wives, mistresses, mothers. Notice the Persian youths who exist in clouds of perfume and hair gel and broken German. And of course you can’t help but notice the Americans– military perhaps, or other wise on long-awaited vacations basking in their romantic visions of Europe at Christmas time. Then there– the unmistakable screech of the street car as it lurches towards you: your life line, connecting everywhere to you and you to everywhere. Board the streetcar and sit between worlds– rich, poor, men, women, black, white, young, old. Public transportation is the great equalizer. Notice how it calms you, lulls you into a sort of fellowship with the other passengers. A fellowship of transience.

Ease in your headphones to drown out your mind. Pretend you’re in a music video. Notice a couple kissing on the doorstep of an apartment in a neighborhood you only ever see in passing through tainted windows. Observe the refugees– unmistakable by the weariness in their brows as they slink down the sidewalk with bags full of groceries with foreign names no German could ever pronounce.

Listen as the man being interviewed on the podcast tells how he became a famous comedy writer. “No,” he says, “I was not the class clown. I was the quiet kid in the back of the class who observed everything the class clown did, wrote it down, and became a famous comedy writer.” Nod. So it is with you. And so it should be with a great deal more people, perhaps. Less lions and more chameleons, noticing the world in all its broken beauty. Less centers of attention and more payers of it. To notice is to cut a thin slice of joy from the meat of life and savor it as long as you can.

So go on…notice. I dare you.