18 August 2012

three months, inspired by faucets.

Three months.  That’s a quarter of a year.  That’s 1/3 of ACL reconstruction healing time.  1/16 of the time I’ll be a college student.  Approximately 1/83 of the time I’ve been alive.  

It’s too long to be a vacation.  Too short to be a new way of life.  Enough time to lose sight of your targets.  Enough time to realize new ones.

Three months is a chapter, it’s not a book.  It doesn’t have a beginning or end.  It grows out of what was already established, but it is the basis for what follows.

And while I think the power of this period of time – three months – is a beautiful thing, I must also admit that it intimidates me.  Because in three months, you don’t really get to experience the luxury of leverage.  You meddle and discover.  You ponder.  You experiment.  You make conjectures.  But three months, by no means, is enough time for you to actually know.  To settle.  To establish a direction.

And that’s why, after the past three months in Germany, I don’t actually know anything about living in a foreign country.  Even though I had my own apartment, I still have no idea what it’s like to be living on my own and to be settled.   And although I had the amazing opportunity of doing an internship at Hansgrohe, I wasn’t there long enough to feel like I was part of it.

During this past week, my last week at Hansgrohe, I was asked what’s better – living in Germany or living in America.  First of all, I think that’s kind of a difficult question for me to answer considering the extreme differences of the living environments I’ve come to know in each country.  America:  either small town in the Midwest, living with parents, going to high school, or city on the East Coast, living on a college campus around tons of students my age, attending university.  Germany:  a tiny storybook village, living on my own, working full time.  Yeah, it’s tough to compare.  Anyway, later that night I was thinking about the question again, and, I mean, I don’t know...  I don’t really think that I necessarily even live in either country.  As if it’s my territory, I’m grounded to it, I’m a part of it.  I feel more like we all just live in the world.  And there are different places that we choose to spend our time, to establish relationships with people, sights, and adventures, but those places can’t be ranked.  It isn’t our location in the world that makes us favor being there over being somewhere else.  It is the relationships we form, the connections we have fused in that location, the feelings we have when we’re there.  So, really, to get back to answering the question, it’s not a matter of where I’m living – whether it be Germany, America, Ireland, Chile, whatever – but rather how I’m living.  And that will differ from person to person, from place to place. 

So where is the next place on my agenda?  Tuebingen.  But I will never make it to Tuebingen on the train with all of the things I have to transport.  Today I tried to squeeze all of my belongings into two (what I thought were large) suitcases.  And this whole process was a little bit of a slap in the face – not only because I couldn’t fit everything, but also because of the sheer fact that I had to fit everything.  This charming little apartment is not mine.  I must relinquish my reign of the terrace.  My spices do not get to stay settled next to the stove.  My bedroom door was just a temporary home for that weird lemon-lightbulb wall hanging.  …And it wasn’t ever my bedroom door.  But just when everything started feeling a little bit like it was mine, just when I dug a tiny baby hole in my heart for this apartment, just when I started looking forward to going “home,” it has to fade away.. And this is where three months gets complicated.  Because it’s a taste, a trick, a tease.  You’re almost there, you feel like you have it, but then it’s over.  And my morning rituals – making coffee, playing music from my computer on my bed, balancing my straightener against the bowl of the sink – they lived a short life.  They’re all meaningless now, things of the past.  And they must be recreated to fit a new place, a new way of life. 

Every morning on the way to work, walking down the mountain, saying hello to the man with white hair, turning right at the intersection and listening to the English music on the carpenters’ radio, actually feeling my nose get stuffy when I took the path between the trees and bushes, watching people take their cars through the carwash as I walked behind the gas station, observing the apples that fell from the tree on the walkway next to Norma, listening to the splashes of the fountains while approaching the Aquademie, seeing the green light that signaled I could pass through the Hansgrohe gate, and hearing the beeeeep when I stamped my time in the mornings – those things are no longer a reality for me.  The smiling faces to which I said Morgen and Tschuess everyday will no longer be part of my routine.  And that makes me really sad, because those smiling faces were some of the most kind and welcoming people I have ever met.  They were patient with me, even though it was sometimes hard for me to understand their German.  They included me, invited me to lunch, to concerts, to Tupperware parties.  They taught me about the products, Hansgrohe’s philosophy, how the company functions.  They trusted me, they taught me, and they inspired me.  And just as soon as I thought I was figuring it all out, when I started to feel like I was really a part of the team, when I started to take more chances speaking in German, it was over.  And that is very disappointing for me because I struggled all summer feeling like my performance and my personality were lacking, knowing that by speaking English my work would be easier and I could really develop relationships with my colleagues.  But wanting to improve my German and wanting to respect the German people by speaking their language, I refused to let myself transition to English at work.  And in some ways, I guess this held me back.  Or caused relationships to develop more slowly.  Or made it difficult for me to express my opinion or my gratitude.  So I struggled under my own principles.  But, after three months, I was finally beginning to find direction, delayed as it may have been.  And even though it feels like it was over before it even started, my internship at Hansgrohe is an opportunity that I will always be grateful for, treasure, and remember.  I was truly lucky to have met and worked with the people at Hansgrohe and for the company itself.

So, while three months, quite frankly, sucks in a lot of ways, it can provide a lot of enlightenment and lessons for the future.  It’s an outcome of one set of decisions and an input for an entirely new set.  And I’m excited to discover the direction in which my past three months will lead me.