This time next year, I won’t be here.
I don’t know exactly when, but sometime next summer I’m moving to Germany. The exact date and the exact place are not yet finalized, but the decision itself has already been made.
This choice to become an ex-pat and essentially forsake the life I’ve built and the place I’ve called home for 26 years is not an easy one by any means; it has been weighing on my mind for three months now. All of this – the flying to Germany, the learning the language, the new friendships abroad – it has been leading toward something, but I was never certain exactly what.
Now I know. It wasn’t until one day in late June, more than three months ago, that all the pieces fell into place. On that day, I stood in Pariser Platz, staring up at the Brandenburg Gate, overwhelmed with a strange compulsion and sense of affinity for…something. Moments later, I called my brother and asked him when he wanted to move to Berlin with me.
The following day, as I left Berlin to head toward Prague, the only thing I could think of as we drove toward the city limits was how to keep myself from crying. After the difficulties of the past few years, I’d finally found a place that resonated within my very bones, and I didn’t want to leave.
And now, I can’t wait to go back.
But still, I’m torn. Because the reality of leaving behind my country and my culture, my family and my friends, is setting in. And as I’m making plans and thinking of what my life is going to be like a year from now, California is doing its best to remind me of all the things that I’m leaving behind.
For example, this morning. I took the early bus to the city, and the entire ride in was dark, quiet and still. It’s interesting how the season changes seem so subtle, when in reality, they make themselves quite apparent to anyone who bothers to pay attention. It was only a week or two ago (or so it seems) that sunlight was peaking in through my bedroom window at 5 a.m. But now it remains dark until nearly 7 a.m.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands into San Francisco has always been somewhat of a marvel for me. I’ve done it hundreds of times it seems, and each time it still takes my breath away. And just now, as I was crossing over at 6:30 a.m., “Left and Leaving” by the Weakerthans came on. It has always been an incredibly beautiful song, but never has it felt more applicable.
I can’t explain the feeling that overtook me when I looked to my right and saw the shadows of waves crashing against the high cliffs that rise over the water, the patterns of light shed from the Harvest Moon that flickered through the opaqueness, the distant lights of ships drifting upon the Pacific. Entering the city, the lights of office buildings were on, and the interplay between the rising sun and the setting moon made it feel like it was both morning and night, dawn and dusk. And it made sense to me, because my life is currently a bit of a dichotomy as well, as I’m struggling to figure out where I belong.
The notion of what constitutes a home is an interesting one. I don’t know and I haven’t known for years. But one thing is certain: while going over the bridge this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how much this place has defined me, and how regardless of where I eventually decide to call home, California will always have a hold on a part of me.
I am going to miss so much about this place, and with each day, the items on that list are increasing and growing more apparent. But leaving is something that I have to do, and that reality, while exciting and amazing, is also heartbreaking. I feel like crying sometimes, but then I have to remind myself that I have the better part of a year to get through first. I shouldn’t be living in the future when I still have so much of the present I need to navigate.