Dear 2015: You Suck, I’m Moving On

Dear 2015: You have been the worst year of my life so far. I should have known that was going to be the case since you started with the death in the family of my, back then still, boyfriend. I was optimist enough to believe it could only go uphill from there. But, over the course of you, I have lost everything I have loved and let go of everything I had built for myself. Over the course of you, you have made me doubt myself in more ways and to more depths than any other year before you and there were few victories that did not come at a price.

Sure, you are the year I traveled to Hawaii, stood up on a surfboard for the first time and saw the magical fireworks show in Disneyland. You are the year I fought my fear of flying, saw my best friend twice and visited cities and states I never thought I would ever see. You are the year I got to enjoy countless breathtaking sunsets and dozens of beach walks. At your best, you are the year that made me realize, once again and this time for certain, what I want all years of my life to look like.

But you are also the year that leaves me with no certainty in any aspect of my life. You are the year that is making me start all over again. You are the year that has turned me into the ghost of a girl that I want to be most, to the shell of a girl that I used to know well… Heck, now you are even the year that makes me quote Christina Perri lyrics! You leave me incredibly scared of the future and pessimistic that things are going to get better. You leave me stranded, insecure and feeling like an idiot.

You might be the year I will look back at some day as the one that taught me the meaning of fighting, of not giving up, of growing. As the year that will pinpoint a remarkable change for the better, a year that will impact the rest of my life in hauntingly beautiful ways that I can’t even see from where I stand right now. But, until then, forgive me for hating you, for despising you and for impatiently waiting for you to be over. 2015, you suck, I’m moving on!

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Lost and Found

Lately, when people ask me how I am doing, I have been telling them that I am feeling very lost. With my US visa about to expire and my imminent departure from San Francisco approaching faster and faster, I have gone back and forth between ignoring my life and falling into sheer panic whenever I don’t. Everything I love is here. Everything I want is here. I belong here. And in a fair world I wouldn’t have to leave. I felt defeated and that’s not a good thing to feel.

When we lose ourselves, what we really mean is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our direction, our end goal, our carefully charted course that we once found ourselves barreling down. We’ve lost the drive we used to use to propel us. We’ve lost the vision we once used to light the way ahead. We feel lost when what we had dreamed our life to be like falls through and it is beyond our influence to fix it.

But here’s the truth about being lost – we’re only ever as lost as we are in denial. When we don’t want the past to be over and the future looks too daunting to touch, we call it lost. When we’re barreling forwards at a thousand miles an hour but gazing determinately out the rearview mirror, we call it lost. When what’s been is so painfully appealing compared to what is coming up next, we call it lost. Because we’d rather be lost than be found in this new, uncomfortable place. And so we bury our coordinates. We toss away our compasses. And we declare ourselves citizens of no-mans-land.

The truth about being lost is that we choose it when we just aren’t ready to be found yet.

When you’re lost, you find yourself in every step you take towards gaining back control of your life. By stopping the cycle of passivity and replacing it with one of autonomy. You find your new self in each small choice you make, each risk you take, each opportunity that you fail to pass up, even if it ends up being a flop. You find yourself by re-creating yourself into the kind of person who is ready to take on what’s next.

Because the truth is, we can’t ever truly lose ourselves, because all ‘losing ourselves’ means is that we’re choosing a story that ended over the one that is still going on. It means we’re gazing in the wrong direction and calling our disorientation lost.

Getting found, by definition, is the simple act of recognizing where you are.  You simply have to recognize that you’re somewhere new now. Somewhere different and challenging and less than ideal, maybe. But there you are. And to find yourself somewhere new, you simply need to start walking.

You’ll find yourself in wherever you end up.

You’ll find yourself in any place where you go with your whole heart.

So, game mode is on. I’m fighting back. It sucks that other people decide that I can’t stay in the place I am so happy in, surrounded by the people that make me happy. It has been driving me mad. But here I am. Moving to Berlin to help my current employer expand to Europe. And working my ass off to come back next year. California is where I belong and heck, I won’t let anything get in the way off that. Well, at least nothing within my power. Now excuse me, I am taking back my life…

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The Unexpectedly Wonderful Thing about Long Distance Friendships…

…is that the long-awaited moment of a reunion will eventually come around! After having had more miles and countries between you for much longer than you could have ever imagined, you can finally substitute that heart emoji on Whatsapp for a real hug. And no matter how long you haven’t seen each other, it will feel like grad ball was just yesterday.

Judith, the co-author of this blog, and I got to see each other in Hamburg after 1.5 years of having actively used all social media tools imaginable to stay in touch. We had 13 hours before I had to catch my flight back to San Francisco and a lot of catching up to do. I got to go to Vapiano with her, just like we used to after a long, much-dreaded final in college. We totally killed a bottle of our favorite wine. We watched the latest episode of one of our favorite TV Shows. We laughed at how old we had gotten when the planned allnighter ended at 3am due to severe tiredness. In the blink of an eye, it felt like we were roommates again. Except, she got herself a roommate upgrade- a handsome and witty guy she calls boyfriend. I approve of him because he took really good pictures of us that night and patiently endured Judith’s and my moments of girly squeakiness.

We wanted to share this moment of reunion with our beloved readers and let you know that more longdistanceroommates adventures are yet to come!

First hug caught on camera

First hug caught on camera

Le boyfriend, our triplet and Vapiano

Le boyfriend, our triplet and Vapiano

PLL and Hugo...college throwback.

PLL and Hugo…college throwback.

Judith, another one of our bests college friends, and I

Judith, another one of our bests college friends, and I

 

Early-morning goodbye at the airport :(

Early-morning goodbye at the airport 😦

 

See you…whenever Judith, I am already looking forward to that unexpectedly wonderful moment ❤

Dear Diary,

Today, I went through my old diaries. Jeez. I think you all should meet High-School Ari:

High School Ari was awkward. VERY awkward. Her biggest issues were having neither boobs nor a boyfriend. Naturally, both these things kept her up at night. She would use phrases like “utterly handsome” to describe Robert Pattinson (here’s to all these moments she would pause Twilight only to be able to zoom in and gaze at Robert’s face in Aaw…). She would write things like “I am really slacking in school, I’ve been bringing home nothing above a B+ lately, that needs to improve” … and actually be serious about that. She would crush on a guy for 1.5 years but he ignored her and fell in love with her best friend instead. Still, she would fill her diaries with daily entries á la: “He is still soooooooooooo …. x1.000… oooooo cute. I need to make a move soon before he has a girlfriend!” I never made a move and he never became my boyfriend.

High-School Ari would also be very self-critical and much more unhappy than I remember her to be: “I am kinda the biggest loser in class. I wish the kids would stop bullying me and actually become my friends, but that’s okay. I will get good grades and make it.”

And while I felt sorry for the 13-year-old girl who wrote those lines, I mentally high-fived her, too. Because I did achieve just that. I moved abroad, I am fluent in English. Hold and beware, I even have boobs AND a boyfriend. But these past days, I also realized that these things don’t come free to us. I began to understand the trade-offs we always have to accept when going our own ways and making life choices. I am grown up now. There’s no point denying that. As much as I would like to just stay home a little longer, spend my days playing guitar, laughing with my brothers, getting fed by my granny, drinking wine with my parents, I can’t. Because there is a life waiting for me, there’s responsibilities and people relying on me and promises.

When I was 14, all I wanted from life was to grow up and move away, show ’em that I was right focusing on grades and dreams. But now, I kinda wish I wouldn’t have let myself grow up all that quickly. I wish my biggest worries would still be boys and when I would finally get kissed. Life might have been less exciting at 14 but it was more innocent and it involved less letting go of people and places you love. We all eventually have to accept that our childhoods are over and the sooner we let that go, the faster we can grab the steering wheel again. I lucked out in many aspects of life and I don’t want to complain. But I will try my best to teach my future children the art of holding on and letting go off their childhood!

 

Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari

I am enough.

Today, I got really inspired by this article on things that happen when you live abroad.  It talks about the growth you undergo when taking a leap of faith and starting completely afresh, about how much of a personal challenge it can be and how it can help you define yourself. But the post also mentions the inner division that many people undergo when they settle for a new country, how there is always a certain feel of longing to go back to where they came from and that it’s quite difficult to find that inner balance between holding on and letting go.

The article really got me thinking and made me reflect on my current situation. I am very much in the process of finding myself. I have a great household that I am happy to come home to but they actually all have a life and I don’t (yet, we’ll talk again next week after classes have started). So, I am on my own a lot. I explore on my own, I search for my running paths on my own, I have to find friends on my own and make certain decisions based on my own judgement.
I don’t know about you guys but I have a big problem with that! I tend to not give myself the appropriate amount of credit, I don’t trust myself to be capable of much and I usually doubt that I am a worthy competition in anything. But back at home, I wasn’t forced to really tackle any of those fears. I had a routine going on, I had my niché, my friends, my place in life. Now I’m here and suddenly, there is just me. That’s a really weird feeling. Out of a sudden, I have to ask myself what I want, how I should approach the day, the month, this year and there is no one there but me to answer these questions. I am not lonely but I am on my own, there is a difference and I am currently learning and embracing it. Sure, one of my big plans for this year was challenging myself and starting all over again, closing a chapter and being completely open to the new one. Exciting, exciting and scary. What if I am not enough? What if my own resources are not gonna get me where I want to go to? If there is no one but myself responsible for the next steps, there is no one else but myself to blame for failure.
It’s quite nerve-wracking but I also feel how, even only after a week, I have become more trusting in myself, a little more so each day. It’s nice for a change not to center my day around other people but only around myself. To ask myself how I feel about things and, not being able to take the easy way out (aka “Oh, I dunno..what do you think?”). Being challenged by having to listen to myself in order to change things that don’t make me happy. And, in contrast, to embrace if I have achieved something great.
So, here are some small things I started doing in order to get into a happy relationship with myself (it’s ok if you think I went a little cray-cray….half my housemates are into Zen, it’s rubbing off):

  • In the morning, I get up, look into the mirror and say something nice to the tired, confused reflection that stares back at me. Things like: “Wow, look at your tan!” “Today is going to be a great day!” or “I think we deserve ice-cream for breakfast
  • Whenever something I did works out fine, I actually tell myself out loud (Warning! Weirdo-alert, maybe just mumble when in public…). I think it’s important to actively acknowledge the good things that happen over the day.
  • Seek the sun. Depending on your location, that might be harder or easier but there will always be some sort of bar with a fake palm tree and hawaiian music nearby. Or something along those lines.
  • Music- sing along as loud as you dare and if it’s only for one song. We all have the inner child inside of us, let it out!
  • When something goes wrong or unexpected, breathe and hesitate for a moment before acting. Ask yourself if the reaction you were about to unleash onto yourself or others is appropriate.
  • Before going to bed, look into the mirror again and either acknowledge the great things you did today or encourage yourself that tomorrow is going to be better.

So, bottomline: Starting over puts one thing into the center of your life: YOURSELF! Yes, that might be uncomfortable or unknown or scary but I believe it really is necessary. We spend so much time thinking about others and ourselves in relations to our surroundings that we tend to forget that no relationship is as important as the one we have to ourselves. Sadly though, that’s the connection we are most sloppy with. I am not saying we all should become hermits or say Screw It and move away. Heck, I can’t wait to make friends and build a social life but I am glad that I have this time to myself to realize that I am enough.

First Week in SF- Lessons Learned

My first week in San Francisco is almost over and I feel like a sponge that is soaking up all the new things, the interesting lessons learned and the first impressions. So, let me share some with you:

1.) Learn how to convert miles into kilometers. “Oh, 2 miles to the nearest supermarket, that’s walking distance!” shall remain a one-time-only misadventure.

2.) Bank accounts- there is a checking and a saving account and you have to transfer your money to one of them and in-between each other. Should have probably done my research before so that I could have avoided the slightly awkward: “Oh no, I don’t wanna open two accounts, I just want one. One account!”
“Yes Miss, but do you wanna place the deposit on your checking or your savings account for now?”
“I want a general account, a veery basic account and just one of them, Just.ONE”

3.) .. Bank employees are incredibly patient. And really lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I went home and googled “Can you add your banker on Facebook?” Turns out- you can. Depends a little on the moral guidelines of the banks though.

4.) The nearest grocery store is called “Trader Joes”, which I guess is the healthier mini-version of a Walmart? They don’t really have any brands I know, but they try to make up by selling EVERYTHING organic, vegan and gluten-free. Gluten-free brownie mix, vegan almond butter… Luckily, I found something called Safeway nearby. It might still be a 20-minute-walk, but it is entirely possible to buy ice-cream and carry it home without it melting. I know because that was the first thing I tried, of course. Currently building an ice-cream paradise in our freezer as we speak.

5.) I get why people stereotype East Coasters as colder and more distant..it’s hard to compete against the warmth and enthusiasm of the folks from around here. Everybody is SO happy to meet me and my stories about Germany are so VERY insightful and oh, didn’t I just have the GREATEST of experiences today.

6.) Nothing beats warm blueberry bagels. Or warm blueberry bagels with ham! Although, my housemate seems to think that’s weird.

7.) Californian sun….wow. Should not have underestimated that. I sat outside to read and after ten minutes I was pretty  sunburned. I really wonder whether “tanned” will just be my normal skin color from now on. WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!?!

8.) Public transportation- well. First of, if you are looking for the buttons to press for stop requests….try the chords dangling alongside the windows and don’t get discouraged that they look like exposed electrodes. Secondly, .. no. I will stay open minded and trust that public transport is actually great!

9.) Homelessness seems to be a reocurring phenomenon around here. Even when walking through an area that looks like New York’s Wall Street, there are so many streets populated by homeless people.

10.) It’s super easy to get into chit-chats with people but it’s really tricky to differ between solid promises and vague suggestions. If someone you just met says “Oh, we should totally spend a day in the park”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are automatically going through their mental schedule to make time for you and set a date. Had to learn that the hard way..

11.) Dress in layers. I heard of the microclimate but I only really believed it when I left my neighborhood in NoFo valley (aka notorious fog valley) to go downtown, only to come out of the subway and find a paradise of burning heat, light-blue skies and no fog in sight. Also, beaches here in San Francisco are not exactly like you see them in California movies. I mean, they are great. But don’t expect palm trees. Or hot lifeguards. Or temperatures warm enough to actually go swimming. I might have to save up for a trip to LA soon. Or SAN DIEGO!!!

12.) Pandora. Oooooh Pandora Free Radio Station. You know me so well. We’ll be best friends I’m sure! Quite fittingly, my first ever Pandora station is titled “Unpacking”

13.) UNBLOCKED YOUTUBE VIDEOS!!! I mean, people here don’t have health insurance or social securities or paid vacation but they can LITERALLY watch ANY video they want on YouTube. In HD. Over and over again.

14.) Kale. Can we talk about Kale for a moment? Kale CHIPS. Kale smoothies. Kale T-shirts. I translated that word to German the other day and, what do you know.. it’s been a thing in Germany for centuries. But don’t you dare saying that out loud around here. According to West Coasters, they just discovered it, so of course it has actually JUST become the “latest graze”.

15.) Eeerm.. Instagram. It’s an actual thing. People instagram their foods and use hashtags and take selfies all the time. I might sign up for an account, just to see what all the fuzz is about. Maybe.

So, that was my first week for you and there’s yet more to come. I really really like SF so far and feel super comfortable in my rented place and with the people (and the dog) I live with. So far, so good- I’ll keep you guys posted 🙂

Cheers and go to the West Coast soon!

Ari

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