I Miss You

It has almost been 2 years since we’ve said good-bye. I think it’s good that neither one of us knew back then how long it would be until we’d see each other again. It made parting a little easier. It gave me the illusion that I would see you again in no time. Instead, I have been missing you every single day for the past, almost, 2 years. So, I wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for being you and for letting me be me. Thank you for letting me feel so much like myself when I’m with you. Thank you for not making me wear any masks or put on any fronts. Thank you for sharing in my happiest moments, and for genuinely feeling the same; for listening to my saddest stories and radiating compassion and empathy from wherever you are.

Thank you for just showing up at my door that one night, in your soccer gear, refusing to leave me alone. Thank you for running to the pulse with me, getting prepped for that movie night. Thank you for making me smash those balloons and for that moment when we formed the plan of interning in New York City. Thank you for helping me make that happen.

Thank you for the laughs, for the cries, and for everything in between. Thank you for being my rock, my anchor; for keeping me grounded when I feel like I might otherwise blow away. Thank you for knowing my favorite ice cream flavor and what song I would die for. Thank you for always knowing what to say and for being one of life’s best teachers. Like I’ve said- if I end up married and with children, it is greatly because you have changed how I look at those things.

Thank you for helping me through really dark times. Thank you for the summer of 2012 and everything we learned from it. Thank you for making me reflect on myself and how I fight and make up with people. Thank you for setting the bar so high and making it impossible to find another friend as good as you. Thank you for making the four short years we have been friends feel like forever and for giving me enough memories to last a lifetime, but not ending there. Thank you for making me hurt when I miss you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the absolute privilege and honor of being able to call you my best friend; thank you for being my person. Thank you for giving me these reasons, and a million more, to be thankful for.

Forever and Always,

Your Best Friend

10 Reasons to Welcome December

1. Starbucks Christmas Specials
Personally, I have come to like the Pumpkin Spice Latte but my heart beats for lé Peppermint Mocha, an Eggnog Latte or (on sunnier December days here in Cali) a Cremé Brulee Frap! And, as if taste wasn’t enough of a reason to wait in line, you’ll get to have a pretty Christmas-y cup on your desk for the rest of your day, reminding you of the holly jolly days that are yet to come. Yay!

2. Christmas Candy
Hershey’s Peppermint kisses. Gingerbread M&Ms. Candy Cane Ice-cream. Christmas cookies. Speculoos. Peppernuts. The list could go on and on and on. Any of these options would go great with #1, too. Just saying!

3. Winter clothes and accessories
How about a cute scarf that matches the new tights you scooped up on Black Friday? Possibly a matching glove-hat combo, too? There is so much cuteness in fall and winter clothing. Not to mention that those woolen sweaters and fury jackets are every girl’s friend after the annual Christmas feast.

4. Lights
Lights, lights everywhere! Dark and grey November…ain’t nobody got time for you anymore! Every store is decorated, the buildings are framed with holiday lights, the streets accessorized with lit-up stars and bells… Definitely helps getting over the sun setting at 5pm!

5. Fireplaces
Not everyone is lucky enough to have one of those but if you do, go get yourself some of that delicious fiery warmth! Nothing better than being all cuddled up, drinking tea, reading a book and listening to a good Pandora Station while sitting home by the fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, you better make the right type of friends next year!

6. Christmas Songs
Okay fine, I admit that I am one of those people. One of those people that sometimes, very secretly, listens to one or two Christmas songs in…say…March or July. Just for the fun and to get a smile on my face. So, come December, I am the happiest camper alive because now it is legit to whistle “All I want for Christmas” or hum “Frosty the Snowman”. It just gives me flashbacks to all the past Christmases and reminds me of how magical Santa seemed to me when I was young. Christmas songs bring some of that magical feeling back into my daily life and get me excited for the holidays.

7. The smells
Pine Needles. Chocolate. New Clothes. Shopping bags. Even wrapping paper has a smell, a very characteristic mix of excitement, stress and secretiveness. All in all, come December, it starts smelling delicious everywhere! If you reside in Germany during that month, you will probably have dozens of Christmas markets around you to choose from! Hot spiced wine, toasted almonds, crepes with Nutella, fruits dunked in chocolate, candied apples, all those are smells Americans miss out on.

8. The people
Yes, December is very stressful for many. All this Christmas shopping, all these expectations. I personally have a list of 15 people I am shopping for and it keeps me up at night. But it is also that time of year during which, thanks to commercialization I admit, we are being reminded of love and family and spending time with those that matter. You forgive faster, carry a smile around more often and are a little more considerate and willing to share.

9. Christmas Movies
I have watched “Love Actually” three times in the past two weeks and am not ashamed to admit that. Whether it’s an all-time favorite, such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or more modern picks like “Elf”, Christmas movies spread pure joy. They are so over the top with everything, and there is singing and piano music and families all cheesy-peasy. It sets the stage for Christmas and totally gets you into the mood to eat, sing and celebrate. And eat some more.

10. The loved ones
Many of you might go home for Christmas or have family come visit you. That electrifying feeling of flying/driving/riding/walking home for the holidays is truly one of a kind, so embrace it! Count the days, mark you calenders, and use this month to appreciate the people you love in your life. Hug your mom extra often, call your grandparents more frequently, give your significant other an extra kiss. You know, all these things you should be doing anyways but are being reminded off by the jolly Christmas atmosphere.

So yeah, let’s embrace December, it’s not like you could escape it anyways!

Cheers,
Ari

Everyone Else’s Story

The following are aimless philosophical ramblings. No actual point is being made.

That being said: do you ever wonder about everyone else’s story?

I’m writing this on a semi-crowded train taking me from a Bavarian town straight to my new home in the North of Germany. Six and a half hours between the place where I taught a seminar and the place I will call home, forty square meters in beautiful Hamburg, shared with the man I love and (for the time being) quite a lot of cardboard boxes.

I’m twenty-four and I’m in love – with this guy, with a city I’ve only ever visited for weekends, with the steady movement of the train and with this moment in my life.

I can’t help but wonder: what’s everyone else’s story? If you could measure the emotion in this train car, what would you find? At first glance, most of the people surrounding me look bored. But would boredom really be the prevailing feeling you’d find? I doubt it. I’m sure I look bored to those around me, sitting cross-legged in a reclined window seat, typing away on my laptop. Maybe I am a little, intermittently. But much more than that, I am excited, ecstatic, happy, nervous, joyful and a little baffled at how amazing this sequence of events has been.

passengers on train by OTFO on Flickr

passengers on a train (by OFTO on Flickr)

So what about the guy across the aisle with the band-aid on this right thumb, swiping backwards, forwards, up and down on his cell phone? He’s dressed casually, has a small suitcase with him, slight frown on his face. Looks like he’s reading something – sometimes he’ll use two fingers to zoom in on the screen. He looks bored, too. But what if he’s just distracting himself? It’s a Monday evening, so maybe he’s heading home from a long weekend that he spent in the city his long-distance girlfriend lives in. Or boyfriend, actually, maybe. No, probably girlfriend. In that case, would he be a bit sad, maybe, to have to leave? They might have had a fight and he’s somewhere between relief and frustration. They might have gotten engaged, and he’s still trying to process the fact that she said yes. It might have been a Monday work trip, though, too. He might just be tired. Nothing much may be happening in his life right now – or everything.

I won’t know – and I won’t know what brought that couple sharing a newspaper, or the woman with the bright yellow book, on this particular train. Neither will they ever know just how excited I am. That I’m moving, right now, and for the first time in years, moving somewhere I plan on staying indefinitely. I don’t know if they’d care, either. I’d find it interesting, right now, to know what they’re up to – but it wouldn’t touch my life beyond tonight, so in the end, it will not matter to me.

And still, sitting here and letting my eyes wander around the train car, I can’t help but marvel at the unknown stories, the biographies, the tragedies and comedies around me that I will never know. The stories behind these random faces. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around just how MUCH is going on in a single train car, let alone the whole world, at any given point in time. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing to think about?

Being in a transnational relationship

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year now and I am very happy in my relationship. He makes me laugh, he challenges me, he broadens my horizons and he loves me just the way I am (which must be challenging sometimes).  But, like a lot of other things in life, the past months have not only been sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. And that’s totally ok. Especially when being from different countries- he’s from the Netherlands, I’m from Germany and we met in San Francisco- things can get tricky. So, here’s an accumulation of things you will likely encounter in your first months of being in a transnational relationship.

#1. “Hi”

You meet in this super hot club or bar or classroom or office and hit it off immediately. His smile is amazing, her eyes are gorgeous and you are hooked. You want to find out more about this person. There is excitement in the air and possibilities. The fact that they’re from a country other than yours is, at most, very enticing. And for now, your first-date-outfit is the biggest of your concerns.

#2. “Ik sprek geen Nederland.”

The first couple of dates probably went great. Being from different countries automatically means always having something to talk about. The other person’s culture, tradition, language, foods, jokes, sayings, believes give material for countless talks. You make fun of each other in a tender way and you laugh and learn and are happy. The duration of this phase will vary by couple. For me, it’s still there.

#3. “Ik hou van jou”

No matter after how long and in what language your SO is declaring their love in, it is a big deal and puts your relationship on a new level. You give in to the idea of a future together, you spend your days painting pictures of exploring the world, building something good together. You start semi-serious attempts of memorizing phrases in your SO’s native language, which result in humorous misunderstandings. You secretly google “Visas South Africa” or “How to survive in Italy as an American” or “I am Venezuelan. Should I follow my boyfriend to Norway?” because..you know…just looking at your options here…

#4. “I wanna go home.”

Chances are, you met while you both lived in a country other than the one you grew up in. Or maybe just one of you did. But, eventually, culture shocks or sat backs or simply a bad day will cause homesickness. You’re tired of living in a foreign country and you’re tired of not speaking your native language. And your SO might just be the channel you express your frustration through. That’s the first moment both of you realize that your relationship will not go on like this forever. One of you might want to move home. Or go somewhere else for a job. You begin to understand that, sooner or later, you will either have to find common ground in this matter or your relationship will have an expiration date to it. But thinking about that is ugly, right? Let’s go back to that movie!

#5. “Mom, Dad, meet…”

After a couple of months, it might be “Meet-the-parents-time!”. This can get tricky if the parents can’t converse in English and your own knowledge of their language is less than abysmal. In that case, your dinner conversation will be limited to friendly smiles or gestures, awkward attempts of throwing random words at each other to make a point and a lot of translating through your partner. Which, eventually, will get so tedious that they just give up, talk to their parents in Russian/Urdu/ German and occasionally give you a rough synopsis of what’s happening. Awkward is what this stage can be like!

#6. “Sorry, we don’t really celebrate Christmas…”

Being from different countries will spice up your daily routine in both positive and negative ways. Your relationship will likely be less boring because, again, there is so much to learn about them and their origins. You may be delighted by how they never even consider splitting the bill and always open the door for you because “that’s just what a man does!”. They may be amused at how you get mad when they’re five minutes late to your date because that is “so German of you.” Both of you may be challenged when one of you wants to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving or Hanukkah because you’ve just never done that before and certainly not like that! Does that mean you have to go to church with them on Easter Sunday and drink Christ’s figurative blood?  (Schatz, don’t worry, it’s red wine!). You might get frustrated about how they communicate, you might not understand their convictions and what is a funny joke to them is a cultural offense to you.

#7. “Soooo…after graduation…”

Your visa might expire in the near future or your exchange year is over. You might graduate or are finishing up that project or simply want to know where you stand. Whatever it is, eventually something will bring back the difficult talks about the future. And, while we’d all hope that love could surpass all matter of logistics, life shit can determine the longevity of a relationship. Living in this global world is great most of the time- it opens you doors and let’s you live in places you can’t even pronounce. But nothing sucks more than long-distance relationships. And avoiding that can be near to impossible when both partners face a variety of options for their respective futures. Who compromises how much? Do I really want to move for him? Do I really want to make her move for me? There will be more than one talk about this. It will cause doubts and fears and fights and tears. But don’t avoid it because, once you have found a solution that works for both of you, you can finally go back to simply enjoying each other’s company.

#8. “So, here we are.”

You may break up because you were simply too different. You may somehow slide into a long-distance situation or you could belong to the lucky ones that continuously make it work. Whatever it is, appreciate all that your partner is teaching you. Take it as something that makes you grow and look at relationships in a different way. Ideally, I hope you are happy, enriched by them, in love with love and life and really excited about what the future holds!

Cheers,

Ari

 

I, resident of San Francisco, take you, Fog City…

…as my lawfully wedded home. I know it hasn’t been that long, merely a year, but you have already given me a lifetime of memories. The happiest yet.

I vow to be as loyal to you as the guy at Fisherman’s Wharf is to dressing up as a bush and scaring tourists. Speaking of which, I vow to never stop exploring your many corners and alleys. You have so much beauty to offer and I vow to never shut my eyes to that.

I vow to love you even when you aren’t very loveable. When your feisty winds blow up my dress and I flash everyone on Market Street. When the M Train just won’t come or the F train is so overcrowded with tourists that I have to walk in heels for two miles to get to the nearest subway station. When the fog is so thick that it covers my neighborhood like a thick blanket, shielding it off from any sunshine. When the smell of urine is unbearable and you don’t even want to look too closely at the puddle on the bus seat next to yours. Because of you, I laugh, I smile, I dare to dream again. So, I vow to overlook all your flaws.

I vow to submit my bank account to your rents, Muni passes, phone rates and exorbitant living expenses. And to the occasional dollars for the homeless. I agree to disagree with you over kale, but I will meet you halfway when it comes to gluten-free and organic. Mostly, because you leave me no other choice. I will support your high-end lifestyle by paying $4.99 for a small bottle of Odwalla. I agree, it is damn good juice. Kambucha, however, sucks. You can take that to your friend L.A.! I will support the local economy by religiously buying Three Twins Ice Cream- you just know that the Peppermint Confetti flavor always lifts me up, don’t you?

I vow to never stop acknowledging your beauty. Even more so, I promise that I will never ever ever NOT be left breathless, no matter how many times I cross the Golden Gate Bridge or hike up Twin Peaks. You are the closest to heaven I could get and I shall never take that for granted. I vow to always keep up with the latest tech knick-knacks that you come up with. I will let Google deliver my groceries and Lyft bring me home and UP24 measure my health. I love that you have a crazy, risk-taking, out-of-the-box-thinking personality and I will never stop supporting that. Well…once I have money, I won’t.

I can’t promise you I will never smile about all your tourists, but I will try my best to be kind when telling them to “step down to open the door”. I can’t promise you I will always be happy about those insanely steep hills you throw in my way, but I will try my best to take it as a work-out. I can’t promise that I will never start taking your weather for granted but I promise that I will never stop loving the sunshine you bring into my life. All day, every day.

I pronounce my dependence on the eternal heat in Dolores Park and on the freaky hippies in Haight-Ashbury. On the parrots of Coit Tower, on the ice-cream at Ghiradelli Square  and the dolphins at Baker Beach. I vow to love and cherish every palm tree till earthquake do us part.

Lastly, to steal from Leo, “I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms, now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love. And to always know in the deepest part of my soul that no matter what challenges might carry us apart, we will always find our way back to each other.”

 

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“Love is a growing up.”

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

This quote by James Baldwin is enough to make me want to read everything the man ever wrote. It’s been my Skype status for months now. I used to change that status every time I found a new quote I liked. The fact is, I haven’t found anything that rings more true for me than these words.

Love is a growing up.

In the last year or so, I’ve grown more than I can even begin to explain. I recently celebrated the first anniversary of a relationship that has changed my life in every imaginable way. And no, it was not easy. It wasn’t Hollywood, although it began kind of like the plot for a romantic comedy. You might say, how disappointing that it didn’t continue that way, but really, when the movie-feeling stopped, the real amazingness only began.

I know there are no guarantees for anything in life, but as uncertain as the future may be, I am absolutely sure of one thing: What I learned in this past year I wouldn’t have learned alone. It’s true you should be able to live and be happy by yourself, but you do need people to come into your life and shake things up, so that whether they leave or stay, you’ve changed and grown. Before this year, I was pretty convinced that I was not really the type who had relationships. I was never sure why that was, but it was sort of a fact of life that I did not question very much. You can imagine how much it took me by surprise when someone basically fell from the sky and wanted to stay – and for that to be someone I actually wanted to be with, too! I spent the first few months in utter confusion and disbelief.

Recently, as we celebrated our first anniversary on Skype (yes, long-distance is ANNOYING), I realized that my disbelief has never quite gone away. Sometimes I still expect to wake up and have dreamed this entire relationship. Sometimes, I wait for my house of cards to crash, not quite sure I can accept the fact that someone glued the cards together in these last few months. Sometimes I’m just plain scared. And then yes, love is a battle, not so much with the other person, but with your own demons and insecurities and fears.

But it’s also a growing up. And it helps me to remember – whatever happens, I’m a different person today than I was last year, and I dare say, a calmer and happier person. That alone is worth battling some demons on the nights I can’t sleep…