Letter to Myself

Dear Me,

Hi – it’s… well, it’s you. I am you, the amazing you you want to be. I know right now is so hard. You keep questioning everything. Who you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there.

I know you miss him. I know you felt connected to him and are trying your best to hang on to that connection, even when two continents and an ocean lie between you. I know how you have guilt for feeling so deeply, for letting your guard down, getting your hopes up, while you never really knew what he felt for you.

I know you miss California and that this is a pain, an actual pain that you mask or suppress but never shake. I know you cringe inside every time you scroll through your Instagram feed and see pictures of your friends at a beach you used to hang out at. That a tiny picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in a board magazine can suck the life out of you. That you close your eyes whenever the plane touches down in London, Manchester, Glasgow or wherever your business travels take you these days, secretly hoping that you will miraculously see palm trees and sunshine when you look outside.

I know that, when you go to sleep at night, you’ll cry…uncontrollably some nights…softly others. You’ll toss and turn. And you’ll dream about it all– some will be dreams that will wake you up sad. Others will be nightmares and you’ll actually wake up happy, realizing what you’re dealing with now is better than what you dealt with in your sleep.

But, instead of letting those memories suffocate you, let them help you remember who you are and who you want to be. You will be that person again. You are (and will be) so kind, loving, open, fun and free. Right now I know it doesn’t seem possible and that’s okay. But trust that those pieces will come together again. It may take the time it takes to complete a 5.000 piece puzzle, but they will start to create an image you can visualize and it will all make sense again.

Until that day comes, however, try and be the best you can be every day. Do your favorite things. Find more good in your days than bad. When you’re back at base – and true to yourself – you’ll be extremely surprised at the great things that will happen to you…and the great people you’ll meet.

I know it’s hard to truly feel like you will get there. Be patient, love yourself, trust yourself, forgive yourself, be kind to yourself. Your time will come, and it’s so soon. Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, physically. Be everything you picture yourself to be. It will manifest and it will be amazing.

Be the light you are. Share the gift you have been given and watch what unfolds. It’s worth it. And so are you.

Love,

You

 

Trust that everything will be okay.

There will, inevitably, be times when life will throw us curve balls before we’re ready to hit them.

There will be times where we feel so happy – or comfortably content- with our lives that we wouldn’t want to change a thing. But life wouldn’t be life if it didn’t throw you that curve ball every once in a while and suddenly everything needs to change. Perhaps the most challenging time of all will be the chasm that exists between these chapters in your life. When we have to walk away before we’re ready. When we have to leave what we want and what we love in the past.

Up till this point, I had always been ready for the next chapter. I could always acknowledge the memories made but would look forward to making more, different memories in the future. I had never been in a situation like this before, where I need to walk away from what I love before I’m ready to. Every fibre of my being understood that my visa will expire in September and there is nothing I could do about it. Every rational part of me knew that my situation wasn’t even all that bad: The company I enjoy working for wants to keep me employed and relocate me to Europe once my visa expires. And, since they don’t have an office established there, I could move anywhere in Western Europe as long as I have a working phone and internet connection. And yet, I’ve been spending the last 4 months either ignoring all that or trying to find a miraculous loophole or shortcut that would allow me to have it all. I wanted to linger.

But lately, I have been trying my best to return to my old self. The self that is adventurous and positive and happy no matter the place or the situation. In moments of transitions, you have to believe that there are so, so many better things coming than any of the things we have left in the past. You have to have faith in the future, in the unknown, in the tomorrows and somedays that will line up in ways you can’t possibly imagine from where you’re standing now. You have to have faith in yourself – faith that you will get yourself to where you want to go, even if you’re not entirely certain where that is yet. Faith in your future self to figure out if she wants to move to Berlin or London or Lisbon or Paris or Amsterdam or…

Yes, California has made me indescribably happy and I will leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco. But before moving to this city, before making it home and becoming this incredibly happy here, all I had wanted was to stay in my protected bubble of friends and family, rainy German days and not push myself out of my comfort zone. I guess I sometimes forget that, just because the scene in the rear view mirror looks nicer than the scene on the road ahead, doesn’t mean you’ll never reach another beautiful destination.

It’s rare and it’s wonderful to ever find a place or a person or a certain situation that makes you want to linger for longer. When happiness hits us, we all want to cling to it as tightly and as mercilessly as possible. We want to capture it and hold it between our palms forever – not realizing that we have to let it go for it to mean anything at all.

I thing that, when we have to leave the things we love behind, we are allowed to mourn them. To miss them. To look back on them dejectedly and sadly. But we must never, ever forget that the best days of our lives are not all behind us. That there are more wonderful things awaiting us in the future than we could ever even fathom. That so many of our happiest days are still ahead. And that we have to keep moving to get there – no matter how tempting that view in that rear view mirror is. And in order to get there, we have to blindly and blissfully trust that it’s going to be somewhere indescribably worth going.

Oh San Francisco, how I will miss you

I will miss your rolling hills, in which the city is safely embedded. No matter how often your inclinations may have annoyed me, my upper thighs have never been fitter. If I can walk up Lombard Street, I can walk up any street in the world!

I will miss your beaches, your foggy, never-warm-enough-to-wear-a-bikini-at-beaches. I will miss sitting at Baker Beach, looking out at Marin and the bridge, searching for dolphins in the shallow waters and knowing that this place is all I need to be happy.

Speaking of which, I will miss the Marin Headlands. I will miss the hiking trails and waterfalls. I will miss Mt Tam and its majestic views. I will miss Stinson Beach and the Parkside Café, especially the brunch options there. I will miss the liberating feeling of being so close to nature and so far away from everything while, really, it’s only an hour bike ride from downtown San Francisco.

I will even miss the downtown area. I will miss the unique ringing of the F trains, when they turn corners. I will miss shopping at the farmers market at the ferry building and counting the pride flags in the Castro. I will miss all the restaurants in the Haight and North Beach and every restaurant in between. I will miss getting tanned in Dolores Park and standing in line for BiRite ice-cream.

I will miss being able to be weird without being perceived as such. I will miss walking around with flowers in my hair and long hippie skirts and I will never stop dressing in layers. Because that’s what you do, when you’re from San Francisco.

I will miss Karl the Fog. I love living in a city where the fog not only has a name, but also its own Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account. I will miss watching it roll into the city, devour the bridges and the hills and the ocean. I will miss being annoyed at how it suddenly got 10 degrees colder.

I will miss the sunshine too. Because we do have sun from September till April and it’s awesome. Even after two years of living in California, I have never once taken a day of sunshine for granted. I have never once stepped outside and gotten bored by the fact that it is – once again- sunny. I have never once passed by palm trees without sending a silent prayer to whomever for getting me to this magical place that is called the Golden State. I have never once doubted that I was the luckiest girl on earth for being where I was.

I will miss the Mission, my Whole Foods in Ingleside, the lake I run around, the beach that’s close by, my office on Market; heck, I might even miss my weird Muni encounters occasionally. I will miss Land’s End hikes and whale watching and going surfing. I will miss being only 5 hours away from Malibu, Yosemite, San Diego, or Hawaii.

I can’t believe that I only have 2 more months left in San Francisco. I can’t imagine that there will ever be another city I will feel so at home at. San Francisco is home. More so than Wismar, Bremen or New York ever were. And I am so sad to leave home.

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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?

One Girl, Two Suitcases, Six Months…

I’ve done a lot of moving around in my life, and mostly alone.

When I was sixteen, I packed two huge suitcases full of stuff and went to the States for a year. When I was nineteen, I did the same thing again with a single suitcase and an even further destination: Australia. From there, I went to Peru for a few months, and then proceeded to move to college 8 hours away from where I grew up. I moved back this June, but only temporarily. At the moment, I’m packing my bags to go work in Berlin for six months. You’d think by now I’m a total pro at stuffing my life into a suitcase and leaving places to go elsewhere.

Well, I guess I am, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m nervous, and that I’ve never managed to go about packing in as orderly a fashion as I’d like. My move to Berlin is happening exactly like all the other times I went on longer travels.

Judith’s Moving Timeline

Two weeks to go

You consider getting a head-start on packing. Get the suitcase into your room and look at it for a while. Then decide that it’s really a bit early to start already. What about the clothes you’ll wear in the next two weeks?

One week to go

You realize you have only a vague idea where the bus terminal is. Promise your mother that you’ll look it up asap. Forget about it again. Spend some minutes every day eyeing your suitcase, but it’s definitely still to early to pack.

3 days to go

You finally remember to look up the bus terminal. Groan when you realise you’ll be rising before the sun for sure. You hate travelling. At the same time – in three days you are finally independent again! No longer will there be your brother’s wet towels on the bathroom floor and no longer will your sister steal your make up. You’re really just too grown up to live at home, it’s good to be leaving. Your suitcase catches your eye from the corner of your room and you get all excited and smile. Finally!

24 hours to go

Oops, now it’s really past time you started packing!

20 hours to go

You’ve neatly folded your clothes in several small piles. Pants, shirts, workout clothes, sweaters, underwear. All of this should fit nicely into your suitcase with the towels and still leave the bag for the duvet you have carry across the country.

19 hours to go

All the clothing fits very nicely. You’re a packing genius.

18 hours to go

Wait, that sweater, you meant to take that for sure. And you can’t leave your boyfriend’s hoodie! Oh, and the teddy bear your best friends gave you as a goodbye present. And shoes, hold on, you do need shoes. And a belt. And – ooooooohhhhh, how cute, you haven’t worn that top in years but now that you just found it at the back of the drawer, surely you can find an occasion to wear it in Berlin? Wait, and where are you going to put your coat?

17 hours to go

Your stuff is never ever going to fit into that suitcase. You’ll just have to find a way to squeeze some of those things into the bag with the duvet. And a way to transport a heavy suitcase and a heavy bag by yourself, across two cities. Pfft, you’ve had worse packing arrangements. You can totally do it.

15 hours to go

You decide to get up an hour earlier and leave the rest of your packing until the morning. You write a list of all the stuff you need to take but still want to use before the morning, because knowing how your brain works in the morning, you would forget half of this stuff otherwise. As an afterthought, you write LAPTOP!!!!!!! on the bottom of the list. Phew, that would have been an issue. Your mother is getting sentimental about you leaving. You are getting increasingly nervous. You don’t actually want to leave. Living at home is not so bad. Who knows how this new place will be. Newer is not always better. Maybe you should just stay.

12 hours to go

You spontaneously decide, new city, new hair colour, and forego your usual dark brown for something called “Grand Canyon Red” which supposedly also works on dark brown hair. An hour later, your hair is dark brown with a red shimmer. After you were so nervous about the dye, this is a bit of an anticlimax. Maybe your entire trip is going to be like that?

10 hours to go

You stake out your new place with the Google Street view. It seems to be a normal place in a somewhat substandard, but not unsafe, neighbourhood. That, too, is a bit anticlimactic, but also relaxes you. Actually, you’re just oddly calm now. Like someone else is moving. That other person can get nervous then. You just don’t really want to think about it anyways. You set an alarm for a terribly early morning hour and turn on the TV.

7 hours to go

You realize you will never, ever get enough sleep anyways. Briefly consider just pulling an all-nighter. Instead, double-check your alarm and try to close your eyes at least for a little while.

2 hours to go

You awake from confused nightmares about missing your bus and getting yelled at on your first day of work. Stuff everything that seems important into the bag. Consult the list you wrote, but also just take random things your foggy brain thinks you might need.

And then…

It’s time! With a backpack, two suitcases and a thermos of coffee (and struggling to figure out how to carry all of it), you make your way into the next six months of your life… wohoo!