“I think I came to Berlin to just try to find a better me. For new life,” she said.
This is something I have been hearing a lot of lately and variations on it.
“I left Italy to come to Berlin to search for something new.”
“I came because I needed something different in my life.”
“Berlin is dynamic and called to me because I knew I could be me here.”
“I came for a job, a new job.”
“Berlin seemed like a really good opportunity. I can do new things here.”
“I am just searching for what it means to be me.”
Over and over again, the expat life seems to be full of people searching for new life and new pockets of life. And I am no different.
It feels like in the States the first question people ask is, “What do you do?” but more often here the first question is, “Why did you come to Berlin?”
My answer is always, “I came to follow a girl,” to begin. The answer is of course more complex but the short answer is this. It started on the Camino in search of new life and what followed was a transformation, a refinding of me, finding love and following my heart into a grand new adventure.
I study with a man named John Philip Newell every once in a while so naturally I decided to study and meditate with him the month before I left the US at a Shambala retreat center in the middle of the Colorado Rockies. The elevation made it hard to do much but meditate and learn. The air was cold and crisp with snow and sun surrounding us. He and I got to chat a bit and I updated him from the last time he saw me in Iona. I told him of the Camino and my chance to move…to travel, write, dream, pray, discern and most of all learn. I said, “JP I have been in search of pilgrimage and resurrection.” He turned and looked me directly in the eye….
“Courtney I think you are in search of peregrination.”
The Celts knew this term. This is the process by which Celtic Christians went in search of new life. Unlike a pilgrimage, this doesn’t include an end point and isn’t dependent on the specific path but it is about finding pockets of new life sprouting up around us. Thin spaces, the place where the earth and God come closer to one another, can happen in a variety of places and ways. This is the search for peregrination and some of us search for it over and over again. We yearn for it and want to share those spaces. We are adventurers and navigators. We are doing theology constantly in search of it. Pilgrimage helps and certainly we love being pilgrims on the way but these searches aren’t so set in stone or well worn all time and they certainly aren’t linear.
When I heard my new friend say to me, “I think I am in search of something new in me.” I stopped her and said, “I think you may be also in peregrination my friend.”
Certainly this isn’t limited to the expat life but I definitely feel it more acutely in this community and in these conversations. What are we searching for? Will we find it? Where will we find it?