Orientation day started in the basement of the John F. Kennedy Institute where I will be spending a big portion of my life starting next week. There is a little student run coffee shop and we were promised a bit of breakfast. I was counting on coffee and I wasn’t disappointed (breakfast was a generous word for any food offered). I showed up about 10ish minutes late since it was before the official welcome and a stop in beforehand kind of thing. I wandered in and looked around to see a whole bunch of younger 20 somethings. I immediately felt old and a bit overwhelmed just when the woman in front of me turned around and said, “well, this is an awkward set up and I feel old.” I immediately agreed and she then said, “Wanna go be awkward in that corner?”
This is how I met Tammy from Pennsylvania. She’s American and in her early 40s so I didn’t feel so alone all of a sudden. Plus we both had the common communication strategy of sarcasm to use. We sat down and she said, “This is weird, right?” I could only nod my head enthusiastically. Here we are…starting a Masters of North American Studies program…which means that mostly German professors will be teaching me about looking at North America and studying it from different perspectives in classrooms full of students from all over and only a few of us from North America…yeah, that’s kinda weird and fascinating and interesting and here we go…
We traded info about ourselves. There are the most common questions of “So where did you move from to here?” And “Why Berlin?” My answers are usually “I moved from Portland, OR. Yeah, its awesome” and “I followed a girl” with more elaboration about the camino and needing a leave from what I was doing for a bit and yes I plan on returning in a bit. Tammy had been living in China for a few years and then she said something that I have been thinking on since….
“It gets to the point where you look around and realize that this isn’t an adventure that you went on anymore, this is what you are doing. You are creating life here.”
I have been thinking about it since she made the comment. There is a shift that happens from “wow…what an adventure and I can’t believe I am here and this is all new” to “I live here in this place and I am doing the normal things of day to day life and this is what we are doing.” It’s true. Perhaps this is that shift from tourist to resident. Perhaps it is acknowledging what is actually happening. Perhaps it is time. Perhaps it is getting over the fact I live in a touristy location to this is how I spend my time day to day. Perhaps it is the setting up of life…friends, work, study, fav grocery store, knowing the owners of cafes and spatis. But it does happen, this shift. And then we get to make decisions. Is this where we want to continue creating this life? For now? for how long? And is this how we want to create this life? I find that this conversation happens a lot for those of us feeling as though we are in the midst of transition or in a foreign land. Are we going to make this our land? Can we? or do we need to find another spot?
It was a good way of naming that shift in many of our lives. Having visitors helps me to remember every once in a while what a cool spot that I live in but lately I have been foregoing the new stuff every single week in order to reground and rest into my daily life. This isn’t a bad thing and I don’t give up the new things either but I am realizing the balance in order to live well here. I probably won’t go to church tomorrow because it would mean riding public transit all over the city every day this week. Or perhaps I will go to church because I like being known and need to worship in order to live my life well here. And either choice will be ok in this life I am creating here.
We don’t often get to step back and evaluate our life in those terms or we take it for granted or we forget and I am constantly grateful for the ways I get to continuously choose pieces of my life I could have never imagined.