Time to face the truth: After almost two years in Germany I’m going home. I’m staying at my friend’s in Stadtgarten again and the following runs through my mind.
- What now?
- Was all this really worth it?
- How am I going to spend the next weeks/months?
OK, there’s really not a lot happening over these past few days. I guess the Oasis song “Whatever” is the theme. There’s plenty beer and company to take my mind off the above for a while, but that’s not the answer. Though yes, I am indecisive, I want to address them seriously. I feel that I have learned, I have developed, I have grown. Not only have I had a great time. I’ve built self-reliance, self-management, social skills, determination, mental fortitude. But in terms of outward appearance, which everything is judged by, that counts for nothing. People can’t see it so it doesn’t matter. Justified or not, that’s what’s focused on: what is immediately apparent, what you can see & feel.
The problem is, the things I’ve gained are things people can’t see. They can’t see the emotional rollercoaster, the learning experience, the development of language, skills and all else it’s been. I feel like a different person with all the realisations I’ve hit. Though to others, I’ve just been on holiday for two years! Yes, there were many days I could stay in bed until whenever I wanted but every morning (or afternoon) I did that, I regret now. That’s not what this is, or was, about. Here’s a short list of some things I’ve done that I never thought I would:
- Became conversationally fluent in a foreign language (German)
- Went on TU Dortmund student radio to talk about a potential Brexit
- The ‘ESNters’ ERASMUS gathering in Dresden. We travelled the day after the Brexit vote, just following all the developments and unfolding social media reaction on the journey.
- Helped other Erasmus students with a TV report on Brexit for a class
- Halloween in Düsseldorf and Movie Park theme park near Essen
- Spent the next Halloween in Prague
- Experienced Amsterdam
- Travelled the furthest east I’ve ever been
- Spent New Year abroad for the first time, in Copenhagen, Denmark
- Learnt better co-operation, leadership, building and maintaining relationships, working according to own & others’ strengths and weaknesses
But of course, in the present, no-one can see that. It wasn’t just “a great experience”, there was a real sense of momentum: every day continuing where the last left off. It took sacrifice but I was rewarded with constant, accumulative, learning, pushing towards things that in the past, I’d never imagined and could only have dreamt of.
In the end there is some good news. The only things that affect you are those that you let affect you. What really counts is your response. If you had a traumatic experience, or had a terrible childhood, fine. Easier said than done I know, but do what you can: not to allow the past to have too much of an impact on your present and future. You only ever experience what your mind and emotions are telling you, remember?
This includes what others are thinking and saying about you. If you don’t let it get to you, you don’t have the problem. Life, for me, is about finding something of personal relevance and seeing how far you can take it. Then take what you learned, transfigure it, help move on to something else. Doesn’t that sound to you a bit like “living more fully”? Just as I’m trying with this blog.
Main Concerns: Uncertainty, Post-travel Blues
I don’t think I’m the only one in this position. People only seeing me “as is”, basically forgetting all I’ve done, all I’ve learned, how much I’ve grown The first week or so, it’s great, everyone wants to hear about your adventures and seems to find it genuinely interesting. Then the post-travel blues kick in, and you’re only asked questions about your life: “So what you doing now?” I wish I could just tell people I don’t know, but will get back to them as soon as I do.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you ever been here before?
<Previous: Part II: Tips & Reflections