Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Heimatsgefühl

Bit of an angsty post today.

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Lately I've been feeling a combination of homesickness and wanderlust. It's been four months since I landed in Germany, and I'm missing palm trees and cajun fries and sitting on the floor drinking tea and talking to my friends. At the same time, I've been shuttling back and forth from home to work and back, and staring at the map of Germany on my bedroom wall thinking about where to go next.

I didn't travel a whole lot in the first month of the summer. Went to Köln and Heidelberg with my mom and sister, then was in Hamburg for three weeks straight before going on a day trip to Lübeck. This past weekend I went to Salzburg, which was my first overnight out-of-town trip by myself. Later this month I will be heading to Rome for a weekend (using one of my vacation days so I have more time) and in September I will be traveling every weekend until I get home home, as in California. That leaves a few free weekends, and I do want to go to München and possibly visit friends in Hannover and Dresden. But likely only one of the three will happen.

The thing both homesickness and wanderlust have in common is not being satisfied with where you are now. And I do like Hamburg, but my life here is, mostly through my own low energy levels, very routine. Despite everything that I said about pushing my boundaries, I have made no friends with Hamburgers my own age, and as a result have been spending a lot of time alone. This is not a terrible state, although it does feel kind of lame to admit that I don't know how to make friends in unstructured environments. Solitude is good for thinking.

But I wonder if the rest of my life will be like this. I don't think so, but at the same time, I know that three months is a long time and I still haven't decided to put in the effort to finding new circles to run with. I mean, there's another guy from my university working in Hamburg and we met up once at the beginning of the summer and haven't hung out since. Last summer was also kind of like this, although I have explored a lot more (knowing the language helps immensely).

So, since I've been feeling a bit out of touch with my surroundings, I've been thinking about home. Heimat. Wo du dich wohl fühlst. What makes a home?

My first week of work we had an office trip to Berlin, and one of my coworkers suggested that I'd have some "Heimatsgefühl" in going back. I laughed--and then did. And this past weekend, my first bus transfer was in Berlin, and when I saw the yellow Berlin buses lined up my heart beat a little faster. I actually miss Berlin a lot, and as the first city I've lived in and felt like an independent adult, it will forever hold a special place for me.

The other place for which I have strong home-feeling is, of course, California. Specifically, college. I've been strongly missing hanging out with my friends, because group messaging is not the same as getting cajun fries at midnight or making tea for people or watching youtube videos when we're all supposed to be doing psets.

But look--the places for which I am the most homesick are 1) a city I only lived in for eleven weeks and 2) a campus on which I'll only be living for two more years. What gives? I think that, more than any physical place, what I miss is 1) learning and growing in a way that I had been wanting to learn and grow for a very long time, but didn't know how to activate and 2) being supported and understood by people who are going through similar struggles as I am and with whom I can live life deeper and more fully than I know how to on my own.

The ideal, of course, would be to be at home with myself. I think I used to have more of that than I do now, before college when I hadn't had the experience of living with my friends, when being alone didn't have such a high opportunity cost. So part of this summer is relearning that, because being comfortable with oneself alone is important. For me that probably means that I need (actually need) to get back to writing regularly, because I need to be in conversation with something, I need to build something.

I have no idea where I will end up settling after college. I have no idea if I will know anyone in the cities I will live in in the future--if they are indeed cities, because many rural areas are in sore need of better infrastructure. I don't know when the last time will be when I am together with the friends who lived with me on the same hall in freshman year, when the last time will be that I pass by the numerous other people I know by sight.

I will go back to Berlin for a weekend in September; and I will go back to campus a few weeks after that; and who knows, then, when the next time will be that I can call myself at home?

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