You’d think after moving countries so many times (Germany is now the…wait, let me count it up…7th country I have lived in), I’d be comfortable with the difficulties that a change of scenery (and weather, and subway map, and bureaucracy, and language) entails.
There is always an initial honeymoon period, which usually involves me walking around my new city in something akin to a rose-tinted, honey-soaked, magic fairy-dust bubble of happiness, proclaiming said city to be ‘perfect’ and everything and everyone in said city to be ‘wonderful’ and that I shall never, ever leave, because why would anyone live anywhere else? But sometime after, maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks, things will start to go off track.
‘Man,’ I’ll think, with all the weight and seriousness that accompanies a 14-year-old’s epiphany, ‘Moving countries is hard.‘
And, I have, once again, unfortunately, inevitably, hit that point in Germany.
There are things that you need to make the transition to a new life in a new country easier: a home. A job (or, at least, a reason to not spend 15 hours a day on the internet). Friends. Money. Things that you enjoy doing in the new city.
It seems though, that no matter how hard you try, you will fail to get all your ducks in a row. One thing will be missing. Or, if it’s not missing, something will trip you up that didn’t trip you up the last time. In a way that you didn’t expect and have no prior experience of.
I have a home, which I love. So, tick. I’m fortunate enough to have enough money not to be too worried. Tick, tick. I am getting a routine sorted, and there are lots of interesting places to walk around town. I don’t really have many friends, and I’m bad at getting in contact with the ones I do have, because I’m worried they can smell the desperation off me. But, at least I know what I should be doing, even if I haven’t yet gotten off my arse to do it yet.
I have a full-time job, which is both a blessing and a curse. I am constantly reminded by people how remarkable it is that I found a job so quickly. Not only a job, but a FULL-TIME job. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am and I try to feel lucky, but a lot of the time I feel stressed and tired. I haven’t been in full-time employment for 5 months and this is energetic, emotional full-time employment. This isn’t staring at a computer screen all day, this is running after kids. It feels like your emotions are in hypersensitive mode every second of the day. It’s drama, drama, drama, because this is what children are like. One minute they love you, the next they hate you. One minute you love them, the next you hate them. It’s exhausting. I started the job 3 and a half weeks after I got here. And whilst I’m grateful (GRATEFUL) to have it, the gear shift of changing countries was probably enough for any one person. Throwing a new job into the mix, where everyone speaks German to me (a language I barely understand), was ambitious to say the least. Also, the exhaustion certainly doesn’t help me in my quest to get out of the house and be social, I have to be honest.
Apart from the country change and the nature of my work, full-time hours are their own new and exciting struggle. There’s a time, usually around 7am on a Tuesday or Wednesday, when the week seems endless, the weekend never long enough (and, by extension, the year endless, the holidays almost non-existent; your life endless and it’s meaning not in anyway clear and/or present). I think I’m finding it harder at the moment because I always thought this wouldn’t be me – I was going to be one of those special people who lived on passion and air and the occasional arts grant. Whenever I’ve had full-time work in the past I’ve always considered it to be a temporary state of being. I’ve had plans of places I’d soon be going, projects I was working on over the weekends, the evenings. Full-time work was never permanent and it certainly wasn’t my reason for existing. I always had other dreams on the go. I don’t really have that anymore. And whilst I actually think that’s healthy and I’m glad of the decision I’ve made, it’s a huge change to the way I perceive myself and my life. I know this probably sounds depressing, but I don’t really know what I’m looking forward to anymore. I used to drift off to sleep telling myself stories of future spectacular achievements I could look forward to (embarrassing, I know), but I a) am not working towards these anymore b) don’t believe any of them would happen even if I *was* working towards them.
Which brings me to this exciting and new instalment of ‘What to Expect When You Move Countries.’
This week, I lost the ability to sleep.
And, after 3 extremely frustrating nights spent tossing and turning, attempting to count sheep and breaths, trying to meditate, trying to tell myself stories, trying to listen to music, to podcasts, trying to think of nice things (‘Raindrops and Roses and Whiskers on Kittens…’), I gave into the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and hopelessness racing around my head and let myself have a full-on, naked, hysterical crying, dry retching, panic attack in the bathroom.
Ah, international travel. It’s so glamorous and exciting, isn’t it?
I’ve never had a panic attack before. There was a detached part of me that was quite interested in the whole event. It also felt oddly good after it was all over, as if this was the worst it could possibly get and I’d survived it and, so therefore, there was nothing more that I could get worried about.
Of course, then I got gastro about 2 hours later, which wasn’t necessarily worse, but it was confusing and upsetting and certainly more than any one person should have to put up with in a single nighttime, especially when you’ve got so many other things to deal with, like a language you don’t understand and German bureaucracy and having no friends and a growing sense of isolation, but, I guess Norovirus didn’t get the message.
Anyway, the upside is that the Norovirus gave me back my lost superpower of sleep and I’ve now hibernated for about 13 hours. I’ve had a day in bed with Parks & Rec (because there is no problem that Leslie Knope cannot fix) and the panic and anxiety has subsided (for the moment). It doesn’t solve those pesky bigger questions of what I’m doing in Germany in the first place and how do you get up for work happily at 7am on a Tuesday and what do people dream about when they’re not dreaming they’re going to become movie stars? But it certainly makes the questions much quieter in my head.