Choices, Change & Setting Things in Motion

Sometimes you have to do things to find out whether or not they work. Not consider them, not plan for their possible occurrence, not lie awake in bed turning them over and over in your head, directing a short film of ‘what would happen if …’ until you fall asleep. But do them. Pack a big rental van full of your stuff and drive it across the country, make a new home in a new town and wait and see if it works. If a job comes, if a social life follows, if living with someone is as happy and smooth and fulfilling an experience as you hoped for.

Sometimes, no, often, things do work out. What you did, that change you drove across a country to make happen, was a good thing. It showed you many new things about a place, taught you many new things about yourself, about a relationship. It strengthened that relationship. It strengthened you.

And then sometimes, that change, that choice, sets something else in motion. It prods a slumbering something into a state of wakefulness and this something is demanding and unpleasant and goes by the name of homesickness. And it’s waking up and stretching and making itself quite present at the same time as other little things aren’t working out as planned. A job doesn’t come, a social network doesn’t follow, both of these distractions a known remedy against the ache of missing the familiar.

We cannot know exactly how everything is going to work out before we do it. We just have to do it and see what happens.

Moving here was the right thing to do for a lot of reasons. The last 3 and a half months have been as wonderful as they have difficult. Difficult because teaching work didn’t come, difficult because, given time and an unfamiliar context within which to think about it, I realised how much I miss home. My Mum, my Dad, my friends. My language, my places, my independence, independence that comes from being confident in a place, in a context.  Able to drive, able to make oneself perfectly understood by strangers, able to sit down in a restaurant at a table of ten and engage one’s neighbour in witty, worthwhile conversation. Not being dependent on visas and foreigner offices. Not being a foreigner. I cried every time I watched a scene on TV that involved a group of girls and a bottle of wine. I conducted experiments on myself to see how quickly I could make myself cry by saying the words ‘I miss my Mum’. I cried a lot and most of the time, I didn’t really know why.

Bored and lonely in a small town near the Czech border, I realised, somewhere along the way, I had lost my lust, in the German sense of the word. I was tired. I still had big plans, I still had a list of countries the length of both my legs joined together that I wanted to visit, but my batteries were flat. Two years isn’t a particularly long time, in the grand scheme of things. Two years isn’t going to be a long time in my grand scheme of things, now that I have finally reconciled myself with the idea, the knowledge, that I will be splitting my time between two sides of the world for an indefinite period of time. But, for me, it is long enough to go without seeing my family and friends. Long enough to go without being home. It is a period of time in which enough can happen, enough curveballs can be thrown, enough can change, that the comfort of home is needed for balance and reassurance. And from where I was standing, tired and homesick, desperate for my Mum, I couldn’t fathom the idea of a future so far from home, a future the move to Weiden was the first sign of commitment to. The idea was too overwhelming. And not being able to fathom a future in this country made me cry for the otherwise beautiful relationship that was keeping me here.

Around this time of mass crying, I wrote this. And a lot of people told me some very clever things. My Mum said, when I told her I was having trouble wrapping my mind around being so far from home for an indefinite time, ‘all of these things you are realising, they are all part of the journey of your life – and while the choices will always be difficult, they are part of it too.’ And she was right – my journey, my choices. I had choices. Nothing was a given, nothing is ever a given, unless we choose to make it so.  A reader said, ‘every place you live in peels away a layer and shows you something about yourself.’ And I thought about summers in Santorini, living and working in Münster, moving to Weiden, and I thought about everything the past two years had peeled away, everything they had set in motion. I thought about my choice to move to Weiden, how it was the right one because it peeled away layers that needed to be shed so I could see what I needed to see to make the next choice in this ongoing, mapless journey; that if Germany, through my relationship, was going to be as big a part of my future as Australia, I had to go home for a while. I had to clear my head. Recharge my batteries. Get my lust back. I had to make an almost selfish choice to save my own peace of mind, to keep my own life on track, to keep myself together and in a better position to take on the implications and consequences of my German future.

So, at the end of July, it’s back to Sydney for me. Not for too long – long enough to be ready to leave it again. I think a good twelve months will have me longing for Europe once more, ready to get back in the saddle, ready to be a foreigner again. I need to work, take advantage of creative opportunities, look at further education options. I need to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday, my cousins’s engagement. I need to see my friend’s baby, be a bridesmaid. I need to have another Christmas at the house I grew up in, before it sells, a warm Christmas, surrounded by family. I need to tell my 92 year old Pa about my trip to Kupferzell, have cups of tea with my Nana. I need to hang out on the couch with my 13 year old dog, I don’t know how much longer we’ll have him for. I need to spend time with my Mum and Dad, my brother and sister, my friends. I need to do all of these things, fatten myself up, replenish my reserves, ready myself for the uncertainty of what will follow – another year in Weiden and then, who knows? Not SG’s job, that’s for sure, and they’re the only bloody compass we have.

I am trying to decide whether I see this as a new adventure or a regroup. Whether this is me launching my ship into new waters, or nosing it home to rest a while and plot the next journey. I know going home will bring a lot of new things, on top of the comfortable old. I know there are new things to be seen and done, new people to meet, new experiences to be had. I know going home will present new opportunities to be grabbed – and I suspect all of this newness will likely stem from having been away for the past couple of years. I have new things to offer, new things I want to try, new skills to put to the test. So I suppose it will be a bit of both. A return to the old and familiar will be as much a new adventure as it will be a welcome return. In the context of my current German life, packing another bag and getting on a plane to return to Sydney for a while, have a long distance relationship, leave behind this life I have grown very accustomed to, is another change. Another big life change that will set in motion another slew of possibilities, changes, occurrences.

And I want to take you all with me. I want you to excuse the break in German programming for a while, and come to my home city, see my country. I plan on opening up A Big Life to whatever Australia has to throw at it, seeing my home through the kind of eyes I have been seeing the rest of the world for the past two years. I want you to stick your toes in the sand with me and stand beneath Australia’s great, expansive sky. Eat our food, swim in our beaches, see our art, learn about our culture. I need you all to stick around for this next part of the ride.

SG will join me for six weeks in December and have his first warm Christmas with my extremely loud family and witness the madness that is Sydney on NYE. I will get to show him my home, give him the chance to finally say, ‘oh, this is why she is like she is’ (likely upon hearing the phenomenon that is all the women in my extended family laughing simultaneously). And then, of course, I will be back. Back to my life here, my relationship, my apartment, my wardrobe, my 15 teacups. Back to snowy Christmases, heavy jackets and schnitzel.

And yes, I cry every time I think about saying goodbye to SG at the airport. You just can’t win.

Be seeing you soon.

Main image credit

38 Replies to “Choices, Change & Setting Things in Motion”

  1. Great post and I LOVE this line: “A return to the old and familiar will be as much a new adventure as it will be a welcome return.” There is a deeper, more general meaning in there somewhere that will have me pondering for a bit. 🙂

  2. Wow. I almost cried when I read this post. It’s so beautifully written that I felt the pain of your decision as I read it. I also know how you feel having left the UK to live in Cairo after university. I then faced the same agonizing decision as you did when I decided to come home to England two years later. It’s hard, but change always opens new doors and adds to the richness of life’s experience. Good luck – and I look forward to hearing your stories from Australia.

  3. Wow. I almost cried when I read this. It’s so beautifully written that I could feel the pain of your decision as I read it. I also know how you feel having left the UK after university to live in Cairo, then making the same agonizing decision to return to England two years later. But change always opens new doors and adds to the richness of life. Good luck…and I look forward to hearing stories from Australia x

  4. Congratulations on taking this step! It is good to acknowledge your feeling of homesickness, since very often we feel we have to shoulder this burden and be stronger than anyone else.
    I believe it is not so much about which path we choose but how we walk it. I am sure, as you said, being back in Australia for you will be a different experience from before. Maybe some things will become clearer, some new paths may be opening up.
    I am eager to read your tales about your own country and hope you can refill on all the energy that you need to live your BIG LIFE! Good luck!!!

  5. Wish you good luck. Always remember: It’s only 24 hours by plane.
    Get a break, relax, and come back soon. Refuel your soul. I’m looking forward to posts from Sydney.

  6. Hi! I had a long distance relationship with my German boyfriend when I went back to the States for about 8 months. It sucks. Lots of crying all the time. Just want to warn you– but you’ll survive and your relationship will be even better for it! We are married now (and coincidentally in another long distance situation- Frankfurt/Vienna. We just can’t stay put!) and I love knowing that we made it through that and it makes me confident that we can manage anything! Enjoy being back home– your post made me really homesick!!

  7. What a difficult decision to have to make and what a momentous move. I was hoping you would be coming to WEBMU in September so we could meet up. Guess I’ll have to visit my family in Australia in the next year so we can grab a coffee together in Sydney.

  8. I can completely understand where you are coming from; the need to reconnect, to find yourself and recharge. Living in Germany as an expat is difficult. It’s so hard to find your groove, your friends, the new way of life. I’ve loved reading your blog and will continue loving it as you journey back home and start your adventure in the familiar – yet different. Best of luck and enjoy your last few weeks!

  9. Can totally relate – have been in a similar position. Have you thought about being an English Language Assistant – in some German schools this means full-on teaching at a Gymnasium, for example, as I experienced. You don’t have to be a Brit. You could also approach local schools in the Weiden area to ask if they’re interested in taking you on through the program, I know people who have done that . http://www.britishcouncil.org/languageassistants-am-i-eligible.htm
    http://www.kmk-pad.org/

  10. Oh I cannot get enough of your writing! I think there have been plenty of moments when I needed to re-charge my batteries but you see, I never quite thought of it! Instead I burned to the ground on 2 occasions which wasn’t too healthy.

    Look forward to reading more about your journey & your time back home soon!

  11. Being away from the ones you love is really tough, and seeing as they are on two separate parts of the globe, finding balance can definitely be difficult. I wish you luck and I can’t wait to read your posts about Australia for the next year.

  12. Ok, so I found out where you can apply: http://www.kmk-pad.org/programme/ausl-fsa.html#c5616
    The Brit council wouldn’t be your first point of contact after all, surprisingly 😉 I just remembered folks from Canada, US, Oz being on the training course in Köln, many moons ago. If you decide to go for it, it’s a cushty job – tax free, health insurance included – 12 hours contact teaching time…all you need to do is find a suitable school to write a glowing recommendation.

  13. Sometimes you take one step back before taking two steps further. It happened to me after 18 months in Melbourne, Australia, I missed Europe too much so I came back (and my partner with me). I also knew deep inside that in no time I would be missing Australia but I had to do it. Now one year later, we have booked our tickets back to Melbourne and it feels right. I wish you best of luck! 🙂

  14. It’s very hard to be far from family and friends and all that’s loved and familiar. I know my first two years in Germany were very difficult. Everyone is different. Some need to tough it out and some need to retreat for a while. The important thing is for you to do what’s best for you. Too many give up too soon or stay when things won’t get any better for them – ignoring what the right thing for them is. All the best to you!

  15. It’s such a tough situation. I lived in the middle of nowhere Canada for over two years because of my South African boyfriend’s job (I’m American) and were it not for the constant travelling during that time, I don’t know if I would have been able to stick it out. We’re married now and we live in Vancouver, which is a good compromise. I need the city and he can’t work in the U.S. without re-doing his medical residency. I am much, much closer to home than you are, which certainly softens the blow (and everyone speaks English), but I definitely know what a conflicting choice this is. I have Australian friends here, and they miss the sun and people all of the time. I have one friend who moved back to Sydney after living in Vancouver for a couple of years and now she misses Vancouver! That’s the thing–once you open your heart up to other places and people, your definition of home changes. It doesn’t exist in one city or one house. It’s everywhere you’ve ever been. I hope you enjoy your time in your “first” home and figure out your next direction. It’s brave to take stock, to retreat when you’re not sure. You don’t want to get stuck in a life not of your own making. Best of luck! I lokk forward to reading about this next journey.

  16. Very nicely put Truth and Cake – being originally from Switzerland and having teamed up with an Aussie man over 30 years ago and living in Sydney, I can very much relate to your blog – I do call Sydney home but there will always be aspects of Switzerland I miss. But the world is only a village these days! Good luck Liv

  17. it’s very fascinating to get an insight into your thoughts on this very tough decision. ItI know homesickness, it’s one of the hardest feelings to experience because it overshadows everything and takes away your ability to think rationally. Your decision seems to be very wise, sometimes going home is the only remedy for homesickness. And another thing I’ve also experienced is how spending time with family & loved ones really does recharge your batteries and hep you to focus and get back on your feet, even if you don’t notice it right away. Also, being german, I can understand how you find it hard to adjust. Germans aren’t the most outgoing people and sometimes their attitude towards strangers is almost as cold as the weather. But (I don’t know if this really helps, coming from a complete stranger) I think you made the right decision and I wish you all the best for the future and good luck with your relationship, I hope it’ll work out (but since SG seems to support you & the decision I think it’s going to be just fine)

    1. This means a lot, thank you for your lovely words. I agree, we will be just fine and the decision is the healthiest one in the long run. And after some time at home, I just know I will be whining, ‘get me out of here’ and be ready to bounce back to Europe.

  18. Liv, this was an amazing read. I’ve been following your blog now since before I decided to make one of my own, and in all honesty, you are a big piece of my inspiration and excitement about someday, veilleicht, moving to Germany. Your writing is wonderful, and always includes a good deal of philosophy–whether intentional or not–that I thoroughly enjoy. 🙂 I wish you the best of luck back in Australia, and I am looking forward to your Aussie posts!

    1. Thank you very, very much. I am glad you find this blog helpful and inspiring and all of that – it is as helpful to me to write it out – therapy! And good luck with one day moving to Germany, it is worth it, this is a beautiful country.

  19. wow. what a great post and what fantastic timing! I am in south America and it looks like I will be heading home soon to the UK. I have the same feelings exactly and your post cheered me up a little as I am feeling very divided. Thanks for posting 🙂

  20. I realise this post is an old one, but its only just today struck a deep chord with me now that Ive been here in Germany for half a year. Maybe its because Ive been holed up in my apartment with flu for almost a week, and when I feel so miserable I just want my mum and her famous Chicken soup..
    The first months have flown by in a a flurry of distraction, excitement and busy-ness:settling into the pretty little apartment, buying the Ikea furniture (the challenge of assembling it), finding enough teaching work, getting used to rural living and the arcane rural bus timetables, finding my way through the complicated health insurance system and finally managing to negotiate a policy..so much to deal with, I didn’t have the time or energy to think of who and where I had left behind..and I couldn’t afford to think about the past when the present and future needed all my energy.
    Now, suddenly and without warning the suppressed homesickness has started subversively popping up into my dreams: I just woke up in tears, thinking I was back by the sea in Auckland, on a familiar favourite street, clinging to my mother and feeling a terror contemplating the thousands of kilometres I was choosing to put between us. The ocean keeps coming into my dreams and I suddenly jerk awake in the cold, grey dawn of a German winter morning and suddenly remember where I live now.

    Liv, just as you wrote above, its the same things I miss: the freedom of being able to jump into my own car any old time of the day or night and just do stuff when I want to. Having a bunch of wonderful girlfriends with a long shared history, always available to share a flat white or a glass of wine with (oh I miss a decent flat white) being able to speak in my own language, being understood by strangers anywhere and being able to call doctors and government departments without the trepidation of language barriers and complex misunderstandings.
    Most of all I miss my mum and my two lovely daughters so much it hurts.

    Im not only dealing with the German language (which is challenging enough) but the Swabian dialect which I find incomprehensible. Deep and impenetrable Swabian is what most bus drivers insist on speaking, even when it seems the majority of their passengers are either immigrants or tourists (the kind of people who tend to use public transport) and generally don’t speak Swabian.

    Of course I love Germany, especially south Germany with its gorgeous landscapes (I live near Kupferzell and Rothenburg for goodness sake!) sleepy Medieval villages combined with tasteful modern prosperity. I love the glorious, cheap and plentiful food and the fact that I can have enjoyable work and a pretty damn good standard of living here. However, while my earnings are decent, they’re probably not ever going to be quite enough to fly home regularly and deal to the homesickness. I envy you being able to pop back and forth so frequently, it would make living here feel like not such a huge and irrevocable decision. Until then I will wait and see which side wins: the day time, rational me who knows it makes sense to stay here (I could never afford the sky high rents back in Auckland) or my unsettling nighttime subconscious who yearns for family, white sand beaches, the Coromandel coast and the feel of hot sun on flesh.

What do you think?