Back to the real world

My first day at the new old job was last Friday. So far it’s been a happy start. I’m glad I’m easing back into things with only half a week’s worth of working hours. I’m glad I’m finally going to have an income that – while way below what someone with a university degree should earn, in my opinion – frees my parents of having to financially support me. That is big, you guys. I will barely make it each month; with student loans and health insurance eating up most of my salary, I won’t be able to put anything into savings or splurge on stuff for fun. But I will be off government welfare and off my parents’ backs. I’m working a grown-up job and supporting myself, and it was about time I made it here.

One of my first projects was to write copy for an ad campaign for one of the company’s partners, Deutsche Bahn (Germany’s railway). The ads will be placed on bus and subway stops in Germany’s major cities so I’ll likely be able to see my work realized right here in Cologne soon. I’m grateful that my supervisors have enough confidence in my work to let me dive right back in literally on my first day back. It’s exciting to work on projects like this behind a desk and then to get to see the results out in the world when you leave the office.

Downtown Cologne has me back. The office is just off of the city’s main square. I’ve missed being in the midst of all the noise and the people and the colors; the tourists, the traffic, the neon signs.

The subway has me back. Morning rush hour has me back. Downtown’s lunch places have me back.

The past six months have been such a colossal waste of time that I try not to think about it. I am exactly where I could’ve been last July, and yet I suppose I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

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The first snow of the year


The thing with snow in this part of Germany is that it’s usually short-lived so it is actually extremely stressful for people like me who love snow more than anything. As soon as it starts and the temperature is just below zero and some gorgeous white begins to blanket everything – even here in the city – I’m like: OH GOD THIS COULD BE IT. This might be the only day of snow we get this season. Cancel all plans. You CANNOT miss this. Ohmygodohmygod. Get gloves and a scarf. Where is a good place to enjoy this? I don’t know I don’t know. It might stop any minute now. I need a thicker coat because I’mma stay outside until it stops. WHERE IS THE CAMERA. I DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT SHOES FOR THIS. I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS SINCE LAST MAY. WHY HAVE I NOT BEEN PREPARING. PLEASE LET IT STILL BE SNOWING WHEN I’M DRESSED AND AT THE PARK. OK I’M OFFICIALLY PANICKING. OH GOD.

— And then I got to the park, and it was perfect. Just all white and quiet and peaceful, and soft and cold and lovely. A few people were walking their dogs. Cars’ headlights made the freshly fallen snow sparkle. And I was just wandering along, smiling like a lunatic, caught between the joy of the moment and the lingering fear that it might be over by the next day. I looked up at the planes coming in from Barcelona and Casablanca, dipping through the thick clouds, and I imagined the pilots announcing: “We’ll be landing at Cologne airport in approximately 10 minutes. Local temperatures are below zero and it is snowing heavily. Thank you for flying with us and have a great day.” And I could just hear the passengers groan about how much they missed the sun and the heat already, and I thought: YOU IDIOTS, you got this so wrong.

Snow turns the world into such a magical, beautiful place. How can you not want this every day?

Hometown art

I found these two Cologne themed postcards in a bookstore a few weeks ago. Aren’t they lovely? I especially like the bottom one with all the different icons representing everything Cologne – or Köln, in German – is known for: Carnival, the locally brewed beer, its shopping streets, the Kranhäuser, the riverboats, its football club, the cathedral, the vast green areas, its zoo, Old Town.

I plan on framing these and putting them somewhere in my room, or maybe the kitchen.

(Postcards by: cityproducts.de)

Gray day


I read “Fall of Giants” until 4am last night. I finished it. The First World War is not an easy subject matter for those early morning hours but I couldn’t put it down. And I really wanted to get started on “Gone Girl”. I’ve been eyeing it, just sitting there on my nightstand. Now I can finally dig in – after wrapping up this post.

The roommate is home sick with a very unkind stomach bug that I’m really, really hoping I won’t catch. It’s been quiet and gloomy around here, each of us holed up in our bedrooms. Not really eating or talking.

So I went for a long walk in the afternoon, to the city park about 5 minutes from our apartment. It’s one of the city’s major recreational areas. Unfortunately, it’s located between two major Autobahnen (Germany’s speedways). The A3 and A4 intersect right at the north-west corner of the city park. And incoming flights to Cologne-Bonn Airport approach landing right above. I love seeing the planes fly so low right above me but- This so-called recreational area is not exactly quiet and idyllic, or really very recreational at all. The air was crisp (albeit polluted, one can safely assume) and dry and there were none of the usual freaks at the park, though, so I was glad I went. Oh, except for the middle-aged dude with the beer belly who jumped up onto tree branches and attempted to do pull-ups. Like: WHAT are you doing, sir? He was a little weird.

Goodbye autumn, I hardly knew ya


Christmas markets open in Cologne tomorrow and with that winter is officially here. All the major squares around the city will be crowded with little huts covered in fake snow, Santas and Rudolphs climbing up their roofs, and the smells of all the delicious foods will be everywhere. I cannot wait for the first Glühwein of the season; my freezing hands wrapped around the hot cup, cheeks red from the cold and the wine and the joy all around me.

But I’m also a little sad to say goodbye to fall. It came and went in the blink of an eye. I love the colors of fall, days getting shorter and colder, the late September sun, my birthday, cozy nights at home – all of it – and somehow this year it all passed me by without my really noticing or appreciating the season.

All the more reason to dive head first into winter, then, and make the most of it before my favorite half of the year is already over again!

Stream of consciousness II

I run into Santa at a stop light. An actual (crazy) person dressed as Santa casually meandering about the neighborhood. I decide I like that dude. I also decide this is a sign that it’s finally okay to start playing Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”.

***

I go see yesterday’s hipster girl for my hair cut and I tell her what I want, and she says that cut would look awful with my body size. She says size and not type, and I notice. I look at our bodies in the mirror, her much slimmer one next to mine, and I feel a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. She says the cut I want is so out of style and that I don’t strike her as the kind of girl who visits the hair dresser often. I hate that her comments get to me. When she asks me what I do and how old I am, I lie. I hate that, too.

The cut is 36 euros and I walk away with almost the exact same hair and an awful feeling. Thanks for nothing, hipster girl.

***

The roommate and I go to the mall. She needs new bras, I need a reason to leave the house. Some Christmas decorations are already up but they’re not lit yet and just look sad. There are seven different shoe stores and we go to them all. I remember why I hate shopping with others. I’m too impatient. We browse Christmas stuff and buy lights for our hallway and a reindeer for our kitchen window. It feels nice: to invest in the coziness of our home. We stop to sit down for some coffee and look out at Köln-Kalk in the dark. Head lights in one direction, break lights in the other. People in between; pushing strollers, riding bikes, dragging suitcases. And the moonlit clouds above it all. The roommate orders a Belgian waffle which turns out to be huge so I have a few bites. I don’t enjoy it.

I don’t enjoy much of anything these days, and it worries me. I’m not myself. Everything is sad and lonely and complicated and serious.

***

I buy a train ticket home for next Tuesday. They have a special offer for a high speed train on my connection; I can’t pass that up. Home in an hour and forty-seven minutes. 215 kilometers in less than an album’s worth of music. My mom is hosting a fancy seafood dinner and I want to be there for that. “You’re always welcome”, she emphasizes. “Come home.”

Yes. I think I need to.