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.
My stomach is in knots over New Year’s plans right now, and I hate that. I just want to enjoy Christmas and then deal with the inevitable depression I (and many others, it seems) go through every January but not have to deal with worrying about what to do on New Year’s Eve on top of that. As things stand, I’ll be at my parents’ who will be celebrating with my aunt and uncle at home. I will tag along awkwardly, 24 years old, a party scrooge who’d rather just read or watch a movie or walk the never-ending online world every single night than socialize and get drunk. It’s just who I am. I understand the benefits of getting together with a bunch of people to ring in the new year and that it can be fun; I’m just not comfortable at typical New Year’s parties. More to the point: I don’t know any people in my hometown (not anymore) or in Cologne that I would enjoy socializing with. People who like what I like, who understand where I’m coming from when I say “I don’t like parties” without judging or patronizing me or finding it weird or different or boring. And of course that’s a huge part of why I’m upset right now. The realization that you don’t really have people around you that you want to spend time with, who get you, is sad. Painful even.
I have friends like that. But they are nowhere near me, geographically. It normally doesn’t bother me as much but right now it would be damn nice to have a couple people here at home, or even anywhere in the same country as me, that would think it’s a great idea to get together on New Year’s and cook and watch a movie and chat and have champagne and count down to 2013 and be in bed before 6am. I considered escaping to Sweden, where I have several friends who would enjoy an evening like this and where I already saw myself greeting the new year with a long early morning walk through the fresh snow, but since the idea was so last-minute, said friends already had plans. I would just hang out in my Cologne apartment but I had agreed last month that my roommate could “rent it out” to her dad and his girlfriend because I didn’t expect to be in Cologne for New Year’s.
And so mostly, I think, I’m just upset that I didn’t make plans earlier – plans I would look forward to because they’re not just What People Do On New Year’s but what I like doing. I’m upset that I actually care what my parents and aunt and uncle think when I end up spending New Year’s with them, that I already feel embarrassed about not knowing what to say when they will ask the inevitable question: “How come you’re not partying with your friends tonight?” I so badly need to work on these ridiculous insecurities, and work towards creating a life that makes me happy, rather than trying to fit whatever only acceptable mold I think exists.
I want to move to Sweden before I turn 27. I am 24 right now. I don’t have a job, neither here in Germany, nor, of course, in Sweden. I have not yet looked into the details of what emigration to Sweden might mean (I’m talking work and residence permits, insurance issues, tax and social security stuff both there and in Germany) and I have not saved up any money. I am also still far from being fluent in Swedish. In other words, I am not ready to move there right now – not at all. This is why I’m giving myself three years to plan and prepare.
Today, this is all I have: my love for Sweden and the irrepressible urge to live there. (Reasons should be fairly obvious by now. Feel free to browse this blog and read future posts, and you’ll know what I love most about Sweden.) When I think of what I want my life to look like 5 or 10 years from now, the only thing I’m certain about is that I want to live in Sweden. There will be setbacks and complications and everyday life in Sweden won’t be as magical as spending half a year there as a student. I know these things. I still think life in Sweden would be a better base for me to become happy than life in Germany (or anywhere else), and I’ve thought so for two years now. So I’m going to take that step.
My plans may change again between now and 2015, of course. I couldn’t possibly say whether or not I will still feel that strong urge to be in Sweden three years from now. But I always do things on a whim; I wait until I feel like it and take action only then; I hesitate and don’t see the point of planning ahead; I’m scared of setting goals because it means risking failure. This time, I want things to be different.
I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite Swedish words: glansdagar, meaning glory days. Let’s just say that’s very fitting for my plans and ignore the risk of failure, alright?
If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
(Graphic source: Marcus Eriksson)
Sadly, I want everything but for my parents to be able to say, “See, we told you so.”
All I do is guided by that. I am, I guess, still a stubborn teen at 23 years old. I just cannot follow the advice they give, because they may end up being right. Their tips, their experiences, their lessons learned, their warnings make me so angry. Let me make a mistake. Let me fall and stand up on my own. Let me get hurt and let me taste true success that isn’t, in some roundabout way, of your making.
My own pride and insecurities, my inner rebel, my naive belief in a life outside of what everyone expects, or maybe something else altogether, make it impossible for me to want to please them. I cannot stand the thought of the self-righteous smiles on their faces, as their predictions prove true; as life proves tied to the same patterns it has been tied to for generations.
I want to yell at them. I want to have irrefutable proof that I know better, that I’m smart enough to know my way, that everything they think of I have already thought of. I feel smothered and belittled. I’m angry at them and myself that I leave promising doors closed just because they told me to open them.
Get over it, I’d like to tell myself. I can’t, though. I can’t.