Anyways, I thought I would write about something that I have been thinking a lot about lately. It is somewhat of an apology, I suppose, but in a equal or larger part also a realization that I have had/been in the process of having recently.
When I came to Germany, as I have advised on this blog before, I tried to have as few expectations as possible. I recommended it (and still do) because when your exchange is approached in this manner, everything that happens is a plus. And I did follow this advice personally, except for one expectation that I had that I was too embarrassed to come right out and say, that I think I have only ever alluded to or offhandedly commented about.
I entered this exchange year expecting and emphasis on the "change" in exchange. In other, more direct, words, I entered this year hoping to be changed. Not drastically - I liked me - but in more minor aspects of myself. And in a way, this has happened - I have definitely changed, but not in the specific way I wanted, And now here I am, thinking that this is a good thing. There have always been different sayings out there, that what you want is not necessarily what you need, and I have come to realize that what I wanted was not what I needed - and that what I've gotten is, thankfully, what I needed. And not only that, but from looking back at it, it is what I should have been wanting in the first place.
I think the best way to describe myself is a quiet social butterfly, someone that enjoys being in on the social action, but also enjoys my alone time, and may not be the loudest person in the room. I came into this year wanting to come out of the quiet part of that description, because I thought that if I shed that, it would be easier to make more friends - that I would be more "friend attractive". I wanted to be able to make more friends quicker and easier. This is not to say I don't have many friends in Canada - I have plenty - and also not to say that I have had trouble making new friends - also not true - but rather that I'd noticed that some people find it easier to make new friends and just get a conversation going with someone totally new than I do. And I guess I actually have developed that quite a bit more - I can strike up a conversation much better now, I can get along much quicker with people that I've just met.
But to be perfectly honest, I thought I would achieve this through making a billion and six friends during my time in Germany. And to continue this streak of perfect honesty, that is not what has happened for me. I don't have many friends here - but I have realized that this is exactly what I needed, a year with few friends by my side, with just me and my thoughts.
A person needs to be perfectly comfortable with themselves before they can expect to be perfectly comfortable with others, and for others to be perfectly comfortable with them. At the beginning of my year, I had almost no German, and I couldn't converse with other people in my classes much. I couldn't develop relationships, and it eventually ended up leaving me feeling alone in school. And at first this really got to me. I was constantly so sad, or in between swings of being sad, because I didn't have friends here in Germany, or I didn't feel that I had any strong connections outside of my host family.
But this is what I have been getting at all along. I think that a year alone is kind of what I needed. Over this year, I have learned to be content with, to be comfortable with, myself. And I think that I have been needing this. When I think of the people I consider as the best "friend attractive" examples, what is actually there, is a comfortableness with the self. And a year without too many people has forced me to spend time with myself, to be comfortable alone. I've always appreciated the alone moments, but I think a person really has to learn how to be okay with being alone, before they can go out and meet too many new people. Otherwise you are depending on these other people, which in the end is not fair to them, and it is not fair to yourself - you deserve to be able to stand on your own, whether surrounded by people or not. It is good to have a support system, but it is even better to be able to depend on yourself. When a building (here is an analogy, I have no clue if this is actually accurate) is able to stand perfectly fine on it's own, the supports enrich it, and add something more to it. When a building must depend substantially on the supports in order to stay standing, it is just adding stress to the supports.
I don't even know if what I am saying makes sense. It makes sense in my head, and I was able to fully and clearly explain this to my German Learning teacher (in German, come to think of it, which makes me proud) but now the words seem to blur with one another and twist the meanings and muddy everything up.
I think I must apologize to the people in my school who maybe tried to talk to me in the beginning, and couldn't because of language. And after a while, that wasn't too much of a barrier, but I felt so utterly alone and sad, that I think I may have on occasion accidentally pushed people away. (Not to forget to mention I had an extreme shocker of an experience in Berlin that I haven't shared here, or really with anyone, and I had to deal with some repercussions of it - and I pushed people away after that too.) But although it is disappointing that not much has developed for friendships outside of my German Learning class, I am still thoroughly grateful that it worked out in the way that it did, for the reason that I explained earlier. I am now comfortable with myself, which I think is the first step to being able to be happy in life in general. I know I certainly feel happier right now, more stable right now, than I have in a long time. I've had time to meet myself, to learn about myself, and also to have some pretty amazing experiences along the way.
I have had so many stories that I never imagined I would have. First off, traveling to a new country, to live with a new family, and learn a new language - the root, awesome story. Secondly, just other really cool stories - such as dancing until 3 A.M. in a cabin in the middle of the woods in Poland - that I could never have imagined happening to me. And they did. I have been, thanks to my amazing host family, able to travel to so many countries, see so many things I had only ever dreamed of, and more. I got to see where my Oma lived as a child, in Amsterdam - a city that I have been dreaming of seeing ever since I learned that it existed when I was a child. I got to see The Scream by Edvard Munch. I've gotten to explore the mysterious land of Denmark - a country I did not know anything about, a country that intrigued me. I've seen where two seas meet, I have wandered through old, abandoned, graffiti coated bunkers with my host sisters and my host cousin, with only the light of our phones to guide us. I have run through a seemingly ancient underwater man-made tunnel (the Elbtunnel), I have gone on road trips to Poland, and I can say that I have been rather close to Russia. I have collected precious stones on a beach hidden away behind a beautiful Polish forest on Christmas Day. I have been to the three largest cities in Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich) and am so lucky as to be able to live in one of them! And this is only the tip of the story iceberg.
I am so grateful for how my year has been so far, and although there have been points where I was sad, I would not change a thing. I have now got only 7 weeks left before I return to Canada, and I fully intend to live it up to the fullest I can. I have a list of "Things I Want to do Before Leaving Germany", and I am chipping away at it, and am surprising myself with what things I have been able to check off of the list so far.
I am so happy at the moment, and have been this happy, this at peace, for the last while now. I have been happily surprised with how this year has gone up until this point, and I can't wait to see where it takes me from here on for the rest of it!
I guess that is all that I really have to say right now - I hope you guys are all doing well, and I will try and talk to you guys again fairly soon.
Until next time!