Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dude, Where's My Dream?

Back in the day I was pretty driven.  I had an awesome GPA, a full scholarship to a university close to my hometown, and my plan was to graduate, move to the big city and find my dream job.  I was going to be totally independent.  I was going to conquer the world (or at least my life).  And what's more, I was on my way to actually doing it.  I was kicking college's @**.

Fast forward to the present... Yeah, so much for that.

After two years of slaving away on term papers and short stories, I packed a suitcase, flew to Germany, and married a soldier.  And I've basically been on a two year vacation since then.  It's been amazing, don't get me wrong.  I cherish that I was able to follow my heart and live out this incredible love story.  It's just that sometimes it feels like I lost part of myself while flying over the Atlantic.  I mean really, what happened to my plan?  Were those fifteen years of dedication and hard work in school for nothing?  Because honestly, there are a lot of days when I feel like an utter failure for tossing that part of my life aside.

But the really funny thing is, when I think about the future I planned for myself, the one with the fabulous career and chic city apartment, it just seems kind of lonely.  So why do I feel like I missed out?

The thing I wanted most when I was younger was distance from my old life.  I wanted to move away to a place where I could start over, where the only image anyone would have of me is the one I created.  Nobody would have memories of my horrible middle school fashion choices or embarrassing high school crushes.  I wanted to leave everything behind and be a shiny new version of me -- educated, capable, polished, and successful.  And in some ways, I did that.  Just not in the way I thought I would.

Fate is an ironic creature.

I'm half a world away from everyone and everything I knew, and the joke is on me, because leaving your past behind is harder than it looks in the movies.  I miss my old friends.  They knew me in a way that can only come from growing up together.  They were around for the embarrassing moments, and accept me anyway.  I miss my family.  I never realized how much I depended on that massive web of support until it was gone.  I miss the confidence that knowing my hometown like the back of my hand gave me.  I miss school and my old desk job and all the other things I was so good at.  And yet, I know couldn't have made any other choice.

Coming here, choosing to fight for love, is my greatest accomplishment.  I am so grateful for my wonderful husband, and so proud of myself for having the courage to leap into this marriage with both feet.  Not many people can honestly say they've given their all for a relationship, and I am so glad that I won't grow old wondering about "what could have been."

The problem is that I'm not sure where to go from here.  My plan has been tossed out the window, and for a while I had the "big gesture" of moving to Germany to occupy me, but now we're coming back to the states.  The past two years have been about making my marriage work, about making sacrifices for a common future with someone I love.  But now that time is coming to an end.  We're going to be in a place where I have opportunities and choices again.  I can go back to school, or start my own business, or find a job I like.  Kyle and I could start a family.  There are so many options and I have no idea what to do, because the old dreams I gave up...those just aren't me anymore.

What happened to me?  Where'd my drive go?  Why didn't I think this far ahead?

Part of me is ecstatic.  Part of me can't wait to pick up the pieces of my old life and mash them into something new.  To be closer to my friends and family and home.  To get back in my old, productive groove.  But another part is straight up terrified that I'll never live up to the expectations I had for myself.  Cause, I mean, they're pretty darn lofty expectations.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mondays with Brinks which Brinks tries to jump in a lake.

{More adorable pets at Harbor Cottage}

Friday, June 22, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Germany: Paradeplatz and Vogelstang See

It's hard to believe there are only three months left until the big move!  I am so incredibly excited to be heading back to the states, but there are a lot of things I will miss about Mannheim when we're gone.  I mean really, where did the last two years go?  Have I really been living in Germany that long?  Some days it feels like I stepped off the plane yesterday, and, in some ways, I am not ready to leave...  But all good things come to an end, and their passing paves the way for new adventures.

As a tribute to this fabulous experience, over the next few months I'll be documenting some of my favorite things about our current hometown and living in Europe.  This chapter of my life has been (and is) so amazing, and I know it will hold a special place in my memory forever.

Wednesday we had dinner with friends downtown, took a stroll down the main shopping strip, and then spent the rest of the evening at the Vogelstang lakes.  My camera has been glued to my hand lately, so I have quite a few of my favorite things to share with you today.

This enormous fountain is just a short walk from the Wasserturm (the Water Tower, another of my favorite places and the hub of the downtown area), located on Paradeplatz (Parade Square).  I think it's exceptionally beautiful, and every time we pass it I'm amazed by the amount of detail included in the many sculptures that adorn all sides.

Also at Paradeplatz is this unique Holocaust Memorial.  It's a giant glass box covered in the names of Holocaust victims from Mannheim, but all the names are inscribed backwards, so you have to look through the box to read the names on the opposite side.

I've read that there were a lot of complaints about the box, because for some people it isn't obvious that it's a memorial.  And it's true that the descriptive plaque is easy to miss (it's embedded in the sidewalk next to the box), but I think this memorial is lovely.  It's easy to spot, since it's easily the most modern sculpture in the square, and the strange way the names are printed holds people's attention.

And of course, I'm going to miss having these gorgeous lakes so close by! This relaxing spot is only a five minute drive away, which makes it perfect for an afternoon or evening retreat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mondays with Brinks which Brinks takes the Jeep for a test drive.

{Check out Angie and Axel at Harbor Cottage.}

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vogelstang See

Monday Kyle and I  took Brinks for a relaxing day at Vogelstang See.  It's such a beautiful place.  Two small lakes are surrounded by lush greenery teeming with birds.  (I was particularly enchanted by a family of swans.)  I had a wonderful time wandering waterside paths, capturing it all in photos.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strasbourg Part 6: Petite France

Petite France refers to a region of Strasbourg located at the tip of the Grand Ile (island), where the Ill River splits into many canals that wind through an area filled with beautifully preserved half-timbered medieval buildings (map below).  From the tip of the Ile, you can see the tower of the Strasbourg Cathedral rising in the distance, and admire the many gorgeous bridges spanning the canals.  What I found most striking about Petite France were the colors!  The buildings were all painted in vibrant hues, and while we were visiting flowers were bursting with life.  Everything was adorable. Kyle practically had to drag me away, because there was something to photograph every few feet.

{map via}

{Previous Strasbourg Posts:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5}