I am only an egg.

This post is tangentially related to the December 27th WordPress Daily Prompt.

“Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing or event from the last year of your life. What’s the statue of and what makes it so significant?”

I was already thinking about the words that follow, even before I saw the prompt.  While I didn’t write this post specifically to answer the personal sculptor question, I am going to talk a great deal about something that has shaped my world the most for the past year.

Back in 1993, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Second Chances.”  The basic plot is as follows-  The Enterprise goes to retrieve some scientific data from a planet which has an impenetrable distortion field around it.  Once every eight years, the field is weak enough to beam through it.  Eight years previously, a younger Lieutenant Riker was the last man to beam out when his team was forced to abandon the post.  When the modern-day Enterprise arrives, Commander Riker leads the away team, and meets- himself.

ST-TNG_Second_ChancesAlthough Riker made it up to the Potemkin and continued his career, a transporter phenomenon caused an identical Riker to rematerialize on the planet.  This Riker believed that he’d been left behind, and he spent the next eight years living alone.

The reason I’m talking about Star Trek on a blog about life in Germany is because it’s kind of the same thing.  Obviously I don’t mean that I was duplicated in a transporter accident, but there is some similarity between that ludicrous scenario and how I feel.  What the other Riker went through was, at certain points, textbook culture shock and acculturation.

While I was in the United States a few weeks ago, I was struck by the notion that while I’ve been living my life in Germany, life in the US has been going on without me.  This is the truest and deepest cost of being an expatriate. Friends and family kept going on-  my youngest niece started walking and talking.  Another friend is nearly done with law school.  People have gotten engaged.  Couples have split up.  Some of my friends have had massive shifts in their health, some for the better and some for the worse.  There are new pets, new jobs, and new hardships.  And while I was in Germany and away from all of this, there was a tiny part of me that went on living in the US, along with my friends and family.  There are two Stevens now.  They are entirely alien to each other.

I spent most of my first year in Germany feeling like I was on an extended vacation, but one where I just happened to be going to the office a lot.  It felt like my life in the US had just been paused- waiting for me to return to it.  My apartment has never quite felt like my apartment, and I’ve always been just a little bit of a stranger in a strange land.

It’s been more than a year now, and in the intervening time, I’ve felt less like that US life is mine.  The drift has begun-  I don’t speak to people in the States as much as I did in the first year. There are some people who I once considered my closest friends and confidants who I speak to now only via electronic means, and only regarding superficial topics.  If not for the horrible abomination that is Facebook, I would have lost touch with almost everyone except my closest ring of family members and a few dearly cherished friends.

There is even a physical component to this drift-  while I was in the US, I moved my few belongings to a much smaller storage unit.  In order to do that, I had to let go of a lot of possessions.  Most of my kitchen goods from the US are now gone.  Everything I own in this world is either in a 5×5 storage unit in Florida or a 45 square meter apartment here in Regensburg.  Considering I used to have an entire condominium full of crap, this is kind of a sobering realization.

I don’t feel like this Bavarian life is mine either.  I’ve made friends here, but making friends as an expatriate can be a little tricky-  most of us are transient.  You never know if someone you’ve met will still be there to talk to or hang out with in six months or a year.  I’m even hesitant with the locals, the people who aren’t going anywhere, because I don’t know if I’ll be here in a year or two.  My contract is written through the fall of 2014, but there’s nothing in it which says that Mr. Company can’t recall me to the United States sooner.  (They probably won’t, but it’s something that I think about.) There’s also the chance that they’ll want to renew my presence here at the end of the contract on a yearly basis.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest.  I get asked a lot if I want to stay here at the end of my contract, and my answer is always a little timid:  “Ask me again in another year and a half.  A lot can happen in a year and a half.”

For night now, I’m stuck in the middle.  Beholden to two countries, but not truly feeling at home in either one.  I am the two identical Rikers, both fighting to claim the right to be the real one.

21 thoughts on “I am only an egg.

  1. I can understand your thoughts he very well. I am basically english and grew up in London, East End. Left England 46 years ago for Switzerland. Had a job here, met Mr. Swiss and 2 children later am still in Switzerland. I go to England once a year to see my dad, but the English life how I knew when when I grew up is a bit like another planet. I have a few friends there, but they seem to live in a parallel world. I just do not feel very english any more. Of course I can still speak my mother tongue, and even cockney, but I am speaking Schwiizer tütsch all day at home, and even speak it with my kids. How exiled can you get. I am not even used to the “english way of life” any more. I never really thought of myself as being in Raumschiff Enterprise, but it is a very good comparison.

      • I was at first in Zürich for two years. Although I understood German from my two years learning at school, Swiss german is another kettle of fish, and in Zürich you could get by quite easily with english. I then changed my job and moved over to the Solothurn area, where I still am. Although i needed English for my job, I otherwise just had to learn the lingo. I got married, had two children and my husband also had 2 from his first marriage, so I just had to dig into Swiss German and that really helped to make me feel at home. I now speak fluent swiss German, high German and a few other languages and I never really had big problems with the Swiss way of life. I did not really have a big choice, having to bring up the kids in Switzerland. I suppose after about 5 years I knew I was here to stay. I think another big help was being a working woman. I worked 30 years in export for a Swiss machine tool company and my customers were from all over the world.

  2. Wow this is so true. I’m a huge Star Trek fan so I know the episode you’re talking about and I totally identify. After being her for almost eight years we feel the same but it’s a little bit worse than that. We arrived here in 98 did three years, went home for 8 months, then came back and did 2 years, went home for 18 months, then came back here in 2005. So we’ve been here for the most part of the last 14 years. There’s a reason we come back. Because during our second tour here it began to feel more like home here than in the states. Our family is so excited for us to return to their home but it’s not ours anymore. There is nothing holding us there except a few scattered loved ones. I never say this to them but both my husband and I feel the same way. We will be returning to the states in the next month and it’s very hard to say goodbye to Germany. People in the states expect us to be so excited but don’t realize how much we are leaving behind. There will always be a big part of me here.

  3. I know exactly what you are saying. I waited 12 years to get over here to Germany. It was like this dream world where everything was better…food, travel, beer, quality of life, etc… When we first got here we were on cloud-9. We were excited and started traveling right away, bragging to everyone back home how awesome it is but then reality kicked in. When we weren’t busy traveling we were forced with the reality of “everyday living”. We had to adjust to a new lifestyle, make new friends and find ways to stay connected back home. You’re right…life goes on whether we’re there or not. We were given the opportunity to stay 3 more years but we decided to pass. It was a difficult decision and we may end up regretting it but I think after 3 years away we’ll be ready to go home.

  4. Wow well put Steven – it’s certainly a weird feeling. All of my steady group has finally departed and while I met some new people that eased the transition, it’s still weird to see that life goes on and takes people all over the place. I feel like since I’ve been here, people are constantly getting engaged, married, having children, while I still feel so far and have less and less in common with once closest friends.

  5. I haven’t been here long, but this is perfectly put. “Life is paused at home- waiting for me to return” That’s exactly how I feel, even though its not true. The world is turning and days are passing by without me there. I don’t like that thought and try not to think about it. Although this is home, it’s not home. Its Germany.

    • I mentioned before that the homesickness is a cycle- this is a bit deeper than regular run of the mill homesickness, it’s an absence of a sense of home to feel sick about. Best I can describe it. But Hanley, most au pair assignments don’t last more than a year or two, as I understand it- if you’re only here for a year or so, you probably won’t have as much of a drift as I’m describing.

  6. Your Germany self seems similar to how I feel all the time. I never had a life like your Florida self. I relate more to something between Data and Spock – I feel like an alien learning to be human. But, unlike them, definitely transient.

  7. Dead on, and well said. It is always a strange thing, when that realization sets in… hearing that your neighborhood looks totally different post-tornado is a whole other ballgame than seeing it with no trees in person. Hearing that a friend is pregnant is totally different than seeing a giant belly in front of you…. or there’s a baby and you missed the whole thing. This is a strange and yes, alien life to live. But it narrows things down a lot, and I’ve found that you’re left with the people and things that matter the most. :)

  8. Pingback: THE DEATH OF DEPRESSION « hastywords

  9. Augh, that episode almost made me cry. >_< At least in your dual lives, you aren't abandoned. Just feeling out of place. :) But the way you described it makes a lot of sense.

    • Your comment was lurking in my spam filter, so I didn’t see it until just now. Sorry about that!

      This is something I wrestle with. I know that I’m not abandoned, as you say, but sometimes it really feels like I am.

  10. Pingback: Hello, I’ll Be Right Back. | Doin' Time On The Donau

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