Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On Leaving, Part Two

One last look down at the Potomac River from the American Legion Bridge.


The two weeks that I spent at home in DC in March were some of the best weeks I have had there since I moved to Austria. I would have thought that it would be a lot more depressing, a lot more tragic, a lot more difficult. However, I was so focused on enjoying every last second of being there that all of those fears were unnecessary. The days before the movers came to pack up our stuff were stressful but somehow really great days. The entire family was home most of the time because everyone had packing to do. We would sit around, sifting through forgotten photographs and childhood drawings (My brother had made a 'certificate' that read: "This is to certify that G.A. [our dad] has completed his work test. He is now a boss."), reminiscing about everything we have been through as a family and all the great times we have had in DC. Seeing as that there are six family members in my family, it does not happen very often that everyone is actually at home and, even if that is the case, we are usually spread about the house, doing our own thing. This time was different. We all had to get things done together and that worked really well.

I guess what I am trying to say is that good-byes can be managed. I kept ignoring that vision of driving away from the house, looking back at it, knowing that I would not come back. Instead, I for once simply lived in the moment, and it was the best thing I could have done. I enjoyed every second of being home and then, once I was back in Vienna, I enjoyed being back, the amazing spring weather, the great friends waiting for me, the new apartment yearning to be turned into home. I just tried to skip that moment of having to leave. The hardest part was (were?) the minutes before departing for the airport. I stood in various rooms, feeling helpless, knowing this would be the last time I would be there, the last time I would look out that window, that I would not come back. I still wanted to hold on, did not want to let go. And that is when the tears came. As my Mom and I drove away from the house, I looked back. The moment I feared so much had arrived. And it was not the way I had imagined it to be. Those last minutes inside the house were the worst, but once I stepped into the car, once we started driving away, I felt unexpectedly unattached. Suddenly, it really was just a house. I knew everything would be fine, that it will be amazing to have my family in the same city, that I really can make Vienna be my second home. And, as simple as that, I left.

Sometimes I wonder if I am in some kind of denial. What if I am just ignoring how much I miss home, how hard it will be to never go back? Can it really be that I am managing like this? What if it all simply has not yet sunk in? Maybe at some point, in a year or so, I will realize that I really cannot go back, that I really am not that happy in Vienna, that I wish everything could be the way it used to be? I am hoping that this will not be the case. I have tried very hard to deal with this move, to think it all through, to figure out how I really feel about it.

I do have to admit though that it wasn't all peaches and cream. There were some hard moments as well, but they were not associated with moving so much, but with the whole notion of living between two continents, of calling two places so far apart home. No matter where I am, America or Austria, there is always a bit of home missing. But that’s life, I consider myself to be very lucky to have had the chance of living in two such different places. I would not ever be able to choose between just one.

What I miss most about America when I am in Austria is the Americans themselves. While I was home, I wrote the following in my journal: “"There is something about American enthusiasm, the American itch to go, see, do, experience. It is contagious. I wish I could bottle it up and have some on hand at times when I am away."” I don’t know if I can explain this any further, but I always have the feeling that Austrian tend to stay much closer to home. It is a huge thing for most of them to leave their home town to go study in Vienna (which is usually no more than 1-3 hours away) and they go home at least one or two weekends a month. It is hard for them to grasp that I could possibly manage being so far from home, away from my parents. I never really thought about it much, so many people I know in the US are far away from home during college and everyone is having an amazing time. And if you ask Austrian college students what their plans for the future are, most of them will say that they plan on getting a job in their home town. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, I just love the way Americans are always planning, they want to travel the world, live here and there, try everything. Obviously I should not be generalizing like this, but I cannot help that this is what I feel when I am home and around Americans.


Rude Cactus said...

I'm sure I speak for the entire city when I say its sad to see you go. But hey, you had some great weather and I hope a wonderful time :-)

Anonymous said...

i do have to say that in my opinion, your perspective is quite off...your perspective is the "german-school-american perspective"...i only realized that when i got to cofc many people i met here had never been on an airplane or out of the country...some had barely ever left south carolina..dennis tells me all the time that sometimes he cant stand the people here because they are close-minded and naiive and unwilling to explore..and now i can kind of see that too (to some extent)...i think it has a lot to do with what kind of people and surroundings one grows up with...just a thought...

Anonymous said...

ps. your thing almost made me cry...and also i am using anonymous cause i have no clue what my username or password you and misss you!

Catharina said...

you're very right about not all americans being the way i said, thats why i said i shouldnt generalize and that its just a feeling that overcomes me when im there. miss you lots, too. any chance of a vienna trip any time soon? i love that you still stop by and check out the blog :)
PS: when you post a comment you can click on "Other" and just type in a name ;)

monkey typist said...

hello, thank you for your comment, it was very kind of you, and i tried the photo thing, and it worked!
your photos are great, i really like the blossom ones
thanks again!

LAURA!!! said...

DUDE, STOP WRITING STUFF LIKE THIS. I -always- cry when I read stuff about moving, you talked about leaving thw house for the last time and looking back and that's what I dread the most. Along with standing in the completely empty house. I don't even know if we're going to be in the house the last night, maybe the future owners want to move in earlier than us leaving. Oh well, it's great to hear from you again, FINALLY. Oh and, mom said you liked out appartment, tell me what it's like. Like, how big. How big's my room? Compare it one of the rooms in our house.

JaG said...

Thanks for leaving such a sweet comment on my blog!! You've got some lovely pics up too!

Udge said...

Hello Catharina, found you via the comment on JaG. Nice blog, I like the photos.

Living between two continents is tricky, I too can sing that song. There are things I miss wherever I am, you just try to enjoy where you are at the moment and make the best of what it offers.

Anonymous said...

.... there is a pink carpet of cherry blossoms right now under "your" trees. Wanted to post a picture on "my" blog, but I've no clue anymore what my passwort is and then ... anyway. :-) Big hug, M.
(in competion for the title of "World's Dummiest Blogger")