As I sat in the rocking chair-lined international terminal at CLT waiting to board my flight back to Germany last Tuesday, I felt a lump welling up in my throat. I'd just spent 3 amazing weeks visiting with my family and friends and galavanting around America like I'd never left it. I had been safe within the bosom of everything I'd always known and life felt right, but not right all in the same conflicted feeling. With a pumpkin spiced latte in hand, I scrolled through the photos in my iPhone from my visit, pausing on each one to try and lock the memory inside my brain just in case my iPhone failed me someday. As I began to Instagram this photo, the lump in my throat broke free and few small tears escaped my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. There was nothing I could do to hold them back, so I let them fall quietly as I set facing a wall of windows, airplanes taking off in the distance.
This time, the last time I'd be boarding a Germany-bound plane from America, was the hardest I've faced. I was so close to being stateside permanently that I felt more of an attachment than any visit before. Like my American umbilical cord was slowly starting to reattach, only the attachment was a bit premature. Once the tears subsided, I thought about a lot of things sitting in the terminal that afternoon. I thought about how much I miss North Carolina, yet I haven't lived there for over 5 years. I thought about how quickly these last 27 months abroad have flown by, yet I could still remember how I felt the first time we left for Germany, like it happened just yesterday. I thought about all the things I've done and seen and learned and how much I've grown and changed and evolved as a person while so far from the familiar. I'm not the same person I was when I first started this journey...a fact I'm both scared and proud of. Then I thought of all the events, the milestones I miss out on when I'm on my comfy couch in Deutschland. I felt homesick for home and I hadn't even left the ground yet.
4 days later, I'm sitting at a fest table in Stuttgart, enjoying another maß of cold hefeweizen as the debauchery of Volksfest clambered on around me. I'm currently reveling at the fact that I know what a maß is and how to spell it. Who am I? Some days I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe and my life is not my own. Anywho, the fest is positively German, a perfect combination of all the things I've grown to love and yearn for. The camaraderie, the food & drink, the cultural mish-mosh of old and new all dancing around in one giant tent of happiness. This is Germany. This is what makes my heart leap with joy at the thought of my good fortune for getting to live here. Those "pinch me" moments were out in full force that afternoon. This is the life. This is the most incredible experience, living in a foreign country that's grown to become home to me. Home? Yeah, I said it. Germany feels like home to me, too. Believe me, it's not something I ever thought I'd be saying. Home (NC) is home to me. Always. But, Germany is home to the new me. The me that found out I could live somewhere so far out of my comfort zone and thrive. The me that has become worldly, having traveled to 22 different countries in just 2 short years. The me that adapted and cut out a little Germany-sized spot in my heart and tucked it away for safe keeping. Germany feels more like home to me than when we were stationed in Virginia for 3 years prior. Isn't that something? Like I said, a parallel universe. This life can't be my own.
I mentioned to D upon his arrival back to Germany (just 2 short days after mine) that I felt sort of "checked out" from Deutschland. The glitter and stardust from home was still so heavy in my eyes that I didn't quite care about the Thanksgiving trip we've been planning. Or the wineries we've been meaning to visit. We are so close to the end that being home just reminded me that this place we live in, Germany, is only temporary. Maybe it was my defense mechanism kicking in. You know, the one that makes you push something you love away because you know it's leaving you? Maybe that. All I knew was I'd began the process of washing my hands of this place. I was going to finish out my sentence and go back to where the grass seemed greener. It wasn't until I was standing on that fest table in Stuttgart, listening as the beer glasses clanged together in unison, that I realized this grass is green too, and I'm really freakin' gonna miss it. Just as quickly as I thought I'd checked out of Deutschland, I checked right back in again. Germany I can't quit you...no, not just yet.
And so the war between home and home wages on. Daily I set one foot out the Germany door and somewhere throughout the day it pops back inside again. I lament and long for home, all the while crying in my heart for pretzels and Riesling. I know that 8 months from now, I'll have my heart ripped out, yet somehow it will be mended again with the bandaids of home. Real home. It's a funny feeling, honestly. And surreal. Very surreal. How is it possible to have room in your heart for two very different places? Why does this tug of war between the familiar and the unfamiliar wreak havoc on my emotions? I guess it's because when something begins to define you, you let it take over everything you are. Your heart, your mind, your own thoughts about the world and your place in it. My North Carolina life defines me. My life abroad defines me. There's room for both, and I'm beginning to be ok with that. Saying goodbye won't be easy, but saying hello won't be hard. I'm beginning to be ok with that, too.
[Linking up with Postcards From Rachel for Expat Diaries]