13 days. That’s what’s left of this school year. We have a countdown on the blackboard in the teacher’s lounge, and I’m responsible for it. At least I feel responsible for it because I think I was the one who started it.
13 days, then we’ll have finally reached the holidays. 13 days, then us trainees will have completed our first year ever of teaching. 13 days, and then it will be time to say goodbye.
13 days. That’s all I have left.
When I first started going out with my boyfriend in 2010, we had only one major issue we fought about. And, to this day, it’s the only issue we still have – eventhough it has progressed from being my issue with him to being our issue. So that’s a very good development.
My boyfriend grew up in the village next to the town I moved to with my parents in 2007. He has never moved to a different city, or country, and even during his studies he drove home any chance he got. When I met him, I couldn’t fathom that. I couldn’t understand how you could “settle” for being in just one place. I spent hours wondering if I could be with someone who has never seen the world the way I felt I had, wondering whether I wanted to be with someone who has already decided where he wanted to be forever.
It took me a very long time to realize that knowing where you want to be for the rest of your life is not something to look down upon, but is the result of knowing who you are, what you want and what is important for you.
My whole family is used to moving. My parents are both the type of people who dreamt about seeing the world even when they were teenagers, and they embarked on the hugest adventure of their life when they took us kids to Tanzania with them from 1998 to 2007. In Tanzania, we actually moved again. Before Tanzania, we had spent 3 months in England because my parents had to attend a language course. I had moved a total of five times by the time I was 20. And, a year ago, I moved for the sixth time in my life.
Doesn’t seem like a lot to you? I didn’t count the times we simply moved from one house to another within one city. When I say I moved, I mean I left one place completely behind and started over from scratch. Left behind my friends, what I felt was a “typical” day for me, left the country I was living in. Let me put that in perspective for you:
1998: Move to Tanzania
2001: Move to a different city in Tanzania, an 8-hour-drive from where we lived before
2007: Move to Germany.
2010: Move to Geneva, Switzerland.
2011: Move to Würzburg, Germany, to go to university.
2015: Move 240km within Germany to start working.
And, every time, I had to start over, had to find “my place”, figure out which role to play in my peer group, figure out who my true friends actually were and who was simply an aquaintance.
That sounds dramatic, I know. And I don’t look back with regret or anger, my heart is truly full when I look at my life and the people I have met so far. But I do have to say that I consider these moves to be different from those of people who have done an exchange year during high school or who spent a year abroad after graduation. I even consider my move to university different from that of others. Why?
Because I didn’t have a home full of friends to come back to. I don’t have roots the way other people do, or, if I do, they aren’t in Germany and probably no longer exist in Tanzania the way I remember them. The friends I made in my last three years of high school in Germany have dissolved because everyone went off to go study, and I was too busy figuring out life in Germany during those three years to accumulate a huge group of friends. The friendships from Tanzania have dissolved on the grounds of everyone who has graduated now being in their “home”-country. The friendships I formed at university were few, because I was so torn between starting over in Würzburg and driving home to meet my boyfriend half-way to his university. The friendships I now do have at home took a long time to feel like “my” friendships because they have ALL evolved out of my boyfriend’s friends.
To be honest, the longer I look at all the times I’ve had to start over and meet new people and make new friends, just to say goodbye again at some point, the more I realize that it’s not something I crave for the rest of my life.
When I first met my boyfriend, I thought it was small-minded of him to have already decided where he wanted to be forever. It may have seemed like I was “settling” for something I didn’t actually want to my family, all of whom seem to still love the idea of living elsewhere and moving around, but honestly, the moment I admitted to myself that saying goodbye is not for me, I started getting to know who I am and what I want from life, and, most importantly, what is important to me.
13 days. That’s how much is left of this school year. That’s how much I have left with the eleven people I started teacher’s training with this year, all of whom I’ve come to know and love in a way that is probably unfathomable to anyone who wasn’t there with us. I have never felt more at home, more true to myself, more understood and raw with anyone in the way that I have experienced it in the last year. And I am not exaggerating this to make it look like they are my only friends…the fact is, the way that these few people have gotten to know me is something I don’t have with a lot of people – at least not anymore.
I have had friends, again and again. Close friends, people I love, people I have felt real with, like I didn’t have to pretend. But, I have moved 6 times up till now. I have said goodbye and lost 90% of the close friends I had for each period of time. And now, I have 13 days left with the people I feel closest to at the moment. Because these people are more real to me as friends than most people I have gotten to know in the past 9 years of living in Germany (during which I moved three times).
When my boyfriend says he wants to grow old in his little village, I understand him. And I share his wish. Saying goodbye is not for me. I know I would have never met the many people I have loved over the years if it hadn’t been for all those times I moved. But at this point in my life, I feel like I have built friendship-sandcastles too often.
I feel this last year has taught me a lot about who I am and even more about who I want to be. And, more than ever, I know where I want to be. I know that my greatest wish in life is to be able to live with my boyfriend and find a school nearby to teach at, and “settle” for that small village.
I want what everyone who has grown up in one place has. I want close friends who are all in one place, not scattered across the whole world. I want a group of people I feel at home with the way I feel with the others at school. I want to be in one place, wake up next to my boyfriend, not fearing that I’ll have to say goodbye yet another time (neither to him nor to anyone else). I am done with it, at least for now.
There’s a German poem that deems every goodbye to be carrying the magical charm of a new beginning.
Honestly, I’ve had enough of them.