My Berlin Semester is over, even though I do not leave the city until next year. The date is December 26 (2018); I fly to Buenos Aires on January 1 (2019).
When I checked in with how I am feeling now about the semester (aka, as I reflect…), I am both surprised and unsurprised at the tinge of disappointment I feel regarding my level of connection to the city, my immersion into Berlin.
- I, like many of my Extraordinary© peers, have a history of discounting my accomplishments, marginalizing my progress, and having incredibly high (ahem, unattainable) standards for myself. Thus, of course I am disappointed in myself, because
- a) I don’t know what other ways of being are like
- b) from what other constructed source, if not disappointment and a need to improve and prove myself, would I draw my motivation? (*for those reading at home, insert a dry, sarcastic tone here*)
- I have a lofty vision of cultural immersion (*cue sparkly music*) as I once spent a year going to agricultural trade school in small-town Panama, in a town with no internet and few English speakers, when I was 16 years old. It’s hard to beat that level of immersion.
- Berlin wasn’t supposed to be a semester of creeping disappointment––for once, language and culture were not such great barriers, unlike in South Korea and India. This time, the barriers were internal: I did not (want to) prioritize anything city-based above my academics.
- Example: Four months in Berlin and I never went to a club, because (along with being way too smoky for my sensitive throat) I did not wish to disrupt my sleeping schedule or lose time that I could be spending on homework. This does not explain why I did not go to every single museum Berlin has to offer. (See what I mean about hard-to-achieve-self-set-standards?)
- Example: I had the opportunity to volunteer with this really cool organization I scoped out, but when we both got really busy and they wondered if it was feasible, I said Let’s part now as friends instead of reprioritizing my life and becoming flexible.
I suppose the first question somebody could ask after hearing all this is, “why should you feel disappointed? Who says you had to immerse yourself culturally, make a billion close friends, wander the streets at every moment of the day, etc. etc. etc.?”
And to that, I would say, “ha!”
Because the answer, of course, is nobody and anybody.
On one hand, it’s one of those things where people don’t really care, like those situations when your mom tells you, “nobody will notice that [you spilled a little pasta sauce on your pants] because of everybody is too busy thinking about themselves, don’t worry about it.” People will ask how Berlin is, and if I can conjure up just one adequate small story, they’ll say “ooh! What a school. Amazing! You know if that program were around when I was in undergrad…” and stop asking about Berlin.
On the other hand, the disappointment in myself comes creeping when situations like this occur: somebody will ask if I did X, Y, Z thing in the city (most recently, X = Bikini Berlin, a fashion mall), and if I say “no,” they immediately cry, “did you even go to [the city]?!” or “then what were you possibly doing all semester?” Homework feels like a rather lame answer just then… never mind that they themselves were only in that city a few days, or have never actually been.
What’s the takeaway? Maybe a question I’ll need to figure out for myself: to guilt trip based on others’ standards or to accept my life + try my best + move on?
Thoughts, as always, are appreciated in the comments or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. 🙂