25 October 2011

On Being An Alien


I am so far away from home, and yet what is home?  Honestly, I've nothing to return to in San Francisco.  I have two months of work in the summer and that's it for employment possibilities.  I've no place to live there, only one couch to crash on and that's in Oakland, and transportation issues in the whole of the US up the wazoo.  I am not really drawn to the UK or any other English-speaking country, and for some reason, I like it here in cold, grey Berlin.  Why?  It's true, I have made some pretty good friends here, but one of them is thinking about going back to Israel, Eve is leaving for certain.  And where does this leave me?  What is it that makes me want this difficult life of language barriers and cultural confusion?

In the States, I live under a cloak of illusion that I belong, but really, I feel more alienated there than I do in this confusing Berlin.  My ideals don't match with my supposed community there.  Even in the alternative, queer scene of San Francisco, I feel like a misunderstood freak.  Here, in Berlin, there is positively no way I could ever fit completely.  I am from a different culture, with different cultural mores and ideal.  It is expected that I am a little bit of a rhombus peg trying to fit into this round hole of European city.  Permission is granted for me to be an outsider.  I am an outsider no matter where I am, which also means that I fit everywhere just a little bit.  I make it okay for other people to be themselves, no matter where I am.  I felt this way in the US, and I feel this way here.

Don't get me wrong, it is hard to be here.  Hard.  But you know, Leben ist Schwer!  No matter where you are!  And quite honestly, I would rather be somewhere where admission of this is okay!  In America, random strangers on the street demand that I smile and pretend I am happy even when I am not.  As Americans, we think if we are not happy, we should take medication because something is wrong with us.  I believe this expectation of joy contributes to depression.  When one feels bad in America, not only does she have to deal with her feelings of imperfection, but also with the failure of meeting a cultural expectation.  In Berlin, the only people who I am guaranteed a smile from are children, and while some might find this isolating, for me it actually brings relief.  Permission is granted to me just to be who I am, maybe only because I am an Auslander, but it is granted nonetheless.

Life is about to get very hard here, emotionally speaking.  We are approaching the end of Autumn.  The deciduous Birch shed the last of their leaves.  A chill bites through my many layers of clothing to sink its icy teeth into my skin.  Night comes earlier and earlier.  Winter will doubtless be a time of quiet reflection.  There is a possibility that I will become very, very sad.  But I become very sad every Winter.  And every Winter the culture around me tells me there is something wrong with me because I feel dark inside.  Maybe it will be the same here, but maybe my internal workings will be reflected in the outside world.  One thing is for certain.  I am an amazingly strong person with a powerful spirit and an iron will, and I will survive this experiment of the dark and cold Winter of Berlin.

It is scary to be an Auslander, truly.  But is it scarier to be an Auslander in one's own country or in a foreign place?  I ask myself this every morning before I wake.  And every night before I fall off to sleep, I construct German sentences in my head, but the dreams come before they are able to leave my lips...
Sharon and I make a feast: Bread, Hummus with sauteed mushrooms, and chips.

My new dogwalking gig.  This is Apuni.  She's 1.5 years old and is very sweet, but a very bad dog!

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