i want to reach out and touch the flame

It seems like a lifetime ago that I first discovered music through the blessing that was at that point in my life MTV. In many ways, it *is* several lifetimes ago. Like it happened to another version of me. It was a cultural shock of sorts. It not only blasted at me the music and videos of some legendary artists. For many aspects, it was also the first contact I had with the way life was happening for teenagers that had not grown up behind the Iron Curtain. Accepting and embracing wildly different world views is not that hard at that age; but sometimes, the enormity of what I knew as daily life and what I glimpsed at (covered in the glamour charm of television as it was) still strikes me to this day. In a sense, even real things happening on tv retained that fiction aura for me; it was after all stuff that only happened to others, on tv.

One of the things that fell into that category were concerts. I watched live videos, and MTV Unplugged, and reports from Glastonbury and Roskilde and Rock am Ring. And somehow it always seemed surreal, that those are real people sitting in those audiences, close to their stars, and singing along all those songs I also knew by heart. And somehow, even back then, I realized that there is a profound gap between me and the kids my age I saw on the screen.

I have, in the past years, managed to somewhat bridge that gap. I have been to concerts and festivals and I have seen artists perform live whom I never thought I would ever get the chance to see other than on the screen or in magazines. Each time I dive into the adventure ravenously. Most of the times, it is an amazing experience, but it is always tinged – sometimes with nostalgia and sometimes with the sheer desperation of one who realizes that time cannot be turned back. However hard I try, I will not make up for all the lost time and will never be able to live through the experience with the wonderfully open mind I had when I was 15.

I will never be one of the kids on the screen and I am amazed at my bitterness for it. Sometimes though, I hold in my hands a concert ticket and the prospect of actually seeing the band who’s name is printed on it is so otherworldly and awe-inspiring that I have difficulties letting it sink in. I am still half not believing that tomorrow by this time, I will be stretching aching feet on a hotel bed in Berlin and I will have seen U2.

I want to run, I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside
I want to reach out and touch the flame
Where the streets have no name
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feels like home

In February of 2013, me and a friend first came to Germany for four months – training for our new job. Maybe it would have been puzzling, if not for another friend who had already been in Stuttgart for almost a year and guided our first steps both through the city and our new department.

The first adjustment was to the schedule of the stores, which are all closed on Sundays. This was a lesson learned during the first weekend. But you learn to plan ahead and around that.

The second adjustment was the annoyingly slow internet. If I were to single out the best thing about my home country and town, it is incredibly fast and incredibly cheap internet. Not much you can do during a short stay when you rely first on hotel wifi (unreliable) and then mobile internet via stick (slow and limited). Issue solved when you stick around long enough to make a 2 year contract – good money will buy you good internet.

Third adjustment was the water. Again, good money will buy you good sparkling water (something not hard to find back home). Depending on the area you live in, the tap water is hard enough to mess up your skin and hair though. Nothing you can’t solve with care products, or, if you own a tub, balancing out the the water’s ph levels.

The thing that sometimes still puzzles me, however, is the weather. I distinctly remember the last days of our stay. It was a mixed feeling of regret at leaving and a glimmer of hope that maybe somehow I can arrange to come back for longer. Or for good, if possible. If not here, then further up North – maybe Sweden. I had tasted life somewhere else and wanted a slice for myself. The other two things I remember: I couldn’t send my winter jacket back home with visiting friends/relatives, because it was the end of May and I was still wearing it to work; and I was bummed because on June 3rd, Depeche Mode were having a concert in Stuttgart and I was missing it by a couple of days. I would catch them later that year in Budapest, but still.

Yesterday, realization hit me out of the blue.

The friend who guided our first steps here gifted me a typography/inspirational poster for my birthday after my return. It starts with ‘live your life’ and I have always viewed it as an encouragement to pursue the goal of emigration. It has been taped to the wall on my bedroom wall since the autumn of 2014, when I came back to Stuttgart for a short term assignment that kept getting prolonged, always keeping me hanging and hoping.

Since February, the ‘abroad assignment’ turned into ‘local national contract’.

Yesterday, the 7th of June, I was shivering in my apartment despite wearing a hoodie; heating was off and it was incredibly cold.

However, I had mail waiting for me. And I took the papers out of their envelope and laid them on my table. So… there they were, side by side: my concert ticket for Depeche Mode in Munich on Friday – alongside the freshly signed contract that had arrived in the mail. It has a pretty red seal and constitutes official proof that in less than two months I will own a place to call mine, for the first time in my life.

I have come a perfect circle and it is just beginning to sink in what a huge relief it is (and conversely, what a huge and constant background stress it has all been) and how at peace I actually am, despite the annoying shit that regularly goes down, both in my life and around the world.

I will buy a pretty frame for the poster, to hang it at the new place when I move in.

Finally, I found that I belong – feels like home.
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don’t bend; don’t break; baby, don’t back down

If I were to improve just one thing about myself… That is one of those uncomfortable self-assessment questions that I hate. Because in order to truly answer it, you must look in a really unpleasant mirror. Most of the times, I single out my willpower for the “needs urgent improvement” award. But now that I think of it, it is not really that. I can get my act together, if I find sufficient reason to do so. My real issue is that it’s just a bright blaze that burns out quickly. I am not a long distance runner. I want either immediate results or fun in the process. Without any of those, my willpower just hisses and sputters and dies out like a lit match in a bucket of water.

I am attempting to dangle the proverbial carrot in front of my own nose. I am patting myself on the back for the little steps and calmly trying to explain to myself the thousand other little steps needed for the journey make a difference. But I need results. I need to taste the little victories. Something abstract like “you are now one step closer to the goal” doesn’t cut it. And if it doesn’t feel like I am moving in any direction… lord, please let it be fun at least. Let me feel good about it. But nope… nothing on that side either.

Still, nothing left to do but soldier on. Good little marching ant. Eyes on the prize. Keep calm, don’t let things get to you.

You better stand tall when they’re calling you out. Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down.

Well, either that, or cuddle up and take a nap. It’s been a nap-heavy time lately…

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damn the government, damn their killings, damn their lies

There are a lot of different reasons why I left my home country. When I visit my former home (I have very much started to think of this as home now), invariably someone (the old neighbor from downstairs, the lady at the little grocer’s on the corner, or some skeptical co-worker) asks me: “Is it better over there?”. My answer is an unwavering “Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed.” It was a choice that benefited from a lot of luck, a lot of circumstances and hard work. But never really a choice I regretted.

Sometimes you can see a little light of recognition and a thoughtful “Yes, life is probably easier there.” I nod and let it drop. Am not sure that ‘easier’ would be my word of choice, but there is no point in continuing the discussion. Sometimes a skeptical “But do you like it?” follows. “Yes.” The same pointless discussion.

My personal theory is that it is about a person’s worth in the eyes of others – be it state institutions or random people you meet. Yes, I sometimes get the disappointed “ah” and slight cooling of attitude when I say where I am from. But mostly they can’t tell or by the time they find out, that particular label does not matter anymore.

In all other respects though… I am not made to feel that I am worth any less for any reason. I am not invalidated because of any beliefs or life choices. I am not lessened by a clerk behind a counter. I am not feeling like a nuisance to a cashier. I have not once been catcalled on the street. My new co-worker casually mentioned his engagement to his boyfriend during lunch the other day and no one batted an eyelid before congratulating him.

Meanwhile back ‘home’, a bunch of apes in Parliament refined the paragraph of the Constitution to define family as being based on the marriage between a man and a woman. Three million other folks had signed a petition because they couldn’t sleep at night for worry of who fucks whom. (I honestly don’t think they worry much about love in any form.) All that was done in the name of preserving traditional values, under the approving nods of priestly beards.

Soulmate dry your eyes… Soulmates never die.
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and if you listen very hard, the tune will come to you at last

So many things changed. And so many things stayed exactly the same. New horizons that immediately felt like home. Some friends stayed, some friends came, some friends went, some friends died. New jobs that are actually old jobs. New scars – some inked and pretty, some sown and ugly. Old loves that never die. New worries and ancient anxieties. Feelings of never having grown out of my old skin and feelings of having shed multiple layers since. Sometimes I don’t remember how the day has gone by and have no time to ponder it, some other days I do nothing but ponder on their passing. The same old demons visit me on quiet nights. Sometimes they whisper the same old stories that I know by heart, some other times they drip creative new innuendos in my ear. On some nights I slip away from them into the world of sleep, some others I lay awake and listen to them till the early hours of the morning.

It was many years ago and seemingly a lifetime away that during a long and quiet night shift, I was talking to a friend and trying to find words for the whirl of half-formed thoughts and feelings that I was choking on. I groped at other people’s words for help and mentioned some lines from Stairway to HeavenA decade later, the sheet music is etched in my skin and that verse has come to pass. And that sometimes feels too big, too scary, too crushing. Mostly though it is liberating, whatever the price.

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