There are no screens in our windows now, so in the mornings we lean out and people watch while we drink our coffee. E imagines what it would be like to be a field mouse living on the supermarket’s green roof – he wants to make a video game about it. I mostly ogle other people’s dogs as they walk down the street. We watch the trains going in and out of Ostkreuz station. And if we look left we can see the TV Tower, but only when we’re leaning out the window.
Hi. Hello. Welcome back. Everything is different now.
E got a job as an educational video game developer in Berlin, so we both quit our museum jobs in Boston, got married, and moved abroad. When we make life changes in the Holliday-Burnette household, we go big.
But let me back up a bit and be (slightly) less flippant.
For the last 4+ years, we’d been living in Boston and working at the same institution. We had a strong community of friends and colleagues and our families were only a couple hours drive away. I was seeing a therapist I liked and was part of a church I loved. We weren’t making a lot of money, but it was enough to afford the stupidly-high Boston rents and still go out to dinner and take up new hobbies. We went to a million weddings last summer (okay, it was five, but still). We got engaged. Our friends were starting to have babies.
We had a beautiful life in Boston… and I felt totally stuck. It feels so ungrateful to talk about Boston like that because it’s home and I love, love, love my community there, but we were entirely too settled. I’ve traveled a lot, but the longest I’ve lived outside of New England is the 5 months I spent studying abroad in Barcelona. And for whatever reason, that wasn’t enough for me – I didn’t feel content in Boston. I felt stagnant. We didn’t want to get married and have kids and accidentally spend the rest of our lives in Boston; we wanted to try living somewhere else.
I thought about applying for an MFA program or teaching English abroad. I looked at other museum education jobs because that’s what I’m qualified for, but it seemed silly to move for a low-paying job in a field I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in, just so we’d have a reason to go somewhere else.
E, on the other hand, was ready for a career change. He spent the last several years teaching himself to code and using those skills to make video games (because he’s motivated and creative like that) and he felt ready to try to break into that field. He started applying anywhere and everywhere that sounded interesting. He would look up from his computer and say things like, “how would you feel about Helsinki?” or “would you move to Melbourne?” and my answer was always the same, “sure, why not?”
So, our future was in E’s hands, which was… challenging for me. I want to feel in charge of my own life and, if something’s not working, I want to be actively doing something to try to fix it, not twiddling my thumbs waiting for it to change. I was trying to be present in my life in Boston and appreciate all I had and… I sucked at it. It was a welcome relief when E’s new job came through in a whirlwind back in January.
We pushed up our wedding from “sometime in the fall” to “February 4th” so I could move to Europe as E’s wife. This was fine with us because it turns out wedding planning is the worst, and it was nice to get it over with. We do want to have a “second wedding” sometime next year so we can celebrate with all of our friends and family, but I’m hopeful there won’t be as many expectations since we already had a weird, impromptu wedding. And, honestly, a weird and impromptu wedding in the rain wearing clothes we already owned followed by pizza and beer felt very us.
With the paperwork taken care of, it was another waiting game. We’d been told visas typically take between 4 and 12 weeks, so we fully anticipated that we might still be in the United States right now. We gave notice at work and started packing up our apartment and intended to stay with our folks for a bit while we waited.
Instead, E’s visa came through in a week and a half.
The month of March was a little bit stressful.
We finished up at our jobs, hosted a “take our stuff party” to see our friends and also see our possessions go to good homes; we donated things, recycled things, tossed things, packed things into a U-Haul and drove them to New Hampshire to store with E’s folks; we packed up 3 suitcases each and my mom drove us to the airport for a tearful goodbye. I could go into more details about how much work this all was but, for now, let’s leave it at that.
We’re here. We have a place to live. We’re settling in.
When we first said we were making this move, everyone kept asking if we speak German and what I’m going to do for work. The first answer is no, we don’t speak German, but we’re working on it. E’s company operates in English, I just finished week two of a beginner German class, and we’re both dedicated Duolingo users.
As far as my work goes, the visa I’m applying for doesn’t let me have a job, so, no, I’m not looking for work. But… I wrote a manuscript last year. A first draft of a memoir about travel and grief. Now I’m working on the second draft and trying to take this whole writing thing seriously. And I get to tell people I moved to Europe to be an artist!
We’ll see where it goes from here. Everything is different now and even if it all goes horribly wrong, at least it’s going wrong in new and different ways. At least I don’t feel stuck. At least we won’t look back and regret not trying. At least we won’t look back and say how did we end up here? Because all of this was intentional.
If you want to follow along, E and I will both be writing blog posts about life in Berlin. This is the link to bookmark or you can subscribe to posts by email in the sidebar. I’ll probably also be posting about writing and my feeeeeelings and maybe my past travels if the spirit moves me. You can also follow either of us on twitter (@opportunemma and @itreallyisamre) or me on instagram (@opportunemma). I’m doing a 100 day project about learning German on instagram right now and E tends to chronicle his video game development on twitter, if either of those things strike your fancy.
Vielen danke for reading and tschüss!