How on earth did I get here?

4 Oct

Spending German Reunification Day in Berlin was quite something. Living in a place where recent history oozes from every pebble on the street has never been more pertinent and impressive than this week. And eye-opening – unfortunately in a rather embarrassing way. Until this week I really had no idea how little I knew about German history. I won’t go into the details, but I shall say that it is very embarrassing for somebody with two university degrees and who has always been surrounded by open, interesting, educated and opinionated people. I really, REALLY, should know more. Or at least be able to remember more of the stuff that I have learned at some point. Anyhow…let’s try and not dwell on that. (Just don’t ever consider me as your joker for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire).

This got me thinking about other ‘eye-opening’ moments in my life. When I suddenly learned something that would momentarily shatter my world and would leave things in a different place than before.

The Classic: I Don’t Own My Parents – I must have been 7 or 8. I think. My parents had been out during the day with friends at some sort of social event. Nothing new or unusual. However, they returned a bit tipsy. And although this was most definitely not the first time of that happening, it was the first time that I had noticed. This slight change in character. This slightly weird and inexplicable grin on their face. And the fact that they hugged me a little less intensely than they would normally do. And I found this very odd. I seriously thought that aliens had either taken my parents and sent back some robots to take their place. Or aliens had invaded their heads and messed with it somehow. It had to do with aliens! These two people looked like my parents, spoke like my parents, acted like them – but something was not quite right. Agent Riener was on the case, but actually all became clear the next day when my mum’s face was a bit ashen and her voice a bit lowered, and there was some Aspirin. Anyhow, this moment had a very profound impact on me as I learned that: a) My parents like having fun without me b) My parents are somewhat different when they are having fun and c) My parents don’t seem to have the slightest respect for my need of consistency when it comes to their behaviour towards me. So I grew slightly suspicious of them. Of course it was not long until I also discovered that parents are not always right, that parents say NO to the most reasonable requests, that parents cry and that parents don’t always stay together. But I don’t think that any of these moments shocked me as much as realising that my parents don’t exist solely for me.

Money, Money, Money – Again, going back a few years. I did not grow up in a rich house hold. But we were well off – and my mum likes a bit of pomp and she likes showing off, so people probably thought we were actually rich. Anyhow, money was just always there and never really spoken of. I don’t ever recall not getting something because we could not afford it – there were plenty of reasons why I did not get something, but money was hardly ever the sole reason. Like in many German families, parents try and support you financially until you are out of university. I had this luxury until the age of 26, because that was how long my brother had been supported before me. I always had jobs, but these were more about getting experience rather than a juicy pay check. So, at the not so tender age of 26, when daddy’s money had run out and I was on my own feet, I suddenly came to realise that a) the money coming in and b) the money going out was in some imbalance. I could pay my bills but there was no spare cash for the kind of lifestyle I was used to. And I started to panic. Of course I blamed my parents for not teaching me more about money, but of course any lesson would have fallen on totally deaf and naive ears. At this moment, money, which had always been taken for granted became something attached with fear. There was no chance I could have been able to afford all that I wanted, not just for me but for my own family one day. Being able to support hobbies, interests, being able to travel with your kids etc. And this fear has not actually left me since and I don’t like it one bit. It is not a motivating fire in your belly, but it is riddled with fear and anxiety: ‘shit, what if I lose my job….shit, what if I become ill….shit, I must be saving more money’ which really is not nice.

Life is What You Make Of It (but it’s definitely not a fairytale) – This is more of a ‘process’ story. Again, when I was young (yawn), I had this rock solid belief that life would just be fine. That unquestioned trust and knowledge that things would fall into place and that I would make the right decisions at the right moments. Why not? I was a god-sent princess, right? The picture I had painted for my adult life was to some extent quite clear (interesting job with interesting people probably in an agency, large flat in a big city with big open French doors and lilies everywhere, the love of my life and some kids by my side, sunny days spent with friends and vino, being popular and liked etc.) but this was totally unrelated to my university / career choice of ‘something with TV, Film, Theater’. I had no idea about life, no idea how to get from a to b, no idea about how to play my cards, what to look out for etc. But I always knew, I just knew it, that things would simply turn out right and that I would be successful (critically and commercially) at whatever I would end up doing. Because I would love what I would end up doing. And I would work hard. And I would become the most perfect version of myself. And I would meet somebody who would simply cherish the ground I would walk on and vice versa. And together we would rule the universe. I would have all the time in the world and I would just be happy. I just knew that all this would happen. Oh, by the way, by the age of 29. Yeah, so much for that. Ironically, I have actually had most of these things at some point individually apart from the real success – but then, what does that mean anyway?! I have won a Film Award….I have done xyz, I can tell the story of my “career” in a way that people are in awe, but for me personally I have not even come close to feeling truly proud of “my work”. Not once. I have always felt like an impostor, or lazy or whatnot. And my bank balance does not exactly make me proud at all. So…. anyway, the point was that I had this trust and this expectation that life would just turn out great. That whatever I would want to become would magically happen, that my choices would be right and that everything would lead to happiness. But it just ain’t like that. Nowadays, there is little left of this faith. Life has really started to grind on my rock solid trust and also my own confidence and self-belief. My talents clearly seem to have been overestimated. And sometimes, people turn out differently to what you had thought and hoped. And life is actually pretty short and there is not endless time to do stuff (this realisation was also not much fun).

But then also, true happiness has less to do with what actually happens and more with the ability to be happy. Right now, I have absolutely no idea whether I am happy or not. To some extent my life is pretty swell, to some extent it’s really not. I can make it sound (to myself as well as to others) like the biggest success story, or I can make it sound like the biggest failure of all times. There is of course no right or wrong, and all that counts anyway, is what I make of it. And I might as well make the most of it and chose the happy path. Why not. It’s up to me. But looking ahead, I don’t know whether having a concrete picture of my future, like the one I had when I was young, would be a good thing or not. Most people would tell you that without a clear target you don’t know what you are aiming for. But then having a picture and not getting to it, might that not actually be more painful? And don’t things happen exactly when you don’t expect them? Also, would any picture not be too limiting? I don’t want to miss something or somebody because they don’t fit this idea straight away. I want to be open to things I am not even remotely aware of. Or do I? Am I not actually quite set in my ways? Do I not actually know exactly what I want (which is really still the same picture as above)? Am I not just starting to panic a bit because I sometimes feel really old? (sometimes I don’t, depends on the moment). Do I not just want to go back to the place where my parents managed my life, made all decisions and paid all my bills – when I was a naive but happy child? But then, the tipsy alcohol moment would come and shatter my perfectly safe bubble eventually. But this time I would wear an alien mask and would freak THEM out!

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One Response to “How on earth did I get here?”

  1. negsense October 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading that, it’s amazing that someone who comes off so confident and well-composed still has doubts like the rest of us.

    -Josh

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