Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Germany — The Journey

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I knew this was coming. I knew that, at some point, I would have to write this. The last blog post about Germany. The blog post that would say: "I did it. I did it! I DID IT!!" The last blog post about the biggest, craziest, most fulfilling adventure of my life. The blog post signaling that it really was all over.

I knew this was coming, but I didn't think it would be this hard.

How could I possibly sum up three months of living, working, playing, learning and growing in Germany? How could I sum up all of the discouraging times, all of the incredibly fun times, all of the adventures, all of the trials and all of the accomplishments in one blog post?

I was watching One Tree Hill (a.k.a. my favorite show EVER) the other day, when something a character said hit me:

"I've come to the conclusion that if having things turn out the way you wanted them to is a measure of a successful life, then some would say that I'm a failure. The important thing is not to be bitter over life's disappointments. Learn to let go of the past and recognize that everyday won't be sunny. And when you find yourself lost in the darkness and despair, remember it's only in the black of night you see the stars. And those stars will lead you back home. So don't be afraid to make mistakes, or stumble and fall, because most of the time the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you'll get everything you wished for. Maybe you'll get more than you could have ever imagined. Who knows where life will take you? The road is long and, in the end, the journey is the destination."

That was it! My German experience all rolled into one fictional character's statement.

#1: Germany did not turn out the way I wanted it to.

I had every intention to travel every weekend, to see as much of Europe as possible, to become a true globe trotter. But I only left the country once. And I guess some people would call that disappointing. A failure. I, however, know differently. Rather than constantly traveling, I was constantly making friends and getting close to the most incredible people in the world.

Germany didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. It turned out better.

#2: I learned that everyday won't be sunny. 

Literally. Germany had one of its darkest winters on record this year, and Frankfurt got some of the worst of it! Coming from places where the sun shines even when it's cold outside, dealing with cloudy, semi-depressing weather for three months was hard.

Figuratively. I had some really dark days in Germany. There were days when I was frustrated with work, frustrated with a culture that was so different than my own, frustrated with doing almost everything on my own. There were times I just wanted to give up and go back home. But I didn't. I kept my head up and kept going.

Once you learn to accept the bad, the good will only seem that much better.

#3: I learned that it's only in the black of night that you can see the stars.

It seemed like just when things in Germany got the hardest — the most overwhelming — something would happen that made it all better. A friend would show up with Cherry Coke (which is kind of hard to find in Germany!) because he knew how much I love it. I would get to do something really cool for work, like meeting Elder Holland. The Lord would make it known that He's looking out for me.

Don't avoid doing hard, challenging things. Don't avoid the hard times. Because it's during those times that you'll discover just how beautiful life is.

#4: I overcame some of my greatest fears while in Germany.

Prior to living in Germany, I had never been out of the country. Not for vacation, not with my family. Never. So, LIVING in a foreign country all by myself was terrifying. I didn't speak the language, I didn't know anyone and I had limited internet and cell phone access. I'm also fairly shy, which made the idea of starting with a completely blank slate in the friend department seem like the end of the world.

But I did it.
I made friends! I learned to live without constantly checking Facebook and always texting my friends. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and stretch my limits. I learned to love the country and people around me, even though I usually understood very little of what was going on. I learned to stand on my own two feet. I learned that I'm capable of doing anything I set my mind to. And most importantly, I learned that there is no fear too big to overcome.

#5: I enjoyed the journey.

The crazy, unpredictable, scary, exhilarating, incredibly fun journey.

For the first little while, all I could do was think about how much LONGER I would be in Germany. "71 days," I thought. "You're halfway done. Only 45 more days!" And so on. All I could think about was that flight back to America at the end of my 90 days in Germany.

But somewhere along the way, I learned that it's the journey, not the destination, that matters most. It's not the end result that you'll remember one day. It's the blood, sweat, tears, hard work and growth that you'll remember. It's all the incredible experiences you have, all the trials you go through and all the memories you make that matter most.  

It's the journey that molds you into the person you're supposed to be. And that's exactly what happened during my three months in Germany. I came that much closer to the person I'm supposed to be. 

There is no way I'll ever be able to adequately describe my experiences in Germany. I find myself looking back on the last three months and asking, "Did that really just happen?"

All I can say is that my life has changed because I went out on a limb and applied for an internship. I am a different person because I took a giant chance on something I didn't know if I could do. I had the most incredible adventure doing something I had never really planned for. I enjoyed the journey.

"Who knows where life will take you? The road is long and, in the end, the journey is the destination."

Go out there and have yourself your own little journey. I promise you won't regret it.