Published: July 20th 2006July 20th 2006
“Live for the Moment.” That’s what a friend of mine always told me.
I sit here now, nearly a week after having left Germany and Europe. Ten and a half months. Ten and a half months that I will never forget. Ten and a half months where I learnt so much, experienced so many new things and met so many people from most corners of the world. Ten and a half months where I lived on the edge of reality and lived for the moment. Ten and a half months that ended in a way that I still can’t really believe and fully comprehend.
I always had in my mind that once getting back to Calgary, reality would slap me back in the face. It has as well, but really, my slap came almost 2 months ago. Suddenly, reality was there. Reality had found its way back to me.
One sunny day back in early September, not two weeks after getting to Germany, I rang a doorbell. It must have taken me 5 minutes before deciding whether or not to press it. On the other side would be the next 8 months of my life. At the time, I was certain that 8 months were all it would be, and I was not the only one. I lived for the moment.
I often watched, and generally proudly from the outside, where I wanted to be, of how this general theme was reverberating through our fairly tightly nit community of exchange students. This is something that is bound to happen when everyone knows the end is somewhere up ahead. An easy way out, I guess. The end is there; it will come. Add that to the fact that everyone was willing to meet new people and experience new things, and with the help of alcohol, the good friend that it is and the catalyst in all this, then a good picture of what can happen starts to form. Living for the moment, and why not? It is there, grab it.
However, I didn’t watch alone, and it may in fact be the reason I didn’t partake in such things. I guess I didn’t have to; I had already grabbed my moment early, only it was a longer moment. I had her standing beside me those 8 months, and aside from one slipup, she always was. This was the life of Stuttgart: great friends having a great time; and some people finding greater friendship in one than the other. The last party wasn’t good - wait two days for the next one. Campus getting boring - Europe is at your doorstep. Done with one thing - another thing is around the corner. Something was always going on. Something was happening somewhere…
The same friend also once told me that I think too much. Today is no exception and I am doing it more so than ever. Lately, I’ve found that writing helps me make sense of stuff better. Thus, I’ve been doing a lot of it the last two months. She is probably right though, I really should stop thinking about things so much. Instead, I am now thinking about what that phrase really means, and how powerful it really is. “Live for the moment”- it seems so simple, and insignificant, but is it really so? Are these sometimes the decisions we make or the things we do in that minute that we may later regret? It would seem that not much bad can really be done or happen in such a short time, yet it has destroyed friendships, relationships and lives. Every once in a while you live for that one moment that can do such a thing. Regrets are a part of life, if you didn’t have them it would mean you think you didn’t make any mistakes, have nothing to be sorry for, essentially think you are perfect, and ultimately, not learn anything from it.
I was asked if I regretted leaving Stuttgart after 8 months to do some of the traveling I had always wanted to do. In fact, when I first made up my mind to go on this exchange, I did it more as an excuse to go traveling. I had no idea of the impact that the place and the people would actually have on me. I think, come January or February, I had even started second guessing my decision to only do one semester. I mean, it really almost doesn’t make sense to leave a place earlier than you have to, that you consider as near perfect as is probably possible. So when asked that question about 2 weeks ago, under the then current circumstances, I honestly had to think. If I were to be asked now, I still don’t know if I could answer it. Strangely enough, I was asked that question a bit before I left Stuttgart, and it could not have been any easier to answer then. No.
After 8 months, as I was leaving Stuttgart to go traveling the rest of Europe, it appeared as if my moment was finally up. That final end was finally here for me. I suppose when you put an idea in your head right from the beginning, such as this for example, it never really leaves again or changes- or it does but you don’t fully know it or know how to change it yourself. Thus, I left, and the person I had been standing with those 8 months was left standing alone, and lost.
After 25 days of galloping across Western Europe, grabbing a moment here, and losing one there, and my travel buddy then flying home, I was informed that I was now the one standing alone. Not just alone, but I had been replaced. She had slipped back the same way she did that first time, only now she was staying there. Reality slapped me in the face and gave me a wake up call. The day my moment truly ended.
Unfortunately for me, it would stay that way. Overall, not a good way to be traveling from place to place in Europe. I would say, that most people come over to Europe to do their own share of escaping reality, only I was thrown right back into it. I never would have guessed that going from one far off city and place to another would have seemed more like reality to me, than how things were for me in Stuttgart.
I finally made my way back into a city that was my home for about 8 months, and in my mind hadn’t yet stopped being so, yet it felt as far away and strange to me as any place I had been to yet. I found myself in front of that same doorbell that I was about 10 months earlier, with the same decision to make. I pressed it again. It had never felt so strange before. It was no longer my doorbell to press; it was no longer where I belonged. On the other side were 8 months of my life that were great…, but over, and soon to be an eventual path into a realization of what would, more than likely, never be a part of it again. After all, time passes, therefore, so does a moment.
So I suddenly found myself in what was, indisputably, the biggest of all dramas in this little community of ours. Something I don’t like, apparently don’t deal well with, and something I tried the whole time to avoid. I guess that decision isn’t always solely up to one person. If I want drama, I’ll watch the OC, as hard as that is to admit. Screw you that show rocks.
I have to ask myself now, who was holding on to that moment more, me or her? So much had changed in my two month absence, although I never really felt as if I had left the place, only that it had left me. A choice had to be made. A choice I will probably never ever understand and one that probably can’t even be explained, because it hasn’t been yet. I’ve run into trouble believing in fate before, so I won’t say anything about it playing a roll here, only that the choice was probably for the best. What I saw, had to listen to, and experienced leads me to believe this. The strangest, most confusing two weeks I’ve ever had. My time in Stuttgart was up; the two weeks eventually wound down and I left, in a way I never saw coming, lost.
It was a choice she had to make for herself; something she had to know. Maybe it will be something she will one day regret, and maybe not. Maybe she was living for the moment, and actually still is. My friend, who I once knew, who once made me so happy, who once stood beside me, always said, “Live for the moment.” I hope she knows a moment can last forever…
So as I look back at my time in Stuttgart, and in Europe, I really can’t complain. I couldn’t have imagined a better 9 months. The last month and a half though, could have been much better. I guess with the good comes the bad, it just sort of sucks how the two are so connected and both have the same underlying cause. It makes it hard to think of one without the other. I have come back from almost a year that I can only describe (outside of that end bit of course) as fantastic and amazing. Truthfully, I’m not all that stoked to be back. I’m looking at a year of almost as much change as when I went to Germany. Sadly, change that almost for sure won’t be for the better. I’m going back to a city that has changed so much in one year that it no longer feels like home- a house or room, that I still don’t have, that will for the first time have none of the people that I’m so used to living with, that we would do “family pictures,” a university that like the first time I stepped into it will be full of only unfamiliar faces, and a way of life that I have almost forgotten… Jocelyn also said, “Look to the future.” That’s what I will do. I hope this is a good snow year!! With that, although it’s been almost a week since I physically left, I will say one more final goodbye to her, to friends, and to Stuttgart. Wow.