Winter break is nearly done; school is officially back in session starting tomorrow, though I don’t have class until Tuesday. I’m so excited to return to school; homework is like my favorite thing.
There’s something I’ve been thinking about since I took my trip to Germany. All right, I’ve been thinking lots of thoughts, but this one keeps poking me in the ribs and I figure if a thought is hefty enough to reach down and poke my ribs (knock it off!!), I’d better examine it. Welcome to the PaperGirl exam room.
My reports on the Berlin trip have concerned the emotional landscape I discovered when I got there; I haven’t adequately expressed how much I loved the city itself, how I biked through the streets with Claus, ate the most phenomenal food — mushroom and salsify raviolis, I’m looking at you — absorbed the rich, albeit somber history of the city and felt very much at home as soon as I touched down. (I did say the other day how much I loved Hamburg, but that post was more about the heart than the vibe of the city and the effect it had on me.)
So, yes, I loved Berlin and Hamburg — a lot — and as I walked across the cobblestones and sat in the pubs and cafes with my friend, as I took the trams and the trains, the thought would flicker through my mind: “I could totally live here.” And that thought terrified me.
As well it should, right? Remember how I left my beloved Chicago? Remember how happy I was when I came home? Remember how I took a chance on love, on life, on a new address (okay, a bunch of addresses) and how hard that was? When I got back to Chicago after being in NYC and DC, and when I walk up Michigan Avenue — every time, even now, well over a year after being home — I ache with happiness to be here. But as beautiful as it is to know where I belong, I feel that I must, I must keep lit the tiny flame of “What if?”
What if I fall in love again? What if I get an opportunity to move to Paris, to Moscow, to Hamburg? What if I find myself quite sad, or empty, or utterly unsatisfied and unhappy in Chicago? Anything can, and often does happen. I’m old enough to know that. Well, what if
If you ask me right now, “Would you consider leaving Chicago again?” I would narrow my eyes at you and say, in a very even tone, like I’m on a cop drama, “That’s not an option we’ll be considering.” I really do believe that my home is here and that I will be a Chicagoan till I croak, hopefully a long, long time from now.
But if I say “No, never” to the idea that I might live somewhere else — if I say, “That’s not an option we’ll be considering” — a piece of myself calcifies. To be unwilling to think of another way, to be absolutely resolute about something so fluid as life itself… It’s so hard, but I have to allow myself to fantasize about living in a European city, even as the thought of moving around the corner makes me just about burst into tears, forget moving to a different continent.
We just don’t know. I don’t know what will be best at different times for my life or maybe in the life of someone I love, someone I haven’t even met, yet. And that’s the other point I want to make on calcification: As painful as love is, and it’s been hard lately, I refuse to be hard-hearted. I’m sentenced, I think, to a life of loving a lot and if I’m lucky, there’s lots of love coming my way. But I have to stay open to it. Otherwise, it’ll find me closed up and go knocking on another door, you know? There are lots of doors, lots and lots of people who need love and who are waiting with their ear to the door, waiting on tiptoes for the knock. If there’s a “Closed” sign on my heart because I let the blues get to me, love might stay away for good.
I liked the architecture in Hamburg. I like the German language very much. I liked picturing myself at some point in my forties, maybe, living and laughing and drinking a beer in Berlin. (Doesn’t that sound fabulous?) I have to allow myself to fantasize about these things, even if they scare me. Otherwise, a hardness sets in.
That ain’t gonna work, man. After all, I’m a quilter. I’m into soft.