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Last New Year’s eve, I remember being somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Himalayas with a bunch of friends, making mental resolutions of how I wanted 2017 to turn out. While the end of this year is still three months away, it has now been a year since I have been living abroad in Germany.
I came with pretty much zero knowledge of the German language. I had exactly one friend who lived in a nearby city that I knew from before. I had no idea what the next two years would bring. It sounds dramatic, but that’s what it really was. It was terrifying to be completely honest.
I walked away from everything that was once familiar. I walked or rather flew to a completely different continent that I had only briefly called home in yesteryear to pursue a program I had no idea would lead me where. I walked away from the last four years of my career I had painstakingly built whilst being in my business school and after. I literally walked away with all of my active savings wiped out from India and kept for my future life in Germany. I walked away from an apartment I had grown to love and had made some bitter-sweet memories in. I walked away from the heartbreak of a failed relationship that had walked out on me before I could even realise what had happened.
“I basically shot myself into a direction that led approximately somewhere, but accurately nowhere.”
It would be quite right to say I took perhaps the scariest decision of my life one year ago.
I did not do it for a lucrative new job. I did not do it for an exciting love affair. I did not do it for a fancy coveted degree.
I did not do it for anyone but myself. I did it so that I could prove to myself I was capable of building a life and pushing way beyond my well-established boundaries. I did it to live my dream of learning a new language, culture and living in a country I had long wanted to live in. I did it to find a chance to build a life on my own terms and conditions, if that was even remotely possible. I most certainly did not do it to receive external validation. I have achieved enough in my life to not have to give a damn about pleasing anyone else.
I know I’m beginning to sound a bit like the ‘Great Indian Migration Dream’. While I do not judge people who have that active dream, I know mine was at least somewhat different. Why? It was different, simply because in all manners of judgement I was living a life in India that most youngsters can only dream of living. I had a great career trajectory thanks to my insanely exclusive (read: painful) MBA pedigree. I had a lovely apartment to call home. I had friends from all walks of life that loved and supported me. I had my family in the same time zone, always just a few hours away. And I still chose to walk away from all of it. On average one can assume people move abroad to explore an active opportunity that serves their material needs better. I had no such active desire.
“I did not want a better life, I simply wanted a different life.”
On the other hand, I also have absolutely no qualms in admitting the extremely privileged and amazing opportunities my homeland has provided me. And I thank the universe for that every day. Or lets say every now and then, realistically.
One may ask..
What have I really managed to do in the last one year?
In no particular order of importance, I’d have to say the following:
- I have managed to quit smoking for good and that by far is my biggest accomplishment. If there’s one thing I have learnt in this short life of mine, it is that nothing matters more than my health. Absolutely nothing.
- I have made some amazing new friends some of whom have begun to feel like family and that is a pretty insane accomplishment by all means. One of the things that scared me the most was if I would ever meet my ‘tribe’ here in a new unknown land, and I’m happy to report that I have. I continue to maintain friendships across continents with some of my oldest, closest friends and I pretty much know now who is going to be around in the long run. (More here: What I learnt about friendships after moving abroad)
- I have traveled to two new countries, and explored a lot more of Germany. I’ve hosted four old friends, met up with a few others and taken about six recreational trips in the span of the last one year which is already more than I could have imagined.
- I am able to explain about 70% of all of my thoughts in a third language which I have technically only learnt through classes at my current university for like six months. There are days when my English/Hindi/German brain is all gobbled up and I toss around from one language to another like a complete lunatic (even more so when I’m a bottle of wine down), but you know I’m slowly getting there. I’d say given how much I pack into my phenomenally loaded life, this is definitely an achievement.
- I have managed to write regularly on this blog and built a small (albeit) interesting audience that regularly applauds and critiques my work, helping me get much better at articulating my thoughts. If you’re here often, reading/commenting/arguing/hating, know that I send you nothing but my love. The aim of this blog was to have a place I could fondly look back to when I get older and even though a huge part of my life is still kept private, I like sharing with you as much as I can.
What would I have been doing had I not moved here a year ago?
Scenario 1: I could have had a nice sea-view apartment in Colombo leading and developing a well-established German start-up looking to enter Sri Lanka. It would have been nice to have access to the sea at a moment’s notice, all the tropical food and weather. Not to mention the flight home was a much shorter and cheaper ride away. Maybe I would finally upgrade to become an Instagram certified beach yogini or at least a beginner surfer. I’d have no more excuses for not crossing them off my bucket list.
Scenario 2: I could have stayed back in Bangalore in my previous apartment, got a cute little dog I’d name Poochie, and finally work on my own start-up which I had no time to officially launch. Once I was able to steal some time and money away, I’d finally take the trip to South America that has been on my bucket list for a while. I’d probably have more time to be a part of loved ones’ weddings/celebrations and spend way more time bonding with my family than I have managed to do in the last one year.
Scenario 3: I could have moved back to my home state to open a youth hostel somewhere in the Himalayas for people like me who wished to have a safe, relaxed place far away from the buzzing metropolitan cities where they could meet other like-minded folks. I could stay and spend more time with my parents, learn advanced yoga and explore the option of promoting responsible tourism in my home state. For those of you who do not know, my home state is Uttarakhand. It is beautiful. You should stop by.
I could have.
I would have. I should have. Life goes on.
What has really happened a year later?
I am now gainfully employed in a firm and diligently enrolled in a Master program I like more than I would like to admit. I get time to work out a few times a week and rediscover my passion for yoga and biking. I even get to surprise myself with how far my cooking skills have come from “horribly inedible” to “looks shit but tastes alright”. Arguably, I have access to the best beers in the world. (Even though my Belgian friends would disagree). I’m a few hours away from about nine other European countries that border Germany and I have easy access to the rest of the continent. I live with my closest friend here in a cute and cozy apartment that overlooks a nice park. I get to meet and spend time with new, diverse and interesting people who challenge the way I look at my personal and professional relationships.
I still have mind-melting moments of weakness, emotional turmoil, existential dilemmas and major homeland missing. But, these are good problems to have for a soon to be 26-year-old. I do not have my whole life figured out. I do not wish to either. When has anything ever gone exactly how you planned anyway?
I have come to acknowledge that I am never going to be 100 percent content with myself. Neither am I ever going to be 100 percent content with anyone or anything in my life. I am 100 percent content with not being content. I guess no one ever really is, or else what would be the point of living?
Even so, I have come to understand myself a lot better. I know what makes me happy and I know what does not. I know what I will stand for and what I would absolutely not tolerate. I know the people in my life that I will fight to have by my side and the ones I am happy to have let go of.
In many ways, I’m becoming a better version of myself than I’ve ever been.
Perhaps I’m just getting old. Or perhaps I really needed to ship my butt all the way here. We’ll never know.