Reflecting on 9 months abroad

As a child who grew up with a lot of rules both at school and at home, where excelling in academics always superseded all other desires (much like most other Indian kids born in the 90’s), I was always inclined to plan for the future. To a great extent, I have jumped into one thing before I have finished another. And this is how at the age of 25, I have finished one Master degree,  am halfway to finishing my second Master degree, have worked in 3 different companies in 3 different sectors for over two years, done a couple of internships along the way and managed to live and travel extensively along two continents I’m extremely fond of, with friends that I know I will adore for life. My personal life however is a whole other story. While I am incredibly grateful and blessed to have survived thus far, it has also been a constant battle of choosing between what I truly want and what I think everyone wants.

It would be dramatic but not entirely wrong to say that the last nine months in Germany have changed my views about life tremendously. I knew back in 2013 that being in certain places in Europe made me feel at ease. Here, I wasn’t always in a hurry to be somewhere and to do something. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still always going to be a paranoid person, just much less so. Perhaps that happy place for you is your hometown or any other place you relate to on a level which is not just material/physical. People often say, if you are unhappy in a place you will be unhappy everywhere. I think it totally depends on what is the very core of your unhappiness.

The core of my unhappiness was having no other life outside of work. Spending hours each day in pollution and traffic only to get to the work place. Fearing I would be run down by a car each time I had to cross a road which had no pedestrian lights. Having to travel 3/4 hours to escape the cities I worked in if only for a weekend. Having one long holiday per year where I would have barely enough time to recover from the burn-out. Did I have a comfortable life in India in material terms? I’d say my life was 10x more comfortable that an average Indian. I had a great apartment I absolutely loved, a great set of friends in almost every city I studied/worked in, a cook who knew just how I liked my eggs, family and friends who visited me every few months despite their crazy schedules and apps that would deliver my groceries at my doorstep each morning (perks that you can not even dream of having in Germany). Yet, I was unhappy.

This is not to preach that each person who is stuck in a cosmopolitan emerging city should follow in my footsteps or even take drastic measures like I did to escape the same. I know many people who absolutely love massive, dynamic, diverse cities. I’m just not one of them. And for me, happiness does depend on the place that I live in. Of course it is not a binary function of just this and includes many other factors.

The one thing that absolutely terrifies me today is the lack of monetary security I feel because of starting all over in Germany. Where I once never had to think twice before living expenses, here I have to carefully plan not to run out of my savings and have limits on leisure activities. Yes, being a student kind of comes with this life. But then what next? If I am to have some kind of a future here, I will have to make peace with being relatively poorer (in monetary terms). My pedigree in India came from my roots being strongly planted there. Just like a HEC MBA grad with few years of experience probably still would be a middle-income earner in Mumbai, I would face pretty much the same bias working in Munich. (Not to mention language constraints, working permits et al.)

Question is though, is that really so bad? In my bundle of happiness, money definitely features (like in most peoples’, if you say no, you are either lying or you’re too good to be true and you probably should not be reading my blog), but so does work-life balance, time for fitness or reading, time for writing, time for loved  ones, time for traveling and exploring new cultures (which will be my lifelong passion even if I am penniless) but most importantly, feeling safe in my own home and my own city. A feeling that was majorly lacking when I was in Delhi or even Bangalore for a myriad of reasons.

I had set some personal goals before moving here, and while I haven’t met 100% of all of them, I am very much on my way. My German is not as fluent as I’d like it to be but I can express the majority of my daily thoughts without struggling and that’s great given I spend most of my time studying and working in English. Learning a new language at this age kind of feels like learning how to live with another side of your personality that surprises you each day with some thing new because you have absolutely no idea what to expect. I am positive that in another year I will be at higher intermediate/business proficiency in German. Professionally, we’ll see what happens in a year when I have to stop being a part-time student again, but I think I will survive. I am not a quitter. And no matter how bad things get, there’s always some one having it worse than you.

When you live in constant insecurity of where you will be in the future (literally and otherwise), it’s so much harder to focus on the present. After constantly worrying about my future for most of my life, for this remaining time I have left as a student, I want to focus on being fully dedicated to living in the present. This does not mean I get to be entirely reckless but simply to re-shift my focus. My long term is a year, and so everything else automatically gets into perspective.

If something or some one is not making you happy today, why continue to invest in the same for the hope of a changed outcome in the future? As long as you have the ability to change your present, do it. That’s all you can control anyway. Until next time, live your dreams!

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

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