Surfacing for Air

As tends to happen when your career revolves around client projects, I have been extremely busy with work. The no project days of April and May are but a distant memory and I am full speed ahead pushing towards the September 7 deadline. Sometimes I compare the life of a consultant to that as being crew on a submarine. We live in a self-contained bubble cut off from the rest of life, working together until our tasks are done and we can come up for a bit of R&R before it all starts again.

So there has been no writing, fewer phone calls, less time for fun and friends and work has started to chew into my weekends. Bills and other errands are falling behind. Sadly, I won't even be in Munich for the Expat Meetup and will instead be working day and night all weekend in Geneva. I ditched my normal Sunday bike ride today, which promised to be a good one as we were planning to take our bikes out of town by train and visit Andechs Monastery and Brewery.

As much as I love a lot of the things my job has brought me over the years - friends from around the world, travel to my heart's content, my life in Germany, satisfaction and a thrill at the moment when we emerge from the difficult times and it all snaps together - the last year has given me a different perspective on what else is important in life for me. Events conspired to send me on a trip around the world after M. and I broke up, I wandered without any home address, and in a lonely hotel in Delaware I finally knew I needed something different.

After 9 months away, two projects cancelled as victims of the global economic crisis, and 5 mailing addresses, I returned to Munich with new priorities. I was lucky to have two months here with no project to distract me from my mission - to find a sense of home and friends that have nothing to do with my job.

When I started back at work in Geneva it was with mixed feelings. I was relieved to not have to worry about my job security, which is directly tied to my livelihood and my legality in Germany. But there was the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that once again the balance would tip completely towards work and I would start to lose what I had been building here. Nevertheless I managed for the first month to keep up my life in Munich and the new demands of work at the cost of a little less sleep.

The last two weeks it has been a lot tougher. The workload has gone through the roof and the pace will not slow down until mid-September. However, this time I am trying not to go over the top. I want one last try to see if I can make this career work and still have a life outside of it. Some compromising is ok but I don't want to throw everything away that I have been creating for myself. My friends are helping me by making sure I am not forgotten in their plans.

Yesterday I took a full time out to stop and smell the roses. Bright and early I got up and baked a peach pie to bring to the 4th of July picnic held at the Hirschgarten. I haven't celebrated the 4th since moving from the US. There were about 80 of us gathered in the alternating hot sun and rain showers to celebrate the day. It was the 4th with a distinctly Bavarian twist - a picnic in the Hirschgarten beer garden. About 80% of the crowd were Americans, the rest husbands, wives and admirers from other countries. One guy from England was walking around with a backdated tax form trying to collect from the Americans. We shared our Oreos with him instead. We were all amused with the stashes of food brought forth - American flag cake, fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, boxes of donuts, peach and apple pie, Oreo cookies and so on.

Late in the afternoon as the weather started to stabilize, the guy I have been seeing, A., called me and we agreed to head out to Tollwood together. Tollwood is a music and arts festival that happens twice a year in Munich. I had never been and A. had stopped by it alone a couple weeks ago and wanted to go back together to check it out more. So, so fun! There are all these little booths selling random junk, food stands, and areas with different themes to sit and have some drinks. We stopped at a wood stand for wine, then fantastic spicy Thai food in the Buddha Lounge where we lounged and watched the dark clouds blowing by the full moon, then in the Bavarian tent for Weissbier. We made a pact to find something silly to buy as a souvenir for max 10 euros but couldn't decide between the psychedelic smurf t-shirts or the cat chimes. The German lady at the cat chime stand thought we were crazy for trying to bargain with her Asian style. At Tollwood it really felt like being in another part of the world.

Today it is back to work but I am glad for the fun day off that I had and feel that the work is a little more tolerable after that.

Posted from Munich


Expat Traveler said...

Love the little photo you made.. Glad you are making the balance! It's rather funny, but do you think you will see any part of Geneva?

aimee said...

those peaches and especially that pie are making me salivate!

i so know what you mean about consulting...b and i are going through the same thing. of course, i go through this every year or two and i'm on year nine...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you were able to celebrate the Fourth in such a fun way. :)

It is really difficult to balance a high-stress, long-hours job with one's personal life. Best wishes to you as you balance work and play. It is great to read about what you are achieving.