In the Airport

Sometimes changes happen with a big bang, altering life as you know it in a moment. Other times, changes sneak their way into your life, subtly shifting the sands around until one day you are struck by the change in the landscape. What you knew so well and for so long has been replaced by something altogether new.

I always was a little bit afraid of what would happen to me if I eased off on my relentless travel and work schedule, even while I knew logically that if I ever wanted a different life from the one I was living I would have to give it up. I was worried I would become boring or bored and I wondered what satisfaction I would find if I shifted my energy to my personal life.

Many people would probably thing it is ridiculous to get so much enjoyment out of professional achievements at the expense of stability in personal life, but I thrived on it. Getting the final sign off on my doctorate, finishing my first project as a team member, then as a team lead, then moving on and achieving even more in an international setting than I ever would have believed possible gave me a lot of happiness. Sure, the cost was always high. A trail of destruction in my friendships, my relationships and even a brief marriage was left in my wake as I continuously set off for the next adventure. I never saw at the time what I was doing; it just seemed to all implode on its own over and over again.

During a cold, lonely winter in Zürich something finally started to click. I was devoting far too much energy to achievement for the sake of achievement. Something echoed in my head over and over during that winter, a line from the last argument M. and I ever had. 'Do you want to be in your 50s, single and no family, working on yet another crazy project, living somewhere like Hong Kong?'

I pondered that question a lot in the winter of 2009. Sometimes I could really see that as my future. Traveling the globe, climbing the corporate ladder, dependent on no one. But then what? If that all came to pass, would I really look back at my life and be happy with how I lived it? Independence, strength and self-sufficiency are all good things but are they worth it at the exclusion of the many other things life has to offer?

As often is the case, even when I started to feel that perhaps it was time for a change, life doesn't just fall into place at that moment. My motto may have become 'Underachieve at work and enjoy life more' but old habits die hard.

I moved back to Munich while starting another challenging project in Geneva that then took me to England and the Netherlands at first and then off to Mexico. Next thing I knew over a year had passed since the breakup with M. and on the surface little seemed to have changed.

Mexico felt special to me at the time. I embraced the time there and felt very sad when I decided to leave prematurely and roll the dice on finding a new project closer to home. It seemed I had the feeling of saying farewell to more than just a stint in Mexico. I was saying goodbye to a way of life I had lived for nearly 10 years.

In the background, some things were happening that did not seem so significant at first glance. After a long wait I had found and moved into a new apartment in Munich. I started dating Mr. Kilt. Meanwhile my boss encouraged me to hold out for the very slim possibility of some work in Munich, despite some tempting opportunities in Paris and Switzerland. I mean, Paris...it took all my will power to say no.

Last weekend I found myself in the airport for the first time in what seemed like ages. This trip had nothing to do with work. I was off to another weekend in Scotland with Mr. Kilt, for a wedding. Sitting in the airport, I remembered the life I was already forgetting.

Packing took longer than usual because I was out of practice. My suitcase was dusty. No need to stress about landing, meeting 50 strangers and immediately trying to figure out how to work with them and motivate them to deliver the impossible project in the impossible timeline. I wasn't leaving my man behind for the 30th week in a row; he was right by my side, as he is most days of the week, keeping me company, making me smile and filling up my heart and my life with all those things I was never sure I wanted. I try every day to do the same for him.

I don't feel bored or unsatisfied without the travel. In fact, I don't think about it at all. I still have plenty of challenging work. Less would be just fine actually.

Mr. Kilt and I boarded the plane together with a herd of other summer tourists. I smiled as I realized I don't miss that old life one little bit.

Posted from Munich


headbang8 said...

I'm posting this comment while in New York on business. You know what? I don't want to be here.

B. said...

Kudos to you. Sounds like you've got it all at the moment... be sure to cherish it!

G in Berlin said...

Soounds like you have reached a great place in your journey. Sometimes I look where I am and I'm amazed: but generally, I am very happy. It's a great place to be.

Expat Traveler said...

sounds great to me! And it sounds like you are enjoying your life. :) Pics!!!