Where and what is the future?

This question still jabs at me.

It seems like every few weeks I come to some sort of conclusion about what I want to do, and then a series of doubts start to creep in, and I suddenly want to throw everything up in the air and start over, and stop thinking about any of it. This is silly of course, but it’s a very easy, and oh-so-appealing trap to fall into.

Once again I’m caught between that ubiquitous desire for stability, vis-a-vis that part of me which wants to throw caution to the wind in the search for some kind of grand adventure. The problem is that you can’t have your cake and eat it. We all need to make money, and keep going – somehow.

There are seemingly infinite things I want to do, infinite experiences that I want to run out and grasp. I tell myself over and over again that I need to reign myself in to some extent, and try to keep a more realistic grip on things. I wonder how much of it is simply driven by an unrealistic, racing-thoughts type ideation, which is taking me on flights of fancy which ultimately will lead nowhere?

It is hard to know. We are told to follow our dreams, but I still have no idea what the dream is.

 

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Back at work, and hiking the Eifelsteig

This week has been fairly busy. I returned to work on Wednesday, which was enjoyable yet intense as it usually is.

This weeek I also decided to try something new, which was to try to organize some language tandems in order to improve my spoken German. This went better than expected, and I managed to organize two in the last week, in the latter of which I ended up speaking German for a full two hours. This wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated it might be, and I feel I got a lot out of it. If I continue like this, I’m sure my spoken German can only continue to improve. Moreover the people I met were young people like me, and I hope it might lead to some kind of meaningful friendship. But I have to wait and see!

Yesterday I decided to go for a long hike along the Eifelsteig, from Kordel to Trier. I decided to do this without a map, which was either brave or stupid, instead relying on the waymarking, which is constant throughout the trail. It was beautiful, particularly the part through Butzerbacher Wald, where I had to cross some rope bridges over waterfalls.

Unfortunately towards the end there was a diversion from the path due to forestry works, which led to me getting a bit lost and having to extend my walk by about two or three miles. This was a little bit stressful, but I managed to find the way back to Trier eventually, helped no doubt by my familiarity with the forested area near to Biewer on the way to Trier.

I am glad to get out into the hills again, and I hope to make this a regular habit that I can keep up every weekend. All in all though, I am enjoying things now that I’m back in Trier, and looking forward to the weeks to come.

Back to Normality

I am now back in Trier after having spent nearly two weeks at home in the north of Ireland. I spent these two weeks mainly at home, which was often time consuming, as I ended up visiting a lot of people and spending a lot of time with my extended family. I did not do as much as I had planned with regard to anything else, but in some ways that was probably to be expected! I did however manage to get to Donegal one day for a walk on the beach.

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The main benefit however was the time and space I took to myself, to think about my life and where I’m headed, and I feel that I managed to get together a clearer path for myself that seemed to actually lead to a place where I wouldn’t be under so much pressure. I have more or less come to terms with the fact I may need to go back to university, but I have decided to give myself one or two more years to get everything into place and make that move, and have also decided that I would like to spend those years in Spain, which is a country I’ve been wanting to spend some extended time in for a long while.

That said, I am a bit relieved to be back in Germany. The constant busy-ness and need to be around other back home was a bit disconcerting and overwhelming at times, as was the disruption to my routine. I have a lot of exciting plans in place for the year coming, and am generally looking forward to getting on with it.

 

A Day Trip to Luxembourg

Yesterday I finally managed to do some “travelling”, making the short journey by train from Trier to Luxembourg City. I went with two of the other English Language Assistants based in Trier (whom as you might expect I now know fairly well). We planned out the day loosely in advance, the main advantage of which was that we each brought along some food for the train journey there and back, and an afternoon picnic.

We spent the day wandering around and taking in Luxembourg’s sights, of which there are many. I had expected Luxembourg to be something like Brussels: a bit more cold and administrative, with a few skyscrapers. In actual fact the city is both beautiful and historical, with many old buildings well preserved, as well as some of the city’s fortifications.

Although it was a very cold, frosty day, it was also sunny, with a beautiful light during the day which enabled me to take the pictures above. The multi-level nature of the city is one of its highlights, and contributes to making it so photogenic.`

Another highlight of the day was, of course, a visit to the Christmas market. It was like the one in Trier, but was much larger and featured a wider selection of different goods including a lot of Swiss products and food and drink (including Raclette).

The day was finished off by a döner kebab once we were safely back in Germany. Tomorrow I will be back to work, but there are only three weeks now left until the Christmas holidays begin, and for once I am somewhat looking forward to it!

Cold out but Comfortable

It is starting to become really cold outside in Trier, and it has also started raining with a degree of regularity, which is an abrupt change from the lovely, sunny weather we were having even up late October. It fits, though, especially since December is coming in a matter of days.

In the past few days life has started to seem more settled and somehow manageable. I have a good routine now with my job, where I know how things work and how I stand in relation to my colleagues, who I get on better with. I no longer feel awkward sitting in to the staff room, and I am getting more comfortable speaking to people in German when the situation calls for it. All in all, getting better.

The next few days will be busy. Tomorrow I will visit the Christmas market in Trier, Saturday Luxembourg, and Sunday Saarbrucken (if a lift can be arranged). I am starting to feel now that I have spent enough time in Trier itself, and that it would be nice to get out of it for a while, even if just for a few days. I will be going back to Ireland later in December during the Christmas holidays, a thought which, for once, does not fill me with dread but makes me feel somewhat contented.

It is nice to come into winter without feeling a kind of gloom coming over me, and I am happy with how things are going. Tomorrow is another day at work, and hopefully a good one.

Our first flat party…

Last night my flatmates and I hosted our first real “flat party”, which ran from 3pm in the afternoon until around 2am in the morning. It was not quite what I had expected. The level of preparation my German flatmate put in was unlike any student party I had ever been to in the UK, though that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It was.

It was an intense evening, spent switching between German and French and English due to the make up of the guests. I found it strange how easily this came to me, and at times it felt a little bit disconcerting; my Tunisian flatmate would speak to me in French and out of instinct I would answer in German. It’s an experience I haven’t really had before, but which I suppose is natural in a multilingual group.

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Today I am feeling a little bit worse for wear, but I’m also looking forward to the week to come. I have about four weeks left at school before the beginning of the Christmas holidays. I am hoping to finally finish the Couch to 5K running plan in that time: this week has been a bit of a set back as I’ve had a chest infection the entire week which is only now starting to clear up.

On the whole things are good. This is one of the first winters where I can say that I really feel content, with no worries about exams to come and no essay stress. It’s a good feeling. I’ve also managed to get my insurance company to pay out for some medical bills, meaning that I’m no longer as financially pressed as I was just a few days ago. Onwards…

Trying to find a direction

The last couple of days, truth be hold, have been a bit tough for me. I spent much of yesterday languishing in a kind of depression. Finally I mustered the energy to ask some friends to meet me which calmed me down to no end. I bought a packet of cigarettes, chain smoked around 10 and threw the rest away. I am feeling better today.

What bothers me is something which I suppose has bothered me for a while: a sense of dissatisfaction and directionlessness in life. I had hoped that my time away in Germany would give me some space to think about things, and try to work out what I was really looking for. In large part I think I was always drawn to TEFL because of exit route it seemed to offer into another space, in which you could always reconstruct yourself, rebuild your life as something happier and more fulfilling. Although I enjoy teaching and find it rewarding, there is an inherent anxiety in this lifestyle which I am never going to escape. Instead of finding the liberation I sought I now find myself simply tied down in another jurisdiction, with all its bureaucratic encumbrances, the accumulation of belongings which will eventually need to be dumped again, the ties of contracts, and so on.

I am starting to realize how numbed and dazed I was by the whole Oxford experience. The last year has been one thing after another, a seemingly never ending torrent of stress. I survived it all but by the end I felt almost like a zombie, alienated from others and also alienated from myself. I believed I had recovered a lot of the sense of self that I had lost in my adolescence to various traumas and pressures as I was leaving Oxford, but I am starting to gain the awareness, more and more, that there are other things buried there which I need time to reconstitute and make whole again, even if it takes years or decades.

I would like to pursue writing more seriously. I have wanted to write since I was a teenager, but was always hindered by a kind of self doubt, a deafening inner critic, which told me that I was wanting so much in life experience and the understanding of others that it would be a futile exercise. With age and experience came greater insight; now it does not seem such an insurmountable obstacle. There have been many things in life I have held back from, restrained by a kind of ever-present anxiety. I wish to no longer allow that anxiety to restrain me.  I want to return to those days of my childhood where I could learn, enjoy culture and read for the sake of it without the threat of scrutiny and criticism, love without fear, and experience without self-loathing.

A November Update

The last few days have been very busy for me, as a friend of mine came to visit me in Trier from England. This was very nice, as I had begun to miss some of my friends in England, so having someone here was a bit of a relief. Although I had to work most of the days he was here, we still spent a lot of time together and got through most of the touristy things in Trier, including a hike up to the Mariensaule.

The weather in Trier is starting to turn wintry, with the temperatures suddenly dropping very, very low, with many days now grey and overcast and short. I am still doing a lot of exercise, which is keeping my spirits up, but I do worry about the possibility of a return of the seasonal depression which made my last winter back in Oxford so miserable. The colours in the forest outside are starting to change to a darker hue, and it won’t be long before the leaves start to disappear from the trees completely.

The teaching is going well, and moreover I managed to arrange a few interviews and have been successful with the one I have had so far. I can only hope that the second one will go the same way, but that will remain to be seen.

On the whole, I have a quiet few weeks ahead of me planned. I have still not managed to get to Luxembourg city, so hopefully I can make that happen at some point in early December. For the first time in a while, I am also looking forward to Christmas. I realized a short while ago why this was: it is the first time since I was 11 years old that I will not have to sit an exam after the Christmas holiday. That thought is simultaneously deeply depressing and liberating, but that’s the way it is….

About being a Foreign Language Assistant in Germany

The point of this post is to highlight some of the advantages and pitfalls of going to Germany via the British Council, to be placed in a school as a foreign language assistant. It has advantages, but I have also run into a couple of difficulties. On the whole, it is one of the easier ways to get a TEFL job in Germany if you do not already have a lot of contacts in Germany. Here are my thoughts.

  1. The application process

The application process for this programme is very simple. It is a matter of filling in an application form online. There is no interview. You will need a university reference, which means it is only really suitable for third year university students doing a year abroad, and recent graduates.

It takes a long time to find out the outcome (I applied in December, found out I was successful in April, and got a location/school in June). You have very little choice over where you are placed, beyond selecting a preference for N/S/E/W and Town/City/Village.

2. The move 

My experience with moving to Germany involved, if I’m being honest, not a lot of support from either the British Council nor my school. I was left to find accommodation and deal with my paperwork completely by myself. I managed, but had a number of delays due to issues getting certain forms from my landlord, and also because, in general, it can be difficult to find a room to rent in Germany, so ended up spending my first week in Trier in a hostel. Due to the strong laws for tenants, landlords can be very selective about who they take and may want a lot of evidence that can be difficult to provide (3 months’ payslips, for example). In the end, it got sorted. Most apartments in Germany are also unfurnished. I am still sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with no bed.

On the other hand, I know some ELAs who had accommodation arranged for them, sometimes at very reasonable rents, or even rent free. This accommodation situation, then, it seems, will vary heavily on where you are placed in Germany.

3. The job

The job itself is something I very much enjoy. However, the role of a “Foreign language assistant” is ill-defined, and many teachers at my school seemed to be unsure of what I was actually doing there. Resolving this for me involved actively seeking out more responsibility and teaching duties. I now feel I have a bit more to do, but some other ELAs I know have had trouble with this and ended up spending most days at work at a loose end; it seems to depend heavily on what kind of school you are at (Gymnasium or Realschule), and the working environment.

4. The pay

As a foreign language assistant, you are paid 850 euro per month. This will cover your living expenses (as the cost of living in Germany is relatively low compared with the UK), if you rent a room in a WG, shop at Aldi etc. It will not allow you to save or to travel frequently, unless you have access to other sources of money (e.g. an erasmus grant or student loan, as in the case of 3rd year language students). However, there are some benefits: you will receive a very good private insurance policy (as you are classed as a civil servant), which will cover basically anything.

Topping up this income is not straightforward. The market for English tuition in Germany is over-saturated with many people competing for the same positions at language schools, and demand also varies heavily by location. Nearly all positions are “freelance”, requiring you to file taxes as self-employed. The other assistants and I in Trier have all sought out extra work, with some degree of success, but the rates of pay are not great, in some cases barely more than minimum wage. Private tuition (Nachhilfe) commands about half what you would expect to be paid in the UK. Moreover, you will inevitably end up working split shifts, into the evenings etc.

Conclusion?

I am enjoying my time in Germany a lot, after some initial hiccups. The contract you get through the British Council is only for 9 months, and is not intended to be a permanent job. If you go down this route, it is important to be realistic about what your lifestyle will be like and what you will be able to do with the money. Staying in Germany more long term is possible, but there can be difficulties: you will be legally required to get a new private insurance policy (expect to pay around 50-100 euro a month), and any TEFL work you will be able to do is highly seasonal. In the long run, I do not see myself being able to stay in Germany beyond July or August 2018.

Music, culture and language teaching

I am fortunate in that, in the last weeks, I have been given a lot of freedom by the teachers at the school in which I work to plan and teach my own lessons. This is not something all foreign language assistants get to do. This is facilitated in part by the flexibility of the German education system, which affords a tremendous amount of leeway to individual teachers to choose and produce their own curriculum.

My favourite class at the minute is a year 12 class, with whom I have been trying to teach about Northern Ireland through engagement with music. We are eventually going to watch the movie, “Good Vibrations”, about the Punk scene in Belfast in the 70s, but first I have been trying to set the scene and give some context. I have enjoyed it so much partly because music is something which I greatly enjoy, and also because I think listening to music offers an insight into culture (and in particular the psychology and emotionality of that culture), which is difficult to access in other ways.

In truth, being from the North of Ireland (or Northern Irish), while working for the British council in what is so clearly a soft-power/cultural promotion position is a bit of a tricky spot to find oneself in (not that I didn’t chose it). A powerpoint presentation on the royal family, for example, presented baldly as “my culture” would feel dishonest. I am lucky, I suppose, then, that my school has not thrust this on me, as has happened to some of the other ELAs I’m friends with.

Teaching this class gave me occasion to think hard about the relationship between music and identity (and in Northern Ireland, they are certainly intertwined), but I am still far from conclusion. Even in my own life, I seem to be unable to escape the connection. In the midst of a depressive episode earlier this year I listened to Black Sabbath and the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack on repeat (not much to be proud of), but it at least seemed to offer some validation of my self-perception, and the reassurance that others shared it. This motivation seems to be in operation in the forcefully cheerful, table-thumping Stammtisch-Lieder I have come across a few times since I’ve been in Germany, as on Halloween night when a friend and I stumbled into one on the hunt for a cigarette machine (a one off, I promise).

The mysteries of German drinking culture aside, I hope that showing these students English language music will teach them something about the Anglosphere, or at least about Northern Ireland. If not, maybe they will enjoy it, which is more than can be said for many school activities.

Halloween in Trier

On Tuesday night I celebrated Halloween with some of the other language assistants. We had a dinner at the house of one of them before going to a house party at another’s WG, while another had travelled from a nearby town to join in. All in all it was a good night, the first real party I’ve been to since I’ve been here. I had been curious to see how the Germans celebrated Halloween, and while it didn’t compare to Ireland or the UK, I was impressed by some of the costumes on display, especially those made by my friend’s flatmates, some of whom are design students. My costume, however, was rather more low-effort:

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Coincidentally, we also had three days off school which helped to facilitate this party, as 31st October was the 500th anniversary of the reformation, and the first of November, All Saints’ Day or Allerheiligen, is an important holiday in Germany.

A few days before I also walked up the Trier Weinberg (a large area of public land given over to vineyards), with an ELA friend and another ELA who was staying with her for the weekend. It was truly beautiful, and made me appreciate the colours of autumn here in Germany.

 

I am looking forward to November and am looking forward to a few different possibilities, hopefully including a trip to Luxembourg. I will try to return to my previous diligence when it came to maintaining this blog, and apologies for the irregularities of the past few weeks.

Good news and getting into the swing of things

After a difficult first few months, I have had a couple of small victories this week.

The first victory was finding out that that I do not, in fact, have skin cancer. Despite the difficulties I had in actually getting the doctor to speak to me, I managed to talk to him on Monday and got the news. After everything, it turned out that the mole was not cancerous but merely unusually pigmented. Of course, I now have a hefty bill to pay, but my insurance will refund it.

Secondly, I have started to get a couple of more concrete responses to my attempts to find extra work. This is encouraging, and is making me feel a lot better about everything. I had been very worried about what I was going to do about the summer, but my hope is that if I can take on as much extra work as I can manage throughout the year I should have the funds to cover it, and if I’m lucky I might even have enough to put a bit of it towards my CELTA in August/September 2018 (yes, my ever changing life plans have changed again).

On the whole, right now, I am trying to take things easy and get through them step-by-step. It is a change from me to try to adjust to not knowing what is coming in the future, not being able to plan everything out in minute details, but I think having this uncertainty in front of me and not allowing it to panic me is for the best in the long run. I am enjoying my job and my lifestyle at the minute, so why bog myself down with worrying?

3 weeks into Stoptober, the benefits of regular exercise and…waiting

Unfortunately I have still not received the results of my tests, which is frustrating to say the least. When I went to have my stitches out, I was told by the nurse to call this week. I did so (well – emailed asking them to communicate via email as it’s easier for me to understand). Later that day I got a phone call from the doctor which I was unable to answer as I was teaching a private lesson. By the time it was over, the clinic was closed. Unfortunately their Sprechstunden are very short on a Friday, with the result that I was unable to call back as I had to be at work. It is all very frustrating, but hopefully I should be able to find out on Monday.

I am also into week three of Stoptober. Truth be told, at the minute I have very rarely felt the urge to smoke. It is probably helped by the decision I took about two weeks ago to force myself to do a large amount of exercise, driven probably by the same masochistic urge which led me to start smoking in the first place…. In any case it has had the desired effect – I am less anxious, less prone to misery and generally feel more contented and balanced overall. Experience has taught me to not take this for granted in the long term, but I can’t be too cynical about it.

With the end of the Herbstferien on Monday, I have also started to do a lot more at school. While I was rather overwhelmed at the beginning, by the size of the school, the sheer number of people I was meeting, as well as the ambiguity of what exactly the role of a Fremdsprachenassistentin comprises, I have finally started to get a grip on things, ask for more responsibility, take on more teaching responsibility, and so on. It feels satisfying, at least insofar as my no longer feeling like a spare part who does nothing but endlessly observe lessons.

The end of the holidays has also meant that the other ELAs have returned to Trier and we are able to do a bit more stuff, socially, which has been a relief. We are currently trying to plan something for Halloween. I am curious about how Halloween is celebrated in Germany, given that there is no real history of it being celebrated here and as far as I’m able to tell it is a fairly recent import. That remains to be seen.

Walking along the Mosel

Although I had initially planned to go further afield but was caught out by bus times, today I decided to go for a long walk along the Mosel, using the Moselradweg which runs through Trier. Here are some of my pictures.

It struck me as I was walking that it’s really been since early August, when I went to the Brecon Beacons with a friend, since I went on a proper walk. This is a bit shocking given that I used to be on the Oxford University Walking Club committee and led on club trips(!), but I suppose life gets in the way. I’m hoping over the next few months I can force myself to start getting outside again. There is no shortage of hills around here.

Otherwise, tomorrow I am returning to work, and yes, in a strange way, I am looking forward to it. I feel much more settled in Trier. I have finally got used to the place, have everything I need in place, and feel like I can finally get on with living my life. It is a shame that this contract is only until May, because I am starting to feel myself calmly adjusting to the place, and looking forward to all the events which happen here in the summer. I might have difficulty finding someone to take over my apartment in May/June, since the university doesn’t start until Sept/October, so I may end up staying anyway. Right now, though, I’m trying not to think too much about that, and just enjoy things as they are.

Reflecting

At the weekend I went to Echternach by myself, which I previously visited in October, for a short walking trip. I did part of the Mullerthal trail up to Herborn, about 14km, but had to turn back due to forestry works, although I had intended to go further. The next day I had to abandon my planned walk entirely due to blisters, so did a short walk on the trail around Echternach lake (4km).

It was a peaceful trip, and one which coincided, more or less, with the fourth anniversary of my attempt to commit suicide, which ended up causing me to take a year out from Oxford and completely derailing my life, at least temporarily. It is, in many ways, strange to look back at that time and remember it, given how much has changed since then. There are of course many people I have never told about this (some of whom may read it on this blog and be shocked), but over time the shame and embarassment that I very keenly felt about this incident has lessened, almost in tandem with the loosening of the grip depression, anxiety and general neuroticism has held on me, so tight and for so long.

The last few weeks have been a little bit more stressful than before, but this is mainly due to my having more freelance work in addition to my assistantship. I am trying, now until June, to keep the rest of my life as simple as possible, and have resolved, as far as possible, to look after myself and keep up the hiking.

I have more or less come to a decision about what I will be doing after my stint here. On Friday I was accepted into a CELTA course, which means that in the summer I will be making a temporary return to Ireland before going on to seek out work elsewhere. Although I have been very happy in Germany, it’s become obvious that TEFL here is not a long term option, as wages relative to cost of living are about 1:1, making it very hard to save. I am thinking Spain, Italy, or Poland, or maybe even Taiwan or Korea, as going to Asia would allow me to save for a masters in TESOL, which I am feeling more and more inclined towards. In any case there is no rush to figure it out, and advise/experience is welcome.

As I said before, it is likely that my posts on this blog will become more infrequent over the next while, at least. In any case, happy Easter.

 

 

On happiness and writing

Those of you who follow this blog will have noticed a considerable slowing down in the rate at which I post on here lately. This has come about due a number of reasons, firstly, that I have been a lot more busy than usual in the last few weeks, and secondly, that I am let prone to the kind of angsty, introspective moods which had in the past often driven me to write.

I am loathe to abandon this blog, and would like to keep it up, so don’t worry, I am not putting an end to it. However, it is likely that my posts will be less frequent in the future, certainly much less frequent than the twice a week I kept up for most of 2017.

The last few weeks have been good for me; a friend came to visit last weekend, and we had a really good time. We did some sightseeing, went to visit another town, went for a hike, and also spent a lot of time in pubs and cafes. It was good, and, although I sometimes find having visitors stressful, it wasn’t at all like that this time, and I actually felt very relaxed for most of the time he was here. Perhaps I am learning not to worry so much about the minor stressors which used to get to me in the past. Who knows.

This weekend we have been hit with a blanket of snow, following the cold weather which went through the whole of Europe last week. I am safely wrapped up at home, and waiting with anticipation some real signs of the start of spring…

Walking alone

I went for another hike yesterday, from Konz to Trier Pallien along the Moselsteig path, which makes it significantly longer than if one went as the crow flies, or along the more direct Jakobsweg which I will be walking later this year.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate over the last few years has been the ability to go walking by myself, to give myself some personal space for reflection and peace of mind. It’s something I’ve never really been able to achieve in any other activity, but something which seems to be particularly possible, particularly enabled when I go off by myself for a few hours into the woods, or up a hill. I don’t know why, but there is something about feeling alone, really alone, with yourself and with your thoughts which is appealing, and which helps me feel somehow calmer and more at peace by the time I return.

A friend of mine will also be coming to see me in Trier in a few weeks, which I am also really looking forward to, as it’s someone whom I haven’t seen in quite a while. It will be good to see him again, and I feel lucky that I am so easily able to stay in touch with my friends and family in this way.

Mannheim, Heidelberg, and thinking about life…

This weekend I went with a friend to Mannheim and Heidelberg, two cities to the south east of Trier in Baden-Württemburg. It was a great weekend, and we managed to get a lot of sightseeing done, even if the weather made it a bit difficult at times.

Mannheim was a bit of a strange place, arranged on a rigid grid pattern without relatively little of the features which make other German cities so distinctive. Heidelberg on the other hand was much more aesthetically pleasing, but accordingly far more touristic. I am glad we got to see both.

This weekend has also been marked by Karneval, which is basically a huge party celebrating the beginning of Lent. Today I got to see some of the celebrations taking place in my neighbourhood of Trier.

This week I’m looking forward to trying to get back into my normal life. I have been having a lot of thoughts about the future (as is clear from so many of my posts), and I am starting to feel now that I am getting closer to a resolution…

February

I am glad that winter will soon be at an end; just one more month to go until the spring and the return of the sun. In truth the weather has not been that awful here in Trier, and when I went for a hike yesterday it was actually not very unpleasant at all. Nevertheless, it is still cold all the time and I find myself regularly getting a little bit sick as I go about my daily business. However, it’s just a matter of waiting now.

Compared with last winter, at any rate, I feel, on the whole, totally fine, even happy. This time last year was such a miserable, dark and low time that thinking about it now feels kind of strange, almost as though I can’t really imagine that that was really me, and that it really was like that back then.

I have a lot of things coming up in the near future which I’m looking forward to and which I should enjoy. Next weekend I am going to Mannheim and Heidelberg for two days for a friend. It will also be the first time I put my running skills to the test as we are planning to a parkrun in Mannheim. It will be good, too, to get to see Heidelberg, as I’ve never been to the city before but have heard it is beautiful. At Easter I will be walking from Trier to Metz with the same friend along the Way of St. James (Jakobsweg), which should take about five days, and as of last night we have managed to finalize our accommodation, so it is definitely happening.

I have also taken the plunge and decided, finally, that in August I will do a CELTA course, very likely in my home town, and then look for another TEFL job. I have almost finished the application (which is actually rather involved), and hopefully I can have that finalized soon. In general, though, I am feeling good at the minute and enjoying my life here in Trier.

 

Fear of the Dark

My hearing is starting to come back, after having lost it apparently temporarily with the ear infection I had last week. This temporary disability induced a lot of panicked and difficult feelings in me, bringing me back in part to the time back in September and October when I thought I could have skin cancer.

It feels morbid to be so preoccupied with thoughts of death and decay, but is feels in some way unavoidable and like something which I need to keep forcing myself to confront and come to terms with. Without being too Freudian, it is becoming clearer and clearer to me how much these recurrent fears and thoughts drive my behaviour, and how much they can destabilize me and shake me out of my pleasant everyday routine.

Our culture at the minute seems to be gripped by an ever-present “fear of missing out”, which seems to be particularly adept at inducing decision paralysis in our generation, the under 25s, who are now facing their quarter life crises and grappling with the “real world”. FOMO (and its counterpart YOLO) always seem to come back to death; without death at the end the concepts don’t even make sense, and yet we are sometimes a bit shy about vocalising this.

Last week for school I taught a lesson on The Dead Poets’ Society, which is a popular choice of book for year 10s in German schools. The message of carpe diem runs throughout, but even then fear of death always seems to lurk in the background, without being given a name to or vocalized. Every so often there is an article in the press or elsewhere talking about the need for people to talk more frankly and openly about death, but the issue still weighs too heavily on most people. I often wish I could talk about this more openly in real life, but for now it will have to remain an idle thought on a Saturday afternoon blogpost.