The closing of each year usually prompts thoughtful reflection, both upon the year that has passed and the promise of a fresh year full of possibilities. But this year, perhaps due to recent happenings, I am feeling especially reflective.
Two-thousand eleven has been a full year. The year was full of excitement, love, family, newness, independence coupled with co-dependence, food and drink – all of the wonderful gifts that life has to share with a young lady. Yet sitting here, the thing that stands out to me as 2011’s most plentiful provision is uncertainty. It brought a trip to a foreign land, a move out of my childhood home, and the loss of of my dear Grandma. Each of these events presented innumerable questions. Some could be answered: What should I pack? Will I be able to communicate at all in English? What sights should I see today? Bratwurst or knockwurst? (Answer: Both). Others were formidable and open-ended: Is this the right move? Will I be able to make my own way? Where do I go in life? And, Will anything ever be the same? How does life just go on without her?
In the weeks following my Grandma’s passing, my family has drawn each other close, both to remember Granny and comfort each other. We sit and talk, share meals and stories, celebrate birthdays and holidays – just as we always would, just as Granny would have wanted it. It is through my family that it becomes clear to me that life, indeed, will go on. It will be different, yet the same. We will take what we have learned from Grandma and from her exemplary life and continue to grow and thrive. Her lessons and memories will help us shape the direction of our lives. Each day, each week, each year we will be a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser, a little bit better thanks to those lessons. As the New Year approaches, I find this as a great comfort and inspiration as I take on the uncertainty ahead.
I have been slowly writing a piece on my trip to Berlin, not knowing exactly how to frame it or what details to include. I kept a detailed, handwritten journal throughout the trip. Every free moment I had, whether at the table at lunch or along the side of the canal or back in the hotel before bed, I made a point to note everything. I never wanted the trip to end, so in this way I made sure that it would exist forever, playing out again with each read.
So, sure, I could go on about every day, recounting all of the neighborhoods we visited, the meals we ate, the beers we drank, the time we shared. But I am afraid that would be too pedantic. And now that I have had some time (more than 6 months) to process the experience I had, and especially now that I am feeling so pensive, I believe I’d rather make some connections between Berlin and new beginnings. It might be a stretch, but bear with me.
For a city – a country – with such a history, there are few signs left of the darkness. There are some physical scars, namely the vestiges of the Wall. And there are undoubtedly emotional scars left in those old enough to remember the War. But in my travels what I saw was life. Everywhere I looked there was life.
If a people with such a dark, devastating, deadly past can rise up out of the ashes, brush themselves off, and come out better for what they have been through, we can surely do the same. There is always a chance to rebuild, renew, repent, retry. It is essential that we take what have learned from the past – both the good and the bad – and use those lessons to fuel our growth.
As the New Year ushers in more uncertainty, we should remember that the uncharted road ahead should be met with optimism. For each day is a new day, a new chance. And that is a beautiful thing.