New Year's resolutions - we all have them and I am no exception. One of the things I seriously want to try is getting the blog back to life. Every time in the last six months when I thought about writing I felt like I wanted it to be something meaningful and looking at the state of the world that always took a negative turn and I stopped. The world is sad and scary enough - it does not need me to point that out. On the other hand when I tried to write about what I had done and enjoyed it felt irrelevant and I did not really have the energy to pin it down.
I want to overcome this though. The blog started mostly as some kind of public diary because my memory is shit and I wanted to write things down to be able to revisit and cherish them. That is actually a good enough purpose and it does not matter if it is meaningful or if anyone reads it or looks at the pictures. I also think writing things down will help me to keep them in perspective and that's something I definitely need.
I've never been a super optimistic person. Over thinking and over planning is so much in my nature that my sister and my two best friends were (while being very supportive and good advisers) almost amused and pleased to see how life forced me to take a risk and a leap of faith when I went house hunting in Glasgow. Once things finally worked out and during the first few months in Scotland I was silly happy. I think I had stunned myself with really initiating and realizing such a huge change in my life and I was proud I made it work. I also really love living in Scotland for many reasons and that made me happy as well. I was suspicious though ... life felt too easy to stay like that.
The first big bummer surely was the Brexit vote. It is horrible for the whole country (some realize, some don't) but for us ca. 3 Million EU citizens it is bad, like ... really bad. Things went from easy and straight forward to completely unpredictable with our status in the UK. And then came Trump. And then elections in France and Netherlands that were too close for comfort. Elections in Austria that were beyond comfort and Germany is facing some very unpleasant developments as well. I won't go into more detail - you all know what's going on. While I am really lucky and my personal life for now is pretty much unchanged this all shakes me to the core. I am scared of the future - especially for the world my nieces will inherit - and it is so bad that I have recurring nightmares over it. I know that this sounds overly dramatic from my position of safety and comfort but I also know I am not alone with that.
From a more personal perspective I clearly underestimated the darkness of the Scottish winters and the effect it would have on me. I am suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) a lot longer than it even has a name. It was much better in the last few years though and I did not see coming how badly winter in Glasgow would make me lapse before it hit me in 2016/2017. This time around I try to be smarter. I do lunch time walks in daylight, I use my daylight lamp and most importantly: I take my Vitamin D. Seriously people ... take your Vitamin D. It helps significantly to stabilize the whole situation.
I also underestimated what it means to live in a foreign country. I did not realize how much we navigate big parts of our life on autopilot and how stressful day-to-day life becomes when you need to figure it out from scratch. I will be honest with you. I am homesick. I miss German language, German TV, German food, German health care system, German almost everything. I am not regretting moving though. I really love Glasgow and my people here LOTS. I love all the things I can do here. I absolutely love my flat. I love living by the sea. Everything that made me moving to Glasgow is still valid and I know if I would move back to Germany now, I would be missing Scotland like crazy. I think I will just need to live with the fact that I will always feel homesick anyway where I will live on the long term (and I still also have a huge chunk of my heart in Pittsburgh and in Dalmatia as well ... because I am a complicated walkabout like that).
Finally I had critical situation earlier in 2017 related to my work life that quite shook me up. I came out on the good side of things and I am lucky to have my job. I am doing new and slightly different things now which I like and the team always was and still is fantastic. It all brought up questions though about what social security really is and how I manage the potential risks while being out of (see above) my autopilot comfort zone.
The sum of all the things has me really struggling with my brain chemistry. The neurotransmitters developed a habit of playing out worst case scenarios. Like ... "What if I lose my job?" "What if that silly itch is a deadly illness?" (I am now in the age my parents got their cancer diagnosis and it does not exactly help.) "What if something happens to my family?" "What if my close friend not being online for more than a day unexpectedly means something bad happened?" "What if the letting agency not calling back means that my landlord won't extend the contract and I m losing my flat?" "What if Donald Trump's next dump tweet really causes a huge war?" "What if ...." add in all kinds of small and big scale horror scenarios life has to offer.
Thank god I have as a counter part for all of this a strong rationale mind. It is like angel and devil sitting on your shoulder. One making out horror scenarios and the other one calling it bullshit and having some pretty good arguments against it which does not resolve the anxiety but keeps it at bay most of the time.
I KNOW that "what ifs .... " are pointless. It is not that never again anything bad will happen - life sadly does not work like this - BUT we thankfully do not know what it will be and when. I also know that me and my family are strong. We actually have been through quite something already and yet here we are. In the big picture it only makes sense to solve a problem, to deal with a situation once it appears. The damn "what ifs ... " are doing nothing but ruining a perfectly fine "now and here".
That is the rationale aspect. Anxiety though is an emotion. My goal is to bring rationale mind and emotion better together again and I think one way of doing this is gratitude. Focusing on the things that are great and enjoying them and being grateful for them. And that is where the blog comes back into play and my belief that documenting the good things will help and also speaking out loud about the struggles. I will start with looking back on 2017 and all the pretty awesome things that happened:
When I furnished my flat I intentionally put a sleeper sofa in the living room and another sleeper chair in the office. I wanted to be able to host guests easily, and comfortably. And the guests came!
I was most nervous and excited about my family's first visit to Scotland. It was very important to me that they would then all know first hand where I live and how it looks and how it feels to be here. We were lucky with the weather and had some fantastic days exploring the city, spending a full day in Ayr at the beach and out at Loch Lomond. And because Glasgow is Glasgow my sister and my brother in law could even go and attend a gig they enjoyed a lot. All of them loved it here and want to come back.
My family were not the only ones visiting though. I had friends coming over from Germany and other places as far as the US. I love my home to be the landing for my friends when coming to Glasgow. I am happy when people stop by and enjoy it here.
I traveled so much in 2017. I went to Germany a few times, to London every month at least once. I did explore more of Scotland, I went for just under 2 days to Stockholm, which is still the most beautiful city in the Northern half of Europe, and I finally made it to Rome. I have no idea why it took me so long to go there for the first time. Although I was pretty ill for at least the first half of the trip and it all feels a bit like a fever dream I absolutely loved it. I hope I get a chance to go back and have a closer look. I also found out that the food is REALLY as good as everyone says.
2017 was also the year I managed to return to Pittsburgh. I was kind of nervous how it would feel to come back, if the magic would still be there. I proper burst into tears right the moment we came out of the tunnel though - like one does. Pittsburgh is so weird. It is like slipping into that other life you live; slipping into another dimension, where your postcode is 15201, you drive around without sat nav, walk down the street waving to friends driving by running their errands. A huge part of that magic make our Pittsburgh friends. Yinz better know that I adore you and I am very grateful to know you and have you in my life!
I also did some serious touring in 2017 with "that band" and our ways let to the US not once but TWICE (it was actually four times for them). I went to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC (and Pittsburgh after the shows) on the first trip. Going to New York for just a gig was weird. I have a strange relationship with the city (it was my 4th time being there). It is huge and Manhattan always looks and behaves like a giant, very busy movie back drop. It is overwhelming and at the same time it is not because it kind of always just stays the same although it is permanently buzzing and changing. Does that make sense? Likely not. In the end it felt strangely normal to queue on a side walk with view of the Chrysler building.
Philly was special because I have been through the airport countless times but never before out of it. I loved staying at my friend's house with more of the gig squad. I really liked the Reading Terminal Market, the Amish donuts (WOW!) and Queen Village where the venue was.
Washington DC though has a weird atmosphere. It really was no love at first sight for me. I have seen the White House now and all that but the recent occupant limits my enthusiasm a lot. The venue on the other hand - 9.30 Club - is one of my most favorite ever. Great vibe, good sound, just the right size, lovely staff ... I would love to go there for a gig again.
The second, shorter trip brought us to Boston and to Libertyville by Chicago. Boston is awesome. I have heard before that it is one of those places in the US Europeans adjust to easily because it is not all that different and that's true. The culture and food of the European homelands is still very real and authentic there. The city has lots of history and interesting stuff to see. It also is a good size to easily get around and the area is really beautiful. We loved Boston and would go back any time.
Libertyville is quite... rural. It was hard to imagine that there - quite some drive away from Chicago - a proper rock concert would happen, but it indeed did and it was a good one in a nice venue! Libertyville was fun - the people were nice, it was all (from a European perspective) very American but in a good way ... away from the posh(-ish) East Coast more in the heart of the country. We even got a chance for a quick trip over to Wisconsin to a small place called Pleasant Prairie. I mean ... how many Scotland based Germans can say about themselves that they were ever in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin? Right? It was a great trip and I feel blessed that I was able to make it.
I went to so many gigs that I can barely keep track of it and even less name just a few highlights because there were really LOTS. Frightened Rabbit at Paisley Abbey was a once in a lifetime, super intense and beautiful experience. Arcane Roots just the next day in Edinburgh were mind blowing, Manchester Orchestra were mesmerizing. Out Lines at Oran Mor were so special. I finally managed to see my first The Xcerts headliner show after many support and festival gigs. I also saw Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes four fabulous times and our lovely and talented pal Billy McCarthy (former Augustines) three times.
And then there were Biffy Clyro. The gig count for 2017 is:
14 gigs in 8 countries and 2 continents in crowd capacities from just under 30 to 50,000. The count includes rare events like the War Child gig in London with Biffy supporting Biffy, an open air gig in an amusement park on an island in Sweden, a massive festival in the middle of Glasgow, a tiny acoustic show in the middle of nowhere (Wisconsin) and as the result of a chain of very unlikely events the recording of MTV Unplugged which was a surreal experience on many levels.
It's been worth every mile and every $$$ spent.
|Photo: Anita Ivanković|