Reading Time: 4 minutes
On the plane yesterday, mostly to pass the time, I counted my Munich passport stamps. An activity that also got me to take a thought journey with all those memories. A celebration of sorts, for how I got here. So many trips. In and out, 32 times. All blending together into a wonderful collection of stories.
Except this one, completely different.
This Sunday morning, I am up earlier than usual. The impact of the trip and the jet lag on my body are palpable. I also feel the resonance of the people and the experiences I shared with them in my heart. I hear the call to action this inspiration leaves me with. So I write, like I do on Sundays. A practice in fact I learned from artists I met in Munich over the years: one paints cows on Fridays and one draws cartoons, also on Sundays.
It’s a love story.
And it’s my job to write it. I am the only one who can. A job I am now experienced at, yet am always curious to continually explore. A road that started with an instant love for the place, over time widening to be inclusive of its people, and now of getting serious about discovering my place in all of it.
After last week in Munich, I feel ready to crystallize some insights. I am clear-headed and full-hearted. It’s renewal season. I have learnings and growth to reflect and act on.
“I just love Munich”.
It was my simple answer to a loaded question. One that usually starts with why? I’d been answering it for a while, always true to myself: in generalities, a bit provocatively, and with radical love. That’s me. Natürlish.
As the week went on, the signs started to show up everywhere. In the place, familiarity. U-Bahn Sendlinger Tor is still under construction?! In conversations with friends, radical acceptance for me. Caroline, I’m on my way. In my AirBnB, albeit in a new-to-me neighborhood, a rhythmic déjà vu, staccato-ed by many tiny coffees and church bells right next door. And Friday afternoon.
Back on American soil, somewhere between deplaning and going through customs at Dulles, it hit me. I think it was the people mover.
I love who I am in Munich.
When I arrived Munich for the first time in 2017, I was 41 years old. I’d been around the block a bit. I had enough experience and confidence in myself to act boldly. At work, and on the streets, I was aware I was being judged. I was different. I was that <describe me how you like>. I love it all.
See, I just wasn’t going to try to fit in somewhere else, again. Like I recall feeling I needed to as a 16 year-old French Canadian immigrant to Phoenix, Arizona, USA, 3 decades ago.
I didn’t care what people thought of me so much anymore. I was what I was. In this new foreign land, I was choosing to embrace my cultural differences to let go of my fear of other people’s judgement of me.
I carried this spirit back and forth across the Atlantic. I grew deeply curious about myself in this discovery. I observed my emotions during the absence of physicality that was COVID. Over the years, the freedom from judgement I found in Munich has infiltrated many parts of my life.
In Munich, I have clarity from judgement.
And the German. There is so much romance to explore in the complexity of the language. My relationship with it is complicated, and it’s absolutely love. I understand the beauty of the exclusivity of those who acquired (any) German as a native language. And I give those who have learned German as an additional language the salute of respect they deserve. I am obviously neither, at the moment. And at the risk of being controversial: I am ok with that, for now.
Some days, I really pay attention to what people say to me. I give myself challenges: Caro, if you focus real hard on this food conversation here, you are going to understand everything – it hasn’t quite worked, just yet. Oder: Caro, remember the name of this museum exhibit, repeat it and say it right – I have a better success rate with that one.
Most days though, German is just part of the world around me. Unless I invite it in, it doesn’t really enter my cognition anymore. It’s something I have practiced for years. As a surprising result, I have access to a layer of focus here I don’t, anywhere else. In that context, I have created a wonderful distraction-free zone for myself that has become a power source of creative energy.
In contrast, it’s real hard to focus in France for example. I literally listen to everything and everyone around me. In the US, the white noise of daily life never goes away. In Munich however, I am less impacted by the ever present buzz of work and life’s distractions around me everyday. It’s pure luxury.
In Munich, I practice with focus, by design.
And of course, it’s a travel destination. I explored how travel impacts my relationship with time from Hilton Head last year. It’s even more pronounced in Munich. I live in the moment. It’s all I have. That trip. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Every decision about time matters. Both my fondness and disdain for absence in full manifestation. It’s real good for me.
I experience my relationship with time differently in Munich.
It’s my Germans friends that often take up most of it. A journey that started with 2 guys from work, my “Original Germans”, has given me unexpected and deeply fulfilling adult relationships. Yeah, I have friends! I even have families y’all. People that will meet me by the river for a sundowner on an unseasonably warm day. People I visit in their homes and gather around deliciously cooked meals for inspirational discussions, and later for sunshine in their gardens. People who hand pick their favorite or a new restaurant to share with me. People I met at conferences that have become thought partners and even confidantes. People I have worked with, created and dreamed with. People I have traveled with. People I see every single time I come to Munich. People I come to Munich to see. People I keep having digital dates with. People who say things like: I saw this and thought of you. Or: Can I see you? Or: Thank you for listening. Or: Come back, we need you.
Or: I love you.
A community of people who choose to radically accept me in their lives and support me, exactly as I am.
I feel loved in Munich.
And I feel free.
No wonder it’s a love story.