Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Living In Two Worlds

Leipzig market and town hall

A very well-known job interview question is ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I find this question difficult to answer; after all, I’m not a fortune-teller nor can I predict the future. It is, of course, important to know where to go, but also where you come from. That’s why I prefer the solid past rather than the unstable and fickle future so I can learn from it.

Travelling Back To Leipzig And Mentally In Time

However, when I went home to Germany last week, I felt like I travelled back into my old life of the past five years. The years between 2009 and today marked a new chapter in my life. I had just come back from my Erasmus year at Lancaster University and had moved to Leipzig in the beautiful county of Saxony. For the next four years and this has been the place where I lived the longest in my life so far, Leipzig became my home. I worked very hard on my uni career and at the end of my course, I was rewarded with two first-class degrees and my first job as a research assistant, all to create a solid basis for the future and to move to England after uni one day.

One year has passed since I moved to the UK and a potential job offer brought me now back to my former home. Last Wednesday, I parked near my old flat at Westplatz, Central Leipzig. I used to feel a cosy and protective charm of the Westplatz area, with its familiar tram station and the yellow house nearby, where I used to live.

I stood outside for a while, looking up and down my old street and neighbourhood and found several things had changed. The gentrification was still in full swing, a new supermarket had been built just around the corner (I would have loved one of those when I lived there) and my flat had found a new tenant. 

Some major life decisions have been made in this flat and it had also been the scene of several negative memories, but in total, my flat was perfect: a cheap rent in Central Leipzig, lots of space and a five-minute walk into town and to uni. In winter, I could walk through the snow and in the summer cycle down to the beach. 

Unlike my home in England, the heating was decent and reliably working, there’s no such thing as a Council Tax and at night I could still walk to meet friends without to fear someone might stab or mug me. The tram passing by my windows at 5:30 am, slow and heavy-weighted on the street with my windows vibrating, was a gentle reminder I still had some time to sleep before my day would start. It’s all gone.

Walking Around In Leipzig's Historic City Centre

Leipzig City Center

I walked into town and the short walk felt familiar but strange at the same time. Town centre was dead with hardly any people around. Usually, the pedestrian bursts with tourists and busy students. Even the Barfußgässchen was dead and usually, this place flourishes with life and gregarious people. I walked around the shops and found the sale ridiculous. 

I was glad to see the Town Hall in its full glory without the construction site that had been there for as long as I lived in Leipzig. The City Tunnel, a fast underground tube system, was finally finished building.

Leipzig Central Station: One of Europe's Biggest One-Way Train Stations

I went to Central Station, which is north of the city centre and one of Europe’s biggest one-way stations. Paul Potts sang here in 2009 on my first official residence day and numerous films used the station as a replica of New York’s Central Station, because of its magnificent structure.

Leipzig Central Station

Some shops closed down, others expanded and Saturn (a German electronic market) was still not worth going in with its rubbish DVD deals, so I finished my tour in Ludwigs, an international news agency.

Leipzig Central Train station
Ludwigs at leipzig Train Station
Elaborate ceiling at Ludwigs in Leipzig

It still looked like how I remember it: neat magazine stands and bookshelves, under a high ceiling with historic ornaments. How many weekends had I spent here to read English magazines and dreamt myself away to life after university, when everything would be better? 

With a decently paid job in my dream career and at its best in the UK? Hour after hour sometimes, I read the books or drank tea at the café and just watched the busy life go by. Back in the days this was an ordinary thing that I used to do nearly every weekend, but last Wednesday it felt special and the hurting memories of these days slowly fading.

Meeting Up With My Classmate At The University Library

In the afternoon I met my friend Phil and he gave me an update of what has happened in and outside of Leipzig. The department now has a new professor and former fellow students moved away to follow me into the so-called ‘real world’, aka go away with your fancy high-quality degree and bend down to a mindless job that will kill sooner or later your dreams, independence and creativity.

Leipzig University

We ate ice cream opposite the library, a place full of wisdom and intelligence, young aspiring academics. The sun shone on the green maples, like the ones you’ll find in Hyde Park. The air felt warm, students cycled by, smiled or relaxed. All they worried about were up-coming exams, planning their holidays or their thesis. And all I could think about was how much I’d love to write another thesis.

At 6 pm, the sun still felt hot and everyone moved over to Leipzig’s Johanna Park, where they met friends and held BBQs. I had them often, days like these… When everyone moved into the park, this would have been my time to either follow and join my students and have the time of my life or walk back home to my cosy little flat at the Westplatz where life was perfect and ok. 

But I no longer live in Leipzig, I live in the UK struggling every day with a low paid and underwhelming job that sucks every creativity and energy out of me. 

So I had to walk slowly back to my car, but at the end of the street, where I used to live, I turned left to the car park, instead of right into the old yellow building that had been my home for the last four years and has now become distant. I feel like I’ve ‘outgrown’ Leipzig and I won’t return to it. This door somehow is now closed and I wish, I would have been more appreciative in the past. It no longer feels protective and secure.

Thanks so much for reading,

Till next time,

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