Friday, January 27, 2012

What They Don't Tell You

I know what you must be thinking: haven’t seen a blog from Sami in a while, she must be incredibly busy living her amazing life and doing some super cool things. You would be very shrewd for making such an observation. You would also be very wrong. My life has lacked a certain element of excitement lately; instead it has been a little… what’s the word, what’s the word, oh right—boring. Don’t get me wrong, my life is still probably exponentially more thrilling than yours, but you will have to forgive me for having higher expectations than that (I make fun of you only to feel better about myself).  And I am not really a fan of writing just for the sake of writing. However, some of you have proven to be quite pesky as of late, and oddly enough, your annoying persistence for an update cultivated a desire to write, if only to shut you up. I spoil you, I know.

Since there are no Paris trips to recount or rewarding games to narrate, I will not be writing about my humdrum life of late; instead, this will be an insightful editorial about this enchanting and isolated profession I have chosen as a European hooper (as you’ll see, this is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle). I know I make it seem pretty glamorous, but living overseas definitely has two sides. I interviewed myself—don’t worry I asked the tough questions—hopefully to establish a clearer image of what the past 6 months have been like, and perhaps, with a little bit of luck, what the next 4-5 years will continue to resemble. So here it is, the untold story of life abroad.

Of course there is the obvious: Europe (and any country I live in here) is not my home—I am not a native. This has countless lingering implications, but only one has been especially impactful. Sure, not everyone speaks English, you generally don’t know where you are or how to get wherever it is you are trying to go (the only street name I know is the one I live on), and yes, sometimes you have to just be okay with not knowing what you’ve ordered; but none of these things surprise or trouble me. What has frustrated me is the underlying paradox—the subtext of these conditions—that the incredible independence both craved and realized the moment you pack up your life and move to whatever country, is almost instantly crippled by the inescapable dependency innately built into living overseas. Grocery shopping, getting to and from practice, mailing a package, going to the bank—suddenly you are 8 years old and can’t even walk across the street without someone holding your hand. I hate it of course, but I can ‘t deny that I needed the guidance. 
Naturally this doesn’t last forever, depending on the size of the city and where you live in it, it’s just a matter of time before you know how to get around on your own. Still, every new city is met with this reliance period, rather than a honeymoon phase. It’s almost comical and it’s certainly ironic how hastily this changes with time, leaving you habitually alone, missing the dependency you were so anxious to ditch. As cool as I thought I was, a couple weeks of just me and needing an escort to get me around suddenly isn’t looking so bad, ya know? This brings me to my next subject—time.

I practice 2x a day totaling around 4 hours. I lift 3x a week for an hour. Once a week I have an hour German lesson. Once a week I help coach 10 year olds (and by help, I mean I stand on the side and cheer cause they don’t speak English). Generally speaking, this means 18-19 hours of every day for me is wiiiiiiiiiiide open. Naturally I sleep and eat like a normal person, but everyday there is still about 6 hours of time unaccounted for between practices, time I need to fill. Sounds great doesn’t it? Indeed this would be fantastic if there were things to do and people to do them with. But I am in an old city in Germany, so this actually becomes a bit arduous creating things to do each day. I read and watch movies. I play my guitar. I nap more than any person my age should nap. When Sam and Sid were here, I would follow them to the mall and watch them shop, but it’s rather cold out now and I hate trying on clothes.  I check my email and Facebook 30 times a day—seriously, it’s pathetic, I know, but I justify this with the significant time difference and feel mildly better about myself. Mildly. By the 30th “check”, you start to lose respect for yourself no matter the justifications. Speaking of the time difference and the internet, we can now move to the next query of my days—communication.

People forget sometimes that the Internet is my only legitimate way of communicating with anyone that I can’t talk to in person. Maybe you can imagine how this might affect my relationships, both the firmly established ones as well as the potential for creating new ones. Don’t get me started on dating; I can go ahead and put that on the back burner for a while. Who wants to date the girl that can’t tell you where she will be in 5 months. So, my relationships develop into a series of choppy, interrupted Skype sessions where at least one of us is always just getting up or just going to bed, or an ongoing stream of emailing. Ah email, text messaging’s inept cousin. Nothing is worse than an unanswered email, and the insecurities it harbors. And while lack of communication certainly curtails my relationships, it still isn’t the toughest restriction or the most disheartening.

I miss everything…literally. I am never around. I miss birthdays, weddings, funerals, holidays, sporting events and parties, baby showers, graduations, reunions, alum games (I know, I made one) watching friends coach games, watching friends play games, engagements, break-ups, and most other relevant life milestones and celebrations. And every time I come back, it’s harder and harder to squeeze my way back into these people’s lives. Some people run out of room for me, some people run out of time, and others simply run out of things to say. It’s surprisingly easy, you realize, to forget and to be forgotten. Simply put, people grow accustomed to life without you, and who can blame them. I am gone for 8-9 months and home for 3-4, splitting time between Seattle and Ventura. It becomes increasingly difficult to not feel like a temporary inconvenience in their lives while I am home, demanding their time and attention until I pack up and disappear again. This might be my least favorite part about living overseas. These relationships are all I’ve got, and each time I leave and come back it feels like I’ve got a lot less. This leads me to my final item—how long will this last.

One injury could end it all. One tough season and you are old news. One error in judgment, one misstep and you can be fired, so who knows how long I will be playing. This is not a forgiving profession—like anything else it is a business where your performance is all that counts. No one cares if you are trying your best or working overtime, they simply care if you are producing. I love it, but it’s a little unsettling knowing some things you can’t control. I choose to ignore this and savor every day that I get to play basketball for a living, even if that day is my last.
This sort of reads like a downer, but I assure you that is not my intention. I am exactly where I want to be. I am not looking for a reminder of how fortunate I am, nor do I need one. I tell myself 10x a day. I just thought it might be interesting to underline the less sensationalized side of this lifestyle, the things that are maybe less obvious and more mundane, but boast sizeable relevance in my daily life. I guess I wanted to demonstrate there are both amazing rewards and very real sacrifices, ones that I am only just grasping. I’d still choose this over anything else everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And God willing, I plan to for the next 260 Sundays. 


  1. Yeah those reality evals can be pretty sobering. But you are right to have those periodic check-ins- you have to know if you're still on the right path. The good should outweigh the bad, and I think you were objective and honest with yourself when you determined it does. And aren't you glad we pestered you to write. In fact, I was considering nagging you again today hahahaha. You beat the buzzer. Mom is happy. I'm happy. That other guy is happy.
    Thanks for the glimpse behind the scenes. When I spent a 6mos in France on my own, my log books read exactly the same, especially in the colder months, except for the part where I ate 44 different kinds of cheese. But that's France. Lot's of time in the library. Yawn. My mood definitely had a few low points. I once kicked an old lady who cut in line for the bus. (a light kick) Thankfully there weren't too many low points. You grind on through it and as soon as you know it, it's spring. Hey this is long! This is not MY blog. Be well, have fun!

    Anything I can do, you let me know.


    P.S. Anything I can do from a continent and ocean away.

  2. Glad you and my mom and Mike are happy. Colder months are tougher, absolutely. 44 different kinds of cheese? Even for you that is hard to believe. The lows are certainly outweighed by the highs. How did you like France? How long were you there?
    I can't wait for Spring.
    Anything you can do? Let me sit on that and get back to you :)
    For now, take care E