[Ed. Note: These next couple of posts were all written in an actual honest to goodness notebook first and then transcribed to the Internet. I’m spacing out the posting in relation to where I am in my trip. The internet availability at my “hotel” is a bit shoddy.]
I’m currently in Washington, D.C. My boss suggested a few moons back, seeing as I do not have a needed Master’s in Library Science, that I should look at going the trade route in advancing my career in archiving. Since I’m refusing outright to even remotely consider a second Master’s degree and have thrown higher education altogether into the pool of “Meh” options, I looked at the certification offerings.
Both coasts of the US have similar courses for archivists, one in San Diego and one in Washington, D.C., which is held at the National Archives itself. Given my exposure to the West (and perhaps my overexposure) I thought that a nice trip after graduation would be in order. I was able to get a spot in the class held every six months and booked my flight.
My original plan after graduation had been to go overseas for a couple of months, visit family, wander around aimlessly, and clear my head. While currently happy with stable employment, I do realize that my grandparents are not getting any younger. I asked my boss whether or not I could tack on two weeks in Germany with the D.C. trip. She and my department head consented and I booked another flight.
The best thing about traveling is when you get to a place where someone you love is happy to be picking you up. The second best thing about flying is just that, flying. I love the sensation of feeling your body push into the seat as if you’re sitting in a large rubber band. I had a window seat on both of my flights to D.C. and if I were a more specifically dogmatic person, I thought that flying closer to the clouds would be meaningful. The last time I flew my dad was still alive. But the clouds were as empty as the plains I could drive below them. I looked out of the window, sitting slightly in front of the wing, I could see the flaps and thought about the dynamics of lift and drag. My dad worked on F-16’s for about fifteen years, so the hydraulics, his specialty, caught my eye. When I took off the second time, seeing the movement of the flap seemed to me to be a little wave to assure me that I’m not alone.
I landed and made my phoning rounds. My Mom was giddy and dropped a line about how much my father had wanted to visit D.C. I hadn’t really known that I said and she explained how he had spoken of it in the past. She asked if I would see it for him and I said I would.
This trip creates an interesting dichotomy for me. Washington, D.C., holds all the symbols of what creates the American mythos: the Charters of Freedom, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Monument, the US Capitol. Being American is not something I’ve been able to easily cling to. While others take hold of it assuredly – but a bit absentmindedly like how much toilet paper they have in their cabinets – I’ve been constantly reminded of the duality of who I am. I do not feel quite American and yet I’m not really all that German.
But Germany is family. It is the tangible. It is the house my family built by hand. It is the churches that smell like the past, the somewhat unapproachable people, the dense underbrush of the forests, the potatoes in all sorts of incantations, and the feel of the soil in my hands and under my feet. People tend to try and correct me, “With the Air Force, you must have been born on a base and that’s legally American soil.” But I wasn’t born on American soil; it’s only blood and symbols that carry me.
Now that I’ve spent more time in America and Germany, I wonder more about my composition and meaning. My rhetoric teachers would love me questioning that even though I speak English (and have a MA in it for pity’s sake) aren’t those still just symbols of what I belong to? What if what still shapes me inside was those things that welcomed me first – a different language and a different culture? Even in writing, I can still see that I still shape words by different thoughts and they come out as a mix of something not wholly understandable, but… wholly my own.
I told J a while back that I wondered if someone in Germany had the life I was supposed to live. She had maybe fallen into same opportunities that I had had for myself. She molded herself innately like as I do. But perhaps…she isn’t vague about who she is, unlike me. She lives in Berlin and drives a Smart. “My SMART”, I gasped.
J gave some esoterically intelligent answer that I cannot remember and that made me want a margarita. Essentially, it’s those thoughts that drive you mad no matter how you cut the swath of What If’s. I cannot start there. I have what I have and have to interpret the symbols that I create myself.
I figure that since I have a single room in – get this – a Young Woman’s Christian Home and I can create my own strange and urban little Walden. I’ll speculate the meaning of “American Symbolism…And YOU!” while being a tourist in this strange little district of America. There may be no better way for me to understand my placement in not only American life, but my mental landscape in general.
To Be Continued…