Home > Personal > A Letter to Myself Circa January 2010

A Letter to Myself Circa January 2010

Because I’m Turning 25…

Dear Eric,

In a few weeks you turn 24 while today I turned 25. I wanted to write to you just to tell you how lucky you are to have the coming year ahead of you. Everything in your life you wish could be better, will improve enormously. Even the parts of your life that you think are pretty good already will be amazing by the time you hit that quarter century mark. It might be hard to believe, but considering you’re already reading a letter from the future I encourage you to be open-minded. I thought it might be nice to give you an overview of what’s to come, some highlight at least, just so you understand why it was a year worth breaking the laws of physics for. You might be wondering why, if I can send a letter into the past I don’t send it to you on your actual birthday. The reason is because even though that’s the calendar day you turn 24, the day you get on that plane to Germany is really the day your year begins. Oh yeah that flight is delayed by a day just so you know, apparently the English can’t handle snow.

I thought about different ways to recap your year ahead but decided a simple chronological summary would make the most sense. So here’s a month-by-month look at the coming year:

January: Well Eric, in a few days (and after the previously mentioned delay) you will be on a plane to Munich. I’m not going to lie to you, that first day will be rough because you will land on a Sunday, all unaware that grocery stores are closed in Munich on Sunday and of course you’ll be far too shy and jet-lagged to go to a restaurant since you also don’t yet know that everyone speaks at least enough English for you to get a pizza or something. The bright side of that first day will be meeting Roberto, your roommate for the duration and a nice guy all around. At work you’ll adjust quickly to the routine, even the parts you don’t care for much. Great people like Claudia and Colleen will see you through the rough patches, as will your other roommate Simon. Simon is also great because he invites you out to Salzburg for the weekend where you get your first taste of the fun touring you will do a lot of in the months to come, and learn how awesome Rick Steves and his books are.

After you get back you’ll have what will seem like a minor, unimportant conversation with another intern named Ross that will, in retrospect, be the most important moment of those early days, one that will set your feet on the path that leads to the most amazing experience to come. Ross will mention a little Thursday bar thing he goes to, part of something called Toytown, and invite you to go with him. Saying yes will be the smartest move you make since deciding math isn’t your forte and you should go into writing. At the bar, Ross will introduce you to some of the cornerstones of your time in Munich, people who will both define and enhance your experience. You’ll meet Fraser and Jamie, the Scottish guys who will really teach you how to drink and enjoy Saturday nights out, Kristyn, a New Zealander destined to really influence the composition of the people you meet early on as well as someone you’ll have very complex conversations with. You’ll also meet Roisin, who will then vanish for a while but make a key comeback in a few months.

The rest of the month will be a whirlwind of fun nights out and work that gets easier as you get into the groove of things, even helping write and edit video scripts. As for the nights out, you’ll learn that Saturdays will usually involve nights at Fraser’s wonderful apartment that he shares with cool great guys like Sven and Mauritz. They and other Germans like their friend Klaus will start to give you a crash course in the clubs of Munich like Lola and Ludwig (whose name will be much funnier after you visit some museums).  Really though you will meet people every week from all over the world that make the weekends oh so memorable. Many of the women will be Au Pairs, like Swedish Eva and another American named Morgan (and don’t be too surprised when Eva and Morgan couple up with Mauritz and Klaus respectively, turns out German guys are pretty smooth). Others will be working in Munich for foreign companies like the wonderfully fun Dutch girl Barbara, or in school like Roel, Jamie’s roommate who is also Dutch. Enjoy every day, and know that while the beginning is strong, it gets even better.

February: Although the shortest month, so much happens in February the year as the best ever that in retrospect it feels a lot longer than a mere 28 days. And it starts right away with a Toytown event you attend without the people you have gone with before. Alone at a bar called Jaeger’s you will meet Cris the Aussie bartender and Sorcha the always fun Irish girl, chance encounters that will lead to a lot of interesting and sometimes highly improbable experiences. Others you will meet that night will also have far more important impacts on you than the chance encounters might imply. Some will join your Saturday group for longer or shorter periods, like Katherine from England and Sorcha from Ireland. Others will become your friends in other venues, especially Kerre from Montana, who will be one of your travel companions, and Jessica, another Australian (just so you know, you will meet more Australians than any other nationality, they fill Europe to the brim, but it’s not a bad thing, they are a fun crowd).

Not everything you do will be that light though, as some of the museums, and of course the visit to Dachau you make will be sobering, if intensely interesting visits. Exploring Munich in every way will take up a lot of your free time.

That said, the social stuff will really start to pick up, with events like house parties and nights out peaking your interest more and more. And you’ll meet people like Ally, an English girl you’ll travel with to places like Dachau and Nymphenburg, and Davina an actual German who will teach you quite a bit about the Munich mindset. Sorcha’s birthday party will be a night to remember and lead to going out with her and some others for Fasching with makeup that’s gets crazier and crazier as the night wears on, and watch a whole rugby game for the first time (understanding very little of it).  Along with the new people you meet you’ll get to know the others better and better. Hours chatting with a drink in hand really leads to some good friendships. There will be awkward times too, sometimes your fault and sometimes not (for instance prepare to get lost, repeatedly, for a while) but February completes the creation of the groove that you ride along in for the next few months.

March: Even as you start to get a handle on your new life and schedule, things will be changing. You’ll move into the second of the three apartments that ESO insists on moving you to, this one a lot nicer actually than the other two, with a real bed and lots of space, enjoy it while you can.

Your social circle will start to expand and even spin-off into new circles as some people for whatever reason rarely interact with others. You’ll meet Noka, someone you will spend many hours playing (and generally winning) online Scrabble with, and plenty more random people who you’ll see only occasionally, like the coach for Germany’s women’s lacrosse team.

Culturally you’ll explore more of Munich and really become part of it at Starkbierfest, the first, but definitely not the last, Munich beer festival you’ll attend. Standing on benches and singing songs with lots of other people may sound dull but it’s a really great time, plus the beer is good and cheap and the costumes are hilarious. You’ll even get to see behind the scenes of a club where you’ll find out why being a bartender is so much fun while bonding with Mauritz and Barbara. You’ll also learn how St. Patrick’s day is celebrated, that is, oddly but in a still fun way.

The biggest thing you’ll do in March is a long weekend in Vienna, traveling there by train with Kerre, Roisin, and Ally. It will be a great trip, and really whet your appetite for the travel to come. I won’t give too much away but it’s going to be great and will cement your friendships with the three as well. During the Easter weekend you’ll do another train trip, this time on your own, to Nuremberg as well. Nuremberg is intense in some ways, but well worth the visit you make.

In terms of new friends, March will be the month you’ll meet Yorkshireman Adam, and other English folk like Melon (whose real name is Michael and whose nickname you won’t really use for a while) and others in the Eurocopter crowd. You’ll get to know Finns like Ida and Anni, German Luisa (whose alcohol tolerance is truly laughable) and more Swedes like Sara too, even as you spend more and more time with the crew from your early days and start to feel a real part of it. Sadly, March will be the month that both Roisin and Ross leave Munich. Ross will have one hell of a going away week though, so that will be something to enjoy even as you sadly say farewell and prepare for the next stage of things.

April: Though definitely still winter, April feels more like time on a beach than anything else thanks to a few key events early on. Most obviously, you will go to a bar that actually has a beach, sand and all, inside of it. I mention this only because it’s a good way to remember that you’ll meet another member of your happy crew there, Casey. Casey in many ways exemplifies your increasingly common habit of meeting cool people, chatting them up, then introducing them to Fraser, Jamie, and the others so that they come out on Saturdays and become totally integrated with the group. Sure it might happen otherwise and of course you can’t take all the credit, but that first domino for a lot of people is you, and that’s something you can feel happy about. There are others like that you’ll meet, like Patrick from (obviously) Ireland, although in his case it takes a while for him to really join in due to his own crazy schedule.

Continuing the beach theme, you’ll have an unlikely but fun first visit to the Isar river (a rock beach) where Kerre will introduce you to new or recognizable faces, some of whom you will get to know better like Andy the German, Kayla, a Canadian, and Charne the always amusing South African, not to mention Amy, an English girl who works with Melon whose stories never fail to entertain, especially when they happen right in front of you. You’ll start to hang out with what you’ll think of as “Kerre’s crowd” on occasion, including a cool dorm/bar that Andy runs for a while. This is one of the side circles I mentioned earlier.

Oh, something to note. When you go to a club called M-Park, bring earplugs. Though every club is loud, this is the only one that actually makes you deaf for days afterward, it’s not the best sensation, seriously get the plugs. Oh yeah and when you leave, don’t forget Casey, she gets annoyed when abandoned.

As for the core group, the main event would be the Cage party part two, a very long night and very wild in its way, not to mention full of mistakes and embarassments that you won’t notice for a long while after. But the bad stuff passes and the good memories stick around. Still, it’s worth watching yourself a little that night.

In terms of new routines, you’ll start going on Tuesday to Shamrock, a fun little pub, for karaoke although mostly you’ll be there to hang out with people. You’ll also begin spending some time at Fruhlingsfest, the spring beer festival, where sometimes you’ll have a lot of fun with people who are ultimately much more transient friends than you might wish, but at least the experience is great. Fruhlingsfest in general is a good deal of fun where you can apply the lessons of Starkbierfest and the comments of German friends to really getting the most out of it.

May: May really signals the long-awaited emergence of spring as the cold finally eases and the ski coat becomes less necessary. And of course the best way to celebrate the advent of warm weather is to hang out in beer tents for Fruhlingsfest, which you will do with much joy. Speaking of fun, that first week is when you meet Aleks, a lovely Polish girl whose very presence amps up the nights out, especially when combined with the other girls who rapidly become her close friends such as Casey. Speaking of Casey, don’t worry, all the violence is friendly and not what it seems at first. This is also the month you’ll meet Jennie, another good addition to the group, and Olly, who is not only a good guy but has the funniest and worst luck in clubs you’ll have yet seen including falling asleep and getting kicked out and being so sick from overdrinking he disappears for half the night and confuses everyone as to his whereabouts. Foreshadowing your summer trips, you will also meet some Scottish friends of Jamie and Fraser, proving that it’s not just them who are…the way they are.

Not all social interactions are so crazy of course. One weekend will be rather mild and involve a random afternoon of cards where you will meet some who will have a startling impact on you considering you won’t seem them much afterwards like Alina, who will leave rather suddenly in a few weeks but not before creating some real memories.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention work much, well that’s because at this point, with the end in sight, you’ll start working a lot harder and not only that but you’ll be applying to lots of jobs (more on that later). One of the other reasons you’ll be working hard is to build up hours for a l0ng weekend in Prague this month. It’s a great trip and an introduction to the free tours that become such an important part of later travels. It’ll also introduce you to the “friends for a day/night” phenomenon common to travelers on long trips, and one that you’ll have your fair share of although happily not all the time since Facebook makes it oh so easy to keep in touch. Good thing too considering what comes next month.

June:As the days reach their longest, your time in Munich will shrink. To counter, you fill your days with experience, hardly sleeping with all that you do, and hardly needing sleep, so exciting are your activities. First comes Paris. Though you haven’t seen her in years, you will meet up with Claire from your Arizona days in Paris for a fantastic five day trip. Don’t worry about the long time since you’ve seen her, you fall naturally into a comfortable friendship, and meet some fun people while you’re there as well. Just remember not to spend too long in the Louvre lest you totally lose your mind in there.

The big event starting in June is the World Cup. I know right now you’re not really big into soccer (and be sure to learn to call it football) but it’s much more exciting when you’re surrounded by manic fans. And whenever Germany wins there are street festivals so that’s also something to look forward to.

At work you’ll have a pleasant surprise in the form of a couple of new interns. Olivier will ultimately be your replacement, but you’ll end up closer with Oana, a Romanian who will work in a lot of areas to help boost ESO’s profile. She’s very good at it and a lot of fun to hang out with although it will sometimes be tricky to get her out and about. Another new face is Colleen, an American Au Pair who joins the group and is very quickly an integral member, and her ideas for brewing beer are interesting too. June is also a month of more visitors, such as Deidre, whom you met in Paris coming to see you, and Anna visiting Jamie and Fraser from Scotland.

There will be circus parties and 3D movies,  music festivals like Tollwood, and a long reel of nights out that fill your blog with stories to remember, which is a good thing because all too soon it comes to an end.

July:Beginning and endings define this month. Firstly the biggest ending, leaving Munich, starts with a going away party you throw for yourself. Relish it because contrary to your previous experience, you bring together literally dozens of people for the party. Sure it’s Saturday night when people go out anyway, but it’s still really fun, especially when you share the little rhyme you put together for the occasion. The whole night is great minus the absence of people you wish could be there like Fraser who is out of town or others who are long gone. Still between having dinner made for you by Jamie and Roel, shared toasts and other drinks, reminiscing with both people you haven’t seen in a while and those you see all the time, and happy spontaneous crazy things going on all night, it really makes everything perfect.

That last week will have non-stop events with a barbecue for the fourth of July (yes you will celebrate it even in Germany), and Germany losing to Spain in the World Cup (don’t tell anyone) standing out from the rush to see everyone and do everything that you can. Eventually though, after a confusing and long day in the gardens and at a bar, with just a few hours of sleep, you will leave Munich and begin the next phase of your time in Europe, traveling.

Your first stop will be to Berline where you’ll begin to develop an idea of the best places to stay and tours to go on. You’ll meet one of Clara’s friends that you’ve been chatting with and a randomly one of Thea’s good friends as well as you explore the city and its environs. The next stop on your journey will be a long weekend in Stockholm. Amid the Scandinavian debauchery and beautiful scenery you’ll have a wonderful time that alas feels too short even though you’re every excited to head off to Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, although you’re only there for five days or so, you will become surprisingly close very quickly with people you meet on the tours you take (another good reason to do them). Christina, Katherine, Mike, and you will explore both the cultured and highbrow end of Dutch life as well as the seedier side of things like smart shops and Maison Rouge.  The time will fly by, even the nights out and seeing the castle hotel that Katherine stays and pretty soon you’ll be off to the airport again to go to London.

On your first trip in London you’ll spend ten days seeing the sights, taking in museums, a play at the Globe, meeting people randomly at the hostel and elsewhere and otherwise filling up the hours. Even so you won’t see everything before you leave, but you plan on coming back so that’s not a big problem, and while you traverse the British Library and other places, the months change yet again.

August: Leaving London, you head to Bath for a couple of days to look around the area, drink some cider and have a strange encounter one evening with one of the people working at the hostel and her friends. You don’t know it yet, but you’ll be coming back here too. Leaving bath you’ll spend a memorable day playing drunken bowling with Amy in Stafford on the way to York where Adam will put you up for a few days. Hiking in the rain and drinking with Adam and his pals is a nice change of pace and helps you recover some energy that you know you’ll need.

The reason you’ll need that energy is because after leaving York you head up to Scotland. After a short stay in Edinburgh you hop on an amazing bus trip around the Highlands, drinking whisky, wearing kilts, searching for Nessie and otherwise having a blast with a bunch of new pals and the hilarious Kay and Andy as your bus leaders. And fresh from that tour you hop a plane to Dublin for another, even longer tour around the Emerald Isle. This trip somehow even tops the one in Scotland with a bunch of new pals, lots of great sights, and of course an exploration of the Irish drinking tradition. There’s also bike rides in the rain, parties in Belfast and wandering through fairy circles to add to the fun. Afterward, a few days in Dublin round things off including an amazing tour of the Guinness brewery with some people from the tour and a randomly met but great gal named Rachel.

Flying back to London after that you spend some more time in the city, this time crashing with Portia and hanging out with her and her crazy friends. Around now you’ll realize the time you gave yourself to travel is not enough so you extend it a couple of weeks, a move entirely worth it as I can attest. Having had so much fun on your first two bus trips, you then take a third to Wales. Greta, your guide is the funniest person you will have ever met and a fantastic guide to boot. This trip is also notable because there are only eight of you on the trip so things like a barbecue in a Korean style hut (with plenty of juicy stories) and partying in Cardiff become a lot more intimate and fun in some ways. So much so in fact that you done more, again with Greta, this time to Cornwall and southwest England (and a brief stop in Bath again). You’ll go surfing for the first time (and yes the water is cold) and also for fun keep growing out a beard for the first time in many years, this time successfully growing a nice beard that looks pretty good. Alas the trip ends as all good things must. This is it for you and Europe for now though, as leaving the tour you head straight to the airport and fly back to Seattle, ending the fantastic trip you’ve been on for nine months.

September: You might reasonably be wondering why, if Europe is so fun and there’s no job or anything calling, I would go back to the States at all at this point. Well, living out of a suitcase is tiring for one, but mainly you pick now to go back because your parents have invited you to go with them to Hawaii for a couple of weeks. Your father has a conference on Maui and they won a week in a condo on the big island at an auction so it all works out pretty well.

Your parents will have moved out of the house by this point into a really nice condo in Kirkland, so that takes getting used to, although it’s easy to adjust. While waiting to leave for Hawaii though, the rest of the year falls into place with an unlikely interview for a job whose solicitation was too confusing to understand. A job with the EPA, you applied back in February just because your brother insisted. When, months later you’re asked to a phone interview for the position you find out it’s one very similar to ESO but in Washington DC with a human health research part of the EPA. As usual you ace the interview, but unlike the many other jobs you’ve applied for recently, you get accepted and now have to plan to move to Washington DC in a month. It’s very sudden but very welcome considering you had no idea what you would be doing after the Hawaii trip.

And it’s not long before you put it out of your mind to jet off to Hawaii. In Hawaii you travel very differently than you did on your own, in a far more upscale way with fancy hotels and restaurants and awesome but expensive trips. You’ll go surfing again, and hiking and stargazing at the top of Mauna Kea. You’ll go snorkeling by a beach and off shore, on a helicopter ride over lava, and ziplining through a high forest. It’s nice to spend time with the parents too, especially in a relaxed setting like this.

And then it’s back to Seattle for crazed packing and preparation.

October: After returning from Hawaii you briefly panic about packing but quickly figure out what is essential and what you can get later. Luckily you’ll be able to crash on Zack’s couch until you find your own place and so you head off in mid-October to DC. Once arrived you and Zack coordinate getting around pretty well and you begin the surprisingly arduous and frustrating process of finding a place to live. Many emails and open houses later you still just can’t find anywhere to live.

Happily there are good things too. You start to reconnect with people you know in DC that you haven’t seen in a long time like Teresa and your cousin Melissa, and make new acquaintances and possibly future friends as well such as the amusing Melissa and Annie who you first meet under false names but get to know a bit better later.

You’re not in DC long before you, Zack, and Rebecca go to Dallas for a few days for the scientific conference your father is in charge of. It’s fun seeing Michelle and her family but the best is getting to speak on science journalism to grad students and others interested in non-research science careers. You also meet some cool people and have a couple of memorable nights at bars with them, staying in touch even after the conference is over with a few of them like Jennifer, Dariya, and Karolina. After going back to DC, the hunt for housing begins again in earnest but still with no success before you start working at the beginning of the next month.

November: Starting the new job is stressful at first but you quickly adjust to the pace and style of the office. Generally speaking you write and do your projects a lot faster than the machinery of government can easily accommodate, which can be dull at times, but except for the hassles with your ID pass, the job is pretty good and your boss is really nice to boot.

Outside of work you’ll expand upon your social activities, both with your brother and on your own. You’ll meet new people and try new things but I have to be fair and say that there’s no Toytown equivalent that you’ll find. Still, between hanging out again with Carolyn, Teresa, Juliet, Clara and others, and new pals as well, your social life isn’t too desolate though I will say you’ll miss Munich and Europe some.

It being November, the end of the month brings Thanksgiving and a trip up to New York and New Jersey like most years. This year the meal is at Ronnie’s but you spend the day after at Michael’s on Long Island. It’s a good trip. you get to see an awesome show about Andrew Jackson with your father, and even see Patrick Stewart on the street.

December: Near the end of November there’s a spot of great news when you finally find a place to live in a really great apartment building. Finally in early December you move in along with your new bed. Your roommates, Beth and Elizabeth are very nice and living centrally is another big plus. It’s one of the best aspects to your life in DC and a welcome improvement over similar aspects in the previous year.

Unfortunately at the same time your office moves from close by in downtown DC out to Crystal City in Virginia. While not the worst commute ever, it does make getting to and from work a much longer process. Ultimately it’s worth it though since you’re close to the places you want to go out to on evenings and weekends, something you wanted a lot after your time in Germany. Other than that you adjust well to your now generally settled schedule of work and other activities and start really having a life beyond it, at least until near the end of the month when you return to Seattle for a vacation.

The vacation in Seattle is short but sweet, with a couple of days with family in Vancouver, seeing friends like Ian and Thea and random nights out when you’re not spending time with family. Shortly after the new year it’s back to DC, rested and ready.

January/February: The last couple of months have a few highlights worth mentioning. You’ll start going out more often on weekends with Carolyn and meet new people in an interesting tandem way with her. Your boss will send you on a trip to a conference in Charlotte for a few days, which you’ll enjoy and learn quite a bit at. And on her way to Israel from Arizona, Rachel, your pal who at your point in time you’ve just reconnected with, will stay with you for a while, a nice reunion.

Mostly though, life is without too many major ups or downs at the moment. I anticipate good things to come, and am as you know, hopelessly optimistic though I try to hide it. We shall see what the next twelve months bring for me. For you though, all I can say is enjoy this truly wonderful upcoming year, happy early birthday, and pack an extra sandwich or something on that flight to Munich.

Your future self,

Eric

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