Tomorrow, I’ll drive over to Portugal to pick up this very special old lady 🥰😍
10 years ago, when I adopted her in Malta, I promised her I would never abandon her. But then life had other plans. Thankfully, dearest, sweet, old Pushka, I managed to keep my promise to you after all.
It’s been a long time coming. But it’s time to tell our story:
My ex-wife and I had 3 cats together. Pushka, Nacho, and Fellini. We adopted them off the streets in Gzira, Malta and Rome, Italy. Afterwards, we took them with us whenever we needed to move for our jobs. From Malta to Germany, to Switzerland, and then, finally, in 2018, to Macau.
About a year later, in October 2019, I was forced to leave my Southeast Asian home. My wife and I had broken up. I had lost my entire savings during our 5-year marriage. And, to make matters worse, the show I had worked for in Macau closed down at the same time, too. Leaving me without a job, without a work permit, without a permit to stay, without a penny, at the worst of times. The Macanese government gave me 1 week to pack and leave. I managed to extend this to 1 month. But it still wasn’t enough time to allow me to organize the cats’ relocation. For that, I would have needed 3 months and a lot of help.
Thankfully, at the time, my ex-wife told me she wanted to keep the cats with her in Macau. She said it wouldn’t be home without them. And my ex-wife promised me, she would send Pushka, Nacho, and Fellini to me, when the time came for her to leave Macau. We agreed she would pay for the cats’ relocation then, since I had already paid over 10’000 EUR for 2 prior relocations of all 3 cats.
When the time did come, my ex-wife didn’t get in touch to tell me she was leaving. And she didn’t organize the cats’ relocation back to me. Instead, I found out through some work mates that she had left Macau and had left our cats in foster care with a friend of hers. Not a forever home, but at least a safe space.
Over the next 3 years, I received almost no information on how Nacho, Fellini, and Pushka were doing. Only when I asked, was I given a few scraps of info. That they were fine. And also, that my help and presence was neither wanted nor needed.
Then, about 10 months ago, I found out through FB that all 3 cats were up for adoption. Imagine, someone gives your children away for good and doesn’t even tell you that’s what they are doing. You find out through social media and when you email to ask and offer your help, you are not allowed to be involved in the decision process, but rather told to stay out of it. You are given no say in who gets to adopt your children. Then, when they are finally given away without your consent, you are not even told where they are, who adopted them, and if it’s a forever home.
Apparently, Nacho and Fellini were adopted last summer by separate families in Macau. I still have no idea where they are and if they are ok. All my questions have been left unanswered…
A simple but sincere, “Don’t worry, they are safe. They are happy with their new family and they are loved,” would suffice and would help me immensely to let go. As it is, all I can do is forever wonder and hope with all my heart that they are ok, loved, healthy, spoiled, and happy!
Last summer, while the boys were apparently adopted, some of my Macanese sources told me that no one wanted to adopt sweet, old Pushka. She was already 10 at the time, and she is a bit of a peculiar cat. Not as easily lovable and cute as the other two. I was at a loss as to what to do from halfway across the world, but knew leaving her to her fate was not an option.
When I told my neighbours here in Switzerland about Pushka and her need for a safe forever home, they immediately fell in love with her and wanted to adopt her. So, I began organizing from afar. It took a good 6 months, a lot of money, patience, nerves, and, most importantly, the help of many amazing people to prepare Pushka for travel.
Then, just a few days ago, she flew with a good old friend back from Hong Kong to beautiful Europe where she originally came from and where she belongs.
She handled the trip with lots of grace and unbearable cuteness, and is now in Portugal, enjoying a few days with my friends there.
Tomorrow, I will go on a road trip across Europe to pick her up. The trip to Portugal will take 2 days. Then I’ll rest for 2 days. After that, good old Pushka and I will drive back to Switzerland for another 2 days. Once in Zurich, I will hand her over to my amazing neighbours who are eagerly awaiting her arrival. Ready to love her, spoil her, and give her a cozy forever home in her old age. Pushka deserves that so very much.
I’m glad to know that at least for Pushka, against all odds, this long story has found a happy ending.
And I hope so much the same is true for Nacho and Fellini.
Thanks with all my heart to all of you who have been there and volunteered to support Pushka and me in this endeavour. We are forever grateful to you. For privacy’s sake, I won’t disclose your names. But you know who you are 🥰.
I’ve always had to battle challenges and adversity far larger than being transgender.
In this blog post, let’s focus on the transgender part of my story…
I was born in 1971 and grew up in a time, a conservative geographic region, and surrounded by people who never asked me why I was so unhappy and hid away in my room for days on end. When I did make attempts to try and tell them, they didn’t listen. This began when I was 3 years old…
By the time I was 5 years old, I stopped trying to tell people that I was actually a boy inside the female body they perceived. Instead, I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me. Maybe I didn’t quite belong in this world? Maybe I was just broken?
When finally, at the age of 20, I figured out that I was transgender, it was the beginning of an odyssey. This was now over 30 years ago. And the odyssey is still ongoing.
I used to say “I was born in the wrong body” to explain my situation as simply as possible to people. But, I don’t want to say “in the wrong body” anymore, because I have realized this is basically negative self-talk. There is nothing wrong with me or my body. I am not broken. My soul and my biological body were simply mismatched. Why, we’ll never know.
Well, I do have a theory (with a slight twinkle in my eye):
Since I was a kid, I like to imagine a factory high up in the heavens, where exhausted workers toil around the clock at long assembly lines. Their task is to stick souls into matching bodies before those little bodies are then put into wombs. Obviously, every now and then an assembly line worker does not pay attention. As happened in my case when he, she, or they stuck my male soul into a female body… a second of complacency which has cost me dearly my entire life.
For it has taken truly until now for me to realize that I do belong in this world. And that I have as much right as everyone else to take up space, be heard, be seen.
For the longest time, I felt as if I had to apologize for being who I am. I was terrified whenever I needed to come out at work, or in private.
It was during those days as well, that I got rejected in job interviews simply for being transgender.
And then, one time, in the year 2000, the head of human resources of a prestigious company told me after I mentioned that I am transgender, “That’s not a problem at all, Mr. Klenk. You are a very good fit. We’d like to hire you. Just don’t tell anyone else in the company that you are transgender.”
And you know, what? I actually said, “Yes, sure, I understand.”
Because I was so grateful that someone wanted to hire me.
Today, 23 years later, I am fully aware just how discriminating, and disrespectful the HR representative’s request was. And that I should have gotten up that very moment and said “NO”.
Yet, only recently, after years of work with my psychologist did it finally dawn on me that I have prioritized the needs of others my entire life.
How often was I hidden away and still am. To this day, my adoptive father thinks it’s better to not mention to anyone in his village that I am transgender. He can’t even bring himself to use the word transgender. Instead, he refers to it as “your thing.”
My adoptive mother still struggles with finding the right pronouns, 32 years after I came out to her and transitioned. She is concentrating like mad when she speaks to me but often falls back into the female form. And, to this day, she is lying to everyone she knows and only speaks to them about her daughter. When I visit and people she knows walk towards us, she grabs my arm and literally runs with me in the other direction. Because she is at a loss as to how to explain who the young man at her side is. So, to protect my mental health, since a couple years ago, I stopped visiting her.
My ex-wife and her siblings insisted throughout our entire marriage that it will be better not to mention to their parents that their son-in-law is transgender. Since it would make their parents uncomfortable and would possibly break their hearts.
What about my heart?
But you know what? I went along with all of it. Always put myself second. Always understood. And always aimed to do my best to prevent others from ever feeling uncomfortable around me and my reality. I became an amazing diplomat, regulating the feelings of others long before they even felt them.
Even after I wrote a book about my life and basically outed myself with utmost authenticity and truthfulness to the entire world, I still had abundant understanding for everyone else and did my best to never inconvenience anyone.
And I wasn’t even aware I did this to myself.
In the process, I realize now, I undermined my sense of self-worth and my self-confidence. I hurt myself. Didn’t have my own back. De-stabilized the ground I walked on. The tremors and earthquakes became stronger with every single year, until I fell more often than I stood.
I realize now, I committed the ultimate betrayal. Did the worst we can do to ourselves. Because if we don’t have our own backs 100%, if we don’t love ourselves exactly as who and how we are, we literally have nothing.
It is the loneliest we can possibly ever be. No matter how many loyal and supportive friends we have. No matter how many people we inspire.
My odyssey has thus far been chock-full of challenges and adversity. Thankfully, I never took any of these hurdles as being the end of the line. But rather as opportunities for growth and learning. So, grow I did and do. Painfully and slowly. I always will.
Nowadays, as I am in the process of – for the first time in my life – building a healthy base layer of self-confidence and self-esteem. I am beginning to truly stand up tall.
And while I have already been an active supporter and public speaker for the transgender, non-conforming, and non-binary community since as far back as 2016, it is only now that I feel true belonging – to myself, as well as to the world around me. I am allowing myself space. I am finding my place. And as I love myself more and belong more, my voice grows stronger.
Most importantly, I know – as firmly and clearly as anyone ever can – that I will never let myself be hidden away or silenced again.
Traveling. That magical word. Those moments, surreal almost in their beauty and intensity once we return home and try to hold on to them in our thoughts. And then, of course, while on the road, there is this feeling of being intensely alive. I had missed especially this vividness when finally, after 2 years of not traveling long distances during the pandemic, I was able to set out again and explore. And, as every time when I set out, I was scared.
Over the years, I’ve lived and worked on several continents. In 11 countries. These were, in chronological order: Germany, USA, Switzerland, Maldives, Belgium, Macau, Canada, Hong Kong, Malta, the Caribbean, and France.
Each one of these home bases I settled into, I used as a hub from which I travelled extensively. I love exploring.
Yet, every single time I set off to go somewhere new, to venture into the unknown, I was afraid. Even terrified at times.
It was the realization that I was about to go out of my comfort zone, to stretch my limits. A leap of faith, both scary and invigorating.
It was also knowing that I was leaving my safe zone – Zurich, Switzerland – where I know from experience, I won’t be attacked as a transgender man.
Each time, leaving this safe haven added a whole other layer of anxiety for me. The fear of not being accepted… or worse of being in mortal danger as a trans individual. I knew, I’d be far more vulnerable at any new destination, due to my lack of local knowledge. Just think of emergencies, doctor’s visits, registrations at public offices, etc.
Now, being 52 years old, I’ve seen a large portion of our planet. I am by all means a seasoned traveler. But one thing hasn’t changed: I am still often anxious. Especially as I head out. That initial push of, “Yeah it’s scary as hell, but do it anyways. It’ll be worth it, and you’ll be fine.”
Like two months ago, when I took several planes to get from Switzerland to New Zealand. During my long stopover in Doha, I was acutely aware of their state-of-the-art full body scanners and wondered how much they really show or don’t show? Was it obvious to the security personnel that there is something missing between my legs?
As I then walked through the lush, green forest inside the recently built Doha terminal, I was in awe. But, at the same time, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. Because I knew I was in one of those places on Earth where I am not allowed to exist. Where I am considered an abomination. Would they kill me if they met me in a dark alley rather than in a busy airport terminal?
When the airplane took off towards Adelaide a few hours later, I was as relieved as a drowning man coming up to the surface for a breath of much needed air.
So, you see, wherever I go, it is hard for me to completely relax. And sometimes, depending on where I am, I can’t relax at all.
I transitioned in 1996, when I was 25. But even now, 27 years later, I still sometimes feel like a criminal on the run who could be detected at any moment. Someone not welcome, under the radar, living a life of false safety which can shatter at any time.
Thus, my nervous system is always on high alert.
When you meet me on the street, however, you’ll never know I’m transgender. I am very much the man I am – inside and also on the outside. I “pass” very well as they say.
On that note: I detest the use of the words “passing” and “presenting” in relation to how a transgender person is perceived by others. It’s actually outright disrespectful and invalidating. “Passing” and “presenting” make us sound as if we are pretending to be who we are rather than actually being exactly the person we say we are, no matter how that may look to others.
People I only meet briefly on the street or whilst running an errand will never know they’ve just met a transgender man.
And it is precisely those quick everyday encounters which make me wonder: Would they still appreciate me and treasure me if they knew I am transgender? Would I still be safe around them?
Far more acute, when I am traveling or working abroad, I often wonder things like: Will the doctors in the foreign hospital still treat me well when they find out my body isn’t quite like any other male body? If I get searched by police in a dark alley, will I come out of there alive? If I’m outed in a bar in the middle of nowhere, will I be attacked? Will the woman I’ve flirted with run away in disgust when she sees me the first time without my clothes?
Especially in the USA, the Middle East, and South America, hundreds of transgender individuals get killed every year on the street simply for being who they are. So, my worries are not unfounded. And much still needs to be done for this, our beautiful planet, to truly be an inclusive world.
On Sunday, April 16, 2023, come see me on stage in Basel, Switzerland.
I will be one of four guests of Swiss talk show legend Kurt Aeschbacher. And he will surely have an amazing conversation with each of us. For 30 years, Kurt Aeschbacher had his own talk show on Swiss TV. Now he is continuing this legendary, engaging, and inspirational set-up in a new form together with artistic director Phil Dankner, live on stage, in a matinee show at ‘Kulturhuus Haebse’ in Basel.
We will talk about my life, my book, and we’ll try to build bridges and further understanding of what it means to be transgender.
Tickets can be bought here https://www.haebse.ch/spielplan/event-five-et78n-cgxhn-gc7ht. Maybe I’ll see some of you there?
Kurt Aeschbacher’s talks are always compassionate, thoughtful, respectful, and full of a kind curiosity. I won’t know in advance which questions he will ask and where the conversation will lead us. But I am sure it will be a beautiful, memorable morning.
Currently, I am traveling in Aotearoa, mesmerizingly beautiful New Zealand. On my own, in a camper van, catching up with friends, and attending a wedding along the way. I love this mix of meeting wonderful humans whilst at the same time being able to enjoy lots of quality alone-time. Just me and the breath-taking natural world all around me. In fact, I’m enjoying every moment. Laughing out loud in the van sometimes when the beauty of the world and the joy of being alive hits me full force.
What a contrast to how I felt in 2019, when I was so down, so tired of life, and of fighting to make it in this world, of longing to be loved, that I had to consciously avoid pharmacies, because I knew if I’d set foot inside one, I’d give in, buy a few hundred tablets and take them all in one go. I was so incredibly tired. And so defeated.
The three years since that awful time have been an odyssey during which I’ve gone from having lost almost my entire sense of self-worth and self-confidence to re-building myself yet again. This through finding the courage to look at all that had transpired with a hard, honest eye. To then, eventually, be able to say, “Life is beautiful and you deserve better.”
Even my identity as a trans man, which had taken me a painful twenty years to grow into with confidence, had been seriously shaken in its foundations. I had transitioned when I was 25, in 1996, when I finally understood that I had always been a boy, a man, inside. But it had taken me those two decades to be ok with my scars, to grow into my body, to feel confident in who I was, and to not feel apologetic about being trans anymore.
Then, a statement from a woman I had loved and trusted with all my heart – my now ex-wife – had been the beginning of our lives together and my sense of self unraveling. At first, it had just been one cruel statement. A statement, which still haunts me to this day. When she said to me after living together for 5 years, “Yes, I have an affair. And I don’t feel bad about it. I needed it. For the first time after 5 years I finally feel like a woman again.”
In that moment I felt like someone had detonated an atomic bomb in the room. And just like radiation, her words began eating away at me from the inside. This first statement and many others after about how I just wasn’t good enough, literally reduced me to ashes. And any Phoenix-like antics felt like a million light-years away from being possible.
I felt unseen, worthless, not enough, almost existence-less. And to make matters worse, hearing these thoughts from someone I had thought valued me triggered old traumata from way back. Traumata which were responsible for me not having a sound base to weather an assault like this in the first place.
I’m still overcoming. Growing back into my skin slowly. Learning to love myself again. At this point, I am still scared of ever falling in love again. Scared of ever kissing a woman again and holding each other. Still worried I might not be good enough for anyone. And scared of trusting someone so deeply ever again.
Thankfully, by now I also know that my heart and all the love I feel inside of it, all the love I’m able to give, are strong enough.
Strong enough to eventually help me overcome this feeling of ineptitude.
I will, eventually, embrace another person intimately again and allow myself to be embraced. Yet first I need to keep working on embracing and loving myself fully and unconditionally. I need to learn to show myself the same kindness, love, compassion, patience, and understanding that I always give so easily to others.
For the moment, I am learning to set better boundaries, prioritize my own needs, my own emotional, and mental health. I am looking at my entire life with an honesty and clarity greater and deeper than ever before. And I aim to grow, better myself.
Build an inner base so strong, I’ll be able to navigate all tides and currents around me, and within me, far better. Be vulnerable, yet also rest peacefully within myself.
Being on my current road trip around beautiful Aotearoa, I am amazed at being able to feel unbridled joy again. I’m amazed at how much I enjoy my own company. I speak to myself, and tell myself, “You’re alright.”
Millions of thoughts are going through my head. And I let them all in, allow them to stay for a moment. Because I am, in fact, alright enough for now. I can weather them.
And while I look inward, my eyes, my whole body and soul also look outward, to absorb the magnificent natural wonders all around me.
I’m saying hello to a new lease on life. A new chapter. A better me. Life is beautiful. And so profoundly worth living.
For all Swiss-German and German speakers out there, here a little something to listen to on a relaxed Sunday afternoon: Marco Schaettin recently interviewed me for his fabulous podcast ‘Mis Coming Out’ (my coming out) and I told him about my life story… ☺️
It was a pleasure to meet this lovely man whom I’ve admired and respected for many years. And it’s easy to be yourself and feel comfortable when you have someone who actually really cares and listens. Thank you so much to the entire Aeschbacher team!
With all the discussion about abortions and many people courageously putting themselves out there sharing their personal experiences, I thought I’d share a little tidbit with you as well.
A little over 52 years ago my biological mother lived in Stuttgart and had a boyfriend from Italy. She had just moved out at home and was trying to make it on her own. He was a foreign worker who came from Southern Italy.
Both were 18 years old when they met, and both came from very strict, Christian families. Sex was never talked about in their families, and contraception was definitely a taboo.
Like any teenagers who are in love, they soon did have sex, yet had no idea what to do to protect each other.
So, they did the best they could come up with, which was that he always tried to pull out before ejaculating… Until… one night, there was a vehicle collision in the intersection where they lived and one of the cars slammed into the wall of their apartment building exactly when my biological dad climaxed and should have pulled out.
He didn’t, of course, being startled by the deafeningly loud impact of the car which made the entire building shake in its foundations.
His sperm went its merry way, and I was conceived.
It took my mom ages to realize she was pregnant. When she did, my dad and her both panicked. He ran away to Italy, and she tried to go back home to her parents who promptly disowned her because they wanted nothing to do with a sinner who had sex before marriage.
My biological mom had no choice but to go to the only place back then that would take her: a refuge for pregnant prostitutes, where they were allowed to stay until they gave birth.
Abortion was never discussed. She was never given a choice. And thus the road to disaster was paved.
As soon as my mom gave birth, she was told to leave the shelter. Then the German state took charge and declared her unfit to raise a child due to not having any family support.
They took me away from her at 3 months old and brought me to an orphanage.
What ensued from there were incredible hardships and struggles for both her and I.
Traumata and pain that never healed on both sides.
So, I ask, what gives anyone the right to tell a young woman who finds herself at a dead end what to do? It is her life and the life of her child which hangs in the balance. It should be no one’s decision but hers.
And adoption is, from own experience, a bit like Russian Roulette. You can get lucky or plunge from one nightmare straight into the next one…
Outlawing abortion is about as far away from being pro-life as I can possibly imagine. It is a blatant violation of human rights.
And no one, especially not a bunch of privileged white males, should ever be allowed to tell women what to do with their bodies.
Yesterday, on June 18th, 2022, the annual Zurich PRIDE parade took place in the center of town. It was the first parade after the pandemic. And it was fabulous in so many ways… let me tell you more…
Arriving at the meeting point, I already thought, “Oh, there are way more people here than in the years before.” However, at the time, I didn’t see all the PRIDE participants who didn’t fit into Helvetia square but were waiting in the adjacent streets for the parade to begin.
When the 8 trucks started going, everyone cheered and our parade slowly, slowly began making its way through downtown Zurich. As soon as we all filed into one of the larger streets it became quite obvious that we had far surpassed the usual approximately 10’000 participants.
All around me was a sea of rainbows, goodwill, and happiness. It was so strong and tangible in the air, you could almost touch it, bottle it, and take it home with you as an antidote for dreary, less inclusive days.
I wondered why people had turned up in such high numbers in our small metropolis. Maybe it was a general urge people felt to throw themselves into the masses after being cooped up at home for so long? Or maybe it was the fact that on July 1st, 2022, the same sex marriage will be officially legalized in Zurich? Or, maybe, times really are changing and have changed much more than we even realize?
This year’s parade motto was “Trans – Living Diversity.”
We had gone as a team with members of the PRIDE network of our company, BCG. A few allies came along as well which was fabulous. All of us together had a great time and we spent most of the day losing each other, then searching and finding each other again in this sea of joyful human beings.
As we immersed ourselves more deeply into the parade, we began following one truck in particular. It was bright green and offered by far the best DJ of all the trucks in the parade. The music was fantastic. Getting your body moving all on its own.
Even more fantastic was that on the side of the truck was written in large letters “Trans Rights Now” and on the back of the truck the creative organizers had written in flowers “Heroes.”
Letting the beat go through me, I felt the words and actions of the people around me going through me as well. And I was in tears (joyful ones!) most of the time.
When I transitioned 27 years ago, it had been such an isolated, lonely road. And definitely no one considered us to be heroes.
I had been luckier than most to have amazing friends who, for the most part, stuck by me and still do, to this day. I had also been lucky to live in a country where I didn’t need to fear for me life due to being a trans man.
But, nevertheless, I had needed to jump through way too many, emotionally painful, bureaucratic hoops. And, over the years, living and working abroad in 11 different countries, I often did need to fear for my safety and my life.
But in the first few years of transitioning, the bureaucratic and medical processes were the hardest. The doctors who did the surgery to remove my breasts didn’t care much to do a good job and left me with enormous scars. For many years this made it hard for me to take my shirt off in public.
Then, I was assigned to a psychiatrist who sabotaged me when giving his professional evaluation needed by the authorities. This man deduced I wasn’t manly enough because he felt my handshake wasn’t strong enough. So, he wrote that I wasn’t truly transgender. Thankfully another psychiatrist supported me all the way and ended up being the heavier weight on the scale.
After injecting testosterone for the first time, it took 10 years until I was finally allowed to change my gender in all official papers. For most of those 10 years, I already looked like a man and spent way too many moments needing to explain to total strangers in official places why I looked like a man but had a passport that stated me as female.
I always tried to move on and see the positive side of life. For the most part, I succeeded (interspersed by the odd depression and anxiety attacks). Overall, however, if I am completely honest to myself and to you, there were way too many long years of challenges, adversity, hardship, and pain.
So, seeing this wonderful, boisterous truck in the parade, and seeing so much evidence of support for trans people, I was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions.
Never had I thought I would ever see a pro-trans parade like this. Never had I expected to see a truck like this, loudly and happily proclaiming “Here we are!”
Several of the large businesses along the streets we were marching through put up enormous rainbow banners.
It was scorching hot. In some houses people were throwing fans from their balconies into the crowd (when I say “fans,” I mean the kind you use to refresh yourself by propelling air towards your face, not the human kind).
In many other houses along our route, the inhabitants were using hoses, buckets, water bottles, anything that could hold a little water to pour over the crowd. Each squirt and drop of water raining down on us from above resulted in loud cheers of thankfulness from hundreds of people.
We even passed a church where several old ladies helped rehydrate us as well. A sight which again brought me to tears in its infinite kindness and clear display of love, mutual respect, and open-mindedness.
Overall, a day to remember forever.
And, as we found out afterwards through the news, it had been 40’000 people who took part in this year’s Zurich PRIDE parade!
40’000! Plus the amazing supporters all along the parade who were showering us with water and preventing us from sun stroke.
Here is to diversity and inclusion, and the freedom to be exactly who you know you are!
It’s time to stay close to home for a while… simply to be careful with finances… and also because, quite honestly, I just love my rooftop apartment with its little terrace. Even more, I love sitting on said terrace for hours together with my room mates JoJo and Luna, two adorable felines who I can’t imagine living without at this point. They soothe my soul and make me happy every moment of every day.
But I do get out for walks as often as I can, exploring the neighbourhood, downtown area, as well as the outskirts of my home town Zurich.
Water is what defines Zurich most of all. Lake Zurich, the old moat called “Schanzengraben”, the river Limmat, and the river Sihl. I never get tired of strolling along those bodies of water. In most cases they are lined with beautiful cityscapes as well, interspaced by parks. Or, further down the river Limmat, the riverside is lined with cozy cafes. And graffiti, glowing brightly in all colors of the rainbow.
After many years of living and working abroad, I am rediscovering my home and learning to love it with fresh eyes.
Spring in Zurich is a festival of colours. A banquet of flowers. Green leaves begin sprouting everywhere in a myriad of hues. The air feels lighter all of a sudden. Warm and fluid. Caressing your skin. Growth is everywhere. In the earth, the trees, the lakes, the rain, the skies… Every living thing around you awakens in a rich carpet of scents and visual abundance.
During the last few months, I didn’t get out much except for short walks around the neighbourhood. Work was intense, and the weather was just too grey and wet for me to want to go on big excursions.
However, as soon as spring kicked off here and the days got longer, warmer, drier, and sunnier, I took a week off to go where it was still cold, grey, and wet: to the fjords of Norway.
What brought me there initially was a concert by Ludovico Einaudi I just didn’t want to miss. Then, I figured why not leave Oslo straight away and head to the area around Bergen to explore some of the far larger fjords in the west of Norway a bit.
It turned out to be an amazing trip. Each fjord I visited was more beautiful than the one before it. Especially the Naeroyfjord, with a ferry trip from Gudvangen to Flam, was absolutely, mesmerizingly beautiful and invigorating. Even more so since the sun came out for most of the day, bathing everything in a crystal clear light, enhancing the hues of white and blue all around me to an eerie brilliance.
It was my first time ever traveling to Norway or the European North in general, and I’ll most definitely be back. For hikes, road trips, and boat cruises around even more fjords. And to explore other northern countries as well.
In addition to the landscape which was almost unreal in its beauty, I loved the general atmosphere in Norway. There was a distinct politeness, calm, and relaxedness which felt like blessed relief. Time seemed to slow down and whatever stress I felt still lingering from the months of working before soon vanished without a trace.
Everything seemed so easy, quiet, accessible, and open-minded. I never quite felt anything like it anywhere else during my abundant travels through many countries around the world. It was simply enchanting.
Home. After not having had a home base for almost 2 years, I cannot express well enough how grateful I am to have found a place in June 2021 to which I can return to happily, and relax in, every single day.
Many good friends offered me shelter along the way when I was homeless, from September 2019 to June 2021. But prolonged couch surfing, even if it is deluxe couch-surfing in between, exacerbates loneliness quite intensely after a while.
At least that was the case for me. I am an introvert. Thus, I really need my own space, no matter how small, to be able to retreat and recharge my batteries on a daily basis.
Certain things, which I had taken for granted over the years, then lost, are now making me feel so grounded and happy again. To have my own doorbell and letterbox for example. And to open said letterbox every now and then to find a surprise postcard or letter from friends (I’m not so happy about the bills). To be able to put everything exactly where I want to put it. To have space in the fridge and have the opportunity to cook whenever I feel like it. To be able to be minimalistic to my heart’s desire and do my best so my life and space don’t get too cluttered. To grow my own herbs. To get up as early as I want to, make myself a coffee, and watch the sunrise on my terrace. To listen to my music, loud, whenever I want to.
All this was lost when I lost my home. And, wherever I was a guest, I didn’t quite dare to take up too much space. Now, I’m loving my re-claimed freedom. And I’m grateful to have found such a beautiful space to put myself back together again ☺️
Do you have moments when you feel utterly lost? You might even have a roof over your head, great friends, food on the table, and a regular income. But something has shaken your world to the core. And it’s been like a wake-up call. Everything has shifted since then. Your world is in the process of re-aligning… or maybe aligning properly for the first time ever… whatever that may mean. Maybe, you’ve been given a chance to get to know yourself better. And become a better person through deeper introspection. To right some wrongs you’ve done to yourself and others. Or, at least, to find some peace in your mind and heart.
But you don’t really know anything. And, even though it feels as if you are currently in limbo or at least slow motion in some kind of process, you can’t be sure where you are in this process. Or if you’ll ever arrive anywhere.
Sometimes, you wonder if you’re even made for this world. You seem to lack the aggressive drive most other people have. You seem to lack their self-confidence and natural sense of entitlement. Your values seem so different from theirs. As seem your needs. Your dreams.
Looking around you, you want to get a sense of who you are, but you can’t. Looking inside you there is only uncertainty and confusion. You seek peace and a deeper, honest, authentic, open understanding of everything. You’ve sought this for a long time. Yet, still, you fail. You fall short. You disappoint yourself and others.
And, when it comes down to it, after a life-time of struggling and trying to find your place in this world, it seems as if with each year, rather than making headway, wherever it is you are headed eludes you more instead of less.
Wandering around the forest of your neighbourhood as well as the metaphorical forest of your life, you can’t help chuckling at yourself and wondering WTF. It even seems as if the forest agrees with your puzzlement and answers as you happen upon a random piece of forest trail art.
I’m on vacation! 2 1/2 weeks off work. Thankfully, as of this moment it still feels as if I’m suspended in time. I have all the time in the world.
In fact, this is my first vacation since beginning of 2019 that is without stress and anxiety. A vacation without existential angst… even though I’m still far from feeling steady ground under my feet again.
Nevertheless, I enjoy many a happy moment. My cat is a great teacher. He shows me how to stay in the Now.
Because often, when I see my social media feed, I get quite depressed.
Every day, there is another “congratulate Blabla for starting a new position as Blabla for this and that show.” I read it, feel happy for my colleague, but also immediately feel this deep ache radiating all the way to my core. A kind of homesickness that is incredibly hard to shake. And to be entirely honest, possibly also hurt pride.
I need to be careful not to dwell on it too much. To not get overwhelmed by sitting on the bench.
The thing is, I love working backstage, especially for circus shows. Yet, no matter how hard I’ve worked during my thus far 10 years in the business… I’ve always found it incredibly hard to get a foot in the door. I blame nepotism. So many times, my skillset and enthusiasm didn’t seem to matter when I applied for a job at a show. Managers would only hire people they already knew well…
These days, I am working in a corporate office. Admin work similar to what I am used to as a stage manager. The work is also just as fast paced and ever-changing. So that is good. Yet, I do miss being backstage running tracks in the evening. And I miss calling the show.
I’ve adapted to so many things in my life already. Yet this time, the ache remains. It feels as if I’ve lost something forever and it will leave a void I somehow cannot quite fill with anything else. Because nothing compares to the almost electrifying vividness of bringing a show to life together.
I am now stumped and quite a bit lost when it comes to figuring out where I’m headed with my life. I feel uprooted. Wanting to arrive somewhere yet not quite able to do so. Daily, I feel the ache of wanting to go backstage again to work my heart out for something burgeoning with creativity and soul.
As for hurt pride… there is the exasperating fact that everything else I’ve ever put all my energy towards has worked out for me. Except working backstage and being able to build a successful career as a stage manager. Over the years, I have been great in helping others in the industry to kickstart their career. Yet, for myself, the backstage universe seems to remain strangely out of reach.
Well, looking back over the last decade, I’ve had a good run of it, too. I worked for two amazing aquatic circus shows. One of them the largest one in the world at the time. I also got to work with a great international team on the first ever electric vehicle stunt show in the world.
So, I did manage to squeeze more than just a foot in the door every now and then over the years. And I did my best to gather as much experience as I could while I was with each show. In my last job in the industry, I even finally called the show. Meaning, I ran the show from the control booth. It’s sort of like being the bridge between everything. Keeping people safe and the spectacle flowing. Much like being a conductor for a huge orchestra. Just that in this case it’s performer cues, light, sound, special effects, props, and all kinds of things coming together. It’s like creating the same perfect Mandala every night. The timing must be just right. But still, the show will never be exactly the same.
Calling the show was something I had wanted to do for a long, long time.
Now, I seem to be completely out of the loop. As if none of these experiences ever happened. Whereas most of my former colleagues are falling neatly back into place after the pandemic. Like human puzzle pieces in a re-activated live Tetris game.
I wonder if maybe being a stage manager is just not my door? But how can something that feels so deeply invigorating and seems to fit so well to my personality and skillset be the wrong door? Maybe there are things I just cannot grasp and understand yet.
Maybe answers will await further along the road.
For now, my old street cat JoJo reminds me to count our blessings and enjoy every precious moment. To trust that, somehow, the mystery of where we’re headed will be revealed over time.
We do have a roof over our head after being homeless for a good 1 1/2 years (well JoJo was homeless for a good decade or more). Plus, it’s not just any roof. We found a gorgeous little rooftop apartment with a terrace. Our place is flooded with light. Different hues of golden sunlight find their way through our windows over the course of each day.
And I have a job. That’s not to be taken for granted.
It’s also good to have health insurance again. There are some aches and pains both JoJo and I have been struggling with that we can now take care of.
Most importantly, we are surrounded by a group of close friends whom I’ve known for decades. Many of them have always been there. No matter where I went. No matter for how long. And they’ve always accepted me for exactly who I am. We’ve grown in all kinds of different directions and yet have never grown apart.
So, JoJo and I are in a good place.
I’m relaxing into the flow as best as I can.
The person inside me who wants to have a plan would love to know about some deeper meaning in all of this. Would love to know the destination we are headed towards. And would love for it all to instantaneously make sense and feel right.
Most likely, a few years from now it really will all make sense and I’ll know why everything had to happen the way it did.
I know, it’s about the journey, not the destination. The adventurer within me appreciates that. The adventurer within is grateful for all the moments spent now in this current life situation, this current place.
Mostly, I am incredibly grateful for and happy about every second I get to spend with little, old JoJo.
Time together is always limited. I guess it is what makes the happy moments so incredibly, overwhelmingly precious.
But in our case now, I am more aware than ever before of how limited time together is. No one knows JoJo’s age. He might be anything above 10 years old. And he has FIV.
The time we have together. Friendship. Love. Supporting each other is more important than anything else. Be it human to human, or human to animal.
So, here we are, two close friends, cat and man, enjoying some last, golden autumn sunshine together.
Another mountain lake and the, in this case, lucky occurrence of being woken up early by a busy road and construction site right next to where I had bunked for the night.
Lake Lucerne was majestic just after sunrise.
Crisp, cold air which demanded several layers of clothing. But each breath was invigorating. And nature’s color palette was a feast for the eyes. Soft edges at first. Then everything transformed, becoming crisper and clearer as the morning progressed.
As for the sunset… not bad… Not bad at all, either. Stood there with a glass of white wine in my hand, closing my eyes every so often to commit the magical moment to memory. Do you do that sometimes, too? Close your eyes when faced with something you never want to forget, so as to take a photograph with your soul? The eyelids become the shutters of your internal camera. And in that swift moment of closing your eyes, going inwards, you take a picture for eternity.
During 18 years of living in Switzerland, off and on, I didn’t explore much of the Swiss mountains. Essentially, I am not a mountain person, but rather love wide open spaces. I tend to get a bit claustrophobic in the mountains, between those high walls rising up all around me.
However, last year’s 1-month hike along the Swiss Jura trail and afterwards another month through several French mountain chains has highlighted the beauty of those mountain regions.
For this, my 3rd stint in Switzerland, the goal is to see more of this country’s beauty and explore far more.
A few days ago, I spent a couple days in Flims and was enchanted by Lake Cauma. In parts, the myriad shades of turquoise were almost as inviting as a tropical lagoon.
A friend and I spent a while just sitting there, at the water’s edge, gazing out over the lake, enjoying a rare moment of utter peace.
It’s been eight months now since I came back to Zurich. A place which has been my home two times before already. All in all, this is my 19th year here. It is more home than any other place on Earth, and yet I struggle to relax into it.
Over the last thirty years, I’ve grown and learned in so many places around the world. Besides Switzerland, I’ve lived and worked in the US, Germany, Maldives, Belgium, Macau, Hong Kong, Canada, Malta, France, and the Caribbean.
Of all those places, I guess I miss Macau the most. Its climate, its culture, its people, and its food. And, with it, also my intensive life there working for large-scale circus and stunt shows.
In the spring of 2020, my greatest dream almost came true. After 11 years of working backstage and a good 5 years of applying for every stage management job Cirque du Soleil advertised, I was finally interviewed by them. For Nysa, their coming resident show in Berlin.
I got through the first interview ok, was shortlisted and invited for a second interview.
Then, just 3 days before this second interview and just before a very real chance to finally work for the company I had dreamed about ever since I was 21 years old and experienced them for the first time (in 1992), all Cirque du Soleil shows around the world were shut down due to Covid19. All interviews were cancelled as well.
Now, Cirque du Soleil shows are slowly reopening. But Nysa has been cancelled. And, I remain an outsider, not part of any clique or network. My chances of realizing this lifelong dream again looking slim at best.
Starting a new life here in Zurich, I’ve begun working as something akin to executive assistant for a management consulting company. I work for nine people at the same time. And, astonishingly enough, the job content is eerily similar to the admin part of working as a stage manager for large-scale shows.
There is also the same sense of urgency, the same unpredictability, constant changes, thinking on your feet, everything coming in late but needing to be done yesterday. And this sense of never quite knowing what the day or week will bring.
The one big difference is that now there is no instant gratification. As a stage manager, I am backstage in the evenings, after a day of admin, and see firsthand what I am working for. I feel the audience, the performers, the entire atmosphere backstage and onstage and I know I am making a difference. I know what I am working for.
Now, everything is abstract. I have an endless list of tasks, but do not hear if anything I have done actually helped towards the success of the project. I do not even hear if the project was successful in the end at all.
That being said, my job is never boring. The company climate is great. And the team is as good as it’s ever going to get, compared to everything else in my 32 years of work experience. So, I am in a good space.
At the end of the day, I guess I am simply homesick. Missing my home in Macau, in Coloane village, a small fishing village where at this time of year, I’d see millions of dragon flies soaring through the evening skies. And I’d sit on my rooftop after a long hard day, gazing at the stars, and having impromptu conversations with friends.
I am homesick for tropical climates, the cold beer in the evening which never tastes better anywhere else, and the local street food sold by my neighbors.
I am easing back into the structured perfection of Central European life. All the while realizing that a huge part of my heart will forever long for those places, experiences, and people I had to leave behind on the other side of the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy where I am. Happy in the moment. Content gardening on my terrace, feeling the loving presence of the street cat I rescued 10 months ago. My memories of all that was before sustaining me.
But there also is a yearning. Missing something that might be forever a thing of the past.
I wonder if this is part of the human condition. Part of the condition of travelers. Or just part of my condition. To become so much a child of the world that the ache for faraway places becomes permanent.
In my case, it is a double ache. For life backstage, helping to create magic onstage. And for a life in exotic places where material safety and structure are not a given. Where typhoons muscle their way through the city, expats tell each other wild stories, and nothing is ever quite easy, comfortable, and secure.
These aches might be a permanent fixture in my life. But I am so grateful for them. I wouldn’t want to miss a second of all the experiences I was lucky to have thus far, all over the world. Even if it means that somewhere, in the deepest recesses of my heart from hereon out I will always be homeless, or at home everywhere at once. Whichever way you want to look at it.
(The elephant seen in a local forest around Zurich. A little taste of places yet to be discovered for young adventurers travelling in their minds on the back of stone elephants to far away destinations.)
As happy as I am where I am right now, I miss my home in Macay every single day. I miss my life in that strange, yet beautiful little town right next to Zhuhai, China. I miss my cozy apartment with a view over the South China Sea and the mainland. With its lush tropical forests and ever-growing competing forest of high-rise buildings.
I miss the people of Coloane village, like the pushy vegetable vendor who always talked me into buying more than I wanted. The Lord Stows restaurant employees downstairs who always brought my takeaway on a regular plate. The old lady around the corner who sold soft drinks and beer from her living room and who would be deeply asleep on the couch whenever I stopped by to buy something.
I miss the wonderful smells of Chinese or Portugese cooking lingering over the entire city. The tropical rain showers. The typhoons in the fall which reminded me of how small I am and left me in awe of nature’s grandeur. The dragon dances when a new shop opened and the splendor of gifted flower arrangements which were displayed outside the shop for a few days.
I miss Buddha’s birthday with all its festivities throughout town. The bright colors. The small temples in almost every street, the offerings and incense everywhere. And the kitchy lanterns lining every street for each festive holiday.
I miss the strange and infinitely complex Cantonese language which I was slowly beginning to understand. I lived in Lo Wan Si Koi and worked in San Hou Tin Dei (City of Dreams) and later in San Hou Jing Wui (Studio City).
I miss the Coloane hills through which I hiked many times, enjoying the tropical forest, the little pagodas, and the view of old, rusty barges on the ocean far below. I miss La Gondola on Cheoc Van Beach, with its old fashioned, bright red Coca Cola umbrellas, its incredible Calzone, and delicious Sangria.
I miss the narrow, mysterious alleys which were poetic in their imperfection. The swallows who sat lined up by the hundreds on the low hanging electrical lines in Old Taipa Village. And I miss those nights enjoying a wine with Jesus and my friends at El Gaucho Macau, my favorite restaurant of all time. With its incredible steaks and homemade Chimichurri. In contrast, some of the best evenings were having Hot Pot with my Chinese work mates. Macau always stunned me with its potpourri of traditional and international delicacies.
Or having a Tsing Tao on a hot summer’s night on my rooftop, watching the fireworks over Chimelong Park just across the ocean, whilst letting the warm night air, so still and full of the fragrance of tropical foliage, caress me.
I miss all those moments and many more.
And I miss my cats. I think of those three brave little souls whom I was forced to leave behind and who I can now only hope have been left in good hands where they will be loved and have a caring forever home.
I tell myself to let go completely. Because there is nothing else I can do. No amount of pining and worrying will be able to change the unchangeable. What happened was way beyond my control. For my sanity, I want and need to let go. But, at the same time, I also never want to forget all these beautiful impressions and memories. And I always want to hold Pushka, Nacho, and Fellini in my heart. My three little feline children.
So, as I move on and slowly build a new life, grateful for what I have been given and been able to rebuild from the ruins, I still can’t help but feel the pain of all I have been forced to leave. Even though it’s now been almost two full years since then. The nightmares have almost stopped. I only have them a couple times per week now… when, for the first year, I had them every single night and could barely sleep.
I am getting back on my feet. I feel a sense of peace again. A sense of happiness. But the memories of a place and life I loved and had to leave behind and the pain that grew from that will always be a part of me now, I suppose.
In a way, I’m lucky as well though. I’ve always followed my heart and its led me to wondrous as well as challenging places and experiences. I keep growing from all I have learned. And I have more than one home. Geographically, thus far, I have four. Macau is most definitely one of those magical and important harbours in my life.
A thunderstorm building up the other day…
I love thunderstorms. Always have. Usually, I either go for a walk as the storm builds up or, if I can, I sit outside with a hot cup of tea or a glass of wine and calmly enjoy the forces of nature. Now, from my terrace, I can see the weather coming again. It’s the greatest thing. I remember, when living in the Maldives, I could see thunderstorms coming from miles away already. It was like a dark wall slowly moving towards us. And, after a while, I was able to predict precisely how long it would take before the storm would hit.
Thankfully, by now the storms in my life have calmed a little. I love my new place. Coming home to it every day is a real treat. Also, I am so fortunate to have my little, old, toothless street cat JoJo. He is a beacon of love and so soulful. Currently our relationship is shifting and he seems to want more personal space. If I don’t respect his boundaries and am too needy, he wraps all four legs around my arms and starts biting, or rather gumming, me. It’s probably the hot weather, changing life circumstances (me being away for work many hours of the day), the fact that he can now roam free on a big terrace (he loves having his own, save outdoor space), and simply that he now feels much more confident about his new place in the world. So, I am giving him space and enjoy every moment we get to snuggle together. As always, this old tomcat is teaching me a lot.
Ridiculously tranquil and idyllic moment during a walk around Greifensee. If you are ever in Kanton Zurich, this is a short hike I can really recommend. All the way around the lake it takes around 5 1/2 hours. Storks and other wildlife are all over the place. I used to come here often during my university years to go for full-moon-night hikes. Come to think of it, I’ll need to do one of those again soon.
Other than that, much has happened in the last few weeks. I received my permit to stay in Switzerland which took a huge load off my shoulder. Through the help of a friend (who alerted me to a great opportunity which I would otherwise have missed applying for) I found a job. And I found the perfect apartment for my old, toothless cat and me. We even have a small terrace overlooking Lake Zurich. JoJo spends most of his days outside if it doesn’t rain. Watching birds and absorbing as much sunshine as he can.
Me, too. Wine glass or coffee cup in hand, I just gaze into the distance. Over the lake and the Alps on the horizon, marvelling at how beautiful this place is… and wondering where my next wanderings will take me…
If anyone has any tips for weekend hikes in the Swiss mountains, let me know! I realize, I want to explore this country a lot more. I’ve only just scratched the surface of all there is to see.
For all Swiss-German and German speakers out there, here a little something to listen to on a relaxed Sunday afternoon: Marco Schaettin recently interviewed me for his fabulous podcast ‘Mis Coming Out’ (my coming out) and I told him about my life story… ☺️
Click here to get to the podcast episode.
Further information on my website.
The Wonderweg continues. Currently mostly just around Zurich. But it’s amazing. I have already lived here twice. Altogether, this is now my 18th year here, but I am daily re-discovering Zurich on a whole new level. Finding corners I’ve never been to before. Enjoying familiar corners with fresh eyes. Genuinely savouring every moment.
This picture was taken on Zueriberg. A hill above Zurich’s university. There is a small, steep path which winds its way uphill, and it’s called ‘Himmelsleiterli’ which means ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ Quite adorable really. And picturesque to boot.
Slowly, slowly after two years of couch-surfing and uncertainty about pretty much everything, the puzzle pieces are beginning to fit together again. A former work colleague alerted me to a position that was open in my old company. I applied and, voila, after several interviews and an assessment they decided to take me. I am over the moon about it, because one of my biggest worries was that I would have to take a job I don’t like, which would then have been only a temporary solution again. I really wanted to find a work environment and work content I’ll enjoy. To be able to settle a bit and stay long-term if possible. Now, I am so grateful that I ended up finding just that.
Then, only a couple weeks after signing my new work contract, I happened to stumble upon an incredibly cozy little rooftop apartment. I had been able to stay with a friend since I arrived in Switzerland beginning of the year. We had even thought of making it a long-term arrangement. But, after such a long time of not having my own home I felt ever more strongly that I needed my own space again. No matter how small it might end up being. I saw the rooftop apartment online. Applied straight away without even looking at it first. I just knew, this is my place. After I put lots of effort into an unusual application, the agency did end up taking me as a tenant. I am not sure exactly when I’ll move in yet. Which is fine. I am in no rush and will enjoy the last few weeks of living together with my good friend and flat mate.
Until I start work in a month, I’ll also spend as much quality time as possible with my toothless cat. I’ll wonder and wander around Zurich and the surrounding regions a bit more, too. Catch some sunshine and relax fully for the first time since the fall of 2019. It’s still step by little step. And no one ever knows anything for sure in life. But I am breathing a huge sigh of relief for now and am looking forward to continue starting a new life.
Since yesterday, my book is available for sale in Paranoia City, a wonderful, little, independent book shop in Zurich. Paralian is officially out of print, so these are the last 6 copies available for now. What better place to sell them at than in my old home which inspired a large part of this book anyways. On Amazon and other ebook providers Paralian is still available in e-book format as well https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/autobiography/paralian/
My just recently adopted, old, toothless partner in crime is teaching me so much about life. About pausing every now and then to appreciate what we have instead of worrying about what we don’t have. About enjoying those almost imperceptible rays of sunshine. Most of all, he teaches me about love. I guess because we know our time together is limited and can end at any moment. The vet can’t really tell how old JoJo is. Anything between 12 and 15 years is possible, he thinks. And JoJo has FIV, the feline version of HIV. It can potentially fully break out at any moment and then he’ll only have a few months left. So, I am completely aware of each second spent with this incredibly beautiful soul. I am grateful we can make each other happy for however long that may be. While I hold him in my arms and he soothes me through his gentle presence, I learn to love and let go more deeply than ever before.
A quick breather yesterday at Lake Constance. It’s always amazing for me to find sandy beaches and secluded spots so close to bustling civilization.
Otherwise, not much new here on the aiming-to-settle-in-Zurich-again front. I must admit, I am exhausted. It’s been a good two years now of hanging in limbo on so many levels and I am starting to really feel it. At the moment, I am waiting to hear back concerning an application process I went through week before last. To be completely honest, ever since then it’s hard for me to focus on anything else. Because, out of all the jobs I’ve applied for so far, none have been a better fit. This job will be great for me in every respect. Such a wonderful mix of interesting work content, great team, and outstandingly good company culture. And I’ll be good at it, too. I am full of hope. And at the same time terrified. The most delicious carrot is dangling in front of me. I can almost touch it. And I had such a rare good feeling during the interviews. Now I’m unsure how I’ll handle it, if that carrot won’t be for me. Of course, I’ll have to just keep going. But oh boy, you know, when you just feel something is right for you. You know it with every fibre of your being. And you’ve done all you possibly can for it. And now the decision is out of your hands. All you can do is wait and hope that the people you talked with as well as the universe all agree with you that it’s the right path.
So amidst all these tumbling thoughts and obsessively checking my email every half hour yesterday, I went to visit my dad who lives right next to this immensely beautiful spot in Southern Germany. The wind, the sun, and the crisp air did me a world of good and transported me quickly from inside my head to firmer ground. Being in nature does that for me. It always restores balance and brings me back to myself.
Last week, I went on a 5-hour hike with a good friend of mine. Switzerland sure has beautiful corners everywhere. We walked from Schoenenberg to Sihlbrugg, along this incredibly tranquil trail. For the longest time, it felt as if we were somewhere far away in the wilderness. We barely met anyone else. Plus, following the water is one of my favorite pastimes anyways.
It felt good to be away from my laptop for a little bit. I’ve been incredibly busy these past few weeks, studying French, studying Psychology, and writing dozens of applications. I want to stay. I want to be able to fully arrive, let out a deep breath, and settle into a comfortable routine. Things have shifted massively for me. Sometimes trauma is a good thing. It has shown me more than ever before how important it is for me to belong somewhere, to have a home base. Many of my closest friends are here in Zurich. Some of us go back decades. We know practically everything about each other and no matter how long I’ve been gone in between, we always pick up right where we left off. It’s family in the truest sense of the word. It’s my happy place. My comfort zone.
Zurich is also my true birth place. It was here all the puzzle pieces fell into place thirty years ago. It was here I found myself. I guess that’s why I have returned time and time again over the years and why I have spent the majority of my time here. Seventeen years so far. No matter how much I searched for home elsewhere, life kept returning me here. It’s time to stop running and relax into this simple and quite beautiful truth: Zurich is home. In some ways, it took all the often extreme and painful life experiences of the last years for me to finally fully see and understand this.
In the end, my big hike last summer, my five months in Montpellier, and now the last three months here in Zurich have been about sorting through things, about decluttering, about spring cleaning my life, about slowing down, and about re-discovering and focusing on what is truly important.
Now to just hope things will work out…
I need to rave a bit more about this cat. It’s incredible to think that, had I not decided to hike from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea and, had I not spontaneously decided to stay in Montpellier for a few months, JoJo and I would never have met.
I rescued him from the streets of Montpellier when he was really sick and gave him the first real home he’s ever had. But let’s not kid ourselves here. He is not the rescue. I am.
JoJo has had a major impact on my life. He was there when I woke up from nightmares I had struggled with ever since some traumatic events two years ago had left me bewildered and breathless. He gently nuzzled my cheek and simply lay close to me, helping me to overcome, see reality, and move on. By now, the nightmares are few and far between.
Every day, as I sit at home writing articles, studying, writing CVs and searching for jobs, JoJo interrupts me several times. He hops up onto the desk and sits in front of me. If I ignore him, he gently touches my face with his paw. As I shift my attention to him, I realize how important it is to be in the moment. And to not be afraid. I don’t need to overly stress about finding a job and having a purpose. I will find a job. And I do have a purpose already. My purpose is to live fully.
JoJo is the most uncomplicated and loving cat I have ever had. He never runs away when I want some cuddles. He loves it when I use him as a pillow. In fact, he enjoys snuggling close every single time. And, since he has no more teeth at all, even his love bites are the cutest, gentlest thing I’ve ever felt. I keep his food open on the counter for refills. He never jumps up and steals anything. He only scratches the posts on the cat tree. He sits for hours on the windowsill watching sparrows pick up seeds right in front of him. Just patiently watches them and enjoys the show. He wakes me up for food but lays back down if I don’t want to get up yet. He loves binge-watching movies and series together and curls up in the crook of my arm for hours. Overall, he is so calm and Zen that a friend of mine recently said, “Next to him, even the Dalai Lama looks nervous.”
As soon as I turn off the lights to go to bed, JoJo is right next to me on the pillow, clumsily stepping all over my face until he finds just the right spot which allows him to press his body as close to my head as possible. There he stays with me all night.
A few weeks ago, he developed a really heavy bronchitis. It became almost pneumonia. Thankfully, his body, which had most likely never received antibiotics before, reacted instantly and now he is as lively and as playful as an old, toothless little puma can be. The vet isn’t sure about his age. It could be anything between 11 and 15 years. What we did find out after several blood tests at the lab unfortunately is that JoJo has FIV, which is the feline equivalent of HIV. It can break out fully at any moment, or he can be fine for quite a few more years. The vet thinks this is also the reason why he had such horrible gingivitis when I found him on the street.
I am just so glad we crossed paths and that, however long he has left, we get to spend this time together. I know he feels safe, content, and happy to have found a home with me. I’m grateful I get to be the one who gets to spoil him a bit until he needs to go.
I am just in awe of his big, kind heart and soul. Sharing moments suspended in time with this little buddy is way up there amongst the best experiences of my life.