I will have used to live here

I'm departing today from the 'film' side and emphasizing the 'feelings' side, because I'm soon departing from Copenhagen, going back to live in Boston.

Last year, when I moved into shared housing, I wrote an application for acceptance. I titled the Powerpoint presentation "The Road Ahead," in which I detailed how the travel bug had brought me from Boston to Paris to Bretagne to Denmark and finally, I hoped, to Egmont Kollegium. In the application, through my enthusiasm for Danish canals and Carlsberg, I hinted at a sense of hope that Denmark would be my home, indefinitely. A year ago, my future did look that way.

the road ahead, one year ago. 

But I think, even then, something was nagging at me that I didn't want to acknowledge. Now, four days away from my transcontinental move, I'm finally able to embrace what two years of learning Danish, studying film, making great friends, and writing a thesis have pointed to.

I am American.

When I lived in France, I tried my hardest to rid my French of any trace of an American accent, lest strangers, upon meeting me, inquire, "Bush ou Obama? MacDonalds ou freedom fries?" I hated being associated with those stereotypes and instead tried to carve out my own sense of identity, away from cultural impositions. But the truth of the matter was, I came to France in the first place because of all the romantic cultural lore about France that I had soaked up as a teenager, so I was also guilty of generalizing. And at a certain point the lore no longer stuck, so I moved, but I didn't yet consider myself any more American than before.

I came back to Boston briefly, then went on to Copenhagen. I didn't give Boston a chance that year because I was dead set on coming back to Europe, thinking that maybe in Scandinavia I'd feel a true sense of home-away-from-home.  And I have, for these two years, mostly because I was studying something I love and made incredibly deep, lasting friendships (with Danes but mostly with other foreigners who have showed me that where you come from is just part of the equation, but a part nonetheless).

But this sense of home is fleeting, falling away, and when I projected myself into the future, I couldn't see myself marrying, having kids, or growing old here. I've dated only casually here; perhaps my wavering commitment to this country is why. I learned Danish with the prospect of finding a job after graduation and staying, but I found myself not trying very hard to look for those jobs, thinking that it was starting to get exhausting to have to get by all the time in a language and culture that makes me feel always slightly uncomfortable.

Because I am American. And finally, I know that this isn't a bad thing. It's what I make of it. Jason Farago articulates it well on the eve of his thirtieth birthday: "America isn’t like other countries; you can’t escape it, you don’t ever get to start again. Wherever you go America will find you." So why not mold it to your own standards instead of making sweeping judgments of it. It's like I've been ignoring my cultural identity not in name but in spirit--people here in Denmark have told me that I'm the least American American they know. I no longer treat that as a compliment, but rather something to puzzle over.

I've been reading a lot about sustainability (partly because climate change terrifies me, and partly because I want to get involved in the fight against it). And I've come to associate it with this conclusion: Kate in Denmark is not sustainable. If I were to stay, I would be burning up all my resources in trying to create the circumstances needed to be happy, whereas a more (emotionally) sustainable life in Boston does not impede the potential path to that happiness that may result in wasting fewer resources. Which in turn will hopefully help me focus on the stuff that matters: family, love, meaningful work. For example, if I am to invest in writing, trying to write convincingly in Danish is a frustrating impediment.

So I'm excited. To be able to watch Homeland on TV, not streamed on my laptop. To hug my parents and my puppy and not have to think about leaving them again. To exclaim over the variety of yogurt products in the grocery store. To engage with film and media in my own language and culture.

Of course readjusting to being an American in America will have some difficult moments, especially when I know I'll miss my friends immensely. I also know I'll try (to my chagrin) to transplant my European habits--biking, drinking in parks, and taking up less space--onto my life in Boston. But for once, I look forward to this challenge. Instead of bolting and running, I'm going to put my long-standing restlessness to work by living an intentional life, not a transitory one.

Because I am American, and so for Copenhagen, I can presently say, with both sorrow and joy: I will have used to live here.

Danish Television has me hooked!

After Before Midnight