Today I found out that there will be no new work contract for me after this one runs out at the end of this month. I knew this was likely going to happen, but the whole experience has still left a bad taste in my mouth for various reasons. The fifteen months at the job have been mostly good and I've learned a lot, but the throughout the whole time, the job was full of miscommunications that left me feeling like I was the idiot, one day after another. It started with a miscommunication, and has now ended with one - how appropriate. And, there's still another three weeks left for them to get in a few more jabs in at my dignity. Somehow I'm supposed to get it together enough to give a presentation next Tuesday to all of them, too.
In the meanwhile, my husband is stressing out to the point of being irritable and unhelpful as well. He's gone from, "Can I help with the laundry?" to "Why don't you just do (insert household chore I ask for help with here) yourself?" His fellowship will end later this year, also, so we are coming upon a point of important decision-making regarding our future plans. I've been encouraged by a couple of people at work, whatever their motivations for doing so might be, to apply for a PhD program here. It would mean three more years in Heidelberg. Though I am not eager to leave, the prospect of three more years here still somehow feels a bit constraining. I don't feel any sense of permanence here...but then, I've never felt that way about anywhere. I could really use the PhD and additional experience. Having a foreign master's isn't likely to get me a leg up anywhere if we move back to the US.
If I don't apply or don't get a position, I could be looking at unemployment for a while - and the door will be open to leave Heidelberg, either for another city in Germany, for another country, or for returning to the States.
We don't feel ready to leave Germany yet - we really like life here, and haven't yet done nearly the amount of European travel we wanted to do while here. But working here has been another story. There are definitely aspects that make it difficult. I'm sure language is a major player, but there are also some cultural differences that seem small at first, but end up huge after a while.
We especially don't feel ready to go back to the US. The big advantage would be jobs. We could work there with full confidence in the language and a good grasp on expectations and social environment. Language alone is such a huge advantage. Being near friends and family is also an advantage, but the chances are that even in the States, we might not end up very close to any of them anyway. But the economy is a point of concern. The differences in health insurance and government benefits, especially for those having children, is another huge one. The lack of decent vacation time. The sprawl and the difficulty in finding a place to live that's affordable and doesn't involve a huge commute. The lack of public transit. I do love Boston, but I remember feeling so suffocated there. Even if we'd had a car, it would have taken hours to get to a place that wasn't covered in suburbs. And we had no car, so we'd be festering inside the Boston/Cambridge city limits for weeks on end. And Boston is the city with GOOD public transit. Never mind that most place in the US have terrible systems, or don't have any at all. In short, we're nowhere near the point of romanticizing the US yet - wouldn't it be nice to stay here at least until we get to that phase, so that we can look forward to going back?
Sadly, in the end, work usually wins out over quality of life. It's only one aspect of a complete life, but it's where the money is and in the end, I'm sure that work will eventually lead us back to the States. We just don't know how soon.