Technically, this ought to be my first entry for Rhone Ramblings, as I have finally arrived in Lyon, although having never finally tied up Danube Dispatches, I want to do one last entry here for completeness's sake.
A week or so ago, Nolwenn asked me what my thoughts were on leaving Vienna. Having now spent the last few days in France, I can clearly say this: I will miss the keyboards in Vienna tremendously. Seriously, the French computer is such an indecipherable morass of incongruity that I am missing Vienna already, where the only major difference between the German and English keyboard was the switched position of the Z and Y. In France, on the other hand, just enough letters have been left where you'd expect them to be to lull you into a false sense of typographic security. Then you realize how zrong you qre... The pièce de resistence is that the period and the semi colon share the same key- just the semi colon (which is used no more in French than in English) is the default setting and you have to hit the shift key for the period. Go figure.
But of course, obtaining an appreciation for German language keyboards was far from the only reason I set off for Vienna back in March. So now that I have left town, it would be an appropriate time for a little deeper reflection on my part to see what I gained from my decision to set up shop in Vienna for nine months.
Although many of my original goals (see ironman triathlon, learning the guitar, etc.) remain unfulfilled, I leave Vienna and set off in Lyon having accomplished that which was most important to me at this stage of my life. In order of importance, three things come particularly to mind.
First, I figured out what I want to focus on careerwise over the next 5 years or so. While I may have driven a number of people nuts over the past two years (including my self at times) while figuring out what I really want to do, I am now set on pursuing a masters at a university in the UK or Ireland (hopefully and probably St. Andrews) to deepen my knowledge of the nuclear terror threat and what can be done to prevent it. I firmly believe that by becoming an expert and advocate for action within this field, I will be doing the greatest service possible to my country and humanity. There is nothing- not the economic crisis, not global warming, nor even a global influenza pandemic that would knock global civilization off its moorings so quickly as a nuke exploding anywhere. And yes, sadly, the threat is real. Also, I plan on learning Arabic to help AFS in its efforts to expand in the Arab World (this is another thing I can do to help counter extremism). And while doing all that, I also plan on turning one of my favorite hobbies, genealogy, into a profession by becoming a certified genealogist specializing in research within Europe. Finally, if that weren't enough, I also have at least two secret business plans that have come to mind during my time in Vienna that I will pursue over the coming months and years. Stay tuned.
Secondly, I came to Vienna while still struggling with depression and a hyperactive superego that was making me doubt whether I was a good enough person. I could write a book about this, and I just might, so I don't want or need to rehash everything here. Suffice it to say, however, that as frustrating as it may have been to put greater plans on hold for a while in order to come to a better understanding of what it is I was dealing with, this is exactly what the situation called for. Trying to manage a more stressful job than AFS would have been courting disaster. In fact, AFS was the perfect job for me at this point in time, and over the past four months, I have felt relentlessly better each week. I enter 2009 more confident in my future than any year since 1999, 2005 (my first 9 Jeopardy wins took place in the last weeks of 2004) included. Again, stay tuned.
But most importantly, I came to Vienna looking for love and found it. Personally, I wanted no part of the superficial dating scene in New York, or even anywhere else in the USA. Knowing that I liked European girls, was fluent in German, and had friends and prior experience living in Vienna, it wasn't a difficult choice to come to Austria. And thanks to a chance decision to go to a couch surfing party there on the auspicious date of 8/8/08 I got to know Nolwenn. It's no coincidence that I have been feeling much better since I've met her. Moreover, knowing her has helped me to focus on what I want out of my future and fight harder for it than I have in the past. She is whom I was looking for in Vienna, and she is whom I found. And so for so many reasons, but above all for her, I bid a fond auf wiedersehen to a successful 9 months in Vienna, and an even fonder salut to the next chapter of my life in Lyon.