A small disclaimer: This is a very personal post. Think of it as a journal entry about a six-year life retrospective. I wanted to celebrate life milestones that deeply need a moment for reflection. Life moves fast, and I might only truly realize that now. This year, I turned 40. It has also been six years since my wife and I moved from Brazil to Germany.
Six years ago, our lives changed in so many ways. This is a retrospective to remind myself to appreciate every moment because time flies, and it’s easy to take things for granted.
We lived a good life. My wife had a good job at a big multinational company, growing in her career as a designer, and I, moving between jobs but always trying to find my way as a designer as well. We lived in a good city, and we had just bought and moved into our own apartment. One that we designed and planned together (something that felt like an impossible achievement just a few years back). Things seemed right, but at the same time, a growing feeling of frustration grew in me.
After a few work setbacks, I had to take a moment to question what I wanted for myself. While talking to my wife, she also shared that she no longer felt connected to her work and that life somehow felt a bit off for her as well. I struggled with that feeling. It seemed as if I was ungrateful for so many good things surrounding us. But, as always, while talking openly about that feeling, we understood it was time for a change. To shake things up a bit.
We lived far from our families for a while already. We always searched for a lifestyle that felt right for us. We didn’t tend to conform to certain ways of doing things, and we had some untold principles among us. This led us to grow as a couple and to keep looking for what felt right to us, more than what seemed right from an external standpoint. We had been together for many years, and maybe we were also at a point in our relationship where we both needed to commit more to each other.
As I faced that career roadblock, I had a few options: Become more independent as a freelancer or business owner, find a job in my city, a remote one, or move somewhere else.
All options had many pros and cons, but since my wife was also contemplating her next steps, we tried to find an option that would make us both happy. We always wanted to have an experience living abroad. We didn’t know exactly where, but we did an exercise to find what type of life we both wanted. After starting to look for jobs abroad, a few places popped up as potential candidates. An important factor for me was finding a country that was open to accepting immigrants. We immediately ruled out the US and Canada (not necessarily due to the aforementioned criteria, but we didn’t connect with North American culture). Australia was possible since my dear sister lives there, but we wanted to be a bit closer to our larger family (also, immigration there is a hassle). Europe seemed to be the best option. Then we narrowed down to some countries to look for jobs. After many interview rounds (I would guess I sent over 40 applications), I received an offer from one company in Berlin, and I reached the final stages of another company based in Amsterdam. I knew Amsterdam already, and that was, for both of us, a favorite, but life turned us the other way, and we ended up going with Germany.
I have some German heritage, but I never contemplated the chance of living here. The relationship with my German side of the family wasn’t that great, and I thought I had very little connection with the German culture and ways of being. Leaving those aside for a moment and looking at the opportunity alone and also after learning more about life in Berlin, the idea of moving here grew on us. It seemed that the challenge of a new language combined with the quality of life we looked after was a great match with our dreams.
Our plans were to travel light and start a new life with a blank slate. I moved here first since I had to start my new job and find us a temporary place to live. My wife moved a few weeks later after doing a lot of hard work selling and packing our belongings and emptying out our apartment. And that’s how our journey restarted
We are very down-to-earth people and always keep our expectations in check. We decided that two years was a good amount of time to build good experiences and memories, so if things turned out for the worse, we’d be happy with the time we had, and we could go back “home” to find other ways to move forward. Work was good, and I was growing and happy in my job. My wife was also growing personally, investing a lot of time learning the language and experimenting with different projects. The two years quickly became three, and that’s when our lives turned upside down in the best way possible. Maia was born. We have gone through so much to adjust and adapt. We made new friends and “families away from home.” We had to find support and learn to ask for help. We missed our families so much and questioned ourselves many times about the reasons for being far from them. But we endured. Going from a very unstable financial situation and plain ignorance about most things that surrounded us to a place where we could afford some more comfort, having good and reliable friends, and now carrying this tiny beautiful baby around and thinking about her future made these first three years the most challenging but beautiful time of our lives.
The reason I didn’t mention the global COVID pandemic was that, besides the obvious fact that it was a humanitarian catastrophe in so many dimensions, it didn’t affect us as it could have. The reason for that still puzzles me. I believe having a newborn child made us very united and naturally “cocooned” in our home, so the lockdowns and travel restrictions didn’t affect us that much. Of course, we faced so many additional challenges by not having support from family that it would deserve a whole post. But the happiness that came with this new family member was so great and so anticipated that my brain couldn’t even process the pains from those days.
Now that it’s been six years already, Maia is growing stronger and smarter every day. She teaches us every day how life can be light and happy. My wife and I are happy with our work, and we continue to have support from the friends we made here. Berlin treated us well and taught us to be more resilient and to support each other in ways that we could never have done back home in Brazil. We’re still far from family, and despite the fact that we receive visits and also travel there quite often, it’s still painful to grow our lives so far from them. Our parents are getting older, and our nephews and nieces are now getting into their teens. It’s sad to be away sometimes, and I’m sure they also question why we decided to be away indefinitely. I don’t have an answer to that, and I’ve learned to stop rationalizing this all the time and just let our lives carry us, hopefully, to a brighter future. Who knows what comes next?