Thursday, November 12, 2015

Going to Germany is easier when you're 22...

"...than when you are 42."

That's what my college advisor told me when I was a senior trying to decide between taking a scholarship to study in Germany for a year and pursuing work on Wall St. (yes, I know).

And he was right.

I had the opportunity to live in Germany for a year, learn the language, visit pretty much every country in Europe, and now that I'm 42, I realize fully what he meant.

And, ironically enough, I also visited Germany at the age of 42.

It's been exactly 20 years since my German adventure began, when I first saw my favorite painting, Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer ueber dem Nebelmeer , and visited Hamburg to see my cousin, Elizabeth.
This week, I was back and went to the Hamburger Kunsthalle with Elisabeth and saw the Friedrich painting. (We also were extremely lucky to see a full on exhibit by another northern German painter, Emil Nolde whose works are just marvelous.)

And, also this week, one of the original theses I had about why I should learn German in the first place proved to be accurate.

I believed that, as one of the world's largest economies, it would be a valuable skill to have...speaking German and understanding the culture.  That's why it was a particularly proud moment when I was able to give a 20 minute business presentation on behalf of Sprinklr to approximately 20 people...and they seemed to understand it.

Did I get every word? Of course not, but my game plan of speaking adequate German, telling stories, and just being a non-German who was making a good faith effort would carry the day seems to have worked.

And all of this was because Professor Kessler did what an advisor is supposed to do. He advised me based on his life experience.  At the age of 42, it would be much, much more difficult to live in Germany for a year, travel, and get relative mastery of the language.

At the age of 22, it changed the course of my life.
Maybe that's why the Friedrich painting resonates so much with me.

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