Dealing with Brexit – a letter to the country I love

It is the day after the UK has left the EU, after nearly half a century of being a member, and after, what sometimes seemed like a shambles of a long, and drawn-out negotiation period of three and a half years. Today seems surreal, reading the news and realising it has actually happened. Part of me had always hoped, since that fateful day in June 2016, that something would happen, some miracle would prevent this moment from coming. Hope is a wonderful thing and has certainly carried me through the last few years, never giving up on the idea that Brexit was going to be just the farce it started out with, that lie on the side of that bus. Hope doesn’t stop real life happening and so, here we are, a country no longer part of what is a highly complex yet ultimately positive institution. Historically, the UK has always managed to keep itself at arm’s length, not just geographically, safely separated by the water in the Channel, but also by opting out of the common currency, the Euro. Seen as the slightly quirky and at times awkward partner in the European club, I also experienced said distance by its people, often referring to Europe as if it was not part of it. “I am going to Europe”, rather than “I am going to mainland Europe”, was a phrase I often heard and, depending on how well I knew the speaker, often corrected: “You know you are part of Europe, don’t you?” Maybe it was this perception, this identity of never really belonging to Europe, not feeling European, which is, like for me, an essential part of many people living on the continent. I am, to equal parts, German and European, and unspeakably proud of the fact that, with a slick ID card, I can travel across the borders of all EU countries without having to stop and justify my reason for travel – the EU is my homeland, its countries are mine, its opportunities are gifts I am allowed to explore and experience. Now, in less than a year’s time, I will have to show a passport to escape from this island in order to get to a place where I am allowed to indulge in this mindboggling freedom. And my heart breaks a little at this thought.

Physically, nothing has changed today, I still go about my day as always, switching fluently between two languages as I speak to my children and my partner. I take my daughter to ballet, I meet with a friend and enjoy good English comedy on TV in the evening. I have picked up croissants from Lidl, the German supermarket that is here just as it was before and I will go about teaching European languages as before. On the surface, all is the same.
Emotionally, however, I feel a little emptier, a little lost, a little confused as to why the country I love so much has left the home it was supposed to be in. Somehow, Brexit has broken us up, too. I still feel a lot of love, from both sides, but something is no longer there. The familiarity and blind trust I once had has faded. It hurts. I am hurt. My only way to cope with it, and the only way I know to deal with adversity and change is to write. And, my personal view is that you combat negativity with goodness in abundance. If someone is rude to me, I smile and am sickly sweet to them. If someone shouts at me I stay quiet. If someone invades my personal time and space I walk away. Love cancels out so many things. And this is why, and it is the only way how I can deal with my loss, I am going to write love letters to the country that has been my home, out of choice, for the past 17 years. I will write to its people, its landscape, its food, the opportunities it has given me, the friends I was allowed to make. Maybe our relationship can be healed and turned into a new and different one.

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