During my middle school days, I became fascinated with everything German. Though I do not remember how this fascination began, what I do remember are the countless Google image searches and Wikipedia frenzies that my interest spawned. A search for German culture would lead to German food which would bring me to Bavaria which would result in my mom buying and preparing a Weisswurst with a pretzel and a glass stein filled with sparkling cider. The food (which I still heavily favor) was merely the beginning.
German shepherds, bratwurst, sauerkraut, BMW, German chocolate pie, strudel, Wagner—I could not stop feeding my mind. I wrote on Alban Berg’s opera, Wozzeck, for my SAT essay, and I would litter school assignments with German words and phrases, which I am sure baffled my teachers. The u in “und” would be crossed out and replaced with an a. “The ‘a’ and the ‘u’ are not even near each other on the keyboard,” was one of the comments I remember reading after being handed back an essay. My papers would be headed, “Michael Nichölson,” something my teachers did not comment on. Had they, I would have told them my name was now German. Oh another lost teenager, they would have thought. In reality, I was a bit lost, uncertain of who I was and who I wanted to become, like every teenager who tries to determine what type of world they live in.
It was partial curiosity that led me to investigate the German world, but the disinterestedness in the actual world I lived in was the larger catalyst. The Germany I idealized was full of enchantment—a beautiful darkness that lurked in the mountains and forests and was echoed in Goethe’s poem “Der Erlkönig,” and the language that reminded me of the Mega Bloks dragon toys I played with as a child, for if they were capable of speech, they would have sounded like Germans. Life in the suburbs was no fantasy to my teenage self. Thus, I turned to the magnificent and the fantastic; I grew obsessed with German culture.
It has been nearly 10 years since my interest in Germany arose. Over that period of time I have become proficient in speaking Deutsch, consumed many a Wurst, and have read more German literature than I had ever planned to read. But I have also learned that the magnificent exists in real, everyday life. I formed a more concrete identity of myself as an American citizen with a Guatemalan heritage, who has a liking for imagination, but who also cherishes the ordinary aspects in life. However, I will still keep my interest in Germany, but on a casual level, not as an obsession.