Aufbruchstimmung

Aufbruchstimmung |aʊfˈbʀoːçʃtɪmoːŋ|
noun • German

the mood of getting ready to depart from a place and/or try new things; an atmosphere of departure or change; a spirit of optimism or enthusiasm.


Moving is something of a phenomenon. It’s not just something you do — it’s a state of mind and a state of being. You find yourself physically and mentally caught between two phases of your life, living neither completely here nor completely there, looking back and at the same time forward. There are a lot of feelings that get involved, twinges of uncertainty and melancholy mixed with enthusiasm and hope. You feel as though you’re in some kind of limbo where everything is moving fast and at the same time holding still, nothing feels quite normal, and at times it barely feels real. It drains and disorients you. It’s an ending and a beginning both happening at once, scraping past each other like tectonic plates along a fault line that temporarily shakes up the life that you know — and all you can do is hold on fast until it subsides, mechanically going through the motions without stopping to process anything beyond what’s in front of you. And in its wake, sometimes you have to take a bit of time off from writing to let the dust and the words settle into place.

Fortunately, the Germans have done it again with a wonderful situational word perfectly apt for both endings and beginnings. In this numbing stupor when the words just won’t come, when all you can know, think, and feel is that things are changing, and when that feeling of change pervades the very air around you to a point that proves suffocating, there is comfort in having one word to keep close, to repeat to yourself until your new normal finds its way to you. This mood of preparing to leave behind the old and face the new is wrapped up, neatly and with surprising tenderness, in the not-quite-bite-size package of Aufbruchstimmung.

In typical German fashion, the word is a compound of Aufbruch, “departure”, and Stimmung, “mood”. It doesn’t require a situation as grandiose as a move; it can be applied in everyday contexts, such as a group of people preparing to leave a restaurant after dinner, and it can even be applied to things more abstract, like a company preparing to introduce a new business model, or a shift in a country’s political climate. It’s a very useful and universal concept: wherever there’s change, there’s Aufbruchstimmung. But beyond the surface, in the realm where bigger changes lie, the word holds a more powerful implication. Shining through the nebulous swirl of uncertainty that surrounds the type of departure characterized by Aufbruchstimmung is a spirit of optimism, perhaps even enthusiasm; this is a word about hopeful change. Hope — the glowing beacon, the thing with feathers. The thing we hold onto when nothing else is certain, when we’re waiting for our new normal. So often change is a thing regarded with fear and distrust, but Aufbruchstimmung is welcomed. It’s like a breath of fresh air. It’s an opportunity, a fresh start, a clean slate. A new chapter.

Departure is, by nature, bittersweet. Wherever it is you’re going and as much as there may be to look forward to there, there’s always a little part of you that stays behind, blanketed by the comfort of the familiar. My old apartment didn’t leave much to be missed, with its awkward layout, questionable building maintenance, and walls so thin you could hear the neighbors think, but it was home. The new one, though welcoming, is still a stranger. The experiences you’ve had in the places you’ve been will always be a part of you, and it can be hard to bid those things farewell, but Aufbruchstimmung is a reminder that more still lies ahead: new experiences waiting to be had, memories waiting to be made. This is the epilogue to one story and the prologue to another. The words are coming back. The feathered things are singing. I’ve said my goodbyes, and I’m ready for what comes next.

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