There's a word in German for people who were born outside of Vienna but have adopted Vienna as their home—Wahlwiener. Viennese by choice, more or less. In my mind the word has a strong positive connotation, the emphasis being placed on the decision of the person for Vienna and being willing to adapt themselves to its ways, but as a non-native speaker, it's hard to identify the source of a connotation. It can be accurate, picked up from contextual or conversational clues over time, or it can be completely invented, resulting from the connotation of the root words or the translated equivalents in the non-native speaker's head. You never really know until you ask.
When I first heard the word and had mentally added the above-noted connotation, fabricated or not, I thought without hesitation, "That's me. I love this city and all of things it gets right and wrong and I choose to be here. I could stay here for the rest of my life." Unfortunately this was not to be. What I couldn't see at the time and what I spent the last year or two fighting was that the life that we had built in Vienna, as wonderful as it was, was only financially tenable in the short term. Eventually one has to think about things like making it possible to one day retire and saving at least enough for the future to hopefully not have to rely entirely on our children in old age. We were faced with a choice—leave the city that we had grown to love for an entirely different way of life in the country or move back to the U.S.—and then an opportunity unexpectedly presented itself.
I write this on the eve of moving back to the U.S., this time to the land of my childhood, Wisconsin, five years after writing about moving to Austria. I am excited about our new life there and believe that it has the potential to be great for us, not just now but also long-term, but I don't want to talk about that just yet. There's a natural tendency in these situations to skip over the sad part and emphasize all the good to come, to move past the discomfort and focus on the future, but to do so immediately would not do justice to the importance of these years in my life, in our lives. Yes, there are wonderful things on the horizon, but a wonderful phase of our lives is also coming to an end. Life in Austria was in many ways better than we could have ever imagined it to be and the last five years were too full of beauty and goodness for me to even begin to start citing examples.
This is coming to an end and I am mourning it. Dinka tells me that this time will not be entirely lost and forgotten, that the years that shape you will remain a part of your identity, even if those around you can't see it, and that is the hope that makes it possible for me to move.
Wien, I cannot describe what you have meant to me and I hope that this is not goodbye.