Since it’s my first post to my official blog, it seems fitting to give a quick synopsis on my life until the current moment. Sit back. This might take a few minutes.
The lenght of my ‘relevant’ memory spans back to the near end of high school, where I supervised a club called S.P.A.C.E., or Students Preparing a Changing Earth. In retrospection of a younger Hunter, we had conquered mountains as mere students. Our own TED format conference, the local news, and cooperating with the city’s educational administration were just a few of the now seemingly miniscule accomplishments tacked onto my out-dated CV.
The lofty goal, however, that would shift my life onto a higher plane, present me with new eyes, bear me as a new child, whatever cliché you might want to use, was my departure for Germany. My naive understanding at the time was absolutely unprepared for the perspective that would be thankfully forced upon me over the following two years.
It almost brings a retrospective grin to my face to think that my ultimate goal was to study physics and follow an unachievable lifestyle like my role model Nikola Tesla.
With high patriotic spirits, a scientific mind, and blind ambition I boarded a plane for Mannheim; the first member of my immediate family to leave the country for the Old World. The succeeding experience, which I won’t take the time to write extensively, was unendlingly awkward. The first legal beer on my first train, the first place of my own in a country 4,000 miles away, first failed attempt at cooking, first foreign friends, beginning by butchering the language, making people angry (especially with my obvious masculinity complex), the intense lonely self reflection in the mirror of the new German culture, and so much more were all phenomena that painfully, yet for the undoubtedly better, shaped my mindset as an ‘eingedeutschter’ American.
After the first few months of hardcore international deflation of my unnecessary American ego, Mannheim became my new comfortable home where I would eventually learn German, study in universty, have my first actual girlfriend, and begin to crack open my eyes to the world of adulthood. Perhaps I could more exactly explain the story of Mannheim and lessons learned in future posts. But let’s skip forward about a year so we can more quickly cover my life so far. (I expect many of my American colleagues have experienced similar happenings in the process of maturing anyway.)
After 7 months I had learned enough German to pass the DSH language test. Feeling completely lost as a person over the previous months before passing, my result somehow impressed my apparently stable friends. I danced on the sidewalk outside of the testing facility. (I still clearly remember eletric sliding down the sidewalk and receiving a text message from a passing university colleague giving their congratulations.) I knew it was only a short matter of time before I was in Munich, fulfilling the unrealistic legacy I had planned for myself.
I barely remember my arrival in Munich. I much more powerfully remember the unspeakable pain of leaving my friends in Mannheim. I spent days locked in my new room crying with my mother on Skype. At a certain point, I thought this would be the event that would send Hunter back home. But, being a stubborn bastard, I kept my sights on my goal of studying physics and waited until the university in Munich started.
The Technische Universität München was everything I could have wished for and more. I had never experienced such a top-of-the-line academic environment. From the very first time I stepped foot on the campus I knew that changing the world was possible. What the (Bavarians, not Germans) Germans had established over centuries at the LMU and TUM was historically marvelous. The students truly breathe different air at the Technische Universität München, and I had my lungs full.
But the air at the TUM was cold, and quickly made my entire body numb. I had just experienced the fantastic social atmosphere (in which I flourished) in Mannheim and was suffocating in the high performance, high-stress, über competitive atmosphere of the new university. I was quite aware of what the external world (BBC, Bayern2) had seen in me, but wasn’t at all happy with myself. The very first semester had brought me once again to tears at speaking not a word of English for months. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before the TUM broke me down by showing me what it takes to join the greatest scientists of all time.
The second semester was going both better and worse. I had stopped attending the lectures and started taking the self-responsibility to study the material myself. Amazingly, I passed two of my three exams on the first try. Theoretical physics and my extracurricular activities, unfortunately, would prove to be my breaking point. First I’ll speak on my work outside of university (which would ultimately determine where I am now):
Building up to the end of the second semester, I had been working for months as a graphic designer at an organisation called TEDxTUM. Through TEDxTUM I met the first people in Munich whom I would befriend in a real way. (Through TEDxTUM I also made the friend that will forever symbolize my life in Munich) I would also experience my first opportunity at creativity and teamwork. I loved what I did with TEDxTUM and it satisfied me deeply.
And to make money for myself, I was hired as a data-researcher at a company called ParkPocket. At the time it wasn’t a glamorous job, but it provided me with the funds I needed and introduced me a highly modern workplace with wonderful people who would eventually guide me on my current path of creativity.
So the months of studying alone, not showering, and watching the occasional episode of Doctor Who to relax my mind finally clashed with what I really loved. I failed my first two exams in theoretical physics and was forced, once again, into the Drittversuch. At this point, life had presented me with two forks in the continuing path: Either leave academic science and begin a life deaf, blind, and dumb with just a camera or sentence myself to death with physics (for which I believed I was destined) at age 20.
Walking into the final day of the TEDxTUM conference was my moment in heaven; my designs surrounded me and I was part of something greater. At home, theoretical physics tortured me with failure and weighed heavily upon my already hardworking shoulders. At TEDxTUM there were only smiles with outstretched hands in support of one another. At home, there was the frigid loneliness of peering over pages and pages of nonsensical equations. As the end drew near, the choice was becoming clear. And then I got a phone call.
A Munich-based company named Baimos Technologies had seen my designs with TEDxTUM and wanted to have an interview for a graphic designer. Their timing could not have been better: I was dangling from a thread in theoretical physics while discovering my true self at ParkPocket and TEDxTUM. At our handshake I immediately fell in love with the company, people, work, and general environment in which I saw my future unfolding. But physics still had me wrapped around her finger and was ready to shatter my heart- and life- to pieces.
TEDxTUM had ended, I was sitting in the office at Baimos speaking with my good friend when my phone vibrated with an e-mail notification. I already knew what it was. Even now when I think back on the moment, I remember being unable to hear anything but my own pulse in my head. I pulled my phone out of my pocket slightly to see the summary of the e-mail, and saw what is now and forever part of my identity. I failed physics. There were no words, no sounds, and no feeling- I left the room in a daze, reached the elevator in front of our offices, and collapsed on the ground. Hunter Bliss was dead.
It’s amazing where one finds motivation at the death of love. It’s even more amazing how much one learns at the complete loss of orientation, like an astronaut floating far above the planet lost in space with no reason for direction. My moment of death in Germany is my current defining moment in this regard, and is also where I begin the short after-story to where I am now.
Life began to quietly gain speed once more after the days of mournful silence. My work at Baimos, much like my work at TEDxTUM, didn’t cease to satisfy me deeply. ParkPocket, the incredible supporters they were at the time (even offering me a full-time job so I could keep my residence permit in Germany) gave me the opportunity to travel across Germany as a photographer which radically changed my life over the course of 5 months. The satisfying, almost playful work at Baimos combined with the repeating adventures to new cities with new faces and ways of understanding Germany (and to an extent the world) from ParkPocket was the best life support I could have possibly wished for myself. From those total 8 months I draw my inspiration in art and my new life purpose itself.
Nowadays I’ve refined my process somewhat and have modest plans for a purposeful future. I have moved to Stuttgart in committing myself to reading the greatest literature possible (I might post analyses of the books I’ve already read) and learning Chinese in preparation for the next educational cultural experience. Alongside Chinese will be printing technology which will hopefully allow me to share my creative ideas with the rest of the world using myself as my greatest resource. I feel comfortable in my disorientation and see with optimistic eyes what lies ahead of me. And most importantly: I’m having fun doing what I love.
Perhaps this post has gone on a little too long. The lessons which I have learned from this experience (the lessons for which everyone back home asks) I might post later. But for now, I will enjoy my Saturday wine. (For those of you who still require more, you can literally watch every moment of my life for 398 Days)