How do you translate “Scorched Earth” to German?

by Rebecca Watson on November 4, 2017

in change, Germany, life, opportunity, Recovery, writer's block, writing

In my third year of sobriety, I wrote about how much confidence I found through lucid living. This past year has been a complete test of that. There has been so much I have wanted to write about, and I have even gotten as far as finishing drafts for my blog, but somehow, for some reason, I just could not bring myself to finish them.

I can wager at the biggest thing: I took a new job as Head of Digital for a skincare firm close to Freiburg. I knew this would be a challenge, moving into a higher level of management, but I really believed I could thrive back in marketing.

After a year-long stint back in journalism, it became obvious to me that not much had changed, and if anything, the accountablitiy to the advertisers (as opposed to the readers we claim to serve) has gotten more intense. Marketing seemed more my speed–at least I could be transparent in what I was doing. Hey! I am selling you something! And the fact that I was going to be instrumental in creating an online shop, shaping marketing and social media strategy and tracking our progress excited me.

What I should have prepared myself for was what I had an inkling about beforehand: Working in the beauty industry, a branch of the consumer industry that profits from telling people, “There is something wrong with your face.” But I told myself that I was being cynical. I like to look pretty. I enjoy putting on makeup, doing my hair and getting dressed up, so why shouldn’t I enjoy working for a company that helps make that happen?

I mean, c’mon! Who doesn’t love the occasional done-up selfie?

All that confidence I discovered in year three of sobriety? That was essentially stomped out within the first four months of this job. I won’t go into specifics, however let’s just say that The-Devil-Wears-Prada, diva attitudes don’t just exist in the fashion industry. Thankfully I signed up that winter for a spring half-marathon, which kept me exercising, and after I crossed the finish line showed me that I am indeed capable of great feats, even when I have two of my four (4!) bosses telling me otherwise.

And I did achieve great things in my job: The online shop was up and running on a timeline I said would be achievable. Within the first week, the shop surpassed sales goals for the first quarter. The amount of data I processed monthly improved my data analysis skills (and my interest in data) in a big way. I also translated countless product texts into German from English, which gave me probably the biggest career insight I have had in the past four years: If I want to live and work in Germany, I am not going to be able to remain in marketing or copy writing.

This has been a long time coming. I have skirted around the language issue for a few years now by freelancing, attempting trade journalism and scouring the few English marketing jobs out there in the Black Forest. The fact is this: To write in German is difficult. To write well in German requires levels of skill and practice that I am not ready to commit to.

Sure, I can fire off an email. I can sit in a meeting and take notes. But to pen marketing copy in a lyrical German style that will get people fired up about a product? I just don’t have it folks. And admitting that has not been easy for me to do. It has been another big blow to my confidence.

So as I kept my eye on the (very small) job market for English speakers with my skill set, I started to wonder if maybe another sacrifice for immigrating might be that I need to change careers. I worked with a guy who was a licensed civil engineer in Mexico but wasn’t able to work in the U.S. with the same qualifications. He ended up becoming a chef.

There are a lot of stories of immigrants who have to switch up their career goals because they don’t jibe with the new country they now call home. Was that my fate? And if so, where was I going to find the confidence to do start all over? I felt drained. (I still feel drained, frankly.)

I guess the thing I am finding is this: When things fall apart, you don’t have to start from square one the way you do when you are drinking. At least that is how it appears for me. It used to be that if something did not work, I would throw it all out (baby,  bathwater, and the kitchen sink) without examining what exactly did not serve me anymore or what I might still be able to use.

What can I look back on in my career/education/life and use now? I think the biggest one is that I achieved most of these milestones (college graduation, big newspaper gigs, cool marketing clients) when I was drinking and not performing at my most optimal. Which tells me that I should have loads more to offer (and gives me a little boost of confidence) now that I am sober.

In August I decided to quit my job and go back to university for computer science. This would be fulfilling a goal I abandoned as an 18-year-old who couldn’t handle the harassment of a male math professor. And it is one of the few things I am interested in that is booming in Germany. Since then I have had to pass a high-level German class in order to start classes. I passed the oral part; the written part? I failed. That stings.

Before I can go to classes and get credits, I have to pass that written exam. And even if I pass next week, I still have to wait until next fall to get credits for the classes. On the bright side of all of this is I can audit the classes, which is huge considering my math skills are almost 20 years old. Also I get to learn Python, which is super fun.

Day One of Math for Computer Scientists!

So yes, my confidence is drained. And yes there is part of me that is embarrassed to be at this point in my life at age 37. I should be running a company by now, not trying to pass a writing test to go back to university. Ugh–the shoulding on myself I am doing is outrageous. I have also gone through a lot of other shit this past year that I have not had the energy or confidence to write about (politics, baby fever, depression and therapy, more politics, #MeToo, immigrant life, sobriety in my fourth year, etc).

The positive side? I have the tools. I know how to keep going. And build on what I have created before this. No more scorched earth approaches to life and my own self. And so I am going to hit post on this without too much editing because I think part of this is just getting this out there and moving on. Accepting this all for what it is instead of waiting for a better way to spin it.

Any words of encouragement are always welcome. In the meantime, I joined Instagram awhile ago if you want to check me out there. And I will leave you with a photo of my family on Samhain a few days ago in Cinque Terre, Italy. Happy new year to my fellow witches and blessed be!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa November 5, 2017 at 12:33 am

This is OUTSTANDING. Literally sitting here clapping my hands and cheering out loud. Honest, insightful, and encouraging for anyone going through big change, your words are a gift to those of us soldering on through this crazy maze called life. Thank you, Rebecca. You’ve got this!


Nicole DeRung November 18, 2017 at 4:11 pm

You always inspire! From the outside looking in, I view you as a modern wonder woman. Your words remind me that no matter where one is at in their life, the struggle is real. I applaud you for being so strong and so real! ♥


Tulsi January 7, 2018 at 5:07 pm

Hi there, I haven’t visited your blog for a while, but I am in a very similar situation to you as an immigrant and I know it’s hard, even though I just immigrated from one English speaking country to another. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, or worry about ‘starting over’ at 37. You’ve done stuff most people will never do by learning German and living and working in another country. Best of luck with your studies and keep writing!


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