6 Monate in Berlin

Roughly six months I have lived in Berlin, and I can honestly say I have loved every minute of it! The history, the nightlife, the food, the sports, and of course the beer! It has changed my life completely, and I couldn’t have done any of it without the help and support of my friends and family, particularly my mum Elaine and granda Alan! But I can’t help but feel like I am one of only a very few people doing something like this, and I will try to explain why…

When I look back home to Belfast, and all the rest of my friends throughout Britain and Ireland, I see everyone settling down and starting families at a young age. I will admit, I was almost one of them. At one point just a couple of years ago I had two brochures of engagement rings. Sadly that chapter of my life didn’t have quite the happy ending, but I think its safe to say that things did work out better for both myself and my ex in the long run.

But enough about the past, lets talk about the present and the future. I am now living in Berlin, a city I have always loved, working as a statistical analyst for the Eisbären Berlin, my dream job, and most recently I became a tour guide around the city, which is both a dream job and in my favourite city!

To say I am somewhat lucky to have found happiness in almost every aspect of life is an understatement. But it wasn’t until recently when I started re-watching the American sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on Netflix that I realised what a fantastic turn my life has taken. Someday about 30 years down the line, that will be me sitting my kids down and boring them to death with stories of what their dad got up to in his earlier years!

himym-600x450

Stories like how interrailing back in the summer of 2014 opened my eyes to the many different cultures throughout Europe, altered my perceptions of people, and pretty much changed my entire life. Going to the London Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2012. Visiting Normandy in northern France and listening to stories from someone who was there on D-DayWinning two Elite League championships with my hometown team. Sitting in the press box at Boston’s TD Garden for last years Beanpot final.

Then there’s the more recent events like somehow landing an interview with the Eisbaren within 10 days of touching down at Schonefeld Airport. Getting to wear Uwe Krupp’s 1996 Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup championship ring. Watching the Super Bowl on the jumbotron at Mercedes Benz Arena. And the endless evenings hanging out with friends; wether its in a cool bar, coffee shop, or a nightclub, my life is pretty much like living in a tv show now!

And of course I can’t forget the more interesting stories like ‘the kebab incident’, kicking a polizei car, missing the last train home and staying in the club until 5am when they start up again, and the chipped tooth (which my mother will only be discovering as she reads this… sorry mum!)

There is one thing that I have noticed in my brief 6 months living here, and that is that the British and Irish as a whole are probably the least travelled in the world. Yes, we do travel a lot in terms of city breaks and trips to Magaluf, but the rest of the world actually travel a lot more extensively. There are a lot of people who simply spend a few months in a new city, renting a small room, getting a shitty job to pay rent. They generally just have fun, and after a while they simply pack their bags and move on to another new city in another new country for another couple of months. I have met so many people who do this, and I can’t lie, I’m thinking of possibly doing it as well at some point in the future.

My point is that everyone back home now-a-days is so driven on finding a career and buying a house, getting married and having kids, and it all has to be done some time in your mid-20’s so you can ‘relax’ and cruise to the finish line. What I don’t understand though is that everyone loves some surprise and suspense in their lives. TV shows, movies, books, sports… they all have some unpredictable moments, twists and endings, and that why we love them. Put it this way: If your football team done all the work in the first 25 minutes of the game and then just cruised to victory at the final whistle, would that still be interesting enough to keep you a fan game after game, year after year? Probably not, so why should life itself be any different?

Now I understand some people won’t agree with what I’ve said. Travelling, experiencing new cultures and getting out of your comfort zone isn’t for everyone. But it is what most people crave in life. New experiences, meeting new people, learning new languages, living new lives.

I will leave you with one final thought. It was something my former boss told me moments after I informed him I was quitting my job and moving abroad. It was surprisingly meaningful, and I remembered every word he said:

There are 7.4 billion people on this earth. Billion, with a B! And most people live their entire lives within a 25 mile radius of where they were born and raised. They go to school, get a job, make friends, and even find the love of their life, all within a 10 minute drive of where you grew up.

Even if you believe in the statement that someone is one in a million, that still leaves seven and a half thousand people out there for you, and in my honest opinion, you’d be damn well lucky to find them all in your home town.

Advertisements

From Belfast to Berlin

Todays the day. I have just boarded my flight to Berlin, a city with double the population of Northern Ireland. A one way ticket, a backpack of clothes, a suitcase of some more belongings, and two weeks in a hostel. That is quite literally all I have… which when you take into consideration that I made this decision back in April it really isn’t much, but I have done all I can do for now.

I need to apologise right now for this blog, because I started writing it about 3 weeks ago and I know it will get pretty rambling and lengthy. But please bear with me as there is a lot of people who have been a part of my life over the last quarter of a century who I need to thank for being there for me before I embark on this new journey.

From way back in Greenisland Primary School, where I coasted through 7 years of education before somehow getting an A in my final exam and sticking it to the teachers who doubted me; to Belfast High School, where once again I casually cruised through 5 more years of learning, gaining just enough grades to continue my higher education elsewhere, and making some friends who ended up being hugely important influences in my life. Guys like Hazer, Dill, Warren, Hollie, Emma… you were my first real close group of mates!

Then theres my working life. It all started in 2007, working a year and a half in Core Systems with Phil, G, Catherine, Jane, Julie… my first real taste of the office lifestyle. 3 years of my life were then spent in Dunnes Stores, who legally I cannot bad mouth because they were generous enough to donate £250 to my charity ice hockey tournament last month! I had my ups and downs while working there, and almost each and every person who worked with me made some sort of an impact in my life. Ursula, Sarah, Alan, Sheila, Gillian, Karen, Laura, Rebecca, Michael, Clare… due to the high rate of staff turnover there’s a literal butt load more people to mention that I cannot fit in here, but they were all amazing people to work with! Also, I still have that size 24 blouse if anyone wants to hire me for their wedding.

After three years in Irelands version of Marks & Spencer, I then moved to the actual Marks & Spencer where I worked on and off for a year, again learning new skills on merchandising, cash handling, customer service, and of course, endlessly flirting with every female who worked in the entire building. Not that I was very good at it, but it helped pass the time!

Last but not least, theres Product Earth Solutions, who rescued me from unemployment in January 2014. After just one month of hard work, I simply floated through the next year and a half doing minimal work for minimal pay, making endless “thats what she said” jokes, inventing any excuse for a chippy, and generally getting sloppy with the whole ‘close Facebook when the boss walks into the room’ thing. But I made some great friends there; Chris, Ally, Becky, Gary, Raymond… they all made going to work that little bit more fun!

Then theres the whole ice hockey side of my life. I went to my first game in 2002, and fell in love with the sport. I then first skated in 2006, and met a whole new group of people that would end up being hugely parts in my life growing up! Dawn, Victor, Julie, Dale, Laura, Adam, Toffer… again the list is almost endless, but they were all great friends to me throughout those years!

Back in 2008 the new Giants coach Steve Thornton asked Dale Cree (who ironically would go on to become MD of the company I’d work for 7 years later) to help assemble a team of ‘statisticians’ to give him an extra advantage in coaching.  I didn’t actually like statistics that much to begin with, but I stuck with it. That team of stats guys would then quickly dwindle from 6 to just myself within a few months. It was around this time I actually started to get into it, and the rest as they say is history!

That history was winning 5 titles and 2 league championships throughout my seven years there, and I loved every minute of it! I need to thank Steve Thornton for getting me started in statistics, Paul Adey for our weekly coffees to chat stats and hockey, Todd Kelman for being my all time favourite Giants player (even if he did abandon us for Cardiff), and of course Doug Christiansen for continually helping me improve myself, and for still giving me guidance in my career path. Then theres the players like Tim Cook, Keefer, Lloyder, Sandy and Shieldsey to name but a few, and of course all the off ice guys: Glover, Dave, Matt, Jo, Brooksy, Bobby, Rachel, Michael, Laura, Kira, Paddy, Coach and Davy… again the list of friends I made at the Giants is endless, and they are all fantastic people who I will miss seeing on a weekly basis.

Then there’s Dumfries. A place I visited as a fresh faced 17 year old for my first ever ice hockey camp, and I had the privilege of returning in 2013 to be a statistician at the world championships, and again in 2014 and 2015! Meeker, Searlait, Craig, Scott, Jessie, Struan, Mitch, and more. All of you made my annual visits worthwhile!

Last season I even got the chance to partner with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Each week I would watch up to three game tapes, spending on average 4 hours per game, recording analytics and statistics on every player. Helping provide future NHL stars like Max Domi and Mitch Marner with data to help improve their game is something I will always cherish doing, and I need to thank Rob Simpson and both Dale and Mark Hunter for that opportunity. Also, for all you hockey nerds with a keen eye on hockeys future, keep an eye out for Victor Mete!

Hockey analytics is as of right now a literal ‘one in a hundred million’ job. And even though I do have my name in the mix, hopefully someday soon I will get into sports analytics.

Last month I also had the honour of playing in the UK Forums All Stars Charity Ice Hockey Weekend in Sheffield. I was a late addition to Team Breast Cancer Care, and still managed to rack up £1,198 for a great cause! In total that one weekend with 130 players has raised over £70,000 for 8 separate charities!! There wasn’t one person I met at the tournament that I didn’t get on with. G, Dave, Kez, Astill, Nic, my first line buddies of Alex, Matt, Carl, Steve, and everyone else on Team Boobs! It was great to meet you all, and I’m already planning next years trip! And of course theres the Team NI lads; Aaron, Glover, Sauce, Maca (and Emma) and Dave. Together we raised almost six grand, and the fact I got to spend one of my last weekends at home (in Sheffield) with you guys was awesome!

One more thing hockey has gave me is a very generous 50/50 win in 2014. Yeah, the year when I was filling out my name and address when Drew Fata scored ‘that goal’. That night is all a bit of a blur, and not quite for the reasons you would think! But as I walked back to the hotel with two good friends in Mel and Stevie Robinson, they gave me the idea to go interrailing once again… which I did!

In two separate interrail trips in 2011 and 2014, I visited 26 cities in 15 countries. Along the way I made many great friends, from Ben, his partner, and the Sprogg family I met in Munich; soon to be wed couple Aaron and Sarah in Salzburg; the 5 girls from Belfast I went swimming with in Lake Bled; Bradley and Niall who we bonded over Top Gear and US Late Night Talk Shows on that interestingly endless train journey to Budapest; Kirstie for a great evening in Prague; my 2 fabulous Scottish pals Shannon and Mel, along with Brittany, Riley, Erin, Simone, Tim, Fran, and the three welsh guys who’s names I cannot remember, all whom I met in Berlin; Steve, Steph and Gary, and also Elizabeth, all in Copenhagen. There are a load more I have probably forgot to mention, but again I could ramble on for days with stories about everyone!

Then theres that elite group of people who are probably most glad I am leaving, the guys and girls I’d class as my best friends! Mark and Vikki for many, many chinese nights, and for providing me with God children! Sam, you were such an annoying cousin growing up, but our love for Top Gear and Tesco brought us closer together than I ever imagined! Mark Dornan, I think its time I finally admitted that I am obviously the Gus in our scenario… Good luck to you and your Juliet! Neil, my go to video nerd and endlessly annoying Boston buddy… same time next year? Stephanie, the main reason I have WhatsApp, and my personal rear of the year winner for the last two years! Sally, our heart-to-heart coffee dates were always a highlight, I guess you will just have to come to Berlin for our next one! Becca, you made me the man I am today, and despite how things ended you will always be one of my closest friends. You have all made huge influence in my life, and I can’t wait to have you all come visit me whenever and wherever I get settled!

Finally, I need to thank my entire family, but especially my mum and granda. We’ve had our ups and downs, but you two done whatever you could to give me a good life. Ever since granny past away a decade ago it has just been us three, and I can only hope that she would have been proud of what I have done so far, and what I’m setting off to do with my life. I can’t wait for you two and Gary to come visit me when I get settled in Germany!

Hopefully this blog served as a decent insight to my life and the future I am embarking on. And I also hope that I won’t be coming home in a few weeks with a maxed out credit card and my tail between my legs! If I missed anyone out, it was never my intention.

Thanks for the memories.

Alan

“At the end of the day you gotta go out there and just do it yourself, really. You gotta make mistakes along the way; and over the years you will find your own path.” – Sig Hansen

Ich bin ein Berliner!

As many of you may know, later this summer I am moving my life away from Belfast, a place where I have lived all 25 years of my life thus far, and on to Berlin, a city I have visited three times in the last four years, and every time I never wanted to leave. This time I won’t be leaving. Or at least that’s the plan! A one way flight from London awaits me on August 16th, and 2 weeks in a hostel is all I have planned.

I’d be lying if I said it was a tough decision, because it was rather easy to be honest. Everything just came into alignment, and it seemed right that I move on sooner rather than later. My contract at my day job was ending later this summer, and the option for renewal wasn’t what I truly wanted. In terms of personal relationships, I was close to settling down 2 years ago. That all changed and turned my life upside down. And when it comes to chasing my dream job of working in professional hockey analytics, I have worked with 3 great coaches and won every title up for grabs in the Elite League over the past 7 years with the Giants. And after last season I felt like the team is going in a different direction and I am no longer wanted. So its time for a new challenge…

Which brings me to Berlin. Why Berlin? Many people have asked me this, and I have had the same answer for them all. I love that city. Its what I dream Belfast will become. A city torn apart, and brought back together by its own people. But with the small minority of people annually dragging Belfast back into turmoil, combined with the backwards politics of Stormont, leaves us as a troubled city and country that will take a lot longer to fix.

Last year when I was in the German Capital, I met a load of people. I met two beautiful Scottish gals (who I’ve kept in touch with, and even visited at Christmas), a Canadian lass (who was travelling the world for what seemed like an eternity), a Canadian guy who is a hockey fan and sends me many front row snapchats from Sens games (for which I will forever despise him for!), an Australian couple  and even a Finnish student who admitted she didn’t speak any German. Its a city which is surprisingly bi-lingual, which isn’t to say I’m not going to (attempt) to learn German, but it will help me get started!

Everyone talks about writing new chapters in ‘the book of life’. But I felt like I was approaching the end of my book, nowhere else to go in the storyline, the penultimate chapter if you will. So I thought to myself what I could do, and then it dawned on me. Wrap up this book, and get started on the sequel!