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On my second day in Germany, I wake up bewildered and feel like half of myself. Before I arrive, I look forward to the moment when I can see my daughter again, dream about it for weeks in advance. And all of those emotions and feelings are correct and true. But once I arrive a level of exhaustion hits me that makes it hard to even get out of bed. It feels artificial in its intensity. Like taking a handful of Benadryl, and then trying to force yourself to stay awake.

I blame it on the jet lag, but that’s not enough, it’s also accumulated sleep deprivation. Like coming-clean, once you give in a little bit, the entire thing starts to wobble. And for me, the relentless pace that characterizes most weeks, only holds up if I keep living at breakneck speeds. Any break from that, and the intricate system of work, dating, social life, family, writing, insomnia, crying, screaming, demands to be paid for.

But it’s all worth it for the little one. She’s easy, maybe it’s because she’s an only child. Her mother tells me she’s hyper and doesn’t listen. I believed that for a long time. But she’s not those things. She’s stubborn, but so much the better. She appears to live in her own world. She sits and builds with Legos, or draws with colored pencils, while other children lose their minds around her. If anything, she has grown an overly mature independence. She’s gotten used to being the only child, in a world of grownups. There’s seriousness in how deliberate she is with things. The signs of self-consciousness have crept in at 3 years old, and I worry that like her father, her earliest memories of the world will be innocuous moments giving way to personal embarrassment.

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