Europe and America are both facing problems, but Europe's governing structures are more vulnerable and seem ready to collapse. It's left me pondering my future.
Since I first moved to Europe ten years ago, I've been surprised by how often I am asked one particular question - "will you ever move back to America?"
It always struck me as unusual, because I don't think a European who moved to America would get that question all the time. But in the four European cities I've lived in, people have seemed genuinely perplexed about why I'm here. Why would someone prefer to be in Europe rather than the United States? The question always annoyed me, and my answer was resolute.
"No, I'm not planning to move back," I responded. "I have a better quality of life here, I'm no longer in an American bubble separated from the rest of the world and, most importantly, I feel more hopeful for the future here than I did in the United States."
As we come to the end of 2015 I have to ask, is there reason for me to feel hopeful for Europe any more?
Europe is now facing a perfect storm of crises which it seems incapable of handling. Having barely weathered the storm of the euro crisis over the past six years, we're now bombarded with problems on all sides.
The migration crisis. The terrorism crisis. The Brexit crisis. The Ukraine crisis. And most worryingly, the Syria crisis, which after this week's downing of a Russian plane by Turkey seems more likely than ever to propel us into a global geopolitical conflict the likes of which we haven't seen for 70 years.
The European Union's institutions, assembled only halfway, have been unable to cope with these crises. Lacking public support for true economic integration, the EU ploughed ahead with monetary union without a common economic governance. Lacking public support for EU-controlled external borders, it ploughed ahead with the Schengen area while leaving the peripheral states on their own to police the union's external borders. Lacking public support for a unified EU foreign policy, it created a toothless high representative post that has generated more confusion than clarity when tackling the problems on Europe's doorstep.
What's clear now is that this halfway approach cannot stand. Europe can either go forward or go backward. At this point, it is difficult for me to envision a scenario in which Europe does not go backward.
The cross-border nature of this month's terrorist attacks seems bound to result in a walk-back of the EU's Schengen agreement of passport-free travel within the union. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission observed yesterday that if Schengen fails, the euro fails. I don't think this is hyperbole. These are the two most sacred, symbolic aspects of European integration. If people don't care enough to defend one, they won't defend the other. And given that most Europeans I've met over the years don't even know what Schengen is, it seems unlikely there will be big public support to defend it.
Why does all this matter to me? Well, I wouldn't be here without the European Union. I moved here in 2006 because I had a fascination with the EU. My obsession began innocently enough - by reading a book. Although I had concentrated in European History at university and even did a semester in Prague, I hadn't really been taught anything about the EU. It wasn't until I read Jeremy's Rifkin's 'The European Dream' in 2005 that I learned what it was. And I liked what I read.
Rifkin's point was that the EU was moving Europe forward into being a third superpower for the 21st century. I was fascinated, and also hopeful - because I wasn't very excited about living in a century dominated by the US or by China.
It was right after the re-election of George W Bush in 2004, an election which had left me incredibly disillusioned and disturbed about the direction my country was going. A relative had died in the Iraq War, and it left me thinking about scenarios in which that disastrous war would not have been launched (such as a united EU opposing it rather than European states being played off against each other by Washington). I was also covering the US Congress in Washington at the time, and that was an experience which frankly left me exasperated with an archaic American governing system which seemed like it would never modernise.
I looked to the European Union as a place of younger democracies, a new, energetic project-in-creation that held out the promise of more logical governance. It seemed like a place that was more in line with my values. That has been largely born out. EU policy-making is much more logical than in the US (though you wouldn't know it because all the media focuses on are the high-level crisis talks). Culturally I've felt more in tune here also. To be honest I feel more comfortable here than I do when I go home to the US. At this point I feel a bit foreign when I'm in America.
So I always said I didn't plan to go back, and luckily enough I don't have to because I acquired EU citizenship in 2008. But lately, as we seem to be heading ever-closer to the abyss, my answer has become more nuanced. First it became "never say never, but I don't have any plans to". Then this turned into a "maybe". With the events of the past weeks, I think the answer is now "quite possibly".
Being in Brussels during the lockdown really affected me. I felt my confidence in European structures, in their ability to keep society functioning, collapse. It isn't just about Brussels (after all, I only live there part-time now and lost confidence in that city long ago). I felt overwhelming anxiety about what comes next in Europe as a whole.
It's not as if things are so peachy back in the US. An archaic governing structure still means the country is paralysed and cannot act to solve any of its problems. The presidential election process has become a completely entertainment-driven farce. The news media has devolved into self-parody. And the vitriolic reaction to the Paris attacks by the Republican presidential candidates has revealed a dark undercurrent that is growing in American society.
And yet, the country isn't about to fall apart. States aren't going to start erecting walls between one another. The dollar isn't going to collapse. The world's oldest democracy may frustrate me in its archaic methods of governance, but it's solid. America isn't going away.
Europe's institutions are newer, and weaker. It now seems increasingly likely that they are not strong enough to withstand the dramatic developments of this year. Think about it. A handful of angry young men with some guns have managed to shut down the EU capital for five days, and in the end they may scare Europeans into re-erecting walls between each other.
As a journalist, of course you want to be where the interesting things are happening. A big part of me says I should stick around, to do my small part to try to keep things from falling apart. And I probably will. But it's been a strange feeling over the past year, realising that for the first time in ten years, I've lost hope for Europe. And I can't fake it.
In two weeks I will fly to New York for an extended visit home for the holidays. It is badly needed - a time to reflect on everything that's happened.
I will continue working on my book about what went wrong with the European project (education) while I'm home, and I will come back to Berlin in February. I still love this city, and I feel I have a lot more to discover. So that alone is a big draw to stick around. But for how long? Perhaps once I finish the book, it's time to pack it in.
My heart may be in Europe. I may identify more with Europeans. But I have to seriously think about whether there is a bright future here.
It's something I will have to think about over the holidays.