Berlin has haunted me for three years. Maybe even longer. I can’t recall when I first detected the pale shadow it cast over my life but as soon as I did, it was everywhere. The six-letter city leapt at me from book pages, harassed me from a thumbtacked flier in one friend’s home and boldly slashed itself across another’s t-shirt.
It was always Berlin. It was only Berlin. Severed from the German Republic as a kite from its string, the city gently floated above my head; singular and persistent. Perhaps it is impolite to state this, but the fact remains that the first Caucasian friends I ever made were German. They came into my life one after the other, unconsciously tag-teaming until the pattern became dizzyingly obvious.
It was a city worth leaving a job for. And so, I did. I drew up an ambitious plan for my big European adventure. I’d go away from three months beginning in April. However, a look at my finances had me change it into a six-week trip. Then, why not travel when it’s warmer? Summer 2013 in Berlin. To make it even better, I’d arrive five weeks before my birthday then leave one week after. Perfect.
My goal was to make this a totally self-financed trip. But when the deadline I’d set to get the necessary cash lapsed, I decided to shelve the idea for one year.
I remember waking up one morning in June and sending out a mass text about a dream temporarily deferred. Months passed and I got a few writing gigs. Life wasn’t too bad without Berlin. Then, it started calling me again. To be precise, it hit me over the head with a lyrical exchange program. It then whispered in my ear that I should really make the project’s Berlin leg scheduled for April 2014. No shit?
Then came the process of turning the haunting dream into a corporeal reality. Things were stressful (Would I get the visa?) but worked out well (OMG! I got the visa!) I was so happy, I told everyone I met, even strangers. And when they asked why I was travelling, they got several variations of: This trip is about showing myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.
Wasn’t that the truth of it all? As I crossed out items on the trip’s checklist I started realizing that Berlin was really just a metaphor for all my perceived limitations and insecurities.
For years I had told myself that I was the kind of person who would make any kind of personal vow and see it through. Berlin was me subconsciously testing this resolve. I always knew that emotional attachment, visually stimulating ambiances and the possibility of magic would be too strong of a pull to resist.
And when April came along, I boarded two steel birds and started my three-week adventure.
I kept coming up against myself in conversation and observations of life unfolding around me. These experiences were sometimes quite joyous, extremely challenging or hurtful and sad but in the end I was greatly pleased to find that I really like who I am.
Turns out I’m nearly everything I foolishly assumed I wasn’t—both good and bad.
Note: I wrote down a few observations during my time in Berlin (and short stay in Amsterdam) and plan to share them as separate posts.