Last Sunday afternoon my mother and grandmother sent me off to Berlin for the next 3 months. There were a few brief break downs but we all held it together pretty well. I knew that leaving my family, friends, everything I had grown used to for 30 years was going to be hard but as I stood in line to check my bags (and eventually pay an overweight bag fee) I couldn’t think about it. I didn’t want to cry, be sad, or think about what I was going to be missing. I just wanted to look forward what lied ahead.
Every time I visited Berlin in the past there had been an optimistic, bright eyed, outlook on being there because it was a vacation and I knew I was going back to my home. Moving there required a totally different mindset. Being in Berlin was like seeing an old friend but realizing that you both had changed since the last time you saw each other. It didn’t mean you couldn’t be friends, you just needed to get to know each other in a different way.
My first week has been full of highs and lows. The first 3 days I was extremely tired or better known as jet-lagged. I couldn’t just catch up on sleep for the first few days because I started German language class for 4 days a week immediately after I landed. It was sort of depressing to just want to stay in bed while in a country you were so excited about moving to but I just couldn’t motivate myself to go out.
When not in class I only wanted to lay in bed and sleep. Staying in a bed, in a stranger’s sublet apartment, left me with nothing but my thoughts. As I looked around at the new place I was living in, fully furnished with someone else’s things, I thought about how it wasn’t my home. The home I spent over 3 years furnishing, decorating, and repairing to make it the place I felt most comfortable. My home was gone because I rented it to someone else, it was never going to be the home that I was used to because all of my stuff was either gone or in storage.
For the rest of my first week it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. My favorite pair of shoes broke, my favorite bracelet that I’ve had since I graduated high school broke, and I felt broke. I had saved more than enough to cover me for the 3 months I planned to live in Berlin but that didn’t make not having an income feel anymore comfortable.
I hadn’t been unemployed, let alone voluntarily since before I was 16. I never quit a job without having another one lined up, even when I was miserable at my current job. Leaving a job that I worked at for over 5 years was an eye opening experience. I realized that even though you spend more time at work than you do anywhere else, most of the people you work with don’t really care about you.
All of the time I invested in going to birthday parties, listening to them vent about their significant others, their families, our job, and all of the nights we shared stories about our lives, past and present and future…at the end of the day, I was just a coworker to them. Luckily I made a handful of amazing friends so it kept me from being salty. Working as a server doesn’t really provide you with many rewarding professional experiences. There was one thing I did appreciate leaving behind: allowing people to disrespect me because my job wants to project a certain image. Now if someone is rude to me I’m free to tell them what’s on my mind.
Luckily I haven’t experienced much of that here. Once I finally forced myself out of bed after day 4 and went out to get some human interaction I made friends and had great conversation everywhere I went. Germans and imports alike were eager to help me, practice German, and show me new places to go. A gentleman from a bike shop treated me to ice cream, Indian food, and invited me to a very eccentric cello performance. I met two girls from the states, one from Ireland, and one from Germany that I spent half a day with. It was like being the pied piper, I met one girl, then we met another, and by the end of the day there were 6 of us.
The first week I have felt stressed, alone, exhausted, bored, regretful, excited, unsure, loved, confused, uncomfortable, and more. It’s a lot for one person in one week but this experience will shape me like no other. Many of us don’t take risk because we are afraid of giving up comfort. If we stay the same and only do the things that make us comfortable, how will we grow? These times of uneasiness where I have to navigate on my own, assure myself that things will get better, and stand strong in my decision to pick up and move are molding the way I’m going to live the rest of my life.
At the cello performance I went to, the man spoke about how only a few weeks ago he was sitting on a sidewalk, playing his cello. People kept walking by, no one gave any money, no one even seemed to care that he was playing. He had many moments of “what’s the point of me doing this?” Instead of giving up he kept playing and he made it to Berlin, to a music hall, where people bought tickets to see his show. He finished with, “As long as you are alive, there’s a chance for things to get better”.