It poured with rain in Berlin today. It was an odd feeling. So used to sunny skies, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have the weather appropriate your mood. It was a pathetic fallacy, if ever there was one.
I don’t often find myself in what I would consider to be the centre of Berlin. Now that I’m not so much of a tourist, areas like Friedrichstrasse, Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburger Tor are places I’m less likely to come across during my daily activities.
Wandering through the streets of tarmac and white paint on my way to the shopping centre, (an experience that often makes me feel like a cow being sent to slaughter) I was reminded why I always said I’d never live in a city. Turning my eye above street view, I remembered how, even as a child, I thought of skyscrapers as deeply dystopian structures. Unforgivably straight and sinister, they loomed spectre-like over my path, suffocating me, if only for a moment.
I love Berlin: the coexistence of old and new, the multitude of ideas and perspectives brought by people as opposite as storm and sunshine and the remnants of baroque architecture. Even its unashamedly shabby parts offer a unique sense of elegance that no other war-torn city has been able to create.
While Berlin has its pockets of greenery – small havens hidden away from the austerity of concrete – sometimes this just isn’t enough.
City life doesn’t always accommodate those who want to be free, and what I mean by ‘free’ is as physical as much as it is mental. Having space is integral to sustaining my overall well-being. Sometimes I need the room to move my limbs and expand my mind. Broader landscapes and clearer skies are what I always crave.
Photo: Eglė Duleckytė
I’m inherently a restless person, and my usual answer to this is walking long distances. I’ve struggled my whole life with staying still, and keeping moving is the only antidote. I think this is why writing helps. The more I write, the less I feel like I am losing whatever experience and momentum I gathered with movement.
I recently tore the ligaments around my ankle which, within the first few weeks, meant I had to work from home. Being mostly unable to walk, I wasn’t able to move and progress in the same way I’d grown so accustomed to, and it wreaked havoc on my mental health.
I’m not a person that can survive for days on end indoors – my mind eventually begins to unravel. Objects that previously seemed inert start to jump around and the sound of the clock becomes more vehement with every tick. This is the same feeling I get when I’ve stayed in the city too long. There are no ticking clocks to be heard in country air.
I like my neighbourhood. It’s simple, family-oriented, far from hipster. It has less of the hustle and bustle of Kreuzberg, or Neukolln, where walking out on the street often feels like entering a zoo.
But sometimes I wake up and hear shouts and cries from outside, the sound of people upstairs moving furniture around at 2am in the morning, (this is just speculation – I have no idea what else they would be doing at this time of night), and wonder whether I will ever wake up in the bliss of quiet.
Skulking through the urban madness of Friedrichstrasse the other day, I pondered on whether it was strange, or indeed wrong, to want to escape the place that you love once in a while. But in fact, I think it’s entirely normal.
Constant thinking, creating, analysing is a product of a city that offers so much cultural stimulation, but it can be a drain on your resources. It’s not unusual to want a change of scenery.
Leaving the confines of your immediate environment can help to renew your perspective and disrupt, if only momentarily, your dependency on routine. Learning to love uncertainty, instability and being on the move is, to me, an important step for self-development.
I may never live in a peaceful neighbourhood. I may never open my mouth to speak and hear the sound of my own voice echoing off the walls, but knowing I am free to roam is the one thing I know that keeps me sane.
Being able to disconnect is just a healthy sign that you are exactly where you want to be.