At this point, I have been living in Berlin for slightly over a month. While I certainly had to adjust to living here, it actually did not take me that long to settle into a routine and adjust to the city in a practical sense.
However, for a while the adjustment I was struggling the most with was feeling deeply here.
Let me explain: of course, I continued to feel excitement for various activities, nervousness for new things, fear and sadness when both were due. Just like anywhere, some days seem more beautiful in the moment than other days seem, and on some days selective homesickness would set in more than others.
For the bulk of my first few weeks here, however, I did not truly feel anything. I lacked the ability, or the desire, to connect—to leave my soul in new places, or people, or experiences. I went through the routine of emotions as well as actions, which made feeling wonder and awe and all the things I need to write poetry that doesn’t remind me of my sappy and needlessly angst-y poems from middle school.
(I obviously don’t want to be reminded of my middle school self in Berlin, though the “anything-goes” attitude here may be willing to accept my previous propensity for wearing Hawaiian leis at all occasions.)
Middle school self thankfully aside, I knew that I needed a way to make a personal connection to Berlin. I was intimated by it, I think—by the size, the cold, the inherent, unapologetic coolness. It took a trip to Munich, actually, to change this. While a lovely weekend in its own right, I spent the train back to Berlin thinking about how much I would enjoy returning to my Berlin home, a bright apartment in a building with a heavy red door and a foyer with checkered black and white tiles.
That moment—this experience of coming home—has dramatically altered the way that I see the city and my place within it. I am now more willing and more able to find beauty here, and use those small moments to forge deeper connections.
There is beauty in Sunday morning strolls through the city accompanied only by the sound of church bells.
In recognizing the man who always plays the accordion on the S1 line.
In late night conversations that overlook the Spree.
In seeing a man in a restaurant that looked just like my Papa, and spending some time in the beautiful melancholy of missing.
In constant restaurant candlelight.
In thrift store Saturdays and new friends.
In the peace of drinking a cappuccino in the dark in a one-screen cinema in Neukölln.
In crowded night time flee markets.
In finding a café with candlelight and bookshelves, so warmed by loveliness you don’t need coffee to feel at home.
These are the moments I’ve come to hold onto: the moments that softly, slowly and without pretention, are building me a home here, too.
What are your moments building you?