Ten days from now marks the close of my first year in Berlin. I arrived on August 30th at about 8am and sat outside the airport for two hours, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, before I could go pick up the keys to what was meant to be a 6-month sublet (I still occupy it). That first week was magical: Sitting in the park drinking beers with fellow émigrés, discovering the bio section of the supermarket, and breathing in the early fresh autumn air, I knew I’d arrived.
I guess I never wrote about why or how I got here in the first place. It is not a complicated tale, but it is personal. In short, San Francisco was eating at my soul. In short, I was burning out.
One year later and certain changes are tangible. I’m physically healthier, thanks to better and cheaper food and a culture that lends itself to physical activity, be it the stairs up from the U-bahn or grand strolls around beautiful lakes. The bags under my eyes have all but disappeared. My friend circles here are diverse and inclusive and my social lifestyle is thus a whole lot different than it was in SF.
But there’s something deeper here that I’m working my way through. I’m not sure if it’s because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with, the distance from the office and the US, or something else entirely, but I’ve let go. Of so much. The anxiety and stress that plagued me at night for so many years seems so distant, as does the impostor syndrome I felt for so long. But also faraway is the relentless ambition I forced myself into for so long. I’ve learned how to say no to things, finally, and I’ve never felt better.
I don’t know how much of this is related to Berlin. It certainly has its perks: it’s inexpensive, diverse, and frankly, easy to live here, but it’s still a metropolis far bigger than any other city I’ve lived in. I just know I’m happier here. So happy anniversary to me.