It was high time to take down the “I’ll take Berlin / Yo, I’m back home” banner at the top of this page. That trip meant so much to me that I had to leave it up there for a while.
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I took a 3-month leave from Vancouver to live in Berlin from November 14, 2012 to February 14, 2013, and started this blog. I had been wanting to start a sketchblog for a while before then, but I needed that initial push to get rolling. The impetus was that I wanted to update my friends and family on what I was doing in Berlin, and to preserve the memories I was going to make.
I had been dreaming about Berlin for at least five years before I went to live there, but I didn’t get anywhere close to making a concrete plan. But once I started thinking “why not?”, I came up with many reasons in favour of moving there: I knew it had a lively arts and culture scene which promised to be inspiring; it’s a major European city; my first language is German; I left Germany as a teenager and thought it would be interesting for me to spend more than a couple of weeks there as an adult; and being German-born, learning more about the twists and turns of the history of Berlin promised to give me more insight into my native country’s past and present. As a German, you cannot not face your country’s history. And a practical but very important reason was that Berlin is surprisingly cheap (rapidly getting more expensive though!).
Also, having my own graphic design business allows me to work on a laptop from anywhere, so I didn’t have to give up my income. I worked as little as possible from Berlin, but I did work enough, and managed to pay myself my regular salary during that time. Most of my clients were supportive, even impressed with their designer absconding to Europe. During a meeting with one of my clients, I detected a note of pride as she announced to a co-worker who had popped into her office: “I’m just on the phone with my designer in Berlin.” It didn’t hurt that on most days I stayed up to work during Canadian business hours, which translated to 5 pm – 2 am Berlin time.
So sometime in November 2011 I had asked Jeff what he thought of me going to Berlin for three months in the winter of 2012/13, with a visit from him over Christmas to halve the length of time we’d be apart. He said that it sounded like a good idea. Two days later, I had booked myself a bachelor apartment in Berlin for three months, one year ahead. Jeff was surprised — he didn’t think I’d act so fast, he thought there’d be further discussion. But we’ve been together 20 years, you’d think he’d know me by now: I have a great need to feel free and autonomous. Luckily Jeff is not clingy, jealous, or distrustful. But really, why should anyone limit themselves to a self-denying definition of partnership? The trick is to maintain the balance between personal freedom vs. commitment to your relationship.
The first three months of this blog are full of my Berlin stories and impressions. But what has lasted a year later? There were a few insights I took with me from Berlin that I haven’t written about. But that will be my next post.