I’ve been thinking about my 3-month-long stay in Berlin a lot during the last couple of weeks, as November 14, the anniversary of my departure, approaches. It’s a bit tricky to put my Berlin insights into a tidy list, but here’s my attempt at a summary. I will just post one insight at a time, otherwise it gets really long:
I can be very happy with myself
The most important thing I gained was a sense of liberation from my inner critic after some struggles during the first couple of weeks on my own. For example, I was giving myself a hard time about staying up until 4 or 5 am every night, much of it because I had to work and be available during business hours in the Canada Pacific time zone. Then I would wake up at noon, and catch just a couple of hours of daylight in the dark, gloomy Berlin winter. The darkness, by the way, didn’t bother me one bit, I was on such a high just to be there. But my strange schedule made me feel like a lazy bum at first. Then I realized that I was suddenly legitimately living out what I am anyway: a night owl working a night shift. Except when I’m in Vancouver, I don’t have the excuse of working for clients that are 9 timezones away. But so what if I feel like working in the middle of the night, even in Vancouver? I am self-employed.
Even my very decision to go to Berlin met with disapproval from a few people in the older generation of my family who thought it was odd for a married woman to go off to Europe by herself for three months, that it was selfish. Which it was, but in the best possible way. There is nothing like fake self-denial which you can then rub under your partner’s nose to remind them how much you gave up for them and how much they cramped your style, even if they never asked you to make that sacrifice. I say yay for some honest selfishness.
I also realized how often I censor myself or worry about how I am perceived by people, and how self-defeating that truly is. If I feel like crouching down on the street to take 157 photographs of something that caught my eye, why should I feel embarrassed about that? Especially if I am alone and not holding anybody up. And if I enjoy sitting in a bar by myself for 7 hours while engrossed in sketching, why not do it?
Drawing or taking photos, or spending three hours carving an elaborate pumpkin may just be what is most important to me, even though some people may think it’s frivolous play. They say “how on earth do you have time for that?”, implying that it’s something fun they might like to do, if only they had time for it with all the truly important stuff they have going on in their lives. Yet some of those people probably choose to spend many more hours shopping, or watching sports, or knitting, or lifting weights, or facebooking, than I ever would. It’s a matter of priorities.
In Berlin, after overcoming a bit of inner resistance, I felt free to roam the streets and go out to events, restaurants, bars, concerts, museums, theatres and operas alone, and I relished every second of the temporary solitude which allowed me to do precisely what I wanted at any moment. I decided that there was no reason I could not preserve the essence of that feeling back home in Vancouver.