“Forward.” -James Blake
You know what the easier part about moving is? Leaving. All I have to do is sit on an airplane, consume copious amounts of Hollywood blockbusters, read books, eat cafeteria food and try not to inhale the airborne toxins unleashed by my lactose intolerant neighbors. It’s a deceptively simple way to conclude weeks of loose ends, administrative chaos and emotional farewells…which have been anything but simple. In fact, let me clarify this right now – it’s easy to leave, but it’s hard to say goodbye.
I hate that part.
You know what else I hate? The endless transition, the piles of rubbish, the sifting of memories and the distribution of prized possessions amongst loved ones like the activation of a living will. The online ads of furniture and kitchen appliances worth five times more than what these students with poor manners and deep pockets are willing to pay. The gradual deconstruction of a home I spent years building from the carpet up into boxes, suitcases and lemon-scented garbage bags and the inevitable last-minute frenzy of stuffing leftover items into pockets that don’t make sense because I’ve run out of time and patience.
This is what it’s like to uproot your life. It’s madness. It’s frustrating and stressful and it shakes loose the cobwebs of doubt and fear and anxiety amongst a landslide of memories that you reconcile a thousand times over in your head with words like “This is my chance” and “If not now then when?” and “I’ll find something better when I get there.” If you’re lucky, like I am, you have someone to help you do it – someone who tells you that they’ve never seen you wear that dress and that they’ll keep those books safe for you. But at the end of the day, only one person sleeps beneath those bare walls, surrounded by boxes, and thinks to herself “What the fuck am I doing?”
I’m spitting my fear in the face and I’m starting over…again.
So let’s cut to the chase and get to the FAQ’s [frequently asked questions]:
What prompted the move?
The most popular question just so happens to be the most difficult to answer. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I said it was time to uproot and move on. It was a growing feeling seething at the bottom of my belly for years…similar to hunger. If you’ve ever seen me hungry and lived to tell the tale, then this will make perfect sense. It begins as a mild rumbling in my stomach, before it starts to twist my guts into knots and God help the people around me when it reaches that point. I become straight up vile if denied food. One time, at an engagement party, the bride-to-be kept pushing back the food service until more guests could arrive. I had been helping her since morning, which meant I hadn’t eaten since around 9am. I marched into the kitchen and gave them two options: Feed me or start counting bodies.
It was a similar series of physiological and psychological responses that prompted the need to move. One day, I realized that I was starving and that moment coincided with the month I spent in Europe, specifically the week I spent dodging latex harnesses and waxing lyrical with subversive writers at a university workshop in Berlin. But I also think it’s important to point out that I’ve moved around every three years or less since I was born, up until I came to Australia. Change is as indelibly part of my genetic makeup as the kink of my hair. I’ve been consuming the world one place at a time since before I was born, and I’d be lying if I said that a part of that wasn’t driving me now. And as much as I’d like to say that I’m not a creature of habit, the truth is that we all are.
What happened to London?
I love London. London loved me right back. But as I sat wrapped up in my red blanket on the sofa in Elsternwick watching the results from Brexit roll in, I thought that maybe the United Kingdom, as a whole, might have mixed emotions about someone like me. I mean, it didn’t call, it didn’t write, it didn’t even send me a friendly winky-faced emoji. The UK just straight up ghosted me and many other doe-eyed hopeful immigrants, and left me [and I assume others] considering their options. Germany calls. Germany texts back the next morning. Germany isn’t a complete narcissist with commitment issues and erectile dysfunction.
Wait, what? That metaphor went too far.
I **LOVE** London.
But the truth is, I have never felt a stronger affinity with a city as I did with Berlin. People love to fantasize about “soul-mates,” but is it possible to have a “soul city” instead? Berlin and I…I mean, we were made for each other. It loves my chunky thighs and curly afro, and I love how its smoky coffee breath burns my lungs when I’m walking through Neukölln, which I’ve never before tolerated in a city. We knew each other’s life story before we even met, and it only took a day before we were finishing each other’s sentences and engaging in impassioned eye-fuckery in broad daylight…in front of children, no less! Now I have to say, that any time I spent hoping to one day feel that way about just one person, when I could have that in an entire community instead, was a well-intentioned exercise in setting my standards lower than I deserved.
So, London will have to step aside for a moment until it learns to appreciate a good thing when it comes knocking on its tube station doors. I’m not ruling it out in the future, but I’m starting here.
Am I scared?
As I sat in Singapore’s Changi Airport, ignoring messages from people asking me if I’m freaking out yet, I realized something: I’m not. I won’t. Every time I’m tempted to succumb to my latent neuroses, I remind myself that I moved to Australia to be with a dude I met on the internet. Then I’m like “Nah, homie, it’s cool.”
I spoke to my bestie when I touched down this morning in Berlin, and I told him something that sums it up best: It’s like I just had a 7.5 year layover in Melbourne and I’ve just hopped back on the airplane again.
What will I do here?
I have a lot of options, but here are two that I’m going with for now: The freelance VISA or the (shuddering) job seeker VISA. I have the option of a writer’s residency, but that would mean applying for a student VISA, and I don’t want to do that, as that would limit my ability to work freelance or otherwise. I have appointments at the Foreign Registration Office for both VISA’s so we’ll see which works out best for me, but I have all the documentation and required proof for both and I confirmed my eligibility with the German Consulate before I bought my ticket back so I feel confident about my chances here. I can still workshop at FUB [Freie Universität Berlin] to write my book and network, but under my terms, which is the most important thing for me.
That’s the end game – to write my book. I’m following a long tradition of American authors who have planted themselves in Europe to write their novels against traditional conventions of university sanctioned education, and I’m giving myself a two-year deadline to do it.
I’m saying this “out loud” (so to speak) so that you can keep me honest [looking at you, Ayush!]
What’s the book about?
This is a rational, reasonable question. I understand exactly why people ask me that question…repeatedly, which why I curb my exasperation whenever I’m on the other end of it. Let me just say this – any author who has finished a book will say that it often ends up as something very different than its original premise.
I have an idea, an outline and a few chapters already written, but the process by its very definition dictates that even this is just a mere skeleton; the flesh and bones come later, as I submerge myself in the thick of Berlin life. What I will say is that the setting is critical to the story, which is why I’ve gone through such painstaking efforts to move my life here. At the expense of sounding like a pretentious ass, Berlin has inspired a story in me that needs to be told, and I can do that best from here.
With all the volatility of the global economy and current political instability the world over, I can’t help but remain somewhat skeptical. Skepticism is the adult version of fear. There was a point in time when we could look at the world, and realistically imagine what it would look like in two years – the colour and the shape of it, the mood and the atmosphere…who we could realistically expect to win a particular party nomination, even! That time has passed. Now, it’s difficult to know what the world will look like in two months, let alone two years. I could very well end up somewhere else…we’ll just have to wait and see.
Enjoy reading about all the misadventures, language-related misunderstandings and culture shock between the digital pages of my heart.