I’ve been sitting on this article at least 6 months, so it feels a little scattered to me. I kept rewriting and rewriting it, as each month something new happened and I altered my opinion ever so slightly. Such is life, and so I have decided to publish it far from perfect, but as a reflection of where I’m at, right now anyway.
Pt. 3: Moving abroad AKA an ongoing state of existential crisis.
For those lucky enough to have never experienced an existential crisis, I envy you. Moving abroad is a constant flux of emotions, and saying I have felt a lot of feels in the past 22 months would be 2016’s biggest understatement. I’ve always been relatively self-aware, however I find myself questioning the foundations of my life more often than I’d like to admit. I’m not sure about other 20-somethings, but I seek meaning, purpose and value that extends beyond the bullshit facade we paint for likes on our Facebook profiles.
Earlier this year I visited Australia for the first time since moving to Berlin. I had booked my flights 3 months in advance and my plan to escape the end of European winter was officially in motion. The truth is, this was a terrible idea. I was so excited to see my family and friends, but the build up of anticipation turned me into a hot, anxious mess. Would it still feel like home, when it hadn’t been for so long? Would I feel estranged, or would I want to move back? Would things have changed too much, or had I? These are the thoughts I slept on most nights, and the longer I was away from home, the more confused I was about it.
You are here.
Of course once I arrived in Sydney those anxieties quickly faded and I felt silly for feeling that way to begin with. If anything, going back made the world appear so much smaller—and Australia closer than ever. After 7 weeks my only restlessness was the fact I missed Berlin, along with the sudden (although fairly obvious) realisation that no matter where I live, there will always be a piece of me that stayed somewhere else. These pieces are both good and bad. They are both people I love or loved once upon a time. Memories I cherish, along with a few others I’d rather let go of.
It sounds depressing, and leaving particles of yourself around the world suggests you eventually deteriorate to nothing—or not without a giant hole. I have honestly found the opposite to be true, so queue moment where feeling all the feels comes in.
Defining ‘home’ as one physical destination is a pretty bizarre concept, and one I personally can’t subscribe to anymore. When you move often enough the line becomes so blurry and on one hand it’s extremely liberating—the other, bewildering. Suddenly it’s not so obvious where you belong. You’re empowered by the discovery that you can live anywhere, and simultaneously paralysed by the decision of where you actually want to live.
You see, despite the pretty pictures I post on Instagram, Berlin hasn’t been all bells, beers and bratwurst. Shocking, I know! There have been days this city has beaten me up so bad, I’ve turned blue from bruises, and yet others it has embraced me with both arms, hugging me like I am finally part of the family.
When you move somewhere foreign there is this whole new dimension to your life that people who haven’t experienced it can never fully understand. You’re just the random chick that moved to Europe to draw logos or something, developed a strange hybrid accent and now talks like a twat.
People love asking complex questions oh-so-casually, like “How’s Berlin?”, as if it can be summed up over a single Skype or cup of coffee. I often feel so overcome by this question that I swallow mixed emotions of excitement and angst to answer with an underwhelming “good”. I guess it’s no different to the robotic auto-reply that kicks in when someone asks “how are you?”, instead of actually taking a moment to reflect and check in with yourself. We get so caught up in our own busy lives as humans doing, instead of simply humans being.
Are you here?
Are you here?
When I do take the time to check-in however, I think about how living in Berlin has been the biggest game-changer of my life to date. Despite loving my life in Australia, I have grown exponentially and have had to learn (and un-learn) a lot of things about myself. It has become such a huge part of my identity and continues to challenge my perspective on work, love, desire, fulfilment, right, wrong, success and failure. I wish I had words more eloquent than my own to express how rewarding it can be, but I can’t stress enough that it’s not without sacrifice. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, friendships, relationships—FOMO is certainly part of the package deal.
I’m sure the existential moments will continue regardless of where I live, but I’m becoming more comfortable with those each time. I remind myself amongst the tears there is always triumph, and between crisis there is always bliss. I’ve also realised my existentialism is rooted in an inability to enjoy where I am now, instead of solely focussing on where I am yet to go. I recently read a remarkable sentence in Alain De Botton’s The Art of Travel, which sums this up beautifully:
It is unfortunately hard to recall our quasi-permanent concern with the future, for on our return from a place, perhaps the first thing to disappear from memory is just how much of the past we spent dwelling on what was to come; how much of it, that is, we spent somewhere other than where we were.
And so on that final note, here is where you’ll find me. Exactly where I am.
Aug 22, 2016