Trapped at the Playground: Continuing Odyssey of a Nowadays-Berliner
It’s the middle of June, the beginning of summer once again, and motivation is floating in. I find myself on the 4th floor in my new apartment in Wedding, quietly listening to the first summer rain while looking out the window and thinking about my many days spent in Berlin.
I moved my life to this city on a summer day just like today. Back then I had one suitcase and one room to rent for only about two weeks. Magically I managed to stay here for two years—and now I’m going into the third year as a true nowadays-Berliner.
A "nowadays-Berliner" is a human being, age 20-40 years, lots of passion and personality, artistic mindset and great energy, too much time to think, too little time to act forcefully, just enough money to pay for rent and food and a frustration dealt with in the city’s night life--that would be my quick and superficial definition of a nowadays-Berliner.
I can’t help but to think about the dirty beauty this city provides. Berlin has a special character to it, as if it were a person, or many people if you want; I see many different personalities, many different sides of it. It’s not easy to define. I'm not interested in describing all facets though, won't spoil the fun of exploring; I try to state my observation clearly to free it from my mind and to share it with yours.
At the beginning, the city seemed to be holding onto some secret I desperately wanted to know. It seemed a little scary but joyful filled with lots of strangers and hidden possibilities. Ideas would follow me like shadows. Whenever I moved they would change, and I couldn’t seem to catch them. Berlin had its own mystery to it, and I couldn't figure out what this city was about. I didn't really get the city and its "personality", so to speak, but I was very curious to find out.
Now two years have passed and I find myself slightly torn in between two different states of mind.
First thought goes: Wow! Third year in Berlin is starting—lets go, let's go! Let's get something going, let's work hard, let’s work harder, let's get better settled, and let's use all the information and past success and failures made here in this city to move forward stronger, surer, and more aware. I feel overflowing with excitement. I finally feel at home and inspired. Now I have become part of the mystery, I am now one of the strangers on the street. Now I'm a part of the personality of the city, I get to carry the excitement of the hidden possibilities on my shoulders. My love is bigger then ever and I’ve managed to create my own secrets, secrets that only Berlin and I share.
What I’ve definitely found here is a playground for “new adults”, or I’ve turned Berlin into that for me within the last 24 months. Sometimes when playing at a playground you fall, and it hurts, but that moment right before you fall is the best and freest moment I know. Playgrounds make you feel safe enough to run as fast as you can and not afraid to fall. So to be able to make a city your playground as a “new adult”, I guess you need what I certainly feel that Berlin has provided me, which is a confidence to let go and just be.
On the other hand, a second thought goes: Wow! Third year in Berlin is starting, and I am exactly where I was when I just got here. I know few people, I've created little within these two years that I couldn't have created elsewhere. And I still somehow don't "get" this city? The big secret, I so badly need to know is just an illusion. The strangers are all still strangers who seem to be running around with a passion too big for expression, but when eventually expressed, the beauty in the strangers is revealed. Still I find it to be strangely constrained, permeated by the coldness of Berlin’s mysterious breeze. It isn't just cold in the winter here, there's a coldness over the city, a dark side to the city’s personality, a lack of softness or harmless joyful desires. I don’t find usefulness or personal growth in my own presence. Perhaps I have given and taken all there is for me to give and take in Berlin.
Optimism and pessimism battle each other out with daily regularity, particularly when a new day is rising, filled with latent hope.
Berlin gives me the feeling of a moving treadmill. It doesn't matter how fast one runs, uphill or down, against the wind or with it, you’ll still be moving forward at the same unchanging speed. The passion in this city is great, grand, enormous, and I see it everywhere and in everyone! At the same time, I feel the frustration, not only within myself, but also around me and in others, almost as if it's in the air everyone breathes. Frustration: questioning the outcome of ones doings, the purpose, the effort poured into it. And I suspect that the black clothes and nightlife of Berlin, night after night, is fueled in part by the city's abundance of personal frustrations.
I haven’t yet reached a conclusion, solitarily sharing my questions and the thoughts of my wondering mind. At the end and at the beginning, what we have in Berlin and anywhere else are ephemeral points of view, which force us to move forward and continue in whatever direction we're headed.
A fearless playground or a frustrating treadmill: the two might not be that different after all. A playground traps you in a careless childish mindset. Even the word makes you think “child”. Meanwhile the idea of something trapping you evokes the futility of being on a treadmill, and yet some actual playgrounds even provide treadmills for the purpose of fun.
A nowadays-Berliner, and yet the cold breeze here is still remains a mystery to me. I’ll let Berlin have that one for now. It might be my own cold illusion. Or perhaps that is the real secret I feel, the one I’ve longed to know since my first steps in the streets of Berlin?
By Awa Lynn
Photos © Awa Lynn