Less than two years ago, I arrived back in the UK after spending a hellish eight months abroad (Spain and Russia). Once back on British soil, I wasted no time in telling anyone who would listen that I had no intention of leaving the UK for quite some time, especially not for any prolonged period. It’s for this reason that I’m somewhat perplexed as to how I now come to find myself sitting in a Berlin hostel (see left), intending to spend an extended amount of time here.
Some of you may remember that I took a short holiday to Berlin in December, and shortly after quit my nine to five job to do some freelancing work and concentrate on my writing. In an ideal world, I would stay in the UK and be close to my friends and family, but due to the extortionate cost of living, I just wouldn’t be able to support myself without getting back into the nine to five routine. Having been quite taken with Berlin, I thought I’d come back and see if I could make a go of it here.
Today is my third day in this lovely city, and two days before, all being well, I’m due to move into an apartment in the Lichtenberg area. Though I’ve only been here for a very short time, I’m already feeling slightly homesick, missing my friends, family and cat, and wondering whether I’ve done the right thing. I suppose that’s a question only time will be able to answer, but as it stands, I’m keen to make the most of my time here, and do my best to make this work.
I’m currently working on book number three, which I’m hoping to have finished by the summer. I’ve been working on it for about six months now but progress has been pretty slow. I’m about half way through writing it, but now I’m not in an office, I’m hoping to have more time to focus on getting it done. I’m also hoping to pick up some German, as although most people here speak excellent English, I wouldn’t like to live in a place and not bother to pick up some of the lingo.
I’m hoping I’ll feel a little more settled once I have a room of my own and am not sharing a dorm with a guy whose snoring sounds like a hostage being waterboarded. I will miss this place though – as you can see from my grainy photo it’s a fairly cool place, almost to the point of parody. There are stuffed animals stuck to the ceiling and there’s a disco ball that gets turned on at about 5pm for no apparent reason. Hopefully this oddball, wannabe bohemian vibe will stay with me during my time here in Berlin, but I suppose I will just have to wait to find out.
Thanks for your kind messages and I’ll keep you updated on what I’m up to.
“I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before / I’m gonna love you like I’m indestructible” Robyn – Indestructible
I realised recently that I’m quite a conflicted individual. There are two warring voices in my head, each telling me to live my life in opposite ways. The first voice tells me that I should be open to all new experiences, that I should take risks and not worry too much about the consequences. The other voice is more cautious, telling me that I should be reticent and not put myself in situations where I could end up getting hurt.
This is especially relevant when it comes to love. Most people my age, I imagine, have had their heart broken at least once. These people will tell you that is such a horrible, scarring, mentally draining experience that once you have gone through it, you never ever want to experience it again. And yet it’s strange, because most people will, eventually, put themselves in a position that leaves them vulnerable to just that. They go on dates, find new love and embark on a relationship, all the while knowing that if it should end, as most relationships do, the enormous pain will return once more. In this respect, I suppose it is rather like having a terrible hangover. While you have a headache and are throwing up all morning, you swear you will never drink alcohol again, only to be back on it once the hangover has worn off.
I came to the conclusion not long ago that the best thing I could possibly do would be to refuse to ever fall in love again. If I found myself becoming attached to a person or developing romantic feelings for them, I would simply remove them from my life and move on, safe in the knowledge that I had saved myself from inevitable pain. This felt rational at the time, and in many ways it still does. It all comes down to the question of whether it is worth risking going through torturous pain to find happiness in love. In my case, I decided the answer was a resounding no.
When we develop romantic feelings towards another person, for many of us, our instinct tells us to keep these feelings private, at least until we know whether or not they are reciprocated. To confess our feelings to someone without knowing whether they are reciprocal is to open ourselves up to pain and humiliation. But there is always a part of us that wants to spill our guts immediately, knowing that if by some chance the object of our affections feels the same way, a love affair can begin instantly, bringing with it months or maybe even years of joy. Why waste time when all of that can begin right now? After all, life is short.
I had a boyfriend who I fell in love with months before we got together. I kept my feelings secret as I did not believe they could ever be reciprocated and, having already experienced the tumult of heartbreak, had no wish to go back. As it turned out, however, he did feel the same way, and had done for some time. We wasted months of happiness because we were scared – the reason that we don’t do so many things in life. In this case, I should have confessed my feelings earlier, but fear stopped me. In another instance, there was a boy who I was very much in love with and would have done anything to make him love me back. I seriously considered professing my love to him, thinking it stupid that I should hide such a wonderful feeling when expressing it could lead to a beautiful romance. How amazing it would be, I thought, if everyone could confess their love without hesitation or anxiety. Life, and love, would be simpler, more honest and less fraught with dread and uncertainty. But that is not the world we live in, and in the end, the fear got me. I decided not to tell him how I felt, either depriving myself of absolute joy or saving myself from terrible heartbreak. I will never know.
Another reason I kept my feelings from this guy was because I knew that even if we had felt the same way about each other, the ensuing period of joy would only have been temporary. The relationship would break down, become fraught with jealousy and bitterness, and eventually, I would end up suffering the heartbreak that I had gone to such painstaking lengths to avoid. In his book Essays in Love, Alain de Botton writes that no love is equal; there is always one party who loves more than the other. This imbalance breeds uncertainty and doubt in a relationship, often leading to its demise. If I had proclaimed my love to this person, I would immediately have established myself as the one who loved more, the weaker party now at the mercy of his whims. Equally, recognising that I was in the inferior position, his love for me would have waned, my weakness at loving him proving repellent. Even reciprocated love, according to de Botton, will nearly always lead to heartbreak.
In the midst of heartbreak, the idea of loving another person seems absurd. As the heart gradually begins to mend, however, this possibility seems more and more likely. But the question of whether loving again is worth the potential pain remains. In my own case, recognising that I am fickle, that I often love recklessly and irrationally, I opted to shy away from romance. By doing this, I hoped to spare myself, and potentially other people, hurt. But now, months into my decision, I can’t help but wonder whether I have cheated myself out of being happy. Of course, all of this is my own doing, and my brain tells me that I am doing the right thing, putting on my armour and keeping myself safe. But in my heart, I know that just like the hungover booze-hound who wakes up with a sore head and sweat-soaked sheets, it’s only a matter of time before I reach for the bottle and do it all over again. Whether or not the risk will pay off, however, remains to be seen.