Sometimes Life Is Really Shit
Moving to Berlin has been more wild roses with a lot of thorns than daisies and butterflies. Hours of joy and laughter could be laced with days of really struggling to get up and go to work. However, I came to realize that I (along with the help of some of my closest) could change my reality to make it a little less shitty.
“If you change nothing, nothing will change”
I’ve divided this post into interactions: interactions with myself, with other people, and with Germany. It’s the stories of how I’ve been challenged, but also the stories of how I overcame. And I hope somewhere in my tales, you too can realize that as shitty as things can get, it is within you to change your circumstances.
Interactions with myself
Like clockwork, it hits every month. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve just come to accept the darkness that drenches out the sun in me. It becomes more and more tiring to fight it off. Coupled with being very lonely here, depression won a few battles this time. But I found something very comforting when my normal round hit.
For the first time, I was able to have a really long, honest conversation with my mum about how my depression affected me. I didn’t feel the stigma that’s normally associated with mental illness back at home. I felt someone who really understood the pain I was going through, who offered her ears and advice, and most of all, offered her love.
Finding someone to talk to (or multiple people if you’re as fortunate as me) has been one of the best ways I’ve dealt with my depression. I can be that someone for anyone who needs it :)
I’d like to think I’ve done a few hard things in my life: getting into Brown, telling South Asian parents that I’m going to study History (and only history. No double major here), taking a gap year without much of a plan (which is still unplanned and stressful and idk why I still think this is a good idea). None of that compares to what I’ve found to be the hardest thing: believing in myself.
I know that being the dumbest person in the room is probably the best place to find yourself. But that doesn’t make feeling really really stupid and incompetent any easier. The learning curve isn’t just about being able to learn new skills. It’s being able to overcome the voices that say you’re not good enough, smart enough, capable enough.
Reminding myself that I’m not being tested or graded, and that I’m the only person that actually cares tends to help me with my self-doubt. Also, we tend to do a better job than we think. So, I try to remind myself that I am enough. I have friends who remind me I am enough.
And hey you reading this! You’re enough too!
Strength and perseverance
Through episodes of battling my own demons, the voices, and the ridiculous amount of problems I’ve encountered (which you’ll read about soon enough), in some ways I think I told myself I didn’t have a choice but to get through all the shit.
The situation around me wasn’t going to change by itself. I had to change it.
It’s not my preferred method of learning to say the least. Also don’t particularly wish hours of crying on a sofa, wiping off tears, sucking it up and marching through the day upon anyone else. It isn’t fun. But in some weird twisted way, I wanted my ass kicked. Cause if every remote thing I could imagine (and not imagine) has gone wrong now (and it has), it isn’t going to worry me in the future. Maybe that’s the point.
Finding yourself in what I call bandaid situations (you know. Where you just bite your teeth, rip that sucker off and hail Mary cause it hurts like a bitch) is probably the quickest way to build up inner resiliency and strength.
It’s fast. It hurts. Nobody likes it. But it does the job. And you’re better off for it.
Interactions with people
I came into work with my colleagues thinking I was this super smart girl (cause I had a few people say that to me on the first day because of my interviews). Let’s just say I didn’t quite live up to the hype.
As a consequence of a lot of things (language, being alone, being in a new role to name a few), I found myself being pretty closed off, anti-social, the type that walks in, puts her headphones in and clocks her hours. On days where I just didn’t have work, I’d space out and leave early (which got me into trouble later on. With the CEO. That wasn’t a fun day).
So when my first feedback came in, I guess I wasn’t too surprised with some of the comments (being called unreliable was a harsh one. But don’t blame them). Luckily, I had a kickass supervisor who knew I was more social than I let on, who knew I was capable of doing more, and pushed me to speak up more. And to some extent, it’s gotten a lot better. Even the CEO emailed saying he heard about the great progress I’ve made and to continue the great work!
So hopefully I stop shooting myself in the foot and live out the potential apparently everyone else sees in me but myself.
I’m currently going through a bout of introversion coupled with long nights at the office coupled with really shit Berlin weather. So Netflix is my current friend base and support system in Berlin. However, during my time here, I’ve met with friends of friends who took me to a talk with a world renowned translator, hopped on the day plan of a few Italian students while waiting in line for food, gone out for coffee with a couple startup founders, and went on a trip to Rome with total strangers turned friends.
I do wish I spent a little more time going out to meet people. More talks. More meet ups. But I spent a decent amount of time just meeting myself again. Re-evaluating my goals and what I need and want. My fears. My goals.
I found a new friend in me again.
I feel like I should be able to lend out my friends to the world. Besides my family, having some of my closest friends be just a text away (or actually visit me!) has been one of the biggest reasons that I haven’t crumpled up into a mush ball. No matter whether it’s work troubles, not knowing how to deal with a country where I didn’t speak the local language, or just needed the comfort of a familiar voice, there was always someone who was there to talk to me.
The lesson to take away here is to nurture the crap out of your friendships. These people will get you through the absolute worst times of your lives. And the world is a little less lonely with some good company.
Despite loving my family to bits and them saving my ass more than once, we don’t always agree on a lot. There’s been a fair few yelling matches and sometimes, my stress comes more from trying to keep everyone else happy than being in Berlin alone. However, exercising a lot of empathy has helped me communicate with them, do what I do, and still maintain our loving relationship.
I know for people who want to stray a little off the beaten path, there’s often a little push back from our loved ones (and for good reason. This path is hard and I can’t begin to pretend to understand what it feels like for my parents to be so helpless when I’m struggling). But a close friend gave me some good advice to help manage.
He told me that they’re never mad at me. They’ll always love me. They’re mad at some of the choices. If I already know how they’re going to react to something, the sooner I accept it, the sooner the stress related to trying to make them understand and appease them disappears.
This doesn’t mean I don’t hear them out. But it lets me take their reactions less personally and allows me to follow my own judgment more firmly.
Interactions with Germany
Berlin has thrown me for quite the loop. I got my first fine (which in fairness, I deserved. Should’ve bought the metro ticket). I’ve had to move apartments 3 times. I’ve been lost in translation so many times I’ve lost count. I still cannot find the damn milk aisle in one of the grocery stores I frequent. I’ve lived off instant noodles for more days than can be considered healthy. I’ve dealt with Airbnb hosts trying to make me pay €100 fees even though I did nothing wrong. And then threaten me with a bad review. I’ve dealt with having $20 in the bank cause refunds and bank transfers take forever to kick in. Caught laryngitis and lost my voice. Spent 12 hours scouring the city looking for a doctor that spoke English and didn’t have a 3 week waiting time for an appointment. Haven’t had access to immediate healthcare and medicine because healthcare can be stupidly inefficient. And probably a few more woes that I can’t recall from the top of my head.
But living in this city, despite kicking my ass, has given me more clarity than I could’ve asked for. It let me know that I love living in cities. That I really love cities with amazing public transport (looking at you NYC. Step-up your game). That I actually kinda need a country that speaks English because there’s nothing worse than not being able to communicate through your daily life. That I do not like freezing cold weather (sup California). That I still love History. That I can combine that love with Tech. That instant noodles is life. And that now more than ever, I have an opportunity to take a bet on myself and build my dream, not someone else’s.
Thus, with 3 more weeks to go, this pitstop was well worth it. Next stop, Paris+London :)