On contentment

I was all ready with a new snarky blog post about Berliner locals today, but this jaw-dropping sky made me want to write something different.
As we wade deeper and deeper into the tourism high season, the work behind the scenes is growing more and more dense and frantic, like a gathering shoal of pirahnas snapping at your bare knees as you try to cross a forest river. An event as joyous as Germany winning the World Cup can drop-kick your day into a new world of madness as you try to keep the traveler’s eye away from the victory parade, or from the Pope, or One Direction, and try to keep it firmly on anything that will encourage them to make your offering part of their holiday. Sometimes I have so much to do that I find my heart pounding for no reason whatsoever. And as the stress steadily mounts, so does the temperature, and you find yourself working in a ball of red heat where you can’t tell whether it’s just the warmth of the sun or the radiation from your own furiously churning brain. Old ladies faint on tours, brochures are bleached in shop windows and suddenly there’s more bare skin in the office than you ever thought might qualify as ‘smart casual’. 
Today I worked until the sky started to darken, and I realised that it was time to water my veg bed right away, before the sun set. I threw everything into my bag, clattered down the stairs with my stuff all in a disarray, writing emails on my phone as I went, then hopped onto my bike and furiously pedalled over to the garden, falling off my bike half-way thanks to a little spiky-haired kid who accidentally but violently elbowed me as I was rolling along. I coast over to the lamppost, tether my bike, grab a watering can, fill it, and start to quench the blood-purple beetroot leaves. And then I looked up and I realised that the sky had turned the most saturated peach-pink, fading into orange, with ribbons of blue gleaming along the edge of the streaks of cloud. 
There were crickets singing around me like the nighttime sound effects in a bad cowboy film. The air was the same temperature as my skin. A couple were talking gently, sitting in the bench under the rose-arch by the pond;the girl sketching something in a drawing pad while the boy just looked out, maybe tired, or thinking. The pumpkins and cucumbers on my plot were blossoming with blousey yellow flowers, curled closed, with tendrils grasping out into the air. The bushes around me were festooned with blackberries, shiny and tempting. As I watered, the leaves stopped looking dusty and gleamed a new green. 
I never came to Berlin to find happiness or success. I came to find contentment. The satisfaction of feeling like you fit somewhere, somewhere which is imperfect and chaotic and strange in exactly the same way that you are imperfect and chaotic and strange. I had to come back because this is a city where these kinds of evenings are possible: times when you can be alone and peaceful, surrounded by plants and bees and butterflies, even while you can see the Ostkreuz watchtower in the distance and hear the faint throb of the nearby nightclub. A cycle ride home in the warm night breeze, watching the silhouette of the TV tower as your bum is shattered by the cobblestones. Coming home to your flat, messy with the remnants of the projects from the weekend, quiet except for the faint laughs and squeals of people enjoying the summer night. Checking your email, not because of the stress of work, but because you want to make sure that whatever chaos is going on, you want to be a part of it. 
I may not always be happy here, but I am always contented. I would rather be miserable in Berlin than ‘alright’ anywhere else. Maybe that’s what the trick to life is: finding a place where you’re happy to be unhappy there. Where you’re happy to be anything there. Where you’re happy to just be.

Rose T

Jill of all trades: writer, illustrator, designer, editor, web designer, craft maniac

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