Still the One Pool Where I'd Happily Drown... Sort Of?

Plus some photos with a decentered lens.

Hello! I’m not sure whether I owe a bigger apology to the LCD admirers or the LCD ignoramuses, but I probably owe an apology somewhere for that subject line.

It’s been well over a month, hasn’t it? I know, I’m awful. I was using my trip to New York as an excuse, but I got back to Berlin a week ago, so that excuse has run out. So here I am, summoning the self-discipline to spin my guilt into prose.

ANYWAY.

The New York trip was wonderful, and clarifying in ways that I didn’t anticipate but that make sense in retrospect. Within mere hours of my arrival, I began to experience a sort creeping unease. There was disorientation at finding myself at “home,” which almost immediately gave way to guilt that it didn’t quite feel like “home,” which then gave way to relief that it’s not, entirely, “home.” And though those feelings softened and became more textured, they didn’t exactly change over the next three weeks.

Miraculously these feelings were not brought on by the experience of emerging, jetlagged and disoriented, at Penn Station at rush hour after getting off the plane. OMG who are all these people and why are they in such a hurry is an actual text message I sent multiple people at the time, because Penn Station at rush hour is not a mode of human behavior that exists in Germany and apparently I’ve gotten soft.

But I did grow up in Manhattan, and a certain level of day-to-day chaos seems to be encoded into my vibrational frequency. Within a couple of days of being back I started to feel this familiar thing inside me, getting sharper and faster and brighter. And when I would ride the subway or walk below 14th Street or see the buildings rise around Central Park, an internal voice would start to hum that this place, New York, is the only real place in the whole world and I don’t understand how anyone lives anywhere else.

I love New York City, in a way that I never will and never could love any other place on earth. It’s home, after all, and that voice and the particular energy that produces it is a very real thing - my childhood best friend and I talk about it constantly. But my best friend has lived somewhere else for many years now, and I have also heard her talk about a complicated sense of relief that, as much as she thrives on being home, she doesn’t actually have to stay there.

Up until this year, I had never lived any place other than New York that I actually liked. So I had no idea what that strange mixture cellular-level love, and relief at not living here, actually was. But now I think I’m starting to.

You guys, New York stresses me out.

I’m not talking about Penn-Station-at-rush-hour stress - I thrive on that nonsense and probably always will. I’m talking about Why have all these 26-year-olds published a novel and I haven’t? stress. What does it mean that I’m 34 and can’t afford both an apartment and health insurance? stress. Why don't I have a partner and how do I find one even though I’m not sure I actually care about this at all? stress. 

Why do I feel confused and bad about my life even though I actually mostly like my life? stress.

A lot of people who aren’t from New York City come to it with the idea that it will turn them into whatever it is they’re meant to be, or at least allow them to experiment with what they might be. But if you grow up in New York City, you don’t have that relationship with it - it’s just the place that you’ve always been you. You have no frame of reference that isn’t built on an entire lifetime’s worth of ideas about who you are and where you fit, within a very extreme set of cultural standards for achievement. And for all of its supposed freedom New York is actually a very difficult place to take stock of your life in a way that’s healthy - it’s so expensive, and so competitive, and so performative, and much more judgmental than outsiders often realize. You can’t just be, you have to keep up with it, all the time. 

While I have plenty of Berlin-related anxieties, they’re currently more logistical than existential. And logistical anxieties are solvable, even if you have some hair-tearing moments in the process. Why just today, I went to the Bürgeramt (Germany’s version of the DMV-slash-Purgatory) and FINALLY sorted out this bullshit that’s been making my mail go missing since August. If I spoke German I would probably have figured all this out in August, but… such is the tradeoff for living in a place that, I suddenly realize, makes me rather stupidly happy.

Last week I was actually shocked by how absolutely, purely happy I was to be back - even that first afternoon, when I was so jetlagged that I nearly stepped in front of a car on my way to the hardware store. Sunday I took one of my favorite walks, along the Landwehr Kanal en route to a meeting in Kreuzberg, and the sight of the last orange leaves clinging to the trees in front of those terraced European-style buildings literally made my heart swell in my chest.

I am here. My clothes, and some of my books, are also now here. I’m making more plans with more people, and lining up volunteer work, and thinking more seriously about next year’s travel, and looking for my own apartment in 6-12 months no longer feels like an abstraction obscured by a cloud of “what ifs.” I’m weirdly relaxed, not counting this morning’s debacle where I lost my keys on the way to bureaucratic Purgatory and then had to take a cab. I somehow, crazily, did this thing where I moved to a foreign country and it’s working.

I swear, my heart physically swelled.

I know there will be times when things in Berlin are lacking and wrong. Odds are I won’t stay here forever. And there’s an important thing Germany does not have: my family, and access to a circle friends I’ve cultivated over literal decades. Hellooooo guys I know I’ve told you this like a million times but PLEASE COME VISIT ME. Berlin is awesome. I like it and you will too.

All the love,
T


Tania Strauss
www.tlstrauss.com
IG: @taniastrauss