Hello September

Hello, little blog. You’re looking a bit dusty.

I’ve been gone for a while, but for good reason: I’ve been busy moving house. The picture above is of my curtains. They’re a light green, and I chose them.

The past two months feel like they happened in a different dimension, away from the linear ‘plot’ that has been my 2019 so far. Soon after I’d finally found a flat in the south of Berlin, my body decided it was time to sit down, and one day I woke up with excruciating neck and shoulder pain. I get this sometimes when I’m very stressed. Usually it takes a few days to clear up, but this time I was at home, unable to sit up or lie down, for almost two weeks.

A move followed; with help from family, during a heat wave, with continuing pains in my neck and shoulders, I painted two and a half rooms, cleared out the old stuff, carried what remained, and spent countless hours on interior decorating websites and shops. Yesterday my chairs arrived, so I can write this sitting up with a happy spine. I’m still waiting for the sofa I ordered a month ago.

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Waking up this 1st September felt a little like waking up from a daze. Like most people, I’ve never lost that ‘back to school’ mindset, so I try to start September with an awareness of where I am and what the rest of the year might look like.

The last few months I have not been taking care of myself. I’ve had the minimum of rest that allowed me to go to work and build a new household at the same time. I haven’t been eating well, I haven’t exercised much. Meditation has been an item on a to do-list that I ticked off, but I haven’t been putting any effort into it. I read and write a lot less, and altogether, I haven’t been feeling like myself much. A shell that vaguely looks like me has been going to work and buying the cheapest white paint, but it doesn’t feel like me.

Today I went outside before it got too hot to get cash and buy some bread. Then I just kept walking.

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One of the things I really like about Berlin is how you never know what you’ll find next. You might be walking down a bustling, graffiti-covered street, the sidewalk lined left and right with chairs and tables from the local restaurants, passing cars competing for the loudest hip hop beats. Then you turn a corner, and all of a sudden you will find yourself in an almost serene quiet – wind gently whispering through the treetops, the sound of traffic a distant echo.

I’ve always had a ‘talent’ for living right around the corner from areas I could never afford. This morning’s walk reminded me how much I used to love walking through those areas, with their pretty architecture and abundant greenery. I’d walk for hours, just to think and daydream.

I haven’t daydreamed in ages.

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What I have been doing a lot of is watching Korean TV shows on Netflix. The two I’ve gotten sucked into are ‘Hello, My Twenties’ (Age of Youth), a coming-of-age tale about 5 girls in a student flat share, and ‘Something in the Rain’, a love story.

There is something about those two shows that I find soothing, much in the same way I enjoy those faceless daily vlogs that have become so popular on Youtube. So much care seems to go into these videos, and these shows as well. Their settings are both familiar and far removed enough from mine to feel comforting, and just lovely to look at. Everything is impossibly clean and everybody is impossibly well dressed.

But most of all, everybody is living their own story. While certain issues, like poverty or sexism, are addressed, others like racism, sexual orientation or environmental crises (really, any politics) are almost completely absent. Neither of these shows has tried to teach me anything; whatever ‘tough’ issues are addressed are dealt with so subtly this Western viewer could almost blink and miss them.

There’s a scene in season 2 of ‘Hello, My Twenties’ in which Ye-Eun, one of the girls in the house, says to her flatmate, ‘What do you think I’m asking you about? The North Korean nuclear missiles? Global warming? How was your date?’ When I watch these shows, I get to be excited about two people holding hands. I don’t have to think about society, or the planet, or today’s elections in some parts of Germany where a far-right party is expected to achieve record results. The most taxing thing I have to do is read subtitles. When I come back from a very long day of work and worries, I don’t want to watch ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (and never will). I want to watch two people having dinner together in a world where nothing threatens them. We call this ‘self-care’, I think.

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I hope you’ve had a nice summer. Personally, I look forward to autumn now.