Letting Go of Berlin

photos: steffimarla

We love the submissions from our readers that we get sometimes. It’s lovely to see their perspective of the city, which could be a completely different one from our own, and interesting nonetheless. A few days ago I received a submission that made me all teary-eyed. A girl spoke about how she had a hard time letting go of Berlin, even 5 years after she moved away from here. She calls herself a snowflake in the end of her emotional and beautiful text, which instantly reminded me of a photo of a seagull in front of the Berliner Dom by Instagrammer steffimarla. So I decided to bring these two together by combining the melancholic words with the moody and mysterious photos of Steffi. Her pictures paint a really romantic picture of Berlin, full of memories and emotions that perfectly reflect the sentiment of the text. Enjoy!

Dear Berlin, let go of me. It’s been 5 years.

I left you – for what I felt would be a short affair with New York, and to crown my academic ascent with that Ivy League graduate degree. And then I sold out to a promising career path. In Luxembourg of all places. Best of both worlds, I told myself – build a career, save some, and touch up on my German before I make the next step back into your alluring embrace. I kept coming back to you. For reassuring coffees with those closest to me – the friends who stayed. For the Autumn fog around Oberbaumbrücke, and for the frosty evenings of pre-Christmas gallery hopping, and for those sneaky weekends, with ecstatic repeats of sparks with old lovers.

Meanwhile, life happened – I fell in love for the first time, and married the lucky fella. We work in the same place. We have a house, with a garden. And I now drive a car, not a bicycle. I am boxed into this wrapping of bourgeois normality, spiced up with some expat anxiety. Behind my career development plan, appointments for short travels, and home-made dinners, I continue to be – on some level – at a loss about life. And my love for my partner can’t fill that space. It’s my space and my void! But here in Luxembourg I can’t talk about it openly, or admit that I have still some exploration to do before I zoom in. Or worse – I suspect I’ll spend most of my life exploring, as one of those millennials who has lots of ambition, some talent, and not enough focus.

I am drowning in melancholy – life is not hard enough to prevent me from looking backward, and I am finding out that my drive and ambition are not so powerful as to overrule all other aspects of my being. I know this cannot go on forever – sooner or later one settles and spins out a new narrative to retroactively justify their choices. I try to do it sometimes, but I still see right through.

Bear City, you are like an old lover – the one who never said “I love you,” but took you further on the path of passion than anyone else. I no longer know if it’s so much about you, or how you made me feel that inexplicable chemistry – when one moves through the city’s vibrations, with peace, openness, fulfillment in the now, and a serene smile. One becomes aware of this chemistry even more just because it cannot be felt elsewhere. All the good memories remain and overpower the rest. And one tends to revisit them when things get hard, when one wants to run away.

The common wisdom goes: it’s not mature to run away. Mature people suck it up and stick around. Get a mortgage. Or a kid. Or both. And fill in the existential void with what seem like immovable burdens. But here’s my gut feeling: the void cannot be filled. Maybe it can be concealed temporarily, only to come back later, scented with regret and bitterness. And even as I allow my gut feeling to come through, I still feel paralyzed by the realization that only hard choices remain, and I may be dreaming of coming back to what is no longer there.

Berlin, you’ve scarred me for life with your lightness, and the curse to compare your vibes and ways with those of all other places. But I would not want to live onward without your scar. Maybe our story is not yet over… Don’t let go of me, Berlin!


Frank by
on January 22nd, 2016
updated on February 3rd, 2016
in Photos, Stories

14 Responses to “Letting Go of Berlin”

  1. Angel Says:

    Woww Really beautiful place , Lovely View ! NICE POST 🙂

  2. Roland Says:

    Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

  3. Caroline Says:

    This reminds me so much of Luisa Weiss’s book The Wednesday Chef, when she left Berlin for America and a career. She had all she thought she could ever want in New York, but missing Berlin tormented her until she finally returned. Beautifully written.

  4. Karl Says:

    basically she decided to sell her soul to devil to pursue a career, money and status, now deal with it darling, here in Berlin most of us will never get rich and we couldn’t care less

  5. Charlotte Says:

    This describes beautifully so many things I wonder about lately — what a heartbreaking piece!

  6. Anja Says:

    Really beautiful, I can totally understand the feeling of belonnging to that one particular place. And when you can’t have it – you miss it

  7. Ania Says:

    Oh God. I share this feelings towards Berlin totally. I spent my Erasmus there. I miss this city everyday and come back every once in a while. And I still think of coming back for good someday.
    This city made me leave (at least) a half of my heart there, and I want it to be back together again!
    And since I’m graduating soon with no vision for a future career (do I really want “career”?), I think the best thing I could do would be to come back to Berlin, get any shit job that could bring me enough money to live (and, yae, maybe help me to finally improve my German) and. just. be. happy.

  8. Bodger Says:

    Cool photos, but a pretty sad read. She sounds intelligent and capable so it seems the only thing holding her back from what she says she wants is her desperation to live up to the idea of what a successful life that she was programmed with.

    What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

  9. mariona Says:

    Right in the feels <3

  10. Sonny Says:

    I was reading on waiting for this article to start, seemed like one long introduction… where’s the story? I’m intrigued.

  11. Teonie Says:

    Actually… And I’m sorry to say… You are wrong .. Mature people don’t stick around…
    Please stop to be victim of circumstances and your fears. Stand out for what you are… What you love…and take responsibility for your own decisions.

  12. Nogueira Says:

    Such a passionate text. Really worth reading 🙂

  13. Sena Says:

    i spent almost one year as an erasmus student in this amazing city .it is incredible how much the city opened y eyes to things i totally ignored in my life , how it made me appreciate life and see the world from other perspectives , every spot has its own story , every district reflects passion and freedom , and love , i still remember every street i walked through , people i met and the wonderful life i experienced
    Berlin ! i still regret the fact that i left you , i still watch my pictures and remember all the amazing moment i spent in your lovely districts , but i will come back to you again to hug you and never let go of you
    Love you Berlin

  14. LAB Says:

    Great piece. Never be afraid to run away!

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