One Year on the Merry-Go-Round

A scant two weeks ago, I celebrated a milestone: the one-year anniversary of my arrival in Berlin. While circumstances made it hard to celebrate (read: I was in New York at the time, preparing for my trip back here after a three-week family-and-friends visit), my location gave me a chance to reflect on what a year is has been, and to raise my proverbial glass (of wine this time, because I avoided beer like the plague while I was home, knowing what I would have upon my return) to a year that has had its ups and downs, its problems and frustrations, but has unequivocally been the most well-spent year of my life.

But moving on, since one must always look forward, my return has presented me with more than enough challenges and surprises to last me for the next year. Since quitting my job at the evil advertising agency that will remain unnamed, I decided somewhat foolishly that my next life plan would be to get back into all the writing I did in college and before, and really try my hand as a freelancer. Now, there are a couple of things one should always know before making a decision like this, and I will list them in no particular order. 1) Your job security is close to nil, and in order to write an article for someone and actually get paid for it (in some cases, to actually have it published at all) one must be prepared to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. 2) There will be approximately a thousand people in your city alone (even in the relatively unambitious capital of Germany) who are ahead of you because they started earlier, had better contacts, had better luck, had better whatever. 3) You will spend several long days and nights a week obsessing over your own inadequacy, which will usually interfere with your sleep patterns. 4) You will come to envy everyone in your chosen field who is doing better than you are, and in your own inadequate mind, that means you just. hate. everyone. 5) Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but I’m sure as hell not the only one starting at the bottom of a very long uphill climb, and wondering whether to bring along sneakers, cleats, or ice picks and ropes.

Right now, along with juggling about ten different contacts, some who have responded, most who have not, I also have the added little tidbit of soul-devouring terror that comes along with knowing that my visa only has one month more on it to go. This means that come October 15, I must have at least started the process of getting a new one if I am to remain in the country. This puts my time here at both a high that is unlike anything I have felt since my first few months here (every day precious…must live every day to the fullest and all that quatsch) and a low that mirrors the time I spent in January with no job and no visa yet, wondering what was to become of me. And what is to become of me? Well, I’m trying to get a visa as a freelancer, otherwise known as a Selbständige Tätigkeit (English: Independent Employment) visa, and to get this I am going to need letters—three of them to be exact—that detail what a “diligent, important, crucial and indispensable” worker I could be to three separate companies, if I were to get this visa. These letters of intent, I reasoned at the beginning, should not be hard to come by. I was wrong. So I’ve had to turn to friends of friends, contacts of contacts, and I’ve actually done all right so far. But all right is really not good enough when it’s either three letters that will get you to the promised land or nothing at all, and so while I have one letter in hand and another most likely secured by next week, I’m already losing sleep over just exactly where the third is going to come from. (If you’re reading this and you have an idea, by the way, please contact me right away. In fact, if you’re reading this and you know how I can write something for money, please contact me as well.)

But onto more interesting things. Specifically, roommate gossip. I got back early on Tuesday morning after one of the most painless flights I have ever experienced (non-stop on Continental from Newark to Tegel; seriously kids, check it out) to a house with not two roommates but one. When we last left off I had gotten much closer to roommate #2 after roommate #1 had left town for vacation back with his family. Roommate #2 was really cool and fun and had a lot of great friends and a wonderful girlfriend and I felt like I was fast becoming close friends with him, while roommate #1 was appearing increasingly distant, always at home and always in his room with the door closed. Roommate #1 left on vacation (from what I don’t know, since he has no job) the same day roommate #2 got back from vacation, and here’s the strange part: that was over a month ago, and roommate #1 has not returned, and has not answered repeated emails from roommate #2 concerning his whereabouts. Roommate #2 and I had already talked vaguely about moving out and getting a place together somewhere in Kreuzberg or Neukölln (where, as is common knowledge on this blog, I have wanted to move back to pretty much since I left), but now we had another concern on our hands, namely, what had happened to roommate #1, and whether he had even paid the rent for the month (since he is responsible for transferring the bulk sum from his account to the account of our landlady after we pay him individually). We called her but couldn’t get through to her, and while an eviction notice has not yet shown up on our door, and we’re having a good amount of fun all by ourselves, something seems not quite right. In the meantime, roommate #2 sadly broke up with his awesome girlfriend of two years while I was away, nevertheless leaving him with a distinct sense of adventure and possibility and leaving me with the sense that my life was—surprise of all surprises—pretty much exactly the same. Still, it’s good to actually experience the distinctly foreign feeling of actually looking forward to coming home, and knowing that I’ll have a good time while I’m there.

The rest is silence (or at least, not really interesting enough to talk about).