I’m in Berlin, my home town, though “town” hardly sounds adequate, but nobody says home city. Coming home has been a strange experience since I first left.
Let me inject something here:
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Tiffany Aching (Terry Pratchett)
I left. I travelled. I saw quite a few different parts of the world, even though not nearly enough. I changed. I knew I would, at least I expected it. Unless you close your eyes and ears, your whole being, to the experience, a journey like that will change you.
I suppose that is the whole point. You don’t set out to return the same you left. You want to find a new set of eyes.
And I did. I had no plans. I don’t think you could have set expectations, because you have no idea what will happen, and even if you had, anything is possible. I could never have planned the journey I ended up taking and its effect on me was profound.
I wanted to write about Berlin, but I don’t know if I can. I love this city. But I only found out how much when I left. I had to leave to see it through the eyes of a stranger, they eyes of a first-time visitors.
It was home. Nothing more, nothing less. I loved it for what it was, but I don’t think I appreciated it very much. When I told people where I was from they usually said “cool”, “great city”, “I always wanted to go there”.
I’d nod my head in acknowledgment and utter a non-committal “yeah, I guess so”. It took a while to know so. I learned more about my city whilst away than I ever knew living here.
Returning for the very first time after a year and a half abroad, I saw Berlin in a way I never had before “with new eyes and extra colours”.
The last two days I realized that there is a clarity and crispness to the way I look at the city that I’ve never experienced when I still lived here and it’s always there when I visit. I notice many familiar corners and all the changes that occurred since my last visit, new buildings that had not previously been there, new building sites. I see the progress of those construction sites.
My city. My home town. But I am a stranger. I’m not the same person that I was when I left. I have different eyes now and looking at the city in High Definition feels a little like an out of body experience.
The difference is quite literally that of looking at one of those old bulky TVs and one of the new Hi Def ones. It’s the only comparison I have and I find it most accurate.
I can come home, but I can never return home. I’ve long since discovered that I won’t ever live in Berlin again. I’ve considered it. I even made plans to move back here, but found I couldn’t. There was no way for me to return, no turning back. It would have been as if I tried to become the person I was before I left, which was and is impossible.
Thus I have to keep moving forward. My journey may never be over and I am okay with that. If there is no way back, I keep going on. I’ll find my place eventually.
At least I know where I am from and learned that I can remove myself from Berlin, but Berlin will always be a part of me.
Let me end it with a little more Tiffany Aching, who is one of my favourite Discworld characters:
“It is important that we know where come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you do not know where you are, and if you not know where you are then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”