It was just another summer night, as the bus took me across town and my mp3player whispered songs in my ears. Then suddenly Rush’s Fly by Night started playing and I was struck with the realization that the day that marked the two years since my arrival in Germany had passed more than a month ago and I hadn’t even noticed. Two whole years since this song played in my head while the plane took off and I cast one last glance at my hometown.
Quiet and pensive
My thoughts apprehensive
The hours drift away
Leaving my homeland
Playing a lone hand
My life begins today
The lyrics portrayed so perfectly how I was feeling back then: the impulse to leave the suffocating – though affectionate – familiarity of a city that watched me grow up, and venture into a place where no one knew me – simply put, Start a new chapter, find what I’m after, it’s changing every day.
Days, weeks, months passed me by. And even though my life is far from glamourous – my hours are mostly spent between chores, academic reading and writing and the occasional stroll through my Berliner suburbia -, so much has happened in these two years. Sometimes I’m amazed by how things change fast and almost effortlessly, when we find ourselves in a new country or city, starting everything from scratch.
My four months in Mannheim almost seem like a blur, a distant time when I not even knew which university – if any – would accept me. Its small town dynamics were so easy to understand, like a rehearsal of what was yet to come here in Berlin. Only the good friends I made there remain crystal clear in my mind and, whenever we meet, I feel transported back to those days.
Berlin feels like dozens of cities in one and, mixed together with memories scattered around all of them, these cities feel like home now. It is from here that I plan my adventures to other places around the globe, the brief yet essential returns to Fortaleza and my next steps, big or small.
I love arriving in this city. My favorite route is from Tegel: Moabit welcomes me quietly yet not tidily, then Tiergarten shows off with its embassies, Schloss Bellevue and the Siegessäule, Schöneberg says hello with its colorful suburban flair, until finally the streets leading to my apartment, in all their glorious plainness, fill me with warmth. By then I’m already listing what I need to buy at the supermarket around the corner and deciding when I’m going to unpack.
It took me long to feel that my life is mostly here now. I guess this only really dawned on me a couple of months ago. The thing about leaving home in the age of social media is that it can sometimes feel like you never left at all. Your body is in this new place, but your mind and heart remain firmly rooted to what they knew before. If you’re not careful, the Internet might become your Mirror of Erised: it is amazing to be able to always chat with that beloved friend who lives across the ocean, but at the end of the day you can’t go out for a beer with them. Slowly, I learned how to welcome new people into my life without neglecting the ones that have always been there for me, no matter the distance.
I never regretted my decision to leave. I don’t know if one day Berlin will wake in me the Fly by Night kind of feelings Fortaleza did. I just hope I can always find the balance between the places – and people – that changed my life in the past and the place I’m living in the present, finding room for all of them in my heart.