I moved to Berlin in February for work.
I suppose I should divulge what my job is. I am a historian. Yes, we exist outside of History Channel programming and very rare news program discussions (though, confession: one of my Life Dreams is to be an actress in a History Channel program. I want to be an old-timesy person who thoughtfully writes things with a feather on parchment and does a voice-over about said thoughtful thoughts).
My job does not sound cool and it is even less cool. I mainly sit in archives and libraries, alone. I write, alone. Sometimes I do have meetings, but they’re usually with my superiors discussing my work, and as a rule they annihilate it. Academics is tough love. You generally do not hear one positive word said about you until you gain your next degree (at the ceremony of which your professor will talk you up like you re-invented history and your parents will cry, while you sit there pondering your poor life choices and how long it will take to file for unemployment).
What I mean to say is: I work alone. This is not usually a problem since a) I enjoy working in my underpants on my bed and b) I have plenty of friends at home who are happy to drag me to the pub, providing I don’t talk about genocide too much. But in Berlin, I don’t know many people, which means I don’t have a whole lot of social contact.
This makes me the most grateful fucking person ever to talk to in the streets of Berlin. Need directions? Even if I don’t know them, I will happily point you to some streets and then some more streets. You work in a shop and want to discuss produce? DUDE. I have loads of opinions on this week’s strawberries. You’re an insane conspiracy theorist who wants me to join your naked church and worship a prophet who doesn’t believe in the sun? It’s not like I currently belong to a church, I’m listening, man. Last week I tried to bribe a bird into being my friend by offering it large pieces of my sandwich.
A year ago a friend of mine moved to a city in Germany on her own to do similar work. She told me that after a few weeks or so she started talking to herself in her house. I laughed at her and called her a loser.
In unrelated news, I suppose karma is a thing.
My motor skills are questionable at best in the most ideal conditions (solid ground, no shiny distractions, maybe something to hold onto). I don’t know why this is, I have just never been particularly graceful or stable. From an early age, I was shit at stuff other kids were good at, like cartwheels, or tumbling on the playground, or walking, for that matter. My knees were scraped and blue during most of my childhood (and also a little bit during my adult life) because I managed to trip over small things and spectacularly slide over the ground for a few meters, leaving most of the skin of my legs behind in the process.
Physical education classes were pure hell if any kind of gymnastics were to be done. While other girls did backflips off trampolines, I just jumped backwards off trampolines, unable to figure out what I was doing differently from the others. I kind of thought I had made all of this worse in my head until I recently cleared out my childhood room and found my old report cards from primary school. I had good scores on every subject and skill because I was that kid (and since my damn hippie parents sent me to a Montessori-school, this included stuff like ‘learning with others’ and ‘keeping personal space positive’ and ‘drawing mandelas’) (all of these things were on there. ALL OF THESE.). I only had mediocre scores on two points: neatness (really great job of correcting that, Montessori. I’m writing this from my bed which I share with most of my clothes and books) and P.E. The comments the teacher wrote made me sound a little bit handicapped. ‘Katie tries really hard to run as fast as the other kids!’ and ‘Kate isn’t as scared of the ball as she used to be!’. I won’t divulge how old I was when these comments were written. I feel like some things should be kept private.
The law of gravity is one I’ve grown to respect over the years. I was not sad when I had my last mandatory physical education class in high school. It’s not that I don’t enjoy exercise, it’s that I don’t enjoy doing it upside down. I quickly realized that outside of P.E., I didn’t actually need the skills gym teacher after gym teacher had tirelessly (and in some cases, sadistically) tried to impart on me. I have yet to run into a large wooden object in the streets that absolutely needed to be tumbled over and only very rarely do I encounter a rope that needs to be climbed. On a daily basis, I am very well able to hide the fact that my limbs are only partially connected to my brain. There is the occasional incident (I slipped and fell over a banana peel in the street the other day. It sounds like I’m making it up and I really wish I was), but if you don’t look too closely I can pass as an able bodied human.
Except for when it snows. We never used to get snow where I live, but for the past years our weather has gotten a lot more extreme. Snow changes everything. The ground is no longer a ground, it’s a dangerous slippery territory where every step can be your last one. I don’t know how people go to places anymore. As soon as I leave my house I walk like an 80 year old lady, shuffling around, trying to avoid the snowiest parts of the sidewalk. I have to stick out both of my arms for balance, let out little involuntary screams and check with every step whether I’m stable or not. It doesn’t work. I end up on my ass at least twice every (short winter).
Then again, in my case, there’s nothing like a couple of bruised knees to make you feel young again.
If you’re into lomography, the title of this post will likely hurt your eyes. ‘Learning?’ you’re probably saying now, because you talk to your computer, ‘you don’t LEARN lomography, it’s SUPPOSED to be random and imperfect!’. Look, I know. I read the FAQ. But here’s the thing: I am really terrible at photography. I know this, because I took a course once. It did not end well. I won’t really get into it because I feel it’s better that I reveal my neurotic tendencies slower and over the course of a long period of time, but I was just really crap at it and I started skipping my expensive, voluntary classes because that is what I do when I don’t immediately excel at something.
Anyway, next up was of course: learning to do it myself by going online. It seemed like a pretty good idea, because I’d be able to fail in private until I got good at it and then I could premiere my new skills and say things like ‘I guess I just have a knack for it’ and ‘it’s not about technical knowledge, it’s about having an eye for it’. So one evening I googled ‘how do I take awesome photos’ and got ready for some Learning. However, I quickly discovered that photography is really hard. It requires learning about exposure and aperture and those things are basically just a bunch of numbers that make no sense and it all reminded me too much of math so I said ‘fuck it’ and drank wine instead.
At this point, I had already given up and decided to pick something else to showcase my artistic abilities. I knitted a bit (knitting takes SUCH a long time. I made 1/5th of a scarf and then came the wine again) and bought an eyeshadow palette to mimic some stuff I saw on Youtube (‘Rainbow Eye’? More like ‘fell face-first into the mud’. Wine.). It was a challenging time. Luckily, not long before Christmas, a friend of mine showed me a camera she got off Ebay. It was an old Soviet camera and she insisted it took cool photos. Even though I never questioned her sanity for buying decades-old communist spyware, I soon discovered that more people were actually doing this and it had a name. The Lomography website had pages and pages of cool-looking photos that a lesser sophisticated eye would call ‘badly shot photos’ but which I call ‘this looks like something I can do’.
As it turns out, taking crappy pictures: not so easy. My first batch included puzzling images of my father with two heads (creepy) and half of my brother’s face. But I read up a bit more, gathered some tips, and have now bombarded lomography as The Next Thing I Will Become Good At. Check out these posts if you want to see if I can make that happen. But I will warn you: if I fail, I will just delete all of them.