I’ve been reflecting quite a bit recently on my decision to live in Berlin — what am I doing here? how did I end up here? Is this what I really want? With spring and the eventual end of winter, it finally feels like the right time to figure out some things.
Trying to figure out what to do with my life has been a lifelong challenge. But one that I’m prone to think is fairly universal among my generation. With the internet came all this connectedness, and with that came too many distractions. I didn’t travel to figure out my life, but it did happen regardless. Traveling around the world taught me more about myself in such a short time than just about anything else I’ve done. I learned how important it is to enjoy life —if something isn’t enjoyable, best to get out of there as fast as you can.
When backpacking around the world I filled up more than a handful of Moleskine notebooks with lists of varying specificity. Things meant to help me figure out my life. In one entry from May 2011 (I was in Vietnam):
There are two things I think I’m fairly certain about: I want to live in London and I want to work with books. I could spend my weekends jetting around Europe. A beach one weekend; Italy the next. London’s great nightlife, music. I could really live it up with the right attitude and the right amount of money.
Oops. That wasn’t exactly what happened. Instead, I ended up in Berlin at a startup company which pretty much ruined any shred of respect for the travel startup industry. Though it was discouraging at first, I figured out what I wanted out of life and worked at that instead. It seemed to work for a while, life has even been pretty exciting. It’s been over a year since then and I find myself worrying and wondering about what to do with my life all over again. I suppose life really is like a circle.
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On a separate entry from my travel journals…in a rather personal list from January 2011 (while in India—where I did most of my internal philosophizing), I wrote down the things I wanted to improve about myself and what I’d need to do to solve it. Pale skin? Live in a sunnier climate. Out-of-shape? Run. Too skinny? Exercise daily. Eat healthier. And so on.
I also wrote…
I need to live somewhere with TimeOut Magazine and a Burberry store.
The two pretty much epitomized what I was looking for out of life: amazing nightlife & culture, and a city with a fashion sense. Coming from Barcelona the other day, I guess I realize how much of a big city I’m still looking for. Berlin is a big city, yes, but it’s also rather small. People still like to refer to it as a “village.” I see it as an adolescent. The city is still coming of age since that momentous turn of events in 1989.
And maybe that’s what makes it so exciting to be here. I’m trying to figure myself out just as much as the city is. The beauty of Berlin is that you can make it whatever you want it to be. If only I knew what the hell I want!
Up to now, I’ve been in pretty good control of my own life. I’ve known what I wanted since I got here to Berlin, and more often than not I’ve managed to make it happen. You’ve probably noticed quite a bit of philosophizing on this blog of late—I hope you’ll still bear with me while I figure out what more is to come.
Are you currently trying to figure out your life? Have any tips?
“f something isn’t enjoyable, best to get out of there as fast as you can.” – I am exactly at this point where I am trying to figure out what I want and this sentence is just wonderful. thank you.
Thanks Sandra – glad I could be helpful.
I’m more at the point of my life where a big voice has told me “Dude, you’re not in control of your life. Make decisions, yes, but stop acting like it’s your responsibility to define your entire existence, because it’s not.”
Interesting perspective Claire!
“if something isn’t enjoyable, best to get out of there as fast as you can.”
This post really resonated with me, I’m also in a city I didn’t plan on living in, one considered to be coming of age and one I love. And as for tips, let life figure you out!
“Let life figure you out” – good idea!! Thanks for your comment Andrew…and glad this post resonated with someone besides myself! Sometimes it’s hard to tell when I get personal.
I heard a lot about Moscow and I wondering if could visit it next year , I like to visit saint-petersburg as well .
I’m still working out what I want to do when I grow up. I’ve re-invented myself so many times, been a banker, telecoms specialist, actor, television presenter, realtor and traveller. The most consistent thing I have done is being a writer. This is my main focus in life. I’ve pretty much sorted out my home life, I have a wonderful husband, a great home in the UK (mortgage paid off) and a little part time job.
However I still feel somewhat disenchanted, as though I’ve not fulfilled my own potential, or found the right groove yet. I want to travel more, see more, experience more. I am happy with my relationship and fill that element of my life is amazingly fulfilling, but the rest of it…. It’s the big unanswered question. What happens next?
Have I too many choices available to me?
I really have to thank you for this post, it’s really though provoking.
As always thank YOU for the kind and insightful comments! Your description of “more” is pretty close to what I’m feeling. I don’t know what it is about me, but I’m always craving for whatever “more” is.
Where is that illusive More? Our next major travel plan is in 3 years time, where Thailand, Vietnam and Balli are call to us to visit and spend more time there.
At the moment it does feel as though I am treading water, doing the daily drudgery. We scheduled a weekend travel adventure for each month of the year. But after the last one in Munich, we were exhausted and jamming everything into such a short time became a burden rather than an enjoyable experience.
So what to do in the interim basis. My inbred impatience is already tapping an anxious foot!
Like Jonathan I have re-invented myself so many times over the years, investor, realtor, hotelier, publisher and now media personality etc… I don’t think you EVER really figure out your life or life path because things evolve, people change and opportunities that you never dreamed of, occassionally pop up. Its not about having a big plan it’s more about being ready to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. I am a big believer in moving forward. Even if you don’t know where you’re going exactly, keep moving forward. It never ceases to amaze me how much is revealed once you take that first step!
Moving forward is great advice! Thank you DJ for the little bit of insight into your own life.
I’m with you. I am in the process of moving to LA, which doesn’t have quite the international ring to it that Berlin does, but is pretty exciting nonetheless. A part of me wants to skip ahead to when I’ve established an apartment and a community in LA, but apparently that’s not really possible.
LA sounds pretty cool to me! I’m more and more curious about that city. Never had much interest in it until I started hearing more about it from friends and other people I admire. I know what you mean about wanting to skip ahead!
I too find myself thinking (almost on a daily basis) what am I doing with my life, but I wonder if most people think the same thing! I’m not sure how many people feel fully contented with their life – without thinking should I be doing this? should I have done that?
You’re probably right Jennifer that everyone has these same thoughts and worries. Always nice to know that I’m not alone!
I just wrote down ” Move back to Berlin and get a job at a tech start-up”. After reading your story above, it looks like that can be a good/bad thing.
Any advice for an American kid wanting to move back?
Thank you Adam, for allowing yourself to post about this topic and including your own situation/perspective. For me, it can not be more timely.
Yes, we probably all struggle with these concepts to varying degrees. I sense the similarities in all our posts, and that gives me comfort that we are not alone in this journey.
I guess, the only thing I have to add is that we are all fortunate. Fortunate to have the ability to search, explore, live, feel pain, happiness and all that this journey has to offer. It has given me great comfort, in times when the path is not clear, to reflect on how fortunate I am to be able to be here…wherever that is.
May not be an answer, but something to help along the way…
I totally agree, Adam – we are all finding out what to do at our age… I think it’s a lifelong process, and we may possibly sit at age 50 and still try to figure stuff out. It is all momentary. But there’s no harm in that at all, as long as we have fun doing the figuring out!
I feel like I’m ALWAYS trying to figure it out. I seem to be on a particular path (freelance writing + teaching others about breaking into the biz), and then another idea will pop in my head (i.e. traveling around the world w/ my kid) and I’ll get sidetracked.
I think taking it one day at a time helps. I hope I don’t need to plan too far into the future. And I hope I get it right, especially when it comes to parenting.
It seems lots of bloggers are filled with these questions at the moment, myself included. I sometimes wonder if contentment exists. We’re always evolving and have to adapt our desires to that. As someone said to me earlier today — expectations equal unhappiness.
The Modern Nomad has a pretty awesome post on “Finding Yourself” and reflection on the things you’ve done in life…definitely worth a read. Its all just a journey and it all builds who you are today…good and bad. Seems like in the grand scheme of things…you’ve got it pretty good! http://www.themodernnomad.com/finding-vs-creating-yourself/