Help! My Internal Drill Sergeant’s mental stomach crunch regime is killing me.
I spent this past summer in Berlin technically homeless. Moving around when yr backpacking is fine – but after three years in the same city, not so much…
Through a series of circumstances (read: “this expat’s life in Berlin”), I found myself suddenly out of my apartment, and moving from short-term stay to short-term stay. Every few weeks, I’ve been relocating, carrying only the bare minimum of stuff I need for music and teaching – and anything not absolutely essential for either of those two things was kept in storage.
It’s a workout – and not just physically. It involves anticipating everything I might need for the next few weeks, and guestimating that which I won’t. It also means that, just as I make each new temporary home, I’m reminding myself that I can’t make myself too at home, as I’ll just have to leave again in a few weeks. And if I stop keeping that move-out date in mind, then it’s suddenly upon me and I’m unprepared for the next move.
(Oh, and forget about larger-scale projects or anything that extends beyond basic survival. Concentrating on writing music? Luxury. Recording vocals properly? Luxury. Buying extra “just in case” groceries? Luxury. And “Luxury” = “Nope”).
Living like this requires planning ahead – something which, conversely, becomes increasingly difficult the longer you’re without a fixed address.
Today, I finished moving into my first long-term dwelling in three months. Many of the things I’m unpacking I’ve done just fine without during that time. They were solutions to a living situation that I’m no longer in, but not essential to my survival, and/or too bulky to move around every few weeks. So: do I unpack them anyway, and fill up my new space with those old solutions? Or do I throw them out?
The latter idea appeals to the part of me I like to call “Nomadic”, whose credo is, “I MUST be unencumbered!”. Another, more “Tsk-Don’t-Be-Wasteful” part of me counters that with, “Well, you’ve already got this stuff, why not make use of it?” However, it’s the third, hoard-ophobic part of me which threatens to tip the conversation over from pragmatism into panic, urgently interjecting with, “Throw it out! Throw it out NOW, before it multiplies and devours us all!” He’s the guy who will jettison any and all cargo – leftovers, keepsakes, people – he believes has even the slightest potential to sink the boat, whether it be by weight, by taking up precious real estate, or by softening the team with sentimentality. This is my Internal “Don’t Be A Pussy, Pussy!” Drill Sergeant.
A bit of back story for my Internal Drill Sergeant. As a kid, I was a hoarder – and a particularly untidy one. One of the coping strategies for this reformed hoarder is to never have enough stuff to make a mess with. This requires a particularly stringent approach to daily living. There are no impulse buys; even essentials require a quick “pro/con” check. So while my Internal Drill Sergeant may seem inordinately harsh or even psycho to you, he is in actuality the vigilant sentinel keeping my messy tendencies in check. He’s the reason that Ray “Shining Example of Tidy Minimalism” Mann is indeed known to the world as Ray “Shining Example of Tidy Minimalism” Mann.
So: I’m currently contemplating a small, cheap fruit bowl I haven’t used or even seen since July. Way back when I last had a fixed address, it sat on the far right corner my desk, within easy snacking distance while I worked on music (or, more often, music-induced administrudgery). Does it need to be back on this desk? I’m enjoying the space – it gives me the feeling I can stretch out, at long last, and I really want this feeling to last.
After months of stress with all kinds of things (money, work, computer, tax, health insurance, all wrapped in that ongoing homelessness thing), this is the kind of problem I by far prefer to have.
And if yr asking, “If life in Berlin is this difficult, why keep doing it?”, I’ll kindly direct you to the following response, which I prepared earlier: