Voices of Berlin is Berlin Untelevised‘s monthly Lives project. This project is to show the connection behind real lives within this both crazy and wonderful city by asking it’s many residents one question or theme a month. Our ultimate goal is to curate a collection of accounts on many topics, ending each month with an abstract poem created through that month’s selection of responses and, thus, transform Berlin into a poet.
January‘s theme for Voices of Berlin is How I Stay Alive.
“I keep reminding myself of my self-worth. But mostly I stay alive with small and oriented goals, especially in Berlin because you can make a plan but not stick to it. There are all these questions like What are you doing with your life? How long are you staying in Berlin? But especially in this kind of city, there are so many different opportunities and you can not predict anything so I decided to plan more weekly. Then you can pick your opportunities, even here tonight it was very spontaneous because then you can get overwhelmed and you can get worried about all the things you’ve missed and it’s fine because you can get surprised. You’re never disappointed.”
“Basically at the very base of it, you chose to stay alive. Once you deconstruct everything and realise you’ve made the choice to exist, you take responsibility for everything in your life, how you chose to spend every second, what fills you as time passes through you. I think I stay alive by making sure that I feel joy and gratefulness because I chose to do this, I decided it was important for me to exist and it’s not obvious that it’s important to exist… it’s wasn’t always obvious to me. You come into existence, at some point your brain comes online, you become a functioning unit and then you’re like… the fuck?
To me, being a kid and realising that I was a thing that existed was very disorienting because it felt like you’ve come into a room in the middle of a movie, and everyone’s been watching it for a long time… and you come in and you’re like Hey what’s happening? And they respond with SHHHHH!!! We’re watching the movie now! They gasp and say: Oh that was so scary and sad that guy just died! And you’re like Who is that guy and why is it important that he died? And they respond with: Shhh! So disrespectful! Don’t you care that this guy died? Don’t you have any feelings? It was the same watching TV with my parents and they’d say Oh this actor, he’s dead now and they’d be sad about it and I just thought Why?! Why is it sad that people die? Nobody fucking tells you this shit. You have to experience it yourself.
People just want to protect you from death when you’re a kid, and they say Oooh just don’t talk to them about it they’re too small they won’t get it. They’re going to see it anyway. It’s useless to protect people it’s just about the worst thing you can do to a human being, is to try and protect them. It’s terrible. Sure, if there’s a truck coming, push them out the way but when it comes to emotions, don’t protect people.
So… I mourned my own death. I think that was the moment that I really decided to be alive and I realised that it is a choice to exist or not to exist and I’m actually really happy to exist. It’s really hard to be upset or complain about things when you’ve really taken in how happy you are to exist, even with all the shit that happens. I’ve lived a difficult life, just like any other person and it’s not like that shit’s behind me and I know there’s a lot of darkness in front of me, I know there are these things coming but I have faith that I’m going to be fine through them, because I’ve made this decision I want to exist.”
“Let’s say that first of all, there’s my “official work” which is translating, I do some various articles and translate and write for publications. Then, we get into my hobbies but I still survive off my hobbies a little bit, so selling vintage, pop-ups a few times a year and I’ve just started trying to sell stuff online too, so there’s that.
Then…. We get into the sketchier, I-need-rent, Craigslist segment of how I survive, so a lot of fetish-oriented stuff, a lot of foot fetishes especially because I guess… it’s the least creepy. Funnily enough, I met this one guy who started off as a foot fetish job and then ended up asking me Can you translate my book? So I was like Woah! OK! Killing two birds with one stone I guess! So currently I’m doing that! Then we have the lighter side prostitution which is stuff like someone just wanting you to be naked like they just want to watch you being naked and then you get some money. There are many possibilities that aren’t full-on prostitution and that’s how I’m surviving. When it comes down to straight-up ‘come round my house, suck my dick, I’ll give you 100EU’. That, for some reason, I can’t get past.”
“I’m very interested in what I eat. Maybe it’s because I’m a vegetarian and I’m not completely vegan but I don’t eat that many milk products, so it’s kind of important to know about nutrition. You need to be aware that how you eat affects your mental health and your health in general… Also, to just make sure you’re talking to people, don’t lock yourself away in your apartment or your small space.
Oh… and to realise you’re so tiny compared to the rest of existence. So if you fuck up in something then in the big picture thing it doesn’t matter as much.”
“I get up in the morning saying today is the best day of your life because it’s the only one you have and on top of that you are…. And then I start counting what I have. You are in Berlin, you are young, you have an inspiring project you need to do, you have food in your fridge, you have a phone, you have people around you to support you. Then I start listing all the things that I have and that makes me motivated. Instead of a place of lack, I come from a place of gain.”
“So basically, I’m a terribly ill man and I was in Berlin for about 6 months but the thing is, I was so devastatingly ill and I had no access to healthcare and then I waited about 4 more months. I was almost dead. You are supposed to have a certain amount of haemoglobin in your blood, about 14 and I had 6, which is really dangerous actually. So I packed my bag, I got on the aeroplane and I showed up in America, showed up at a hospital and just… fell.
I spent the next somewhat 10 months trying to figure out how to make myself healthy again. I found little tricks, little things to do and really nothing helped. Eventually, I got put on medicine, they thought I was doing really good and I applied for school in Berlin. I thought: ‘Well, fuck it I’m gonna go, become a student, it’ll be great’ but about two days before I left I got told that I couldn’t get into the university but, you know, fuck it, I’ll just go and figure it out. Which is realllyyyy irresponsible but I just stocked up on a bunch of medicine and just thought to myself I have six months to figure it out before I probably will be deathly ill again. I got here and within one week I was sick again, the medicine didn’t even work and I was like fuck what am I going to do? So I thought I was going to die, so I went to Rome… to die. Specifically to die. I just thought… I’ll die in a hostel in Rome.
On the plane ride there, I remembered an old medicine, just in a dream, I fell asleep and woke up and was like I KNOW! I got to Rome, I went to a pharmacy and they don’t have rules there about doctors and shit. So I went in and asked for a “Bunch of this” and they were like “sure!”. I started taking it and now I’m doing pretty good. I still don’t have health insurance or anything but I just convinced this doctor to write me prescriptions. And… that’s how I stay alive.”
“I am fortunate enough to have never been in a financial situation that has been difficult for me. I’m very grateful for my family and how I’ve been brought up. So when your brain isn’t occupied with that… you have a very different idea of survival… What’s going to keep me happy? What’s going to make you enjoy your time and keep doing the next day or the next thing? Which is something I deal with quite often, now I come to think about it.
The closest I’ve been to death, I suppose, if you start from there. Not my personal death, but other than elder family members, my dad… this is what made my mental football start rolling. Before I came to Berlin and started doing something I really loved, something made me realise that this is how I need to survive is that my dad went into a psychotic coma, due to liver failure and that made me reevaluate… wow, this is a bit of a tightrope we all live on so we might as well, regardless of what may be the outcome, to get through it and to finish however much time we have and look back and go wow I really lived.
To stay alive is to do something you like or love, something that makes a difference to you. So I decided to quit my Product Design course at Sussex and get busy with something I liked and loved which was music, because I think the thing that I felt kept me going through the big-English-university mentality of let’s go out every night and get fucking wrecked, and get all these girls and this repetitive, mind-numbing, soul-killing experience, the time I felt most happy with myself and most alive is when I did these open mic sessions at the uni bar, which was on Monday nights. Maybe your closest friends would listen, maybe the few interested girls and boys at the front and… you start to realise that Ah! This is going to sustain me! The things that you genuinely feel passionate about instead of the things that you don’t. Then my dad got ill. It made me think well, I’m at university, I hate the social aspect of things, I don’t do ketamine so I really don’t fit in… I like to talk about more important matters rather than how high I’m gonna get next Tuesday.
It made me reevaluate where I was. I feel like this is what I’m getting to… the way that I survive is being surrounded by people that are passionate like I am and who I love…I don’t think I felt that in Sussex, and when I almost lost someone that I love more than anything in the universe, it made me want to get closer back to things that really kept me going because otherwise, you’d spend your life going in circles and not really living at all.”
“Basically, I’ve been unemployed for a very long time and anyone that knows me knows that I always need a job or gigs, and my friends have given me some random jobs, it’s always work a day here, work a day there. Then, a few months back, my friend and I started a jewellery brand. It wasn’t really a brand, but it developed because we got the opportunity to work at this shop and sell our jewellery there. So, we didn’t have anything, we weren’t making jewellery, we had 2 days and we just had to become a brand! So we did that and then we ended up getting featured in Vogue. It literally started because someone was asking for a jewellery designer, and we just said We could be jewellery designers, even though we’re not! So then um… we became jewellery designers. Vogue messaged us on Instagram asking us for some pieces and yeah so now I’m doing that full-time!”
“How do I stay alive? I keep goin’ on, I dunno. I survive with the happiness around me… because basically if there’s happiness around me, it brings me happiness and whatever I want to do, I feel motivated to do it because I’m constantly surrounded by good energy and good feelings and good emotions and… not even necessarily productive… But not demotivating, not destructive people or destructive mindsets. Happiness, just happiness, as long as there’s happiness I will survive. What makes me happy? Always fulfilling my own set goals, or knowing at least that I did everything in my powers to achieve it, not settling for anything less than the best I’ve got to give.”
“There’s only one reason, which is my mum and dad. I’ve thought many times about suicide, and sometimes still think about it, but the only thing that prevents me from doing that is how they’re going to think, how they’re going to receive the news. Another thing, we haven’t seen each other in over two years now… and that would be forever. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about it, I still do. I think about what it’d be like to meet my parents again and would I think about that after….? Probably yes.
In this program called Dark, there’s a phrase Alles wiederholt sich [everything repeats itself]... I think about a time last year where I had so many problems. I had everything anyone could wish for. I had money, a girlfriend, looking forward to applying for university. One day, no money, no laptop, no phone, no girlfriend… nothing. I do really remember these days. I was in desperate need for a job and completely isolated. The worst day of my life, I found out I had no money in my bank account and I needed to survive for two weeks before getting paid. I had about 10 euros in change, went to Aldi, got a loaf of bread for a euro and just ate that for that time. But at the same time, I didn’t want to ask anybody for help. All that happened cause of that girl I thought I trusted, I spent all my money trying to see her so by the middle of the month I had no money, not even to eat.’
Remember to read the final poem inspired by January’s How I Stay Alive accounts here. If you’re a Berliner, find out how to add a contribution by emailing the editor of Lives at lorathepoet(@)gmail.com.
The theme for February will be My Worst Nightmare.