A Permanent State of Temporary Being
Boxes are everywhere. Sheets are taped up over the windows. Light bulbs are hanging out of the ceiling. We often have trouble finding things that are still packed away. It looks like we just moved in a couple days ago, but it’s actually been three weeks. And it’s driving me nuts.
Ever since our month in Pisa, late October, we have known that we weren’t exactly on the right path. That’s when we finally decided to move forward with the idea that had been in the back of our minds for a year: to move to Berlin. But we couldn’t act on it because we were on this long trip to escape the winter, and we had renters in our apartment in Freiburg.
It was the beginning of months of putting things off. We often started sentences with, “As soon as…” and “When we get to…we can do…” I felt like we were in a holding pattern, circling the airport, and no one would let us land. We toughed it out in Pisa, even though it was the wrong city for us to be in for a month.
When we get to Morocco, we can relax.
We went to Morocco for an actual vacation, but that turned out to be a disaster. It was colder than we expected, the food was making us sick, and we just weren’t having fun.
When we get to Spain, we’ll have a decent apartment. As soon as we get settled there, we can start making plans.
After Morocco we spent six weeks in Spain, even though our hearts weren’t in it, because we had already committed to an apartment. Sevilla was a better city than Pisa, but we were too far from the center and too far from a good grocery store. Everything took twice as long as it would at home.
As soon as we get to Berlin, we’ll be in a more familiar place, and we can look for an apartment.
We felt like we were making progress in Berlin. Finally. The first apartment complex we looked at was The One. We got approved within days and signed the contract. But we still couldn’t move in for two months. Almost immediately we were back to putting things off.
When we get back to Freiburg, we can figure out the logistics. As soon as we’re home, we can find a moving company.
Once we were back in our apartment in Freiburg, we did start doing some of the things we were still putting off. Finally we could start packing. Finding long term renters for our apartment only took about a week. We were inching our way towards the goal we had been reaching for for months.
Then about two weeks before our scheduled move-in date, Andy got a phone call that pushed things back again. A leak had been discovered in our new apartment. A small one, and there really wasn’t much damage, but they had to put these big drying machines in the apartment to make sure all the water got dried up.
We couldn’t move into the apartment as scheduled, and staying in Freiburg longer wasn’t an option. The management company’s solution was to put us into a different apartment on a temporary basis. So we moved. But we haven’t settled in yet.
Now we’ve been in this apartment for three weeks. We might have just one more week left, but we also might have until June 1st. It all depends on how well things are drying in the other apartment. And still we’re putting things off.
As soon as we get into the other apartment, we can buy curtains, hang pictures, get rid of the boxes.
We’ve unpacked most of our kitchen stuff and a few other things to make the place liveable, but we’re mostly still surrounded by boxes. We can’t put curtains up because the windows are bigger and there are more of them, plus I’d rather not drill holes in the walls since we’re not staying here. So instead we have layers of duvet covers and fabric taped to our bedroom windows to keep the sun out in the morning. And because I’d rather not flash the neighbors.
Most German apartments don’t come with lights. They have these temporary light bulb connections hanging from the ceiling, and you put in your own light fixtures. They didn’t even put in enough actual light bulbs to make the place functional, so we had to buy a few. Having bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling screams “temporary” to me, and it’s just one more reminder that we don’t actually live here.
I want to unpack, hang pictures, buy a few things we need, and in general just make the place look nice and feel like home. But I can’t. Because it isn’t home. And the more we unpack, the more we’ll have to re-pack, and quickly, as soon as they tell us our apartment is ready.
Of all the uncomfortable apartments we’ve ever stayed in, this is the worst, despite the fact that we have our own bed to sleep in, our own couch to sit on, and our own kitchen supplies to cook with. It’s been six months of living in temporary apartments, or even hotels at times, and I’m done with it. We can see our actual apartment across the courtyard, and it’s a big tease.
Constantly waiting for the next step and having to put things off is dragging me down. I’ll have a few good days, but then something will hit me and suddenly I’m in tears and my energy is gone. Andy lost a memory chip, and I was sobbing for an hour at the thought of all those lost pictures. I booked tickets for a show, and I didn’t realize until it was too late that the tickets were actually twice as expensive as I thought. I felt so stupid, and I cried so much it hurt.
I used to really envy the people I know who travel constantly. The permanent nomads who get to explore different parts of the world for a few weeks or months at a time before moving on to the next interesting place. I still sort of envy them sometimes. I mean, it sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?
But I know it’s not for me. At least not at this point in my life. I’m not one of those people who can feel at home anywhere. And while I do need to break out of my routine and comfort zone from time to time, I can’t live without a routine. This permanent state of temporary being is, apparently, my version of hell.
As soon as we move into our actual apartment, things will be better…
At least, that’s the hope.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
April 22, 2015 @ 10:56 PM
Ali, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling in such a state of upheaval lately! Even as someone who is quite happy to bounce from place to place, I do understand that desire (every so often) to just have a place that you know is your home and you can just decompress and release all the tension you’ve been storing up.
I do think that you might be being a tad hard on yourselves though in terms of blaming yourselves for putting things off or waiting for the future. A lot of big things in life require time and preparation and just can’t be rushed, no matter how much we wish they would just hurry up! So many of the things that have gone awry for you guys the last few months have been really out of your hands and I really think you’ve done the best you can, given the circumstances. I definitely understand those feelings of “if only this one thing would get resolved, my life would be perfect!” (we have had a lot of them since arriving in Mexico!), but of course, that’s not how things work. It may feel like you’re spinning your wheels, but you’re not!
Best of luck to the two of you and I hope your intended apartment dries out soon!
April 23, 2015 @ 10:03 PM
Thanks Steph! I think I’m mostly being hard on myself about how I’m reacting to having to put things off. I feel like I shouldn’t be such a basket case, when really, it’s totally acceptable to be stressed out. You’re totally right, a lot of things were/are totally out of our control. I know it will all work itself out eventually, and I hope things are smoothing out for you guys in Mexico too!
Also, it seems the universe just wanted me to write about this stuff in order to get a move-in date. The management company is currently trying to set up a moving company for us for early next week!
April 23, 2015 @ 12:47 AM
Ali, good luck getting things settled in Berlin. I’m thinking that once you are settled in for good, you’ll enjoy Berlin. I’d be intrigued about checking out all of the former communist zone from there. Hang in there.
April 23, 2015 @ 10:05 PM
Thanks Rob! Berlin is an amazing city, which is why we ended up moving here. Our new apartment is actually in Friedrichshain, which is one of the neighborhoods in the former east, so it is pretty interesting. Eventually I’ll get around to taking pictures, exploring a lot more, and writing about it!
May 5, 2015 @ 3:03 AM
As you know, I can SO relate to this. First it was, “as soon as we’re at mom’s house…” then it became, “as soon as we have our own place…” And once we got our own place, we had to wait to actually move. I get it. I hate being in that place. The only good thing is – you *know* it’s temporary. Doesn’t help in the moment, but at least you’re not stuck more permanently. Um…yay? 🙂
May 5, 2015 @ 10:11 AM
Thanks Carmel! Yep, it is a stressful situation to be in! Luckily we finally have an end to it all. The apartment has been ready for almost two weeks now, but they weren’t able to get movers on such short notice, so the movers come tomorrow! One more night in our temporary apartment and then we can finally start unpacking and putting up pictures and stuff like that. What a relief!
May 18, 2015 @ 9:27 AM
I can so totally relate to this. When I moved back to the States in October, I spent the first five months living in my brother’s spare bedroom, which also doubled as his office. When I got my new apartment, it was the first time since early 2011 that all of my belongings were in a single place and not in a storage unit.
Well, fast forward to three months later, and I still have boxes everywhere because I don’t have enough furniture with drawers to give everything a proper home. And since I’m on assignment out of the country, I’m still going to be unsettled for quite a while longer.
I hope things resolve for you guys soon. I’m very late to this post, so maybe they’ve already resolved for you- that would be nice.
May 18, 2015 @ 4:08 PM
Steven, that does sound annoying! I’ve realized I can handle living out of a backpack for a few months, but feeling unsettled when I’m supposed to be “home” is really stressful. We ended up being in the temporary apartment for 5 weeks, moved into the actual apartment on May 6, and on May 11 I flew to Atlanta for a week. I leave today to go back home to Berlin. I hope things settle down for you soon!
February 3, 2018 @ 7:39 PM
Hi Ali, I recently moved to Berlin and I love it. I have been looking for an apartment. Do you mind sharing how much rent (warm) you pay for your apartment and the size and number of rooms? also is it Altbau? Do you consider it expensive?
February 6, 2018 @ 9:57 AM
Hi Jack! I’m glad you’re enjoying Berlin! My husband and I pay around 1400 euros a month warm, which is above average. Our apartment is 88 sq meters, 3 room (so 2 bedroom + living room), 1.5 bathrooms, and it’s a new building, not an Altbau. We moved into it almost 3 years ago when it was first built. I do consider it a bit expensive, but it met all of our requirements and wants, and we knew we were unlikely to want to move anytime soon. I was unwilling to rent a place that wasn’t going to feel like home, or someplace that I would be forced to move out of after a few months due to a sublease or something. If you’re single, you can probably be a little more flexible, especially if you’re willing to have a roommate or two. Look at lots of different neighborhoods, join FB groups where people might be posting about apartments for rent, and make sure you have all your paperwork in order when applying for apartments. Good luck!