Just Keep Walking

February 8th, 2021


54 days until deadline

It has been almost a year since I moved out from my WG and reclaimed my solitude. For the longest time, I thought living with a roommate who had a different approach to life was the primary cause of my unhappiness. But the reality has shown that after a brief blissful period filled with the joy of living alone and having the full range of control over my environment, I went back to my default level of happiness once again, which is to say, not much has improved. The same kind of gloominess that I’m intimately familiar with yet no longer want to tolerate is once again a dominant force of my life.

It is no secret that Berlin during the winter is perhaps one of the most depressing places on earth. I had my doubts about this claim, but after three months of extended lockdown, I started to agree with this unfortunate observation. I’ve been living in a bubble of my creation, choosing to only see the bright side of living here while willfully ignoring the dark side, thinking it is only my attention that gives life to the darkness. If I simply pay no attention, it won’t bear any fruits. There are many things that will continue to exist with or without your observation, and I am sorry to say that living alone in a winter city during extended lockdown is, in any way measurable, a challenge that willpower itself won’t be able to fully resolve.

I hereby resume my training to write every day on my blog. It will be my training against perfectionism, to teach myself through action that the single most important thing you could do in your life is to simply show up to your work and deliver. You can spend all day in your head with your ideas for all you want, making imaginary amendments, making them more and more perfect. But a perfect illusion in your head is in no way helpful to guide you towards your future. So here we are again, making a pledge to write every day.

Last night I went to a hotpot party of sorts with three classmates from my school who are a year behind me. I was invited by a girl who joined my German classes last Monday because she took an interest in meeting me after finding out that I am Chinese. In her words, since my name on display was “Hanson” and my camera wasn’t turned on during the Zoom session, she assumed I was white based on my pronunciations because the way I used intonations in my sentences did not sound Asian at all. She also assumed after knowing my nationality that I must be good with English as well since she believed that the ability to master intonation in one Western language could be transferred to another one.

I surprised myself when I agreed to her invitation for a dinner on Saturday night at her and her boyfriend’s place. Normally I would be stressed to meet new people, but since she already gave me a compliment, the pressure to impress was gone.

I arrived at her nice and cozy House of Nation student housing unit on time with a few drinks in my bag and was greeted cordially with two friendly faces. Turns out she invited another girl in her class to the party because, it seems, that my reputation as that one guy who studied film before coming to a business school precedes itself. The fact that I also brought some tea light candles with me to improve the ambiance was particularly amusing to them.

Not far into the conversations, I was asked by the hostess if I prefer the members of my own sex. I replied without hesitations that I prefer men, which surprised me quite a bit, for I would usually dance around the subject around my fellow Chinese, as you are never sure if such a fact could change how they see you. More specifically, if they would like you less with this additional information. As a long-time member in the cult of being “nice”, the risk of being disliked feels more dangerous than being prosecuted for being gay, as love and attention holds more weight than systematic bigotry. But we are living in a different time. Apart from the usual inquiry on whether I am a top or a bottom, the conversations were actually pretty pleasant. You have my sparkling rosé to thank for since alcohol always improves the perception of pleasantness.

Soon I was told by the young lady who wore a white dress with puffy shoulder pads to a hotpot dinner that her gaydar rang the minute I walked through the door and bet with the hostess that I am a member of the queer community. The hostess took on the bet, as she saw no indication on how that could be true, considering I just seemed quiet and shy. When the big secret was revealed, the hostess clapped her hands, proclaiming her loss with such an infectious joy, I couldn’t help but smile as well. We were playing a game that none of us had signed out for, and I had no idea how a momentary highlight of a party centered around a part of my identity that is really not up to me. There is a kind of consolation knowing that there is no need in deluding myself into thinking I could turn my gayness on or off like a switch, for your body always tells the truth, and that truth gets filtered through the mystical device named “gaydar” so that understanding could be achieved without uttering a single word. We are what we pay attention to. When I stopped paying attention to my gayness, I could free up all that attention to do other things, which was what happened this night. I was very present despite the alcohol consumptions and took an interest in other people’s lives and stories with an acute awareness that was different from the counterpart that was mostly motivated by the need to be liked.

I woke up at noon on Sunday to the quiet sound of snow and decided to walk all the way to Friedrichstrasse to buy groceries. I did not bring my headphones with me. When left unbothered, my mind naturally wandered into the future. I asked about my purpose but was only given a compass in return. Turns out you can never fully see your final destination. You can only have a sense of direction, and a compass to show you if you are on the right track. The rest will be revealed to you when you just keep walking.

The improvement of man can be measured by the level of his inner freedom. The more a person becomes free from his personality, the more freedom he has.

Leo Tolstoy

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