by Alizée Chesnoy
We’re in a quiet bar tonight – half empty, the faint stench of nicotine, nursing our drinks and making them last. There’s silence, and shared smiles, a little sadness, like we can’t quite believe we’re here, carefully closing this chapter of our lives.
One of us leaves tomorrow, and suddenly it makes it all the more real that Berlin is coming to an end. I have my own countdown ticking, too – twelve days, eleven, ten. The last one of us is staying a couple of months longer, and then she’s flying half-way round the world for her fall semester. The rest of us don’t know where we’ll be living in three weeks’ time.
There’s this bittersweet clenching at our heartstrings, a little cliché, no less true, wondering that we are here. That we made it through eight months in this city and pulled through together, strangers to friends. That we blinked and that it was gone – the late-night study sessions, the bottles of wine, the hours spent in class, the shared confessions, the learning of each other. Wondering where it all went, and knowing that we wouldn’t change a thing – but also, glad the story gets to go on. The only way is forwards.
The ice-cubes are starting to melt in her Bailey’s, and my beer has gone tepid, and the conversation is lazy and easy. Girls, she suddenly says. We’re becoming adults.
I feign terror that is, also, quietly, deep down, partially true. There are so many days where I feel I am a hot mess – days where I eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, days where I stand over my kitchen sink and cry. Days where I very seriously question my ability to take care of things other than my own basic survival – I keep saying I’m going to adopt a kitten at some point and yet haven’t managed to keep my succulent alive for more than six months. It’s a succulent, for Pete’s sake. I thought these things weren’t supposed to die.
For so long I thought surely, adults have their shit together.
I am only now realising that growing up doesn’t mean being any less of a hot mess – rather, it is about learning that the hot mess is life itself, and pushing through anyway. Sitting with your discomfort, figuring it out as you go, and becoming better for it.
And despite how much I fear it sometimes, we’re doing this. We are becoming adults, and listening to her say it, it rings so true I can’t help but to smile.
We’re living on our own, learning this city and cooking dinner. We’re getting up in the morning and doing life, making rookie mistakes and adding layers of experience to our skin. We’re working part-time jobs, figuring out what we want, putting our dreams down on paper. We’re googling how to keep plants alive and the best places for beer. We’re calling our mothers because they will always be our mothers, no matter how much we grow. We’re navigating relationships, heartbreaks, and the beautiful mess of it. We’re deciding of our future and keeping our fingers crossed – the back-to-back applications, the firms that never call back, the endless loops to jump through, the visas for faraway places. We’re handling budgets and buying groceries and spending late nights around a bottle of wine or two, with a pint of ice-cream, thinking aloud about what it means to us to live a good life. We’re not adults, not quite yet, but we’re getting there. We’re becoming, slowly. We’re growing into who we’re meant to be.
The thing I think of the most, when I look back on Berlin – and I am nostalgic already, even as I walk its streets still, so many things tasting of the last time – is how this city gave me good people. I look at them from across the table and I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for them. For how they make me laugh, and how much they have taught me. There is quiet tenderness in the way we move together, fingers wrapped around our drinks, glasses leaving wet condensation on the wood. I am so glad Berlin gave us to each other – so thankful we get to watch each other become.
We’re becoming adults, she says. We are. We are.
We’re doing good.
Alizée Chesnoy | @thequietandthewild
Alizée is a French poet in Berlin. When she isn’t writing, you’ll probably find her photographing street art, practicing sarcasm, and drinking unhealthy amounts of tea.