“Just consider, your life is passing; […] the time will eventually come even to you when your life is at an end, when you are no longer shown any further possibilities in life, when recollection alone is left, recollection, but not in the sense in which you love it so much, this mixture of fiction and truth, but the earnest and faithful recollection of your conscience. Beware that it does not unroll a list for you […] of wasted possibilities, showdown pictures it will be impossible for you to drive away.”
Now that the dust has settled – somewhat – and my eyesight has started to return, albeit at a rate it would not be misleading to describe as glacial, I’ve had some time to adjust to my new circumstances. I have also had the opportunity to continue to mourn the (temporary) sabbatical setback. And gain weight. I’ve done a bit of that, too, because apparently my coping mechanism of getting blind drunk (ha ha, I crack myself up) and then grabbing food of convenience in between my growing number of naps throughout the day is not conducive to remaining in shape. Who would have guessed?
I still lose my sight when I work out, but in particular when I try any type of vigorous exercise – the best kind. The kind to get your heart throbbing in your chest, the sweat fighting to escape your body, and that surge of adrenaline. Obviously, this has meant a continued hiatus from the road bike, apart from a handful of turbo sessions that leave me flush-faced, gasping, and wholly dissatisfied with the lack of potholes, aggressive city drivers, and bitter winter headwinds.
I’m back at work, and back waiting for tests/consultations/answers. Last August I had booked cheap flights to Berlin for my birthday, as well as accommodation, and had planned to roam the city, meeting people, stumbling upon experiences, taking in the sights. As the holiday approached, however, I was filled with a sense of apprehension that tethered me to my apartment. Even with the assurance from the eye specialist that it was perfectly fine to fly, I started worrying about everything that could go wrong in an unknown city, with faltering vision, speaking a language I knew – essentially – nothing of (this turned out to be a non-issue as the majority of people in Berlin appeared to speak English).
This is where my best friend from high school, Lisa, steps in. Having her birthday the day before mine, she felt entitled to a short European jaunt to celebrate in style, and following a few detail-based messages she had booked herself flights, and I had contacted the man I was staying with to let him know there’d be two people to expect. We made a few loose plans, but she had managed to book us seats for a five course truffle themed dinner, paired with specialist wines as part of a ‘Supper Club’ network. We decided to make this our celebratory meal, and let the night unravel as we saw fit afterwards.
It turns out I can’t handle 11 litres (rough estimate) of wine, even armed with five delicious courses to soak it up, because when the Supper Club was over, Lisa and I – and ‘Michelle from Manchester’ who had lived in Berlin for 6 months, and was therefore our well-established tour guide – stumbled to a busy bar where my memory became muddled, and in between snippets of conversation I can vaguely recollect beers, shots of Sambuca, smoking (because, hell, if they’re doing it INSIDE I might as well get the enjoyment in addition to the cancer, right?).
This segued into an alleyway conversation with a very pleasant gentleman who lured us to an 80’s themed club night where I remember very little, bar throwing some killer shapes on the dance floor, feeling amused by the non-English 80’s tunes on offer, and being a little bewildered when asked, very kindly, by a couple of bouncers to put my clothes back on if I wanted to stay. My man, I am nearly 33 years old, and I don’t need a governess!
I think the only reason my mother didn’t personally fly out and choke me to death when I drunk-called her at 8am Berlin time (1am Texas time) whilst Lisa and I were stumbling home – via a supermarket for some kind of sustenance in bread form – is that she was just pleased I was:
a.) alive; and
b.) having a good time for a change.
The following day’s plans were ruined by the fact that Lisa and I both felt as if our internal organs had liquidised, and were slowly oozing from our pores and we sloped towards death. After a few hours of sleep and a shower, we went in search of a burger joint with good reviews, and I managed to stomach my food gingerly before we walked around the streets near our AirBnB. What followed was a morbidly interesting journey through the Menschen Museum, full of plastinated corpses offering us a glimpse inside real human bodies. Admittedly not the most obvious choice after a semi-raw hamburger during one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever experienced, but definitely engaging, and worth a visit. We rounded off the evening with some Asian food, before regressing to teenage years: heading back to our room, changing into pyjamas, and stalking our old high school friends on Facebook with snacks. I am hours away from being 33 years old, and I don’t need a governess.
Monday – the following day – was my birthday, and after a restful night, the blue skies made the morning even more inviting. We packed our suitcases, leaving them in the hallway, and set off for a walking tour of Berlin, taking in David Bowie’s old apartment and the Holocaust Memorial, amongst other sights. We also happened upon a killer brunch place where we enjoyed a celebratory Aperol Spritz to wash down our scrambled eggs and salmon.
Armed with a couple of art prints, we eventually reclaimed our luggage from our host’s central apartment, booking an Uber to our respective airports, and parting ways. Woefully deprived of sleep, I sleep-walked through security and dozed on the flights home, getting my taxi driver to stop at a gas station on the way to my apartment to pick up some milk and bread. Home, finally, I cracked open a beer to round off my birthday celebrations before sleep eventually reclaimed me, and I was back to reality with fistful of snooze buttons.
Since my return, and my renewed lust for life, Roz has taken me out for a 13 mile ‘trial ride’ on quiet back roads. I wore my green tinted glasses, which did block out a lot of the sunlight that causes my vision to go hazy (imagine snow blindness), and although everything wasn’t perfectly clear, my sight seemed to be good enough to avoid the potholes, the puddles, the tractors… It felt good to be back on the bike.
Although I am still awaiting tests, I’m no longer willing to wait for everything to be ‘normal’. I’m ready to start making mistakes again. I’m ready to travel. I’m ready to ride. I’m ready to live. I’m ready to re-start production on my life’s show reel, and stop waiting for opportunities to pass me by.
I’m 33 years old, and I don’t need a governess.