Marcel's avatar in comic style

I, for one, don't mind design tools experimenting with AI features.

Much of what we're doing is just going through the motions until we reach the stage where the real work begins. If a tool can help me design an MVP of a form in 3 seconds that would have otherwise required 1,200 clicks, I'm greeting it with open arms.

My valuable skill is not drawing boxes in slightly different iterations but thinking about complex products that require a bird's-eye view and a vision. It will take some time until AI gets us there.

Good news, everyone! I just signed a lease agreement and will be moving back to Hamburg soon. I couldn't be happier right now.

Let's face the facts: I could go on for hours and hours talking about how unhappy I am where I currently live. Trust me, in private, I sometimes struggle to talk about anything but this situation. Instead of boring you with post after post, let's just sum up what's going on and talk about how to solve it.

  • I was convinced that life in a smaller town would be the right thing for me. Instead of trying it out for a couple of months, I moved there completely. Like an idiot. That might not have been the smartest decision, but it sure felt right at the moment.
  • I was wrong. In terms of work, money, and negative emotions involved, this might have been the biggest mistake of my life. Which, all in all, speaks volumes about how good my life is going. It's a very privileged position to be in.
  • At the same time, this might be the most important lesson of my life. I won’t ever have to wonder what life in a small town would be like, not to mention one of those dreamy cabin-in-the-woods situations people like me tend to fantasize about. Not for me, no thanks!
  • All of this also changed my relationship with... people. Like, in general. I’m far more thankful for them. When visiting friends in Hamburg, I actually enjoyed being stuck in a completely overfilled subway. I enjoyed walking around the Alster dodging hundreds of people doing the same. It's a price I'm willing to pay for living in a proper city. It also gave me renewed motivation to work on my yearly theme.
  • I was so convinced about moving here that I was fine with signing a tenancy agreement with a minimum rental period of two years. My thinking was that you'd have to at least give it a good shot for this amount of time to be able to figure out if you like it or not. Oopsie. (I can get out of it by paying a lot of money. The process is already underway.)

So, okay, whatever. Things happened, I was wrong about how I’d feel, and I went through all the necessary emotions to come to following conclusion:

I have to move.

Again.

Not great, not terrible. I learned a lot about myself and how I want to spend the rest of my life. That alone made this little, stupidly expensive intermezzo worth it. A solid 3.6 Roentgen situation.

So what's next?

I'll move back to Hamburg.

Before moving to Berlin about nine years ago, Hamburg was what I called my home, and it still feels like it. Most of my friends live there, I love the city, and I kind of can’t wait to come back.

So that’s it. I’m off trying to find a place to live in a city that is known for its horrendous housing market. Thanks for reading, and a big thanks to all of you who reached out to talk to me about this experience. I appreciate it!

Oh, by the way, if you hear something about a soon-to-be vacant apartment in Hamburg: Let me know!

I even built this little site you could share with your friends and colleagues to help me on my quest.

https://eine.wohnung.fuer.marcel.io

Thank you!

I Might Have Made an Oopsie

What surprised me the most about my emotional state after moving from Berlin Mitte to a city of 100,000 inhabitants was how much I miss... everything.

I never made much use of what Berlin has to offer, yet I took quite a few things for granted.

Restaurants, for example. I could have sworn that I didn’t care that much about food. Unfortunately, that seems to have been the case only because I was surrounded by fantastic food and restaurants ever since moving out from home. I miss it—all the choices of different establishments, all the culinary options. The fact that 4.8 stars on Google Maps actually meant something. I’m not even complaining about the lack of vegetarian options. It’s not even possible to get good fries anywhere.

I could live with that, though, if it weren't for the fact that absolutely nothing else is going on. Of course, I expected there to be less to do, but not this little.

After scouring the internet for hours in February, I found one (ONE!) interesting thing to look forward to: a lecture about salt and its history, with a tasting of salts from all over the world at the end. I knew I'd be roughly half as old as the other participants, but I was ready to mingle when I booked it for mid-April.

The one real museum is being renovated and won't open for more than a year. Things that do happen, like cocktail nights in the sole co-working space, result in a gathering of like four people. Two of them are the owners of the place.

I'm not even kidding.

Going to the movies was always a great solution for me to get my mind off things. The one good cinema doesn't offer screenings with original language, though, and I won't watch American and British movies with German dubbing. I haven't lost all of my self-respect.

Even though I didn’t make much use of what Berlin has to offer, it was good to know that I had options. If I wanted to do something, there was more than enough, sometimes even too much. All the options felt paralyzing at times. Now I long for them. I expected a reduction in possibilities to feel freeing; instead, it’s just depressing.

By the way, that lecture about salt I mentioned earlier?

It got cancelled.

For lack of interest.

I Might Have Made an Oopsie

I grew up in a small village near the coast of the North Sea. Six thousand inhabitants, all of them very concerned with what the other 5,999 could think about them. This never felt right to me, and I thought there should be more to life than that. Even going to school in a city of 26,000 didn't change that feeling. The people around me didn’t share my interests, but I connected with others online who lived in big cities. I wasn't able to communicate exactly what I was feeling back then but I knew that I needed to get out.

Fortunately, 16 years later, I somehow found myself in the same situation again and am now able to express what it is that bothers me.

After living in Berlin Mitte for eight years, I was completely convinced that I needed a cozy small town without the depressing anonymity and all the noise. How great it would be to walk outside and not have to dodge others left and right.

I was wrong.

I miss what I was despising just a couple of months ago.

Yes, it was a lot and I wished for quieter surroundings at times. Of course, I wasn't happy with some aspects of my situation. Yes, I've seen a surprising amount of penises from randos pissing on the street. Not great!

It was interesting, though. Things changed from day to day. People were weird. Normal. Exciting. Profane. Loud. Quiet. Something. I stepped outside and life happened.

Schwerin, with it's less than 100,000 inhabitants, most of them teenagers or pensioners, is... boring.

Not in the way I thought it would be, where I expected the quietness and solitude to magically expand my mind. Walden Pond style. On the contrary: I kind of feel alone and mentally under-challenged.

I don't want to come across as contemptuous. A different version of me could love it here. I just don't want to be that version. Even though I respect everyone who finds what they're looking for in a place like this.

I've found that I want to be surrounded by people my age, with a high likelihood of shared interests. And as cringe as it might sound, I'm afraid mine are big-city-people interests. Internet-work people. I want to see, meet, and talk to people... like me. Or at least me-adjacent.

Here's the catch, though: People like me feel like they don't belong here.

I know because — and this might come as a surprise to you — I am a person like me.

And that's just one aspect. If you had asked me about this six months ago, I would have said something completely different, but here’s the reality: It’s too empty here. I can go for a 45-minute run and only meet five people—all of them pensioners, of course. I can walk from the main station to my flat on a Saturday night and not encounter a single person. That’s just depressing.

I haven't felt like this since moving away from where I grew up.

What I expected before the move was an expansion into a new way of being. Of feeling content with smallness, of finding joy in normalcy. Instead, it feels like a regression to something I left behind for a reason.

A reason that hasn't changed since I first felt it more than 16 years ago.

I Might Have Made an Oopsie

Many of you (nobody) asked how moving from a 3.8 million inhabitants city to a less than 100,000 inhabitants city is treating me. In the last couple of months, I went through quite a lot of thoughts and emotions and arrived at some new opinions that surprised me. I won't be able to fit them all in one coherent post so here you go, in no particular order and in good-old blogging style. Welcome to part one of who knows how many instalments of IMHMAO.

Today: Local Retail.

I wasn't expecting this, like at all, but I seem to have demands for the quality and diversity of stores around me. Every time I tried to buy something in a store in Schwerin, I wasn't able to find what I was looking for. We're not talking about heavily exotic stuff here. Pants, for example, were nowhere to be found. None of them fit me, they were all far too big. I'm not weirdly shaped, on the contrary. It won't get more default than me. I ran out of stores to try before I found something I liked. That never happened before. Another time I tried to buy brushes: Nothing. Same for sketchbooks. Same for pretty baskets to store stuff in or colorful decoration. Nothing.

This might seem like a small matter but I like walking somewhere, browsing a limited but plentiful offering of wares and going back home with whatever I needed as the result. It makes me feel connected to where I am.

It doesn't help that online shopping became a pain in the ass at some point. There's just too much to choose from, everything, even Amazon, is full of scams and I hate the whole process. Choosing, ordering, waiting, tracking, receiving, returning. I don't need that noise.

So that's an insight: I would not have guessed that a heavily limited selection of stores would influence my mood this much but it does. The more you know!

I Might Have Made an Oopsie

If you want to grow, you need to be able to learn, experiment, and stay consistent. That's only possible if you're able to keep yourself motivated, which is impossible if you're not being kind to yourself.

Many people think that being kind means not doing what needs to be done because it's hard. That giving themselves breaks from trying is what they need.

They think it comes easily to those succeeding at what they set out to do and if they themselves struggle, it's obviously not for them. They're special in how hard it is for them. Hence, they deserve time off from trying.

That's one of the biggest misconceptions, and I believe the inherent problem is with how people talk to themselves.

Growth is the result of enough repetitions, many of them ending in some sort of failure. Your drawing doesn't look like anything you expected, your run felt terrible, your code doesn't compile.

If your inner voice gets destructive every time you mess up, you're less likely to try again. Ironically, you are getting in yet another successful repetition of talking badly about yourself.

If you learn to not succumb to negative self-talk, it gets a lot easier to get back to what you set out to do and start another repetition. You'll still fail, you'll still find it hard, but you won't be in a constant fight with yourself anymore.

I strongly believe that everybody can achieve whatever they set out to do, as long as they keep at it. It might take forever, it might require a whole lot of deliberate practice and deep work, but as long as the repetitions don't stop, progress is inevitable.

The key difference between you and those who make it seem easy is probably that they're kinder to themselves.

First things first: Some of you will get triggered by what I'm about to write. I want you to know that this is a safe space. You're loved. I'm not attacking your character, your personality, or any life choices you've made. Please stay calm and collected. This will be tough, but we'll get through it.

Alright! Now that I've dealt with the little feelings of the worst junkies among you, let me tell you about the first and only addiction I've ever had: caffeine.

I don't have an addictive personality and have never had any problems with the usual suspects. What made caffeine different is that our society somehow neglects to talk about it as a drug. Everybody is juiced up 24/7 and at best, we'll get a "don't talk to me before I've had my first coffee" joke instead of an actual warning about what are clear symptoms of withdrawal.

It took me years until I figured out that caffeine could be the reason for the ever-present headaches that plagued me for most of my 20s. I suspected having a brain tumor before even considering caffeine as the culprit.

Society doesn't want you to suspect its favorite lubricant.

The following weeks of withdrawal, going completely cold turkey and not touching anything that contained caffeine, were harder than I expected them to be. A fun fact as an aside: Many painkillers contain caffeine. That's not the information you want to learn while feeling like your head is about to explode.

Long story short: After successfully getting clean, my headaches were gone. I felt like myself for the first time in years. I wasn't tired all the time; I woke up alert and it stayed that way until the evening hours. Exactly like all the people talking about how you should quit caffeine said it would be. They're right.

Caffeine traps you in a vicious cycle of needing it to feel like you don't need it.

Since then, I've been in a constant struggle to keep clean. As soon as I drink something with caffeine for two to three days, the headaches come back. Which is a bummer, because those headaches can be cured through caffeinated beverages and the cycle starts anew.

I had a couple of relapses but always managed to go through another round of withdrawal. It's surprisingly hard to stay "sober". If I'm having a bad day, I crave a caffeine high to make me feel better. On a good day, I want something with caffeine to celebrate and enjoy my day even more.

I found an okay-ish rhythm where I allow myself one caffeinated beverage per week. As a treat. The only problem is that I have to account for the willpower needed the next day because I'll crave another one more than if I hadn't had the first one.

Back in ye olden days everything was tinted in sepia tones and we communicated and made friends in the comment sections of blogs. Social media replaced these little get-togethers around internet bonfires.

I wonder if it would be possible to bring that feeling of community back to a site like mine.