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