February: Muriel Marondel

Muriel Mendoza sitting on a door stoop in Berlin

Muriel Marondel February’s Berlinerin of the Month

Muriel Marondel is an author, presenter and commercial model and actress. After growing up in Bavaria she spent some time living in Cairo. Ten years ago she decided to settle in the city her parents fell in love with each other, Berlin. Her first book Lieber Tod, wir müssen reden tackles the taboo topics grief and death which she wrote after her father passed away from cancer in 2015. She also co-wrote and played the lead role in the short film Vanitas, based on the prolog of her book.

“People in modern western soceity think that they are going to live forever. No one wants to talk about death and the terror that comes with realizing our own mortality. But I believe that facing it can bring us great freedom. The age of social media supports the idea of perfect people with perfect lives. I am interested in talking and writing about the vulnerable moments, the perfection in inperfection, the beauty and wisdom that can be found in the ugly and scary sides of life.”

What drew you to Berlin?

Where should I start? I am a Berlin Lovechild and I’ve always felt that my roots were somehow in Berlin. My parents left the city just a couple of weeks before I was born. I grew up on the Bavarian countryside but we visited the city many times and I always heard the wild stories about the legendary 70s and 80s of West Berlin. I grew up in a very conservative and catholic little village while having pretty free-spirited parents. I always felt that I never really belonged there.

Have you seen the movie “B Movie“? That was the time of my parents, a very exciting and political time. My dad came to Berlin as a 17 year old military dodger in 1974 and was influenced by the left wing autonomous scene. My mother was a photographer and a single mum by the time she met my dad. They owned a little photostudio together directly at the Café M, which became known for being a meeting point for alternatives, punks and artists like David Bowie, Nick Cave or Einstürzende Neubauten. My parents told me stories about the wall, music, demonstrations, spoke openly about psychedelic drug experiences (which I never took part in) and parties. I totally romanticized that revolutionary and artsy spirit of the city.

I always felt like an outsider and restricted in Bavaria. In my mind the “Berlin Spirit” had to do with being THAT free human being I aspired to be – doing whatever I want to do, being whoever I wanted to be – and still being accepted. After living in Egypt for 2 years in my early 20s, where I was also very happy, I didn’t want to go back to Bavaria. So, I decided to move to Kreuzberg 10 years ago. I remember when I walked down the streets that summer I really, really had that sense of belonging and being free. The city has changed a lot of course, but I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in Germany.

Have you always wanted to become an author?

No! My path wasn’t very linear and I did a lot of different things. I always loved languages, reading and writing, but I actually wanted to study music theatre. I took all these singing and dancing classes during my teenage years to chase this dream. But by the time I was finishing school my mum was concerned that I could become a starving artist and she suggested that I first study something that gives me more saftey.

So, I became a Kindergarden teacher and then worked in Cairo. That was an incredible time! When I came back to Germany I went back to university and studied international management for 3 semesters, which was an insane idea! I hated it. So I applied for a traineeship in music journalism and this is how I started writing.

After this I got accepted for a masterclass for presenting at Axel Springer Academy and worked a bit as a presenter. But when my dad got cancer and died in 2015, I just felt an urgent need to start writing about this experience. I wasn’t looking for the spotlight in front of a camera, I was looking for a way to create and express my real self, my pain and thoughts – and my aim was to help others with my writing.

I easily landed my first book deal and the feedback was amazing, so I wrote another book as a ghostwriter. The door to this path was wide open, so I guess it was my destiny to become an author. But I am not defined by my profession and productivity. I am a soul that is always finding new ways to express herself. I might add something else to my list of professions. My biggest success till now are the people that resonated with my writing.

Muriel Mendoza with her book Lieber Tod wir müssen reden

Muriel Marondel with her book Lieber Tod, wir müssen reden.

What‘s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

I think my own life taught me the greatest lessons and gave me the best advice. See, my dad and my sister both died within three years. Those losses were very profound and incredibly painful, but they brought me to the heart of life. Life is constantly changing, we can’t hold on to any living form. I am very aware of mortality now and I appreciating the here and now and all the beautiful little moments. There is always something to learn, so I am trying to stay open to life.

I studied different cultures, religious paths and travelled a lot on my own these past 15 years – and learned so much along the way. I am trying to change perspectives, I know that I sometimes have a tendency to be a bit too righteous so I am trying to challenge myself more now. Every experience and the people involved can teach you something. Even though my life hasn’t been very easy these past years, I know that I am very privileged in general.

So the best advice would be: Never stop learning, count your blessings, be compassionate and of service to others – and don’t forget that you are going to die.

What do you do when you need some inspiration?

I am trying to go to my meditation and chanting group every morning. I always feel fresh and inspired afterwards as I am tapping into an energy that is bigger than everything else. Music is a big inspiration, especially live music. Talking to inspiring individuals. Going to nature as much as I can. And travelling. Last year I cured a writers block by going back to Egypt for a couple of months. And last but not least reading a chapter from my favourite book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pincola Estés. Huge inspiration!

Where is your favourite place to visit in Berlin?

Definitely the Zions Church. I used to live directly at the church for three years, I wrote my first book looking from my window at the steeple. I just have incredibly fond memories of this place. I saw many weddings within this time, the Christmas star that was blowing every year in the wind and couples fighting or kissing at night on one of the park benches in front of it.

At the same time it’s an interesting piece of Berlin History as it was a centre for the civil rights movement in the GDR. You can climb up to the steeple every Sunday and get a fantastic view over the city. I personally always prefered sitting inside for a couple of moments – it’s not pretty, but quite special in there, very Berlinish.

 

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