Sep 27, 2016
By Cindy Kroon
I was Gloomy in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The food on my plate tasted the way my soul felt: grey and flavorless. “I’m going. I have to go. I cannot not go”, I told my boyfriend while my tears dropped into my pasta. I hadn’t eaten properly in days. As always, sadness goes straight to my stomach.
My usual spice got lost somewhere in between saying goodbye to yet another place I had come to love and call home, and arriving at our new destination. Maputo’s sunshine was gruesomely replaced by London’s grey clouds. The friendly faces and slow pace of life were exchanged for grumpy looks and hurried businessmen. Our close group of friends substituted for no-one at all. I didn’t have the energy to settle into a new place, make new friends, and develop new routines.
The more my boyfriend bought for our new apartment, the more trapped I felt. It had been easy to move around the world without owning anything. All this new stuff was like an anchor. My heart felt heavy.
I’d been living abroad for almost a decade, but not once did I feel I was missing out, nor did I have the intention of moving back to Holland. Over the years I stopped sharing the small things with old friends and, eventually, the big things too. When I visited, never often and always briefly, nothing had changed. But now it was different: babies were on their way. In nine months from now, it wouldn’t be the same again.
“I know”, he replied, “It’s ok.” I struggled to recognize the kindness in his voice. It didn’t matter what he said anyway. I wasn’t sure I still loved him.
So I went.
Back to Amsterdam, not knowing if I’d ever return. For the first time in a long time, I needed to be with old friends and, most of all, by myself.
I arrived in the midst of winter, the city was drowning in rain. The days were dark and cold, a suitable companion for my state of mind.
The conversations with old friends I had so longed for were deep, light, and everything in between. In the city’s cozy brown café’s, hidden in small cobblestoned alleys, wine was plentiful, though unnecessary to provoke both tears of laughter and those of sorrow. It was as though I had never left.
But the number of questions about me settling down increased with my age. They annoyed me. They implied my lifestyle was temporary, that it must end one day. I tried to picture myself living here again, in Amsterdam. Were my friends right all along, was suburban bliss all one ever needed? All I ever needed?
In between socializing I went for days without speaking. I walked in the city for hours and hours at a time, watching the calm rippling waters, willows weeping in silent sadness on banks of the canals. I strolled through parks, breathing in the freezing air. Thinking about nothing and everything all at once. I sat on a bench, soaking up the silence. I listened to the sounds of the city. The tram bells, bikes passing by. Students laughing, kids splashing in puddles of mud.
From my apartment I looked onto my old office. When I worked there as a student I could never have imagined the way life would turn out for me. I travelled abroad to lose myself, but became more myself instead. I met people so similar and so different from me. Adventures in unfamiliar places around the world taught me more about life than Amsterdam ever could. It opened my eyes. My heart. It made me feel alive.
I smiled, knowing now that sometimes life throws at you the things you didn’t know you needed. All you have to do is catch.
Months passed. My frequent, solitary city walks reminded me there’s is no place in the world that can get a smile on my face the way Amsterdam does. Its calming beauty seemed surreal. Every step I set, every spring raindrop landing on my winter coat made the clouds in my head slowly disappear. Made me feel more free from judgment, free from my own thoughts.
With time, trees started to become green. Rays of sunshine appeared more frequently. Like tulip bulbs tucked into the earth some moons ago, my friends’ bellies were about to burst.
A wise person once said that coming back is not the same as never leaving. But sometimes you have to come back only to realize you’ve moved on a long time ago. Sometimes you have to stand still to move forward. Step back to see the larger picture.
So I went.
Back to London. To the life I had chosen a long time ago. The life that’s exhilarating, exhausting, fulfilling, and frustrating. The life I love.
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About the Author
Cindy is a serial expat, a curious traveler, wanderer, discovering the soul of the world. She write about her adventures on her blog 'The White Rabbit'.