Saturday, July 26, 2014

Becoming Me:

A wave of calm has steadily crest over me; a process the began last weekend. There have been very few moments in my life in which I have detoured from taking a hard choice, when faced with two options that were on par. Very few times have I let systems of reward or punishment lead my choices. I instead follow my reason, my passion, and my heart–all three of which are located in my head; my body’s only along for the ride–it’s the vessel in which I navigate life, and luckily it looks nice. Since the end of the previous year I have been withholding, from many others, a decision given to me by another; a positive decision that will forever change my future. This approval I have been sitting on, until last weekend, in order to timely allow for its arrival into my and thus another’s life. Last week I let this secret out. That soul-lightening experience could have taken many directions; yet having mulled over the subject for so long, nearly every conceivable outcome or outline of the conversation I had already designed in my mind–and so prepared for conversing on this one, highly refined topic I was. Just as a few years ago, when I was also faced with a hard choice–one that would only allow me to go left or right–I then, just as now, chose the more difficult of the two paths before me. And it forever improved my life. It took courage, and conviction. Only last weekend could the decision I had chosen to take years earlier be relayed in full, by forwarding that information onward, in person. It was a hard choice, and a long conversation, but I mustered my self-confidence; indeed I shined. Regarding both of these hard choices–one last weekend and the other nearly three years ago–I'll be forever happy, that I never chose to make reasons for myself to avoid them. So, I've now chosen a new path by adding an extension to my current one. From last weekend forward, life has a new journey for me; one that builds off of and upon where I've already been headed, for 28 years–and it's one that leads in multitudinous directions, its ending point forever unknown. And it will, now that it's laid, enable me to continue making me, into the me I'd even further like to be.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I am Amsterdam:

Last night I fell asleep dreaming in Dutch–a first for me. I had spent most of the day in hanseatic-infused Deventer, conversing about everything and nothing, while the summer sun illuminated the sprawling garden that I was then submerged within. Having spoken in Dutch and having listened to Dutch non-stop for about eight hours; it was the ultimate language immersion–an intimate group of five. The day made me realize that, I do indeed speak Dutch, and quite well at that. No longer do I sit on the edge of my seat waiting with baited breath for each word to descend from the mouths of others. Oppositely, I instead sit back, relax, and listen with delight, knowing that, I'm present; I'm here; I'm aware of what's happening. My newfound status as a nearly fluent speaker of Dutch has caught me by surprise. It's not as if a switch has suddenly flipped, and the world of the Dutch language has unraveled before and around me. Rather, I've been learning, practicing, absorbing, and internally building my language skills, more or less, since I arrived in Amsterdam. The problem has always been connecting the newly acquired communication knowledge in my brain, with my tongue. Years went by without me being fully able to express myself to others, in Dutch. I sat in a limbo between Dutch-ness and English-ness, or more appropriately, American-ness. This gap between the mind and the tongue; it affects nearly all aspects of one's life during such stages of language learning. How frustrating not to be able to speak, correctly, to express a desire, a wish, a need, a hope, a dream. And yet how interesting, to now see that six years in the Netherlands was the turning point at which I wholeheartedly internalized the effects it has had on my identity. And yet perhaps none of this is true. Maybe, just maybe, I subconsciously kept myself from acquiring fluent Dutch. After all, when one is on the outside, looking inward is a delight; everything is new and nothing is left overlooked. Yet once on the inside, I'm learning, it's possible to both belong and to not belong; to be accepted and yet still be different; to be 'one of us', and yet not. I like that. It means that there's space for me in the Netherlands, as crowded as the country already is. This past week I received a letter–on behalf of the King Willem-Alexander–that states that my naturalization request has been approved. After six years of disconcerting experiences that have enlightened me as to the multitude of the ways in which one can be–and see–in the world, a new calm has overcome me: I am now Dutch. And I am Amsterdam.