Monday, June 29, 2009

A Very Colorful Life:

Well hello there, life. Who knew you were so colorful, and, full of surprises. And why hello there, the Netherlands. Tired of being all gray and cold these days, now–aren't ya? Happy one year anniversary (as of June 27, 2009), by the way. You have made me question everything about life. And you'll always be near to me because of that. The land of piece of land on this world called North Holland, that never seems to disappoint. I have a few ponders to ramble on about, but that can be postponed for a bit. I must go. Life is waiting for me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Childhood Memories:

It's hard to see the beauty in the everyday. Until you're removed from it.  I just stumbled across a picture that perfectly sums up, the landscape of where I grew up. Which now seems so far away. It's beautiful–mainly because it was taken just around the corner from my parents' house. As a child my summers were spent living inside pictures like this: swimming in lakes, climbing trees and playing hide-and-go-seek in barns. And I will always cherish that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Goedenacht, Europa:

Europe. Well, I guess you’re home, for the foreseeable future at least. It’s so strange to think this isn’t my culture. Or continent. Or that Dutch isn’t my native language. I’ve almost been here a year. One year anniversary on June 29th. And come to think of it, I’m not really sure why I wanted to move to Europe. I imagine the influence of the ‘European Life’, as portrayed in the American media, coupled with living in a few countries across the continent–might have helped to fuel the desire.

To Americans, Europeans are just simple and happy. The happy people just to the right of the Atlantic. Everyone buys fresh flowers each week, everyone buys their bread fresh from their local baker, and everyone rides their bike everywhere, takes the train and for fun–drinks wine and eats cheese in the park on weekends. Am I painting a clear picture yet? It’s not that these details of life aren’t present in my life, I’ve definitely done all of the above. Check, check and check. But, it’s what comes after this–that truly makes me wonder if Europe is what I had envisioned it to be. Life. Who knew life was so complicated; what happened to the flowers and wine in the park on weekends?

I’m learning that life is something I know hardly anything about. And I thought I had it all figured out–it turns out, I only had that part of my life figured out. Apparently life is just one big series of hurdles. Fun, in a way. But some days the track hurdle-jumping shoes just need a rest. I had pre-working world life figured out, for sure. But balancing the real world, with real emotions and responsibilities is something I’m learning, as I go–like everyone before me. But it’s strange to think I’m doing this in a complete 180 from the way most people my age and my nationality go about it. And I love that. It makes life incredibly exciting, yet full of mystery. You just never know what’s going to unfold before you–and that’s nice. And nerve-wrecking at the very same time. I’ve been reading a lot of other digital publications written by solo authors, lately. It’s nice to hear others' stories.

Of course everyone likes to imagine him or herself as being just a bit different, but I’ve come to the conclusion that what might make me different from other expats–is that no one came to Europe with me–in every sense of the saying. I was not transferred here by a former company. I came with no friends, no family, no lover at my side. No money. Just me and my degree, and a dream. Become a writer, and live in Europe. That was basically the prerequisite. What I didn’t think about before moving here, beyond the fresh flowers and bread, was how the time in between the bread and wine is filled–exactly. Being lazy, running, smoking, drinking, socializing–and what is socializing? How do we define it; it all depends on your outlook and life. And damn, that’s hard.

I gave up drinking about a year ago; i've maybe been drunk a handful of times in the past year. It's astonishing how your social life can dwindle, when you don't drink. which only makes me wonder, what did I get out of drinking before? Who knew life was filled with so much emotion, that effects so many aspects of it. Sometimes I wish things were a bit simpler; as it seems everything in my life is blown up on an emotional scale. I’m not sure why. But then again, I have to remind myself that all the emotion I'm experiencing has been felt by others before. And I find a bit of comfort in that. No matter what; everything's gonna be good–and if it isn't? well, who knows. figure that out when you get there, and don't worry about it!

But wow; sometimes I can’t help but wonder what life would be like for me right now in the States. Not that I have any desire to move; I just find it fascinating that at this very moment I could not be buying fresh bread, chillax-in in the park on weekends, going to the beach and loving my current position. I could be: riding the subway around manhattan, or taking MUNI everywhere in SF, driving my car around LA everyday, or riding the T in Boston. Who knows where I would have ended up. I don’t really mind though. I’m happy here in NL. I’m finally feeling alive again; maybe it’s summer? Who knows–Friday I hung out at a friend from the studio. We were talking about life and NL, the USA, blah blah. And at one point he told/asked me: so you’re really happy here? I guess I give off that vibe. Good. I am. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to less trance-y music these days; which by the way, is the perfect soundtrack for getting lost within yourself. Friends; what a strange concept. It’s hard to log into social media sometimes. A handful of my friends back in the USA just graduated. Last night I had a dream I didn’t complete a class and wouldn’t be graduating until April 2010. Whoa. I just received my cousin's wedding invitation in the post. Clearly, I won't be attending.

I just can’t sit back and let life happen. I don’t identify it as a problem, but living life on the edge is certainly something I chase. Otherwise it’s boring. I can’t just sit here. I’ve watched Revolutionary Road too many times since it became available via torrent, and I can’t help apply a quote from it, to my life. In the beginning, when Frank meets April, and before their romance begins, he says to her: 'All I know April is, I want to feel things. Really feel them.' I can’t help but feel the exact same way. I want to feel things; really feel them. And I think that’s why I moved to Europe. I know that’s why. And that is exactly what I’m doing here in NL. But why am I so scared of that sometimes? It seems I feel the need to analyze every aspect of my life. Maybe it’s this publication that creates, created, or perhaps even sustains that need–who knows. Then again, I was also once not in Amsterdam, and had another digital publication–I started it in 2004. Those entries are fun to read. I occasionally pull them bout and post them on here. My family is currently in Florida, as of yesterday, for a whole month. That is certainly one holiday destination I will not miss of the USA. Florida. Ugh–what is the European obsession with Florida, or Texas for that matter? Texas is not a big deal in the USA. At least not in the Midwest. But everyone thinks Florida is paradise here. Wrong–it’s hot and humid. Bottoml-ine: it's hot and humid. Friends; what a strange concept. I had, oh, a good few oh–I don’t know–few thousand or so acquaintances in the USA, after living there for 22 years. That’s more than enough time to meet people from all over the world. And I have. Pre-Amsterdam move, even. But maybe, it’s just a reverse cycle. From zero to infinity. Of course it is.

Imagine everyone in your social rolodex just–poof–disappears one day. Welcome to my life. And making friends in the Netherlands isn’t hard per se–but it does take effort. And then there’s this hurdle you have to jump over once you reach a certain point in your relationship. It’s called, 'why you should hang out with me, over the friends you’ve had your entire life.' Welcome to Dutch culture. I’ve made friends. And continue to each day, but it’s different then making friend in the USA. I often follow Cincinnati digital publications; it’s one of those microcosm cities that lives in its own bubble. People have their friends from high school, and they’re friends for life. They grab a few more in college, get married, and make babies, eat, drink/drunk, and live life in the suburbs. Revolutionary Road explores this concept in full depth–in post WWII America.

But I must say that the Netherlands is similar. It’s its own microcosm in Europe. It's so unfamiliar to me; a country the size of 16 million people; all speaking the same language; all living in an area about the size of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island–combined. Complete with culture and customs that change as soon as you step outside the border. And even within the provinces' borders–shocking. Naturally this happens everywhere, but coming from the USA, where every state’s neighbor (minus Mexico) speaks English, it’s hard to grasp that each little country in Europe is effectively it’s own microcosm/world. Hmmm. Each day is more exciting than I can handle sometimes. I know that if this move across the ocean had taken place during a different stage of my life, the whole scenario would be completely different. Then again, I think to myself: Would all this emotion and excitement take place if I were somewhere in the USA? I think yes. Yes to the changes: living alone, learning a new language, making friends, etc.

All of it would still be there; but there would be no work permits, no residence permits, no foreign bank account. No Dutch language, no bikes, no Dutch boy haircuts that I’ve come to love, no cobblestone streets, no Vondelpark, no excursions waiting just outside the country border, or in the border for that matter. There would be no past year of my life. And I would never wish that upon me. For this past year. Has been one of the most tranquil, loving, enjoyable, relaxing, exciting, inspiring, intense, un-harness-able chain of events. And I'm feeling things. really feeling them. and that feels really nice. I guess I’m being damn picky about who I let into my life; I guess that’s one way to look at it. And so far, so good–so, why the hell am I up writing all this? Goedenacht Europa, John

Wednesday, June 3, 2009