Friday, February 26, 2010

My New Dutch Life:


I’m in this interesting position within my professional endeavors where I'm able to (and have to) meet with many fascinating–and quite well known–people in the local architecture, design, and publishing world. My people! I’ve been propelled farther into this realm than I had originally perceived I would be–and it really gets me excited, because I enjoy writing and editing so much. I have traveled and lived in many places for someone my age (24!), but each experience, in every city (San Francisco, NYC, Düsseldorf, and Copenhagen–ah yes, and Amsterdam), have all taught me incredibly useful tid-bits about life. As well as political aspects about the world we live in that have further worked to align me with some really great people. I do not want to live in suburbia, or need to have a car. In the Netherlands public transport is so efficient I don't need one. Things here just work. And I love the country all the more for it. I really think that more American cities' downtown will gentrify in the decade to come. Even more. And many American cities will start installing tram and streetcar systems–the two words being interchangeable. A former colleague in NYC once told me something along the lines of, ‘...if it doesn’t give you butterflies, it probably isn’t for you.’ And this was in the context of genuine interests. At the time, the design studio that I was then at did keep my interest–but it didn’t give me butterflies. More like tiny fireflies–a small brightness was burning inside–but it wasn’t quite the path or area of design that I was meant to be in (though I did get to attend some very swank Manhattan parties, and even once meet Giada de Laurentis at the Poliform kitchen showroom opening. Fun). My professional endeavors, these days, give me butterflies–many. 

I have this book that I love: New York CallingIt’s about the city and it’s a collection of essays on the city, candidly written by the cities homeless, junkies, burnouts, policemen, politicians and ordinary citizens. It tells the life of the city in a way that no other book on NYC has ever done–or at least one that I’ve read. I can take it with me anywhere–and read it over and over again. It’s a favorite park-time companion of mine. Yes, the park–another city component that can only exist within the city. And, of course parks do exists outside the city–but not in a way they do within it. Think of Central Park–with it’s clearly defined borders. A juxtaposition of: park meets nature. You can sit in Central Park and see skyscraper to the north, south, east and west–pushing up through the tops of the trees. A strange sight that most take for granted. A park with a Picasso sculpture in Amsterdam? Of course the city has one: The Fish, 1965. What has propelled my interest in city life and city dwelling, and the components that make up a city? Growing up really is strange. And even stranger when you’re doing it in a place where the language is different than your own, as is almost everything else. But borders mean nothing. Just arbitrary lines drawn on a map by humans; the only thing different about where I am now–physically–compared to where I was while in the USA–is the people–and the culture is different. As of course, so is the landscape.

It’s odd for me to have to suddenly arrange–by myself and 100% for myself–little life things: pay bills, arrange health insurance, manage finances, learn a new language, stay on top of everything at the studio, keep social contacts afloat. When I was young, I always thought that adults just knew how life-related-things worked, naturally: work, bills, and life–such as ordering food at restaurants or a bar (remember ordering your first drink at a bar and how awkward it was?). It’s these little life events that never have a manual. We all just imitate one another. Time is another human invention. It almost seems at times as if the weeks just fly by furiously; and what for? What is it that we’re all doing? A friend thinks that we’re all just keeping ourselves from being bored, waiting to die I imagine. But what comes in between birth and death? And what is it exactly that we’re all here to do? I could easily lie in the park all day and be completely happy–forever. If my life was spent inside a postcard of people laying in the park, I would be happy. But I’m also happy now doing what I’m doing at this moment. But, what am I doing at this moment? Well, for one I’m incredibly in love. Which makes every day seems just a bit brighter than the day before–as does waking up to the person you love lying next to you–each day. I’m also working hard. But what is it that I’m meant to do? 

The other day I was looking on Amazon and saw this book called: ‘What got you here won’t get you there.’ The first page talks about those people in shopping malls who have no need for the huge map that tells you ‘you are here’–as some people are just born with this innate quality of always knowing where to go, in the mall and in life. I guess you could say I’ve always been one of these people. Things just always work out for me and I always have a clear plan of where to go next, and what to do next. This could easily be illustrated by the fact that I plan out where I’m going and what I’m going to do even before I leave my house sometimes, even if I’m just going to the park. Boring. Or is it, perhaps, that I’m just a determined and clearly tasked person who creates challenges for themselves? Hmm. I’m at this strange point where I realize that the Netherlands is now my home. As I stay longer I’m falling into different circles and meeting different people who I otherwise never would have, had I not moved to the Netherlands. And it’s incredibly consuming and always pulls at my mind in quite theoretical ways. My mind just does somersaults sometimes.

After graduating from college one will naturally find themselves at a bit of loss for what’s next, but I have a what’s next lined up and ready to go, actually, it’s under way. But what’s next? Really next? I imagine that’s the thing, no one ever knows what’s next. because no one can ever predict he future. (Although I once had my fortune told and she was dead on with everything she said, so far, at this point in my life.) Strange. I fell like I’m really a part of something important at my work–so maybe that’s why people work actually, to have a sense of belong. I’m still unsure if I will need to be my own boss at some point in my life. I once read that entrepreneurship is just another word for ‘difficult to work with’. Is that so? I don’t think so. But now that school has been over for two years–and even after the fulfillment of my current position. But what’s next? When I was young, I used to play the game Life, officially 'The Game of Life'. It was my favorite board game of them all. I would always want to be the ‘artist’, when drawing my ‘profession’ card. I was always incredibly creative in school, always at the top of my class, and for the most part teachers adored me. My last professor of English taught an incredibly interesting course on the ‘American Campus in Fact, Fiction and Reality’–and after consulting this professor about my move to Amsterdam, before I decided I would, she told my family that I was ‘going places’. I’ve always been told this. That is, that I’m ‘going places' and ‘doing things’; well yeah–of course. We all are. But what do people mean by places and things?

One thing about artist that interests me quite a bit–is the notion of professional. What does that word really mean? Aren't we all just playing Life, in real life? A collective identity deemed acceptable by the masses for all to conform to, so who says that someone or something is a professional? Besides the society that the professional is reflection on? And what makes someone, or their ideas, or their creations, more important than the next person's? I’m positive that without money there would be less distinction between fine art and art. Art is all just art. I would really love to create again. To make. I was always an academic, not in the sense of always receiving perfect grades, but in the sense that I simply love to learn. To push myself further. To always continually expand my knowledge. Life is so incredibly interesting and complex sometimes. Not even the daily aspects of it–but simply, life. I do talk with quite a surprisingly large number of friends back in the states (as I knew that many of them would float away when I left America–but it’s interesting to note those who stay in touch, and continue to do so. They mean a lot to me. And it’s always nice to receive and email that says something like, ‘I miss you and hope you are well! Much love!).

It’s also interesting to note how this learning process of learning about yourself is never over, and what you previously leaned about yourself you always must redevelop and recycle, because we are never finished reinventing ourselves or further propelling or questioning our thoughts and ideas. At least I'm not. A strange but fascinating concept. After I learned I would be staying in Amsterdam for life began to settle in and slowly I realized that I had very few friends that I’m close to, because I moved across an ocean on my own and knew absolutely zero people upon landing. I’m shocked–maybe happy is a more appropriate word–that I know and have met so many people in the past (almost ) two years that I’ve been here. And that’s something I wasn’t necessarily prepared for upon my move, falling in love that is. My social circle is clearly developed–but just like all humans (in the physical and metaphorical sense)–it is always expanding, shrinking and being reprocessed. What I’m realizing that I don’t have ample amounts of here in the Netherlands, is great friends. Really really great friends who you can tell anything about your life, ask anything about theirs, and just be, human beings with together.

But one thing I have done is meet many new people here in the Netherlands, and I sometimes wonder if the past was holding me back in the present upon my first few months here; always looking toward the USA–naturally–as one will (at least I did). Comparing friends from the past with people from the present, and wondering if they will ever replace people from the past. I hope not. But at the same time old friends certainly shouldn’t hold me back from meeting new people in Amsterdam. Who knows–a new best friend could be just around the corner. But it takes meeting people and being social for this to even happen. Someone told me last year that you have to engage in casual conversation before people open up to you–especially in the European context. Euros just love their private lives so much–yet their social circles are so small, and I’m convinced it’s because of the size of their countries. If all of my friends from high school lived within a three and a half hours train ride of me–then I’d still often talk those people from my past, too. But I don’t.

But I was so over high school before it began. is it time for college yet? And I really doubt that I would talk to people from my high school (I’m referencing Dutch and Europeans quality of maintaining friend circles from high school way into their adult lives, here), had I still be living in the states. I know that I wouldn’t, because–well... I didn’t when I lived there during college. Always onto the next thing I was, even while in college I would sometimes simply not complete tasks in studio because I knew they wouldn’t matter within the context of the ‘real world’, and at that at pint in my life wouldn’t be useful for anything–and I simply did my own thing–always finding replacements and supplements and always pushing on. I imagine this long post is just about life in general, and my assessment of where I am at this moment in life. Happy, would be the answer. And healthy and in love. So all positives here.

So I imagine I need to start painting again–and being a bit more social, because life is about sharing, interacting and conversing–in all ways shapes and forms. Life is about creating. And I constantly feel a desire to create. But on the flip side. I have met some interesting people here in Amsterdam and a few that I, strangely–feel very close to without knowing them too incredibly well. An interesting phenomena. This often happens with me; I can suddenly pick up on someone and feel more than comfortable around them, even though I do not know them. To the point where they’re still getting to know me–but I approach the friendship as if we’ve known one another for years. I’m not sure if these people feel as close to me as I do to them–but I enjoy their conversation and company and wouldn’t mind getting closer. The language makes things a bit difficult–even though everyone here also (almost always) speaks English as well–this culture is just not as open as my own, and that sometimes makes things hard.

But for instance, the simple day to day tasks of going to the grocery and conversing in Dutch with the checkout girls/boys–makes me feel just slightly more ingrained into Dutch culture; a culture that very much proclaims to be open and accepting to all–but is a bit two faced to be honest. Dutch culture is open and liberal and free–but that doesn’t mean the people are all the above, also. Quite the opposite. And the openness is very much on a superficial level–it’s more of a ‘live and let live’ mentality, than being open and warm. But again–I imagine its just finding your niche within the social context of a city–and finding the people who match and meet your views on life and the world–because isn’t that what life’s always about? Finding those similar to us? Which also explains why people often enjoy living in homogeneous communities–the safety and comfort of being surrounded by those similar to us.

Dutch culture is interesting. Especially the immigration issue–and the attitude toward those of Eastern and Islamic decent–who now reside in the Netherlands–but this is a debate that all of the European countries are experiencing. East meets West. but I imagine that’s what happens when you invite those who you view as slightly under-superior to yourself, to do the daily tasks and jobs that you find yourself to be above. And this, is topic that has been brewing in my mind for ages–the idea and views toward Muslims and those of Eastern decent residing in the the Netherlands, by the Dutch. It’s an interesting one–and certainly deserves a bit of discussion at a later date. And with that: I’m off, being social.