Our last few weeks have been pretty busy. We had a visitor, lots of last bits of school stuff and getting ourselves ready for our trip to the US. So while I’m actually in the US at the moment, I wrote this entry a few weeks ago and just hadn’t had the chance to post it before we left.
We’ve been in the Netherlands for almost a year now. And during this year, I have felt a vast loneliness like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Even in Spain, our first time living not just abroad, but outside of Massachusetts, I never felt as lonely or isolated than I have here.
Why? My network in Spain was more multi faceted than we have here. Josh had a lot more co-workers that were expats. We lived in the city. I met people at the gym. And of course through the kids’ school. Things just clicked and friendships happened quickly. In the expat world, you often don’t have time to wait and see how things will evolve with a potential friend. You connect or you don’t. People came and went and while there were times of loneliness, it was nothing compared to here.
And yet… Nothing. I felt I had been putting effort into meeting people but for the most part, no one took the initiative to get together, even for just a coffee, so I assumed they just weren’t interested. In fact, here we are almost 11 months in and I have yet to have a girls night out. It’s depressing and quite honestly, demotivating. Add in shitty weather, issues with school and you can imagine how I’m feeling about life in the Netherlands. Spain it is not.
Going off my post about defining home and trying to recreate a place that is so different from where you currently are, I had high expectations here of friendships forming quickly. But looking back, it’s just not possible. And now that my eyes are opened to the knowledge that this is not Barcelona nor Boston, I recognize what has been happening. However, there comes a time for every expat when we turn a corner. That moment of realization that things are on an upswing and that you are feeling pretty good about the future. That moment for me was about a month to 6 weeks ago. Now don’t get me wrong, we are still having some struggles, primarily with school (that’s a whole different and long story), but I feel like we’ve hit that point where things are slowly (and I really want to emphasize on the word slow here – 10 months!!) turning around for the better.
I’ve recognized that I need to take the bull by the horns. I need to take initiative. I need to recognize that sometimes, it’s matter of someone else also waiting to be asked to coffee, not just me. And so I did it. I started asking people to do things. And guess what? They said yes! And things have just taken off from there. Of course now I’m wishing I hadn’t waited 10 months to do these things. But perhaps, as much as I thought I was, maybe I wasn’t ready then? Maybe I needed to have these struggles in order to see the brighter side of things down the road?
Maybe it’s the nicer weather (I really use that term loosely here because the weather is just absolute shit – but at least it’s light out til 11PM) that has motivated me to push more. Maybe it’s knowing I’m going home in a week to regroup and refresh from this horrific year. Or maybe I’ve just hit that point where things don’t feel as “foreign” as they used to. Where I can laugh off the stupid things that constantly happen to us with an ahhhh Netherlands response (not unlike my former ahhhh Spain). I’m not 100% there but progress is happening and I feel that I’m moving forward rather than backwards.
I still can’t say that I love it here. Hell, there are many days where I can’t even say I like it here. There have been too many of those days this year. But I feel like those days are slowly fading away. So perhaps in our second year (which for us starts in August), I’ll find more days filled with sunshine(figurative because it certainly won’t be literal here) with more friends, a social life, some fun adventures and just being overall happy in where our lives are taking us here. I’ll be better at letting things roll off my shoulders. I’ll be in control of my life instead of letting life control me. And I will take this turning point to heart and hope that the dark days can stay in the past while I look forward to the future and the adventure that lies ahead.
Knuffels en kussen,