September 15, 2008

A bit of reminiscing

This time last year, I had recently moved into a tiny little room in another shared apartment in Brooklyn. I told my roommate upon moving in that I could only guarantee I would be there for 6 months (in the end, I was actually only there for five months), because I fully intended to move back to Europe. I hadn't really thought about the details, but I was already planning for it as though was absolutely happening. I remember eating dinner with my new roommate and my new neighbors back in mid-September 2007, telling them I had planned a one-week trip to Paris and Amsterdam, and that I had always loved Amsterdam, that I had always been so happy to visit Amsterdam when I lived in Paris.

"So why don't you just move there?" my neighbor asked. She had just returned to New York after a couple years in Thailand.

"Well, maybe I will," I said.

Back in February, I wrote in this blog:

I know I love Amsterdam and I can't wait to try and make my life there. And yes, I am very, very, very nervous and anxious about doing all of this on my own. I think I get a lot of undeserved credit for deciding to make this move, but the thing that just outright confuses me is when people say "you're so lucky!" I don't get that. Anyone - certainly any American - could do exactly what I'm doing. It's easier because I don't have kids, a house, or a family to support. But otherwise... luck? I decided to quit a really great job in New York City and leave most of my friends and family to move to a country that is already too crowded, where I hardly know anyone, I don't know the language, and the weather sucks. If I succeed in making Amsterdam my home, then maybe one can say I'm lucky ... but if I do succeed it will be because I worked my ass off on making it happen.

You know what? I am extraordinarily lucky that everything kind of happened in the best possible way - I couldn't have possibly predicted that things would work out so easily. But I want to remind readers, and friends of mine that I've met since moving here - that it did take a lot of work. It took a lot of research, a lot of planning for things that never happened, dealing with a lot of criticism, second-guessing everything, and worst of all, it was a lot - a LOT of waiting.

But it was absolutely the right thing to do. I was just talking about this last night with my new roommate. He left a job and friends he adored in Berlin to move to Amsterdam, where he only knows a couple people, to start a new job and be closer to his girlfriend (who lives in Rotterdam). And I could see some hesitation in him, probably asking himself why leave somewhere when there aren't any problems? Where everything is going just fine, where you have friends and you like the city and you love your apartment?

I can't quite explain it, but for some reason, I knew I had to leave New York. Despite the fact that I had a great job I loved. Despite the fact that I had a full social life, an amazing set of friends, family, routines, etc. I mean, really, there was no reason for me to leave. Things were completely fine just the way they were. I was doing well in pretty much every aspect of my life. On my last day in NYC I was standing around with one of my best friends in the world, looking nervously at my backpack full of everything I would be taking with me to Europe, wondering why on earth I was doing this to myself again. "what if it doesn't work? what if I don't make any friends? what if this is all a huge mistake? why the hell am I doing this?" And he just listened to me ramble on and on, then became exasperated with me and told me to just shut up and leave already (in so many words).

Last week I was on my way to the movies here in Amsterdam. The screening was due to start at 8.30pm, but I had wanted to get there early to get a good seat, and I was running late. While I was cycling, I pulled out my phone to call my friend. "hey, I'm on my way, but I probably won't be there for another 20 minutes... would you mind..." and before I could finish my sentence he said "yes, Tami, I'll save you a seat," with a slight tone of exasperation (because I kinda always ask him to do that). When I arrived, the screening was sold out, but he had gotten me a ticket and greeted me with a hug. Then we went into the theater to watch Russian sci-fi from the 1960's with English subtitles.

My point is, you know who your friends are when you don't have to worry about exasperating them. I have tons of friends in the US that I can safely exasperate and annoy, and now after 4 months in Holland, I'm annoying and exasperating a whole new set of people.

Leaving NYC to give Europe another shot was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it was worth it. All the waiting, the research, the planning, etc. It was totally worth it.


kat said...

I am so, so glad you posted this today. I have been wanting to leave NYC to move to Australia for a year (perhaps longer) and I keep thinking about it and then putting it off because it seems wrong to leave here when my life is going pretty damn well. I have a decent job and place to live, my circle of friends is fantastic, and I'm dating a great guy. Things are good. Things are probably great, really.'s terrifying, you know? Going through the initial planning and trying to save money, and all of it. It's good to hear that it's worth it. And that I need to just really commit to it.

Another American Expat said...

thanks so much for your comment! I think that you will be second-guessing yourself up until the day you take off, and you'll probably have many, many moments of second-guessing yourself when you're gone.. but it's totally worth it. or at least, it has been for me. :)

kat said...

I'm pretty sure it will be worth it. It's something I've talked about doing for a long time, and I really do think it's time I went for it (well, you know, in about six months once I save some money and all of that). It's nice to know that second-guessing is part of the equation and that I'm not alone in all the crazy emotions surrounding it!