Monthly Archives: September 2013

My journey to Holland and back to me.

Great Love Expat-tations is happy to present  guest blogger, Melissa Field.  Melissa has lived in the Netherlands for a year 1/2 before deciding to return to California.  Her struggles and triumphs are something we all can relate!  Here’s her story…

When Susan asked me to write a post about why I came to and then left Holland, I thought, “Hey that’s easy enough. I already know what to say!”

That was until I really thought about it. I was surprised to find that I really wasn’t as sure about it as I’d thought. I know I had been sure that going was right. And I know I had been sure that at a certain point, it was time to go. I still feel sure about those things, but the why’s of it all, funny enough, have gotten less clear the longer I’ve been back in the US (about 5 months now).

It all started several months before I was anywhere near Holland. I was in California, living with my parents, and ready for a big change. That change blew in one day, and I could feel it coming before anything actually happened. I packed all my stuff up into boxes, cleaned my room out, and got a small travel bag ready. I made sure to pack my passport because I knew I’d be going somewhere big. I then sort of carried on unsure what was coming; only knowing it was.

I soon got a job for a friend’s family, and I thought, this is it! I’m on my way, here comes the change!  But just as quickly as I’d arrived the job fell through. I couldn’t go back to my parents, and at the same time, I couldn’t shake these dreams I’d been having that I was in Europe. They had to mean something, and so did my insistent feeling I needed my passport.

It wasn’t until I’d bounced around the country a few times and landed with a friend that the winds of change started to blow a little harder. I began to get an even clearer feeling. I had to go to Florida. And I had to go immediately. I had to go, because if I went, I’d meet a guy and we’d travel together.  I kept telling my friend about these feelings and she cheered me on the whole time, even driving me to the airport.

Within a few days of being in Florida he showed up. Yes, that he. The magical guy that so many months before I had gotten the inkling I was heading towards.  From the moment we met, we were together.

It was for this reason that, having only known him a few weeks, I really wasn’t all that afraid to move to be with him.  My stuff was already boxed and packed away at my parent’s house. I had my passport.  And I had my gut feeling this was right. It felt like it had been pre-destined, like this was someone I had been moving towards, and he moving towards me, for a long time.  Coincidentally, his parents wedding anniversary was the same day as my birthday.

We were two people who quickly fell in love and wanted to go in the same direction, and  just as quickly, became two people who wanted to stay in love and go different directions.

I knew we were pushing square pegs into round holes pretty soon into it. Probably after four months of living in the Netherlands. Even still, I stayed another year after that. We were so different, and that was the problem, but at the same time, that was what made the experience so worthwhile.

He was a conservative village boy. His home village had something like 200 people in it. I come from a city in California with a quarter million people. Of course it was more than our childhoods that made us different. He was a guy that was very settled down. He owned his own house and company. I’m a wanderer that loved to explore, not just lands, but jobs and ways of living. I had spent a lifetime embracing change. He had built a life around comfort.

So I’m sure you can see that we gleamed wonderful and much-needed things from the other. Unfortunately, there comes a time when you either agree on a middle ground or begin to put all your energy into changing the other. After a while this started to get really confusing for me. I wasn’t sure if I was compromising at the right times, too much, too little, or if I was even right in the times I stood my ground.

I wanted us to make it. I saw a light in him that made me so happy. But after a while, the experience stopped helping me grow and started to stifle me. It got to the point where I knew he didn’t love me anymore. Not because he’d fallen out of love with me. But because I just wasn’t me. I was the person I thought I should be to make our situation work.

It wasn’t his fault. It was something that had started long before I’d even left California. I’d started hiding from myself. I’d written a book, which I’ve written about over on my blog, and the whole experience blew up in my face. I didn’t want to face the failure, or scarier still, me.

So it all really became this funny inside out-thing. I’d come to Holland seeking safety in a lot of ways. I had a kind man who settled me down. I had left my writing failures behind. But how my year and a half there unfolded makes me laugh at the irony of it. The topic of my writing was always in front of me. At parties. With his parents. All the freakin’ time. I could not hide from that. Nor could I hide from me – I was surrounded by a whole country of new people. There was no one I could sit with and think, “Thank God you know me.” I was always telling people about myself and my life. And best (or worst?) of all, I didn’t feel safe in my settled down life at all. I felt like I was a big phony who was trying damn hard not to break this thing, this life together, I was holding.

I’d become miserable in my situation. Not all the time. I had amazing, unforgettable moments, but truth be told, I was having inner-meltdowns almost non-stop. But even still, while there, I was terrified to come back to the US. Even though I was unhappy in Holland, I had a hard time giving up on this big love that had seemed so destined.

After I came back home I returned to the zero point. Which isn’t so bad. It’s a fresh start, a blank slate. It’s a chance to say, that opened me wide open, that shined a light on all my dark corners. What lays before me is up to… me.

And of course, hind sight is 20/20. Writing this helped me see the bigger picture of who I was when I went to Holland. I needed not just the love I found, but the whole damn thing, even the things that made me miserable. It was a big part of my overall life growth, and kind of shoulder-shaking wake up call to stop hiding from myself.

At this time, I think I know why I left. But there’s a part of me that knows I’m still figuring that out. I probably won’t know for sure until I get to the next phase. And I’ll get there. ‘Cause the winds of change are blowing again, and I’ve already got my bag packed.

Melissa has begun her own Meditation website at  http://meditationsbymelissa.weebly.com/ She has only just started creating these meditations but I highly recommend all of them for any time of the day.  They have been really helpful to me.  

If you would like to share your story why not fill out this form or send me an email at greatloveexpattations@gmail.com.  I would love to hear how you got to where you are now even if it means that it brought you right back where you started!

Advertisements

Driver’s Ed, again?

photo credit: http://www.bubblews.com

This week I took the test for theory [in other words, the written exam] which is part one of a two-part process in getting a driver’s license here in the Netherlands.   I studied a lot over the last week and even through our annual family weekend retreat.  Fortunately, I was able to take the exam in English.  Unfortunately the study book that I possess reads like the weirdest English I’ve ever encountered.  It was clear by the end of the weekend and a few “discussions” with my husband, who would understand things clearly, that the translator of this book was not a native English speaker.  Their training was definitely in British English which is okay but sometimes words were hard to figure out like “verge” meaning the grassy part of the side of the road.  No not the shoulder because they did refer to that quite often.   It took awhile but I finally got things down and figure out when you should use your break and when to let up on the gas.  In the US most people drive automatic vehicles so most of the time you would use your break to slow down.  Or maybe its just a bad habit I have.  In any case, what I would think is not an urgent break they would see differently.   And that brings me to how almost everything here, at times, feels like bizarro land to me.  When walking down the street I would step right to get out of someone’s way, while they go left.  Ahhhh!  Now I’ve adjusted that behavior pattern (only failing once in a great while) but driving, well I see that is going to be a whole OTHER beast.

I’ve been driving for, uh, 24 years [with the last four I’ve been only behind the handlebars of a bike].  I’ve lived in a lot places; Lansing, MI, Chicago, IL, and DC Metro area/Arlington, VA with that driving license.  The last being the most challenging traffic to date.  They had traffic jams on a Saturday afternoon OR when there was sun!  No lie, they call it SUN delays and its due to the fact that there is a circle highway – aka The Beltway.  Even an inch of snow can slow this population down.  So I think I have earned my road warrior badge. Then one day a few years back, I took a practice drive with a local company here in town.  My instructor had just quit smoking three days prior and decided to have a light conversation about American politics and the effects it has on his country.  There were bikes, people, trams… OH MY!  I drove like I always would.  All the while listening to this guy go on about the finer things in his country and adversely the not so great points about mine.  He clearly needed a smoke break.  In the end he said I am comfortable in the car but didn’t check my mirrors enough, blah blah blah.  I need 10 lessons minimum.  At 50 euros a  pop!  WHOOOOA!  If this was the only cost in this process I guess it would be okay?  This, however,  is only the beginning in a succession of many costs to get a driver’s license.  So I’ve put it off because I never had a job that I couldn’t get to via public transportation nor an appointment in town where my trusty bike couldn’t take me.  It was just not necessary.  Now, well, having a child changes the landscape on that.  If I need to get somewhere fast it just isn’t going to be enough by bike, bus, or foot.

I got the results of my exam.  Unfortunately I missed passing it by a mere 3 points. I will be taking it again next month.  At the end of this week I have a scheduled “proefles” or another test drive.  I hope I don’t get another politicking ex-smoker!  Once I pass the written I will able to proceed onto driving lessons before I can take the driving test.  Which, I must add, I never had to do in my home state of Michigan.  They weren’t required (back then)!  I believe these next few months of re-learning to drive will be excruciating at times but also very liberating.  I can’t wait to ride the highways again!