three years ago today

You know how Facebook has those reminders? “On this day in ‘x’  year…” Today Facebook reminded me I was in Amsterdam three years ago.

Snapseed

 

Well, three years ago, I was a mess. My life had fallen apart and I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I had lost all sense of who I was. Or maybe I realized I had never really known who I was.

So I quit my job and got on a plane. I wandered around six European countries for almost two months trying to find myself… or at least survive the winter in lovely places.

“On this day in 2014” I was cold, so I went into a small cafe and ordered an espresso and a scone. Two men were running the cafe, and there were no other customers. They asked me where I was from and told me they were from Turkey. With my espresso and pastry in front of me, a giant window to my right side and two men rambling about whatever was on television in Turkish to my left, I took out my notebook and began to write.

I wrote it all. All of my regrets and fears and hopes. I wrote down the truths I had lied to myself about, finally being honest.  And before I knew what was happening, I was sobbing uncontrollably in that little cafe with the two Turkish men and the news on TV and the beautiful view of a canal through the window. I was embarrassed, but there was nothing I could do. The floodgates had burst open from within me.

The men quietly slipped to the back room, turning the volume down on the television. They could have rolled their eyes and carried on, or they could have turned up the volume. Instead, they gave me a minute alone (a rare thing traveling around from hostel to hostel).  After I recollected myself, one of the men reappeared with a second espresso. “Here,” he said with a small sympathetic smile before disappearing into the back room again. I tried to protest, but he was already gone.

The kindness of strangers, for real.

My memories of Amsterdam in general are nice, but faded. But I can vividly remember this particular hour. I remember the realization of loss, the deep sense of regret and the sensation of my self returning to my physical body, ready to feel the painful things.

I didn’t return home a totally changed woman. I had a lot of things to let go of before I could really start to be free. The process of unlearning all of the things I thought I knew took months…years…honestly, I am still unlearning and relearning every day.

Three Decembers later, I needed the reminder of how far I’ve come. I needed to look at myself through the eyes of the Amanda in that cafe in Amsterdam that day.

If you feel like your wheels are spinning too, look back. And then look forward at yourself through the lens of the person you were back then.

I think you’ll be surprised. I think you’ll find that you’re doing just fine.

x

 

 

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thoughts on “home”: amanda in amsterdam

(FYI: I wrote this two days ago…but didn’t have a wifi connection at the time).

Today I arrived in Amsterdam. After an unnecessarily long bus ride through Belgium (seriously, Eurolines? Two hours late?), a rather embarrassing train ride to Amsterdam Centraal Station (apparently when the train goes forward, you should hold on to something so you don’t fall over with your pack on) and a weary walk in the dark through the lively streets of the city to arrive at my host’s home. After a brief chat and her departure to bed, I sit here with Leif the cat and ponder.

“What am I doing?” The question has run through my mind frequently as I’ve stared out the windows of planes and trains and three a.m. taxicabs. “The journey is the destination…” or so the cliché goes, and I repeat it over and over to myself until it begins to sound moderately inspiring.

Through these windows I see places that children have grown up knowing by heart, though they are foreign to me. Each time the train screeches to a halt, we have arrived in a small city or village that someone calls home.

Home. The concept is beautiful to me, not having one and all. I know that my family loves me, my friends put up with me and care about me, and I know I am always welcome to be with them. I know certain places to be familiar; I know some cities and country roads like the back of my hand. But I don’t have a home. And I’m not sure I’ve ever felt a sense of home in any place over the course of my life.

What’s a girl without a home to do? If you know, please enlighten me. For now, as I travel through places previously unknown to me, I will bask in the glorious comfort of a decent place to sleep at night. I will savor every luxurious moment a hot shower brings. I will enjoy the beautiful company of strangers—some who become friends, some who I’ll never speak to again. I will sip my coffee slowly in the cafe so I can sit there just a little bit longer, because it is a lovely place to be.