On June 4, 2011, I landed in The Netherlands where I would be living for 7 weeks. On April 30th of this year, 2018, I returned with my husband. It seemed like the day I would find my way back there would never come, but I’m so happy it finally did.
Man, starting this post was so much harder than I had anticipated. My time in the Netherlands is so important to me, and I just know I can’t relay that accurately. Everything changed for me. My whole perspective on the world as a whole, what is “normal”, and the idea of good and bad. Having grown up in a small town my whole life, jumping into another country with people that lived such different lives than me really opened my eyes. Even the sun rose earlier than I’d ever experienced!
I was there to study city planning, or that’s what it said on paper, but really I was there to experience something new and have the chance to explore another life (and take so many pictures). I learned so much about what makes the Netherlands tick, and it’s hard not to be jealous and harsh on my own country for the decisions we make as a people, government, and even decisions like where we decided to build our streets. I think that might be part of return culture shock. I remember coming back from the Netherlands the first time and feeling this deep frustration over everything the US does. The Dutch do it better. And that’s true about some (a lot) of things, but it’s like comparing yourself to another, totally different person. Take finances for example. Everyone’s budget is different and it can be easy to judge your friend for spending so much on groceries. Man, how can you decide that’s where your money goes? But that friend is a great cook and finds pleasure in cooking and eating seafood. But me, I don’t care that much and just buy cheap bread and cereal, but I spend all my money on video games because that’s what makes me happy. Does that make sense? We all have priorities, and some things work for one person, but not the other. I could buy all that seafood, but man I wouldn’t know where to start preparing it. It’d be a waste.
(This is just an example. I like food and video games)
The time I spent in the Netherlands all those years ago changed my perspective on the world. I always felt like we were right. The US was the one country that everyone knows and gets, and all the others knew they were making weird choices, but decided to go with it. It was vanilla. The default setting. But man, that’s so wrong. We’re just as weird as everyone else. But it’s so easy to think that. As a wife, I have to constantly remind myself that what I think is right and wrong won’t automatically translate to my husband. Even silly things, like the volume of the TV. I get this jittery fear in my guts if it’s too loud because it just feels wrong. I grew up in a very quiet family, but my husband grew up in the opposite, so when it comes to noise, we have to be kind of flexible and understanding of each other. Thankfully, my husband is extremely patient and accommodating to my needs so in general, defers to me (that’s a good thing, right?). But I still can’t help but wonder why we do the things we do like this, and what makes me so uncomfortable in these situations? I think it’s just my culture. My Eggleston ways.
I think the biggest lesson I learned from my time in the Netherlands was to be open and forgiving of others. We are all different and we all have our reasons for why we are like this and why we do what we do. I never realized it until then, but I used to be very judge-y. I still am in ways, but I try to just let people be people. It’s definitely a struggle as to get older. Man, kids and their twitters. I grew up with computers and always felt on top of technology, but after a certain point, I lost track and stopped caring (partially because I’m too cool for that, right?), and man you can lose track really fast! It makes me realize how generations really are so different and it’s soooo hard not to nitpick and complain about those. damn. kids. I think I have more respect now for the elderly who don’t complain about kids and computers. I hope to be like that. To be like the grandma who dances on camera because their grandkid said it would be fun. I hope that even if I don’t understand everything, I embrace it because I’m open and forgiving. I’d rather enjoy where we are together than be a sourpuss and remember where we were. I hope.
So, I don’t understand you. But that’s okay. All I can hope is that you’re doing the best you can for you and the ones you love, and I hope you’re open to me and why I’m weird, and forgiving of me when I hurt you with my weird ways.
There was plenty more to learn during my time. I found more confidence in myself as an individual. It was like starting fresh. No one knew me, so it was up to them to figure out what I was all about without preconceived ideas. That taught me a little bit about myself and my choices. Many of my classmates saw me as a reliable, trustworthy, older sibling and it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear their fears. It was good for me to hear, because I had a lot of my own fears, so now I knew I wasn’t alone, and they knew that too. Even in college I never really socialized with others much. After a particularly bad experience with a roommate, I spent the rest of my college career alone. I moved into a single room, and then eventually an apartment on my own where I didn’t have talk to anyone from school. So, this was kind of my one true experience of living with others. Although we all had our own rooms, we still lived in the same building and convened in the kitchen or on the patio a lot. We all relied on each other a lot. It helped me find who I was among others.
While preparing this post, I looked through my old photographs from my time overseas, and although I can’t remember the all the details, I can feel every day. I felt so unsure and lost, but just kept going. Some days were full of fear and anxiety and others were exhilarating.
You might recognize a couple pictures that I posted here about the anxiety and excitement of traveling abroad to Italy.
I would call this the prologue I think. What I really want to share with you is the trip we took a few weeks ago, but it was very important to provide some background on what I experienced the first time. Look forward to part II where I catch you up on our visit this year.