It’s been over a year since I first wrote about my Third Culture Kid travel lifestyle on a flight back from Amsterdam, so it feels only right to reflect on my feelings again now that I’ve arrived to live here in Amsterdam for real. I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a while, but I keep struggling with finding the right words, the right tone, the right narrative.
I could write about how positively intoxicating it has been to move to this beautiful, dynamic, and international city filled with exhilarating opportunities. The sincere, silent joy of sitting by a canal eating a cookie (from Van Stapele of course, where else!) watching boats swim by. The comically slow journey it takes me to bike to every engagement I have in this city because I often have to stop not once, not twice, but at least five or six times to take another photo of these magical Amsterdam views and entrancing canal houses. The thrill I experience every time I take a second to stop what I’m doing and remember that yes, I actually live here, in Amsterdam, and that this life is not a dream. Moving here has been the greatest privilege, and sometimes I just cannot begin to fathom just how lucky I am to be here.
But moving here has also been one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t know if I would make any close friends, I didn’t know if I’d ever feel truly at home in this new place, and I didn’t know how to deal with being a whole ocean away from so many close, loving friends I’ve made the past 7 years in America. The past four months here have definitely been filled with hilarious awkwardness, uncomfortable obstacles, and sometimes even inconceivable loneliness. I could write about the guilty pain that arises when looking at social media and seeing it’s a friend’s birthday, and realizing you not only will not be able to share this day that celebrates their wonderful life when them but you also don’t know if you ever will again. The sense of disquietude that surfaces in the moments of goodbye to close friends from far away when realizing you have no idea when you’ll ever see them again. That at times, my very existence feels strange and unnatural in this new place where everything and everyone is unfamiliar.
I feel so uncomfortable writing about the pain and challenges I experience in my life because I really recognize how privileged I am to even have the opportunity to sit here and write about them at all. How privileged I am to have been able to move here to Amsterdam, when so many others are denied entry to not just this country but to almost all, facing uncertain futures and separated from the places and people they hold dear. To have many places I’ve been able to call home, when according to the UNHCR 65.6 million people worldwide have been forced from theirs. My American passport, as is true for many Western passports, has given me one of the most valuable freedoms in life, the ease of mobility, a privilege that has shaped me into who I am today and never will I forget to be grateful for this.
I write of my experience moving here not to forget or even downplay these privileges, but to reflect and share some insight into the dualities of this life, of what moving across the world really feels like. Every day we are confronted with photos, movies, and advertisements filled with happy images, short, silly captions, beautiful places, and gorgeous people. Our life is saturated with only one side of the story, the side people carefully construct for you to see, that everything else – the bad, the ugly, the hurt, the pain – is ignored or forgotten. But we should also be sharing our pain, the moments where we feel lost, alone, scared, and empty, because its all of these moments together that make us who we are.
I still don’t know what I want to do, I still find myself questioning if I’m heading in the right direction, and I’m still struggling to build a home here in Amsterdam so far from my friends and family. It frightens me to have moved here to pursue this life, a life that I’m not even 100% sure is right for me. But since moving here I’ve also made incredible friendships, seen beautiful views, and gained treasured opportunities to learn more about who I am and what I want from life. I’ve honestly never been happier, the type of happy where you actually feel warm from the inside. So yes, I live in Amsterdam, and life has truly never been better.