“Lucky to have been where I have been; lucky to be coming home again.” -Colbie Caillat and Jason MrazAmsterdam, Fall 2009
When I began this blog back in mid-August, I offered the confession that I wanted to “feel things.” Perhaps you found this sentiment to be rather romantic, too light and lyrical to be sincere. I could be just one more person echoing empty vowels, only I possess the ability to string together all the right words and phrases to tug on the proper heartstrings. I suppose you’d be right on all accounts. I’ve a flair for melodrama and it shows in my writing; I am convinced that life only holds interest in the light of tragedy and I have a predilection for immeasurable grieving.
However, as I find sorrow sink into my bones as surely as the snow falls upon my front lawn, I turn to the Moleskine City Notebook that I mentioned in the aforementioned entry. As I open the book to relive these memories, I trace the Sylvia Plath quote that I wrote weeks before I even left for my grand adventure, “And what if the sky here is no different / And it is my eyes that have been sharpening themselves?”
As I stare out my window, where SUVs drive past instead of intercity trains on their way to Maastricht and the loudest noises I hear walking down Main Street in my small town are children’s laughter, I feel myself more acutely aware of how easy it is to live as though you are merely going through the motions than I ever was before. Though I cannot say that my return invigorates me, instills a life in me that Amsterdam did, I am still awed by how many simplistic gestures and how many small, taken for granted acts of kindness there are in the world.
And while my limbs feel awkward and weak in the sluggish mood that characterizes my sleepy town, I know that I will eventually reclaim my previous stamina and recapture the invigorating passion for life that I cultivated while in Amsterdam. Someday, hopefully a day sometime soon, happiness will not be contingent on where I am, who I’m with, or what I’m doing. And maybe, just maybe, I will be able to claim a slice of bliss for myself in this wintry Midwestern town.
I would like to offer one last quote from Revolutionary Road, similar to how I began this blog all those months ago. At one point, April Wheeler tells her husband, “It takes backbone to lead the life you want.” Those words have resonated so deeply in me as I’ve settled back into life in the United States. It would be all too simple to slip into life as it once was, to pretend as though I haven’t changed. But if these four months have taught me anything, anything at all, it would be that happiness does not happen; it requires work. It requires risk. And yes, in some cases, even some sacrifice. My time has also rejuvenated me with energy when I once thought I was permanently fatigued, reminded me of all the things worth living for, striving for, dying for. This will resonate with me for the rest of my life and I could never be more grateful.
This chapter is closed, but my story is not yet finished. Thank you for following me on my semester of self-discovery in Amsterdam and beyond. I hope every experience that you seize in life, big or small, sharpens your eyes to the world and its possibilities even just a fraction more.
All the best,
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