So I’ve written a lot about adventure, and excitement, and trying new things. I guess it’s because, until now, I haven’t been ready to face what is so affectionately referred to as “transatlanticism.” But since sustaining my injury, I’ve been stuck inside resting it with little else to do but think.

It hit me early, when I was above the Atlantic between home and the unknown. I didn’t know a single person where I was going; I didn’t know where to find the “red and white checkered meeting place” at Amsterdam Schipol; I didn’t even know what my apartment would look like.

My headphones drowned out the noise of the jet engine, and I was able to nap for a little bit to some Deathcab for Cutie: familiar, mellow, sympathetic music. I woke suddenly when my neighbor accidentally nudged me in his sleep. Morning was breaking outside of the plane – it was a cool, smooth blue, and the stillness of a plane full of sleeping passengers made me startlingly self-aware.  I didn’t feel scared, and I didn’t feel excited.

I just felt alone, in the most neutral way.

The Atlantic was born today, and I’ll tell you how
The clouds above opened up and let it out

At first, I was so overwhelmed with all the little details of my new life, and everyone from home was still so fresh in my mind, that I didn’t have time to feel that neutral alone-ness. I was always thinking so fast, trying to translate every little thing I heard and read in my head at light speed.

Little by little, the new-ness became more managable. Classes gave me a routine. I made friends. I knew that I could get sun-dried tomatoes at Super de Boer, but not Albert Heijn, and I knew all of the Euro coins by feel and weight. Strangely enough, when I got used to Europe is when that feeling I had on the plane began to come back tenfold.

Most people were overjoyed; they took to their boats
I thought it less like a lake and more like a moat

One night, I was falling asleep and remembering playing in the snow with friends before I left. I concentrated on the feeling of the snow stinging my bare hands, the wind howling through the mountains, the red warning beacon on top of the highest peak that flashes steadily every night just outside the dorms. When I tried to conjure up a mental image of the face of one of the friends I was playing with that night, it came to me sharper and clearer than the rest of the memory, and it hurt. That’s the only way I know how to describe it.

The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row
It seems farther than ever before

I got out of bed and I wrote a long letter. I filled out a lot of postcards that night I never sent. The act of writing to the people I missed eased a lot of the pain, even if they’d never read it.

Now that I have a month to go, I feel strange that there’s an end in sight. I love this place and the people I’ve met, and I’ll probably find myself getting out of bed in the middle of the night to write to them too someday.

I learned something important: that the neutral alone-ness I experience here from time to time is a blessing. Some days I bask in my independence and the quiet of not being able to be reached on a cell phone 24/7. Some nights I look at the photos I brought with me and laugh and cry a little. Too much of either, and you miss something. But when you strike a careful balance, you find a life rich with both new and old experiences, and transatlanticism doesn’t feel so scary anymore.


~ by curiouskristie on April 3, 2010.

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