Winter is just not my season. Try as I might, I just can’t learn to love sweater weather, gray skies, and holiday music. My first inclination is to stay in the apartment on the couch reading or writing and wait it out. But then I feel guilty about turning into a hermit and I try to pull myself out of it, often unsuccessfully.
However, I did have a wonderful day recently where I managed to yank myself out of hibernation to meet some new people and saw, for just a moment, what kind of life could be possible if I would just push myself to live it. I traveled by train (all by myself!) to Rotterdam to meet with a friend I met on Twitter. Back in America I was part of an art and craft collective known as the 7 Cities Crafters and was always around someone making something. I’ve been missing that and set about searching for similar groups in The Netherlands. I bombed Etsy and Ravelry boards and connected with Ballee. We decided to meet up for some tea and knitting in Rotterdam.
I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be doing something so familiar in my new, still very unfamiliar, country. I battle often with trying to make myself comfortable, as if I were back home, and embracing the novelty of my new home. But sometimes, in a rare moment, the two just mesh perfectly into a hybrid existence that’s comfortable and new at the same time. My hope is to find that feeling in other parts of my life, but knitting and chatting at a cafe in Rotterdam over tea gave me a taste of what could be - I just have to be willing to climb out of my shell and do it.
That same day I met with a teacher from an international school in Rotterdam to chat education and the challenges of being a foreigner in a new place. It felt right to be around another educator, sharing my ideas and fears. I got a lot of practical, veteran advice about job hunting and working in an international school, which is something I can now do legally thanks to my residency permit. Though I haven’t actually gotten the card since the postal system has been on strike here. Still waiting.
I’ve found my old passion of knitting and crochet and I’m taking this time I have and using it to try new things. So often I was content with making scarves and dish towels because they’re easy and square and mindless, but I’ve reached beyond those things to challenge myself with a cowl and a set of mittens. Maybe I’ll try socks next. Or even a sweater. I’m at a point in this craft where I’m starting to understand how certain stitches work to create objects and garments. Before I was just the sort of knitter that learned a stitch and did it when I came across it in a pattern, not really understanding why the author included that stitch where she did. Now I’m starting to get those decisions, which is quite freeing. It’s the same feeling I got in cooking when I discovered I’d turned into one of those people who could cook just by feel and taste rather than follow a recipe. Instead of seeing a pattern as a limiting thing that I must absolutely follow, I’m now seeing a pattern as a guide within which I can make my own decisions. I will refrain from making some sort of metaphor about my evolving experience and worldview here, but just know I’m thinking about it.
PS: If you’re ever hungry in Rotterdam, check out De Oude Plek. It’s near the Lombardijen station and you can fill your belly with delicious, vegetarian Chinese food for a decent price. It’s on my list of places to take mom when she visits next year.