Part of what scares me about it. #writing (Taken with instagram)

Part of what scares me about it. #writing (Taken with instagram)

Tags: writing

I wrote an article for the IamExpat.nl web site about my experience obtaining a residency permit in The Netherlands. I thought when I picked up the permit at the IND offices that would be the end of my struggle for at least a year, but no. My last name was misspelled on the card. The hardest part is over, but I’m still waiting for a new card. This has the makings of an “I Love Lucy” episode. Click the link above to read the article!

Opening wide for 2011

Happy New Year !!!

I’m sure I say this every year - and really, if you can’t say this every year you’re doing something wrong - but 2010 is certainly a year I will remember. The date stamped in my mind with major milestones, like the true beginning of my teaching career, my trans-Atlantic move, and my continuing battle to be a successful expat in a new country. 

As is to be expected in a 365-day swath of time, there’s a lot about this year I’d like to forget and move past, mainly the creepy, hermit-like existence I’ve been living since moving to The Netherlands. Part of my hermitdom has been a result of secondary circumstances, like money problems, no job, snow, and ice. But I know much of this has come from my fear of truly stepping out on my own in a new place. There are pros and cons of moving abroad for the sake of your love of a foreign partner. Having a native by my side is comforting, reassuring, and gives me a little window into a social network I might otherwise have to build on my own from scratch. The dark side, however, is using this person as a crutch. Thomas has been the blanket to my Linus for the last few months and I can’t ignore that anymore. Photo by Tim Hamilton.

Thomas and I both struggle with the 20-something feelings of having not created enough or done anything big by this time in our lives. Rather than focus on our successes, we’ve dipped into self-loathing about what could have been - who we could have been. It’s bullshit and a waste of time, certainly, but that doesn’t make the feelings go away. Oh common sense and logic, how I wish you were more powerful in the face of angst and emotion. I’m sure these tinges come from living in a world where kids run multi-million dollar companies or have traveled the world by the time they’re 14. You can’t help but feel a little pale in comparison and wonder why you didn’t take certain paths or why you were so careful when you had the freedom to be wild. Insecurity is powerful, but we both made a pact to move past it this year, or at least fill our lives with hobbies and passions that bring us happiness in hopes of drowning it out.

We can only move one way through time and there’s no way around that (yet…still waiting for a 15-year-old to figure out time travel). In the face of that fact, I’m gathering a short list of new year’s resolutions that I hope will help me, at the very least, see what I’ve done, be happy about it, and use that positive energy to push me toward something better. Let’s face it - you can only wallow for so long before you start to annoy yourself and the people around you. For the most part I find resolutions to be less constructive and more destructive in our lives, but I’m avoiding the typical “lose weight, eat healthier, etc.” resolutions for more broad and, dare I say accomplishable ones like:

- Try to spend at least 15 minutes a day writing for no one but yourself and without any kind of publication in mind. If it goes longer, awesome, if you miss a day, no biggie - make up for it with some extra time on the next day. 

- Study Dutch, some how some way, every single day. Even if it’s learning one word and using it in a sentence and that’s as far as you get, it’s a success. This is a firm one, though - you have to do it every day. 

- Finally do that podcast you’ve been talking about for so long. 

- Do some sort of physical activity once a day, even if it’s just biking around the neighborhood or dancing to music for 10 minutes in the apartment. Get into some yoga. 

- Finish Couch to 5k program and keep running! Aim for at least three times a week, or more if you’re up for it. 

- Try to work up to at least one, real, on-your-toes push-up with good form and everything.

- Try to grow some food, even if it’s a small herb pot or two on the patio.  

- Commit to a big knitting project, like that light spring cardigan on Ravelry. 

- Go to a MeetUp group meeting in The Netherlands. 

These may not all start the morning of January 1, 2011, but I’m writing them out and keeping them close by to remind myself of what I’ve committed to and who I want to strive to be this year. On the top of my list should be “GET A JOB,” but I don’t think of things like that as resolutions but rather necessities like “eat food” and “bath regularly.” I will have a job this year, sooner rather than later, and I don’t need to see it on a list of resolutions to feel the pressure to search and apply. 

And on one last note about changes in my life, I’ve decided to block myself from Facebook and disable my account. I’m still considering not disabling it so I can have links from my blogs appear in my feed, but I’m certainly blocking myself from the site through my MacTerminal. At first I felt like Facebook was connecting me to my friends and family a world away, but really it’s isolating me from the world around me here, now, in The Netherlands. Thomas and I took the plunge last night (sheesh, why is it such a big deal?) and blocked our accounts and deleted the apps from our devices. I really love social networks and advocate for them often in education and my personal life, but this one has been toxic for me personally. I’ll still be connecting on other networks, like Twitter, but for now Facebook is gone and it feels good. 

Cheers to a new and fulfilling year. 

This is an article I wrote for IamExpat.nl. The site was online for a while, serving expats in The Netherlands, but it recently relaunched with a new look and a list of contributors, one of which is me. I’m looking forward to writing more for them and sharing my experiences over there. Check out the site!

That falling feeling

I’m wondering if I’m drifting slowly into a life crisis of sorts. My career never really started before I changed it and then my second career, if I could call it that, got off the ground right before I up and moved to another country to be with the man I’m pretty sure I want to spend my life with. I often envy people who’ve been in jobs for long periods of time. They seem to have a commitment characteristic engrained in their personality that allows them to do this. They’re most likely the same people that say they’re going to start jogging and acutally do it. I’m always thinking about the next thing or how I can grow and move on to bigger and better projects, but is this the healthiest way to be? Should I try and settle down for at least five years (Jesus, that sounds like a long time) in some sort of position so I can see what I might be missing? 

fallen tree

Photo by slimmer_jimmer

Time has always been a fickle reality for me. It goes by so fast, but at the same time I beat myself up for not being a completely established professional, fluent in Dutch after only being here four months. I should cut myself some slack, I know, but it’s hard when I feel the sands of time slipping through my fingers while I’m sitting on the couch watching an antique appraisal show on BBC just to hear some English. (I wish I could get some decent American English in my life, but I can’t handle another episode of MADE or 16 & Pregnant. I just can’t.). I’m only 26, I tell myself, but then I also think: Holy shit, I’m 26. So many questions are running through my mind at this point. Am I going to get married? Should I be having kids right now or is that just my reproductive system sending me weird evolutionary signals to procreate? Why haven’t I published anything creative? Why is my freelance career so fledgling? What should I be doing differently? 

These panicked moments of self reflection often send me into a tailspan of clicking embedded links endlessly on LifeHacker productivity articles. Yes, I’m one of those people that frets about productivity by procrastinating on my to-do list through reading how-tos on how to be productive. It’s shameful and yet I continue. 

So then I think again about that person in the office, having put in a good five years with the company, has a pin to show for it or something. And then I wonder, maybe that guy hates his life and wishes he’d dropped it all for something else. I go back and forth on this imaginary shmoe’s innermost feelings about his career. I suppose it boils down to my simultaneous yet conflicting desires for spontinaeity and security in my life. How does one reconcile these two longings that seem to have equally strong grasps on my life trajectory? 

I’ve just downloaded a copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen. Yes, I feel stupid about this. I’m now going to load it onto the e-reader I never feel like I read enough and get to thinking about my productivity, or lack thereof. I’m curious if this book is even made for funemployed, 20-something, expats like myself whose GTD lists involve things like starting a new blog, knitting a neck cowl, and trying my hand at homemade, vegan ba pao. We’ll see. 

Dealing with the doldrums, step two

This is part of a series on dealing with the expat doldrums. I’m writing this for myself as much as for others since the last few weeks have left me feeling listless. Being an expat is an incredible experience, and here’s another way to keep that feeling going.

Step Two: Get creative

I enjoy fiber arts like knitting and crocheting, as well as cooking and writing. In America I led the typical life of the overworked, exhausted new teacher and I rarely, if ever, had time for these things. If there’s something you enjoy doing but never had the time, pick it up again and see where it takes you. I seem to have revived my love for knitting and crochet and enjoy curling up with my yarn and a good audiobook (currently it’s “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens) to zone out. Not to mention I’m terrified of the approaching winter here in the Netherlands and can’t seem to make enough hats and scarves.

I’m also trying to write more personal narratives and reflections (like this blog) to find that voice I had in college. As a newspaper reporter writing became my profession, but while it invigorated me in many ways, it also seemed to stifle that creativity for a few years. My new expat life has given room for inspiration to bubble to the surface yet again and just in time.

I gain an incredible amount of inspiration from the people around me, so rope others into cultivating creativity with you. Thomas and I have a number of ideas bouncing around our apartment and most involve ways we can collaborate (his art and design, my writing) and get that high from making something new.

A word of advice (more to myself than you, maybe): Schedule your creative time. In fact, schedule everything. When you have too much time on your hands it’s quite easy to let it slip through your fingers while watching a marathon of "16 and Pregnant" in your sweatpants. And if you’re having trouble getting creative in the first place, check out the concept of writing sprints. I found out about writing sprints through @budtheteacher in my Twitter network and believe it could be applied to any activity (painting, dancing, playing guitar, etc.).

Now go make something!

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"

— E.M. Forster

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