Following Your Gut and Making a Shit Mess of Everything (but then realizing it was always happening just as it should)
This is a piece I wrote when I'd moved back from Holland. Since it's been just about a year since I returned I thought I'd share it, as it was an important milestone in my life. I wrote this for another friend's blog and it was meant to be about why I chose to come back. When I look at it now it reminds me to follow my intuition and to know that some of life's biggest struggles are in truth the ones that make life the best. I had a hard time in Holland for many reasons, which I touched on below, but when I came to the US I had also healed many things. Going and coming back both felt scary and I had no guide post, no sure reasons to do either. I only had my intuition to follow, and had I not gone I wouldn't have gotten what I needed. And if I had stayed just because I didn't know what else to do I would have dragged the experience on too long and come home even more broken than when I left (how sad!). Fortunately. I followed my gut, came home, and still have love in my heart for the person and life I left behind.
When my friend asked me to write a short piece about why I moved to and then left Holland, I thought, “Hey that’s easy enough. I already know what to say!”
That was until I really thought about it. I was surprised to find that I really wasn’t as sure about it all as I’d thought. I know I had been sure going was right. And I know I had been sure that at a certain point, it was time to go back to the US. And I still feel sure about those things, but the why’s of it all, funny enough, have gotten less clear the longer I’ve been back in the US (about 5 months now).
It all started several months before I was anywhere near Holland. I was in California, living with my parents, and ready for a big change. That change blew in one day, and I could feel it coming before anything actually happened. I packed all my stuff up into boxes, cleaned my room out, and got a small travel bag ready. I made sure to pack my passport because I knew I’d be going somewhere big. I then sort of carried on unsure what was coming, only knowing it was.
I soon got a job for a friend’s family, and I thought, this is it! I’m on my way, here comes the change! But just as quickly as I’d arrived the job fell through. I couldn’t go back to my parents, and at the same time, I couldn’t shake these dreams I’d been having that I was in Europe. I mean nighttime dreams, not like day dreams. I'd been dreaming of a place I'd never been, dreaming like I was there. They had to mean something, and so did my insistent feeling I needed my passport. All I had were these gut feelings that were like caffeine, amping me up for something but I had no idea what. It was a strange state of mind, to be so sure, so fired up, and at the same time, so damn unsure. It scared me at times and I questioned by sanity. Why was I chasing this invisible carrot?
It wasn’t until I’d bounced around the country a few times and landed with a friend that the winds of change started to blow a little harder. I began to get an even clearer feeling. I had to go to Florida. And I had to go immediately. I had to go, because if I went, I’d meet a guy and we’d travel together. I kept telling my friend about these feelings, and thankfully, she didn't tell me I was crazy and needed to go home and do something safe and sure. She told me to follow my gut. And even though the feelings had gotten more solid, the picture more clear, I still doubted myself. But I went anyway.
Within a few days of being in Florida he showed up. Yes, that he, that guy I felt I'd meet if I went. I suddenly started to understand what my gut had been trying to lead me to, where all of those crazy feelings of "go there, not there" had been pointing to. And from the moment we met, we were together.
It was for this reason that, having only known him a few weeks, I really wasn’t all that afraid to move to be with him. Yes there were nerves, I did have to convince myself to go, and it wasn't easy. I wanted reassurance it'd all work out. I wanted to know I wasn't going to lose myself and fall apart (spoiler: I did, but it was worth it). Despite my reservations I knew I would go. If my dreams were any indication, I already had gone.
I look back on that and think, "Oh my god, that's crazy!" It's like looking at someone else, I can't imagine just getting on an airplane now to start a relationship with someone in Europe I hardly knew. But then, who was I to question destiny? Life had given me an opportunity and I had two choices: run chicken or embrace it with open arms. My stuff was already boxed and packed away at my parent’s house. I had my passport. And I had my gut feeling this was right. It felt like it had been pre-destined, like this was someone I had been moving towards, and him towards me, for a long time. Coincidentally, his parents wedding anniversary was the same day as my birthday.
We were two people who quickly fell in love and wanted to go in the same direction. Just as quickly, we became two people who wanted to stay in love and go different directions.
I knew we were pushing square pegs into round holes pretty soon into it. Probably after about four months. Even still, I stayed another year after that. We were so different, and that was the problem, but at the same time, that was what made the experience so worthwhile.
He was a conservative Dutch village boy. His home village had something like 200 people in it. I come from a city in California with a quarter million people. Of course it was more than our upbringings that made us different. He was a guy that was very settled down. He owned his own house and company. I’m a wanderer that loved to explore, not just lands, but jobs and ways of living. I had spent a lifetime embracing change. He had built a life around comfort.
So I’m sure you can see that we gleamed wonderful and much needed things from the other. Unfortunately, there comes a time when you either agree on a middle ground or begin to put all your energy into changing each other. After awhile this started to get really confusing for me. I wasn’t sure if I was compromising at the right times, too much, too little, or if I was even right in the times I stood my ground.
I wanted us to make it. I saw a light in him that made me so happy. But after awhile, the experience stopped helping me grow and started to stifle me. It got to the point where I knew he didn’t love me anymore. Not because he’d fallen out of love with me. But because I just wasn’t me. I was the person I thought I should be to make our situation work.
It wasn’t his fault. It was something that had started long before I’d even left California. I’d started hiding from myself. I’d written a book, which was the scariest thing I'd ever done, and when the situation didn't turn out the way I wanted I panicked. I buried my head in the sand like an ostrich. I didn’t want to face the failure, or scarier still, me.
So it all really became this funny inside out-thing. I’d come to Holland seeking safety in a lot of ways. I had a kind man that settled me down. I had left my writing failures behind. But how my year and a half there unfolded makes me laugh at the irony of it. The topic of my writing was always in front of me. At parties. With his parents. People were curious, and if I wasn't such an insecure wreck, I would've been able to see they weren't judging me, they were showing me I'd done something interesting.
The only thing being shoved in my face more than my writing was ME. I couldn't hide from me - I was surrounded by a whole country of new people. There was no one I could sit with and think, “Thank God you know me.” I was always telling people about myself and my life. People asked questions because I had done a strange thing - up and left and moved to this new country for love. They thought I was brave and full of passion. And once again, if I hadn't been so unsure of myself I would've seen that the things I was saying were very interesting indeed. I would have seen I was brave and I was passionate. I saw something else though - I saw my struggle. I saw my daily failures with the language, with getting lost, with everything. If I learned anything after I came home it's that we see what we want to see. I have since avowed to never be so hard on myself again.
And worst (or best?) of all, I didn’t feel safe in my settled down life at all. I felt like I was a big phony who was trying damn hard not to break this thing, this life together, I was holding.
I’d become miserable in my situation. Not all the time. I had amazing, unforgettable moments, but truth be told, I was having inner-meltdowns almost non-stop. Despite this pain and struggle, while there, I was terrified to come back to the US. Even though I was unhappy in Holland, I had a hard time giving up on this big love that had seemed so destined. I was also afraid to come back and pick up where I'd left off - a writer with her head in the sand. Of course, that was impossible. Once you're stretched beyond your previous limits you can't go back there. It's impossible. I just needed to trust myself. When I'd gone to Holland I'd taken a chance on love and it was so worth it. Going back home would mean something else, it'd mean this time the gamble would be on myself. Had I changed? Could I face my failure? Could I start over... again?
After I came back home I returned to the zero point. Which isn’t so bad. It’s a fresh start, a blank slate. It’s a chance to say, that opened me wide open, that shined a light on all my dark corners. What lays before me is up to... me.
And of course, hind sight is 20/20. Writing this helped me see the much bigger picture of who I was when I went to Holland. I needed not just the love I found, but the whole damn thing, even the things that made me miserable. It was a big part of my overall life growth, and kind of a shoulder-shaking wake up call to stop hiding from myself.
At this time, I think I know why I left. But there’s a part of me that knows I’m still figuring that out. I probably won’t know for sure until I get to the next phase. And I’ll get there. ‘Cause the winds of change are blowing again, and I’ve already got my bag packed.