It’s coming down to it.
Yesterday two people wished me well on my move back to the States because they won’t be here next week to say goodbye. And it really hit me, I’m leaving. In one week I won’t be living in the Netherlands. I won’t be going to work every day in Dordrecht. I won’t be riding the NS train, or walking to Den Haag Centraal. Everything I know will come to an end. It will all be replaced by something which is not yet determined.
Today Lynn and I spent over 200 Euro buying food and party supplies for our official “going away” party. As I was making the PowerPoint invitation last week it all seemed fun and exciting, a red-white-and-blue themed party for the American and the Brit who are returning back to their homelands. But last night as we were putting the streamers we were both getting very snippy, about stupid things, like whether or not the tape will hold. It’s getting very tense.
I remember reading somewhere that after a family member dying and buying a house, moving is one of the most stressful things that people do in their lives. I tried to think back to all the moves I have made in my adult life.
I moved out of my parent’s house in 1998. My first non-parental home was my friend Ken’s guest bedroom (thanks Ken). My first apartment was in Bala Cynwyd, a nice suburb of Philly right off of the Main Line. I rented a one-bedroom apartment in what used to be a large family home. My friend Ismar from high school used to live there and he told me about it just as he was planning to move out. Ann and I lived there during the week and at my parent’s house in Princeton on the weekend where we would go to see all our friends. I was living there when I got married.
From Bala Cynwyd we moved to London. We lived there for four months in Chiswick, west of London on the District line. We celebrated New Year’s 2001 there before the international expansion was cancelled and we all had to come back. Ann and I rented a nice (if cramped) one-bedroom apartment in a nice residential street right in downtown Princeton. I started working in Manhattan and commuting in, and we were living there on September 11th, 2001 when thousands of people were killed within sight of where I worked.
Then the economy hit the skids, the interest rates plummeted, and we bought our first home, a two bedroom condo in Canal Pointe, just a bit away from Princeton and right across from the “high end” shopping mall. We were there from January 2002 to September 2004. At that time that was the longest we had ever lived in one place.
From Princeton we moved to Dordrecht, and entered the long grey time warp that is the Dutch weather. The sameness of the seasons makes it hard to tell time when you’re thinking of years, but after a long, difficult year and a half, there was another move. Sadly, this time Ann and I each made this move on our own. She moved back to Princeton and six weeks later I moved to the Hague.
I started my residency in the Hague in May of 2006. It seems simultaneously longer than that, and like it was just yesterday. It was only in January of 2007 that Lynn moved in with me, and here we are, ten months later, both moving again.
Life’s like that. Unpredictable. Full of change. Full of loss, and what you call gain because you don’t want to believe that all there is to life is the continual loss of what you knew.
Time is a thief.
Since I graduated college I’ve moved house seven times. This will be my eighth. Eight moves in ten years. That averages out to one super stressful, life changing event every fifteen months. That can’t be good for my long term health. There’s probably some calculator on the Internet that will tell me exactly how many years I’ve shaved off my life by living like this.
But then, I wonder what the person who has their full lifespan intact because they stayed put for ten years.
They’d probably bore the shit out of me.
Anyway, this is all morbid bullshit. The truth is I regret nothing.
Every moment of pain and loss has been balanced out by at least two moments of incredible satisfaction at sitting on a beach in Sicily or drinking hot chocolate in a square in Belgium, or eating a fine dinner at a restaurant that’s only “ethnic” to me because I come from across an ocean. Or meeting someone fantastic from another country. Or seeing the Maldives.
Yes, moving is stressful and can tend to focus you only on what you are giving up. But in the end we always have a choice. So we can choose to look around and feel victimized by the circumstances of life that force us to lose what is familiar and comfortable, or we can choose to look at the packed boxes and clothes wrinkled from being in boxes and say, “All of this is as I wished it. I made this happen. All of it. I alone am responsible and I have chosen this path. And while it is only right to miss what has become your home, this is the life I have chosen and if I am not happy with my choice then I would not have made it.”
Life’s all about choices.
And all choices have costs. It cannot be otherwise. But that we get to choose is our life’s major reward as well as the source of our major sadness. So we accept the costs, we mourn the losses, and then we pick our heads up and look forward to the next.
The only thing I know for sure about the future is that it will change.