3rd September 2015, 3.15pm. I was standing in Liverpool airport with my mum as she wipes away my tears, check-in assistants eyeing us up with faces of professional concern. Whilst tears are pretty standard for me in an aiport due to my crippling fear of flying, this time my hysterics were nothing to do with planes. I was about to move to Amsterdam, moving in with B for a new adventure in a country where I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a real job. I was pretty frightened, and standing there in the airport with my bags packed full of my necessities and home comforts, I didn’t feel at all ready to embark on this great, adult adventure. I remember wishing more than anything that I could get back in the car with mum, driving home and pretending none of this had ever happened.
It’s hard to believe that that was more than a year ago now, and things could not be more different.
Truth be told, I didn’t really expect to complete a whole year in Amsterdam. That’s not to say that I thought I’d be packing it all in after a couple of months, but at that early stage I didn’t let myself think more than a few weeks ahead. B’s PhD – the reason we came over here to begin with – is 4 years long, a duration which still feels daunting now, and although we’ve got through the first year pretty unscathed, we’re still taking it month by month. Will I writing another post in a year’s time, marking 2 years in the Netherlands? Too soon to tell.
One year: Work
When I first moved over to Amsterdam, I had found myself a 6-month internship at a small e-commerce start-up in the city. The people were lovely and the job certainly had its moments – I got to write, and I love to write – but it soon became clear that the situation as a whole just wasn’t a fit for me. I was unmotivated and miserable, unwilling to go out and explore my new city as I was so drained when I got home, a feeling of exhaustion that I just couldn’t shake no matter how many hours of sleep I had. After some tough love from B and some softer words of encouragement from mum, I was soon on the hunt for a new job. Eventually I found a role at a digital marketing agency, where I started work in January. The pace of work and environment here suits me much better and I’ve been able too quickly climb my way through the ranks. Is it a forever job? No, but it’s certainly good experience and allows me the money to go on some grand adventures, so for now I cannot complain (much).
One year: Friends
Finding a firm set of friends in Amsterdam has probably been my biggest challenge. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve met a lot of wonderful people throughout the year, people I’ll happily go for drinks with and talk to over the coffee machine at work. But I sometimes feel that I haven’t met people who I truly click with, people who I can just text on a whim and fix up some impromptu plans, chatting long into the night about nothing in particular. Recently, however, I’ve really come to appreciate what I have and I am resolved to make more of an effort to nuture those few friendships I’ve made, whilst also putting myself out there to meet new people; joining netball is just the beginning.
As for my old friends from university and before, I have really struggled being away from them. I’m pretty terrible at maintaining regular contact, convinced as I am that friendships should almost sustain themselves. This I know is a selfish way of thinking, so I need to make the effort over the next year to let people know I am thinking of them, that I am glad that they’re in my life. I also need to hop back to the UK more, confronting that fear of flying once and for all.
One year: Family
With my niece being born last December, I am sad that I haven’t found more time to be with my family. I talk to my mum most days as we’re pretty close, and I am in regular contact with my brothers and dad, too, but it’s not quite the same as spending an evening in front of the television together, or settling down for a family roast. The regular pictures I receive of my niece are as heartbreaking as they are cute – I wish more than anything that I could see her more, especially at this time when she’s learning and developing so much so quickly. We have a family holiday coming up and I think I’m going to go home for a weekend in November, so I’m taking small steps to ensure I see my family more.
One year: B
So…. One year living with B. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we sat in our flat on our first night, a hastily assembled sofa bed in front of us and pizza on our laps, but here we are. Overall it’s been a good year and I feel pretty lucky that I am sharing this adventure with my best friend, but an adventure as big as this isn’t without its strain. We’d only been together a month or two when we had to make the decision to move to Amsterdam (possibly for four years) or call it quits, and sometimes the consequences of that decision are like the elephant in the room. As much as I like my job and Amsterdam as a whole, I am under no illusions that the sole reason I am here is B, and it’s that realisation that makes it hard for me to go out and form my own identity in the city. As I say B is here for four years but for me it all depends on work, social life and my mental health, so this uncertainty makes it difficult for us to commit to anything or make any long term plans, such as moving to another apartment that’s more central.
That being said, I will never be able to show my gratitude enough for all of his support; he has been my rock this year on so many occasions.
One year: The city
Because at first I was treating this as a month-by-month thing, I didn’t make a huge effort to really make some roots in the city. Over the past few months, though, I’ve really started to feel at home in Amsterdam and I think I’m starting to fall a little bit in love. We make sure to go for long walks every weekend, taking random routes through town that always take us to new and charming places. We eat out fairly often, my love of food our main way of getting to know the city. I’ve come to realise that each area of Amsterdam has its own distinct personality, making it even easier for me to choose areas for our weekly wander.
All in all, it’s been a pretty good – and busy – year. Whilst I’m unsure if I’ll still be here in a year, or two, or even three, I am certainly not looking to leave in the near future. Amsterdam, you’ve got me.