“Perpetually on the brink of potential departure”

Haarlemmerstraat

There are moments in time — or rather certain notions you might have at different points in time — that, however unconnected, manage to form a coherent whole, some kind of general realization, which slowly dawns on you.

I was recently working a long shift in Amsterdam, and as the sun started setting over the city I peered out onto the street. It was one of those crisp spring evenings, when it had been really sunny over the day yet somehow got really cold in the afternoon; and as I stared out on Harlemmerstraat with the bikers going by I was somehow reminded of Copenhagen last year, where the weather had been almost exactly the same. The sense that I got from Copenhagen back then was that of being “home” in Northern Europe, possibly because of the sharp contrast it had been to Spain. And there I was in Amsterdam, essentially doing something entirely different, and had some similar sense of having arrived. It is a funny thing, really, the perception of feeling home in the place you are at. With the last 3 years having involved regular moving every half a year, it felt really good to stand there and essentially belong.

A few days afterwards, I was biking home from the train station, in thought about writing my thesis and the many lengths one can go in order to avoid doing so. I decided to revisit one of my favorite episodes of This American Life, “We Didn’t”, which is all about that commonly ignored process of not doing something (I had quoted it on the blog before). Yet, as the host exclaims in the beginning of the show, “not doing something is often every bit as rich and vivid as doing something”. That thought notwithstanding, the first story of the show was about a writer trying to write two books and essentially being indecisive about which one to write, which resulted in him writing neither one but rather focusing on resolving his living situation. Throughout the story he analyzes the process of being at a place, what it means to stay somewhere and acquire the “trappings of permanence”, the idea of “home”; and somehow I recognized myself in this.

Last year, when returning from Spain, coming back to Den Haag was coming home. It means that I had finally truly arrived. It remains to be home — hence the sense of belonging — and I love this place. Just yesterday, Tobias and I were going for a run and quickly found ourselves on some hill overlooking the sunset over the sea. Den Haag is and remains to be a great place that I am very happy about having moved to a few years back.

However, in recent weeks, the feeling has been one of “Mission Accomplished”. I am realizing that since Beth, my long-term visitor, has departed pretty much the last thing I need to do here is writing my thesis. Something does not even necessarily require my presence. And somehow the idea of moving away no longer seems absurd, as it did after returning from Spain. Instead, it has yielded to a feeling of excitement about what comes next. Time to get it done!

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