When I arrived in The Netherlands at Christmas in 1998 for the second time (I’d previously spent a semester studying in Rotterdam), I thought I’d found my home. It didn’t exactly work out that way. I couldn’t settle into my legal career. I jumped from a large law firm to the corporate world to a government position before finally ending up a boutique law firm. Even though I worked at that firm for seven years, I wasn’t happy. In fact, after more than a decade of switching jobs quicker than you can say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, I was fed up with the law, clinically depressed, and ready to try just about anything to improve my life. Thus, started ten years of switching careers and moving across borders to ‘find’ myself.
First, I tried working in Luxembourg. I lasted a month before I literally walked out and never looked back. Then, I developed a business plan for a weight loss retreat in Germany. I even went back to school and finished a year of university course work in Dutch. Still, those plans didn’t pan out, and I ended up starting a bed & breakfast. Turns out running a bed & breakfast is a lot of making breakfast and cleaning rooms. Not. My. Thing. I decided to develop a side business and spent an unbelievable amount of time trying to figure out what that side business would be. Soap making? Ecommerce? A return to college?
I was all over the place until my husband suggested I take a manuscript I’d written out of the attic and publish it. Twelve books later and I haven’t looked at another career option since. I have, however, moved across national borders twice. First from Germany to Istanbul and then from Istanbul back to the Netherlands. Not exactly where the entire ‘what the hell should I do with my life’-adventure began – I’m in The Hague instead of Haarlem – but pretty damn close.
I’ve been in The Hague for twenty months on my own while my husband continued to work in Turkey. He’s finally joining me in The Netherlands in 10 days (yes, I’m counting down!). While talking on the phone to him last week, I was mentioning to him – the man who was born and grew up in The Netherlands – all the things there are to do here and how excited I was that we could do them together.
That’s when I realized (not for the first time) that I’m not only happy, but I’m settled. This is home. I’ve spent the last twenty years switching jobs and careers and staying miserable until I started publishing my writing. But I still wasn’t settled. Even when I was in Istanbul churning out book after book, I was itchy to find my place in the world. Only when I gave up trying to adjust to living in Turkey and returned to Holland did I find my ‘home’. It just happens to be the same place I left over ten years ago to find myself. It really is true what they say – you can travel the world just to end up in the place you originally left.
Where is home to you? How difficult was it for you to find?