On my way back from having a few beers with friends I decided to pass by my old Amsterdam apartment. I’d been curious to see it again for a while.
As I cycled through the old neighbourhood and saw that much of the area had been torn down, rebuilt and renovated I suddenly felt myself getting nervous that my old apartment might no longer be there. What if it was gone?
But it was still there, looking as old and run down as ever. I was surprised by the level of nostalgia that hit me upon seeing it. I certainly had not lived there for long. Only three months in fact, back when I first arrived in the country 13 years ago.
It had not been an amazing apartment either. In fact it was badly run down and in desperate need of repair even back then but seeing it again made me feel happy as a flood of memories came back.
As I cycled back to the station I began to look around and suddenly noticed just how much Amsterdam had changed. There were parts that I couldn’t even remember how they used to look and some that I was happy to see had not changed at all.
Once again I was surprised by the nostalgia that this made me feel. Not because the nostalgia itself felt strange but because, in that moment, I suddenly felt more nostalgia here, in this city I had moved to when I was 21, than I sometimes feel when I return to my home country of England.
At first I wondered why I would feel this way but it did not take long for the answer to come to me.
I was 21 when I moved to Holland. I had not yet fully worked out who I was and what I was going to do with my life. I was taking my first steps of independence in a country I didn’t even know and of course I made a few mistakes and had to find my way.
I am 35 now. I have a wife and a child of my own. My goal and meaning in life are clear now.
I might have grown up in England but I ‘grew up’ in Holland. I became my own person in Holland. I think that tonight I suddenly realized, in some ways, Holland is now more my home than England. And I’m strangely ok with that.
Not because I have anything against England or that it has less of a place in my heart. It will always be my true home, I will always love it and I will always miss my parents. But Holland is the place where I really figured out who I am and grew into the person I am now.
And that is why the places along that personal journey, like that old run down apartment that I only lived in for those first three months feel so important to me.
That is why I felt so happy to see the old place still standing and looking as run down as ever.
This post was originally written sentence by sentence on Twitter. Only a few alterations and fixes have been made. At the time I was thinking about writing it down on paper first to get it just right but I knew that I had to get it committed somewhere (twitter) before I tried to put too much thought into it and analyse what I was feeling. Thanks for reading this post about me growing up in Holland. I know it’s a big departure from my normal writing.