This is a note of self-forgiveness—there was no other way it could have happened. I wanted it so badly that proving to myself I could do it is worth more that the regrets, although I regret it everyday. I did the best I could, I planned it the best I could. I didn't expect for it to traumatize me so psychically. I didn't expect my plan to backfire so tremendously.
This is a vague reference to my milestones of danger and survival: the infections, the illnesses, the encounters, the bizarre self-created storylines.
Whose forgiveness do I seek?
In the days leading up to my departure from Amsterdam, I took impulsive bike rides into the city center, quickly selecting and purchasing apparel from Esprit, Didi, Mexx in a whirlwind of muted sentimentality. I was fixating on the extra suitcase I would bring back: finally I acquired it from a second hand shop in Westerpark, a hard shelled navy blue Samsonite. The center of my purpose was packing the suitcase: purple sweater dress, bottles of cranberry wine from Vlieland, Amsterdam map collage, playing cards from a local artist on Witte de Withstraat, luikse wafels, stroop wafels, jumper from Ameland, fuzzy Esprit sweater, Dutch toiletries... and the things that could not fit and would be left behind... As the physical weight of the suitcase grew, its weight as proof—as evidence—likewise grew. My productivity abroad was directly correlated to this suitcase arriving in San Francisco intact and as a fully realized souvenir, while the nostalgia it represented weighed down my ability to proceed into San Francisco unhindered.
But when I think of this I don't think of the metaphysical weight the suitcase put on my psyche; I think of the often overcast summer slowly opening the trees along the canals, the distinct sound of Dutch-Moroccan children playing, and the rush of the sun shining in the afternoon. My misery was the two sides of leaving: the happiness at going home finally, and the reluctant acceptance that I would never have another experience like this again, that time I tried to live in Amsterdam when I was 30.
On July 1, 2013, I flew direct from Amsterdam to Philadelphia. When passing through immigration at Schiphol Airport, I was detained for overstaying my tourist visa, and was ultimately banned from entering the EU until July 1, 2014. When I arrived at PHL, the United States was mine, it was foreign, it was fascinating, it was home, I was still an outsider, I had endured many abuses at the hands of myself and of culture and of loneliness.
Watching the 4th of July fireworks from under the Echo Bridge on the Schuylkill River, I began to move on from the abuses: a sliver of resignation, a sliver of aggression: the way you feel when you discover the thing you pined for all your twenties just destroyed you, and you could not have kept living without having been destroyed... But maybe you still believe it's possible to fall in love.
The one thing I learned from Amsterdam is that I need a reason to get up most days of the week, I need the pressure of something at times disdainful to be successful.
I couldn't wait to get away from the thing that made me get up at 7:20 a.m. five mornings a week, and then I was miserable and depressed when I didn't have that very thing, even though theoretically I had Amsterdam.
What is a human without a routine?
I was going back to my job at the library, and couldn't be happier.
When the hard shelled navy Samsonite suitcase finally made its way across the U.S., from the Philadelphia Greyhound station to the San Francisco Greyhound station and to my apartment in the Richmond District, opening it was an aromatic poof of my abuses: all the second hand smoke that had clung to the walls and furniture of my room in Amsterdam, a parting gift from the previous inhabit; the light traces of my roommates' Dutch fabric softeners; even the changing seasons on the street and the stiffness brought from hanging clothes to dry in a staircase.
Nineteen months ago I returned to San Francisco, my home: the place where I understand the weather, the place I grew into an adult, the place where my mom has made a life with me. I'm a strange nationalist, a Californian. California, my favorite country.
This blog proceeds accordingly, having honored its mandate for ashamed and/or reflective silence.