A tear rolls down my cheek. I feel like I have eaten a Big Mac menu after having steak as an entree. Yet it’s not food but a big ball of sadness that seems to have permanently found a home in my belly. I keep being flooded by memories and there’s nothing I can do to stop it: having coffee at Bru, my laptop open and ready, full of plans; running in the Oosterpark (not successful); slightly too many beers, which always give me a massive headache, at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, having the best time with friends. I’m on a train that takes me right across my old neighborhood. The ticket inspector looks at me with that one look that I’m all too familiar with ever since my father died: I see your sadness, I want to say something but I don’t know what so I’m not saying anything and pretend to not see that your mascara has made some pretty visible black lines all the way to your chin. I’m suffering from a massive heartbreak but not for a person but for a city – I think: Amsterdam.
For the next 1,5 years after we had traded Amsterdam for a house with a garden in the village of Baarn, practically every train ride across my old neighborhood resulted in tears. I felt so much regret, we should have never left Amsterdam. I felt crippled, robbed of my magic wings, in a village full of birds and other non-city stuff. Amsterdam had given me my magic wings, there I felt light as a feather, free, happy and full of good ideas. I need to go back!
I was partially wrong. Yes, Amsterdam does something to me like no other place on the planet can, and I must admit that I occasionally – some 5 years after the big move – still pack up my stuff and go work in some coffee place in my old neighborhood. At the same time, I had to admit that I had not seen much of the city during the last few years I was living there: as a new Mom I was not particularly rocking it in the vibrant Amsterdam nightlife, despite me loudly announcing during my pregnancy that I would breastfeed the baby in a bar wearing stilettos. And what I saw in the city was sometimes more irritating than inspiring: I can tell you, it is hardly a magical experience to be almost knocked over by a car while trying to cross the street with your shiny new baby in a way too expensive – equally shiny and new – Bugaboo. So, well, what it is then, that made me so sad?
Saying good-bye, not to Amsterdam, but to a part of me that I thought I had lost forever. Heartbreak for me. Leaving Amsterdam appeared to have become synonymous with trading “Angélique, the free and happy girl” for “Angélique, the woman with a burn-out, mortgage and family car”. I was wrong, again. By trial and error, I’m getting increasingly better at being a free and happy city girl, in a village, blessed with a mortgage and other grown-up stuff. But fair’s fair: if I win the lottery one day, the first thing I will do is buy an apartment in my beloved city. Second thing on the list: a cabriolet.
p.s. I had never ever thought that writing columns could result in behavioral change J. After finishing this column, I booked a lovely Airbnb in Amsterdam – yes, in my old neighborhood! It was an amazing week. I’m still doing my city-girl-thing in Baarn but maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to, sometimes, let the city girl run free in the city-love-of-her-life.