I leave for America in three weeks, to live there for the foreseeable future. So for the next 21 days I’m writing down one memory per day of my time living in Europe. As a writing exercise but also as a way to test my brain. You can read them all here.
Day 19 | Bruxelles, December 2013
Today I shipped out the possessions I had left with me to New York. I went to get a few bottles for a celebration tomorrow and grabbed a little something extra to bring with me. As I brought the bottle back to my room it hit me. I’m near enough in the same place I was a year ago, but everything is upside down.
This time last year I was buying bottles of liquor to bring to a family friend who was putting me up in NYC for a month while I waited for my room in Bruxelles to become available. One month in NYC and Detroit I said to myself, one month of research and ground work, then I can come back and spend the year working on this book, living an easier and cheaper life than I did in London — where any prospects of writing the book seemed impossible when I had to make the type of rent I needed to every month.
I spent a week in the guest room, flew out and came back a month later. The trip had gone according to plan, aside from one thing. I met the new woman of my life. I fell in love. And I knew I had to be with her. So I moved into my room in Bruxelles with the knowledge that I was only ever going to be here for as long as it took to get shit together and make it happen with her.
It was a strange and scary feeling. It still is, days from flying out to get married and do the damn thing. Stranger still was spending a year suspended, in limbo, not quite here and not quite there. I spent half the year between NYC and Bruxelles. I spent two months on the road touring. I went to Morocco for the first time. I barely spent any time here really, but still it came to feel like a home of sorts. A temporary home, but one nonetheless.
The only other time in my life I’ve moved in somewhere with the knowledge I wouldn’t last much more than a year was when I moved to Japan to teach English. I wanted to spend more time there, I ended up cutting my time short in fact, but the flat I first moved in — provided by the company I worked for — I knew would be temporary. It’s a bizarre feeling, you get attached but not too much. Things that matter when you invest some of yourself in a place don’t, and things that don’t matter do.
So here I am a year later sitting in an empty room, next to the guest room, with a suitcase and a bottle of booze waiting to ship out to the new continent. A year ago I had this clear idea in my head of what my life should become — well I say clear, that’s poetic license really — and what it is today I could have never imagined, never planned for, much less expected.
Allowing myself to go with it all though, to believe that this is the right thing to do has been the most life affirming experience I’ve had since Japan. Then it was about fulfilling a life long dream and discovering a country I felt a spiritual kinship with, as well as starting a process of loss and grieving that would last five years. This time round it was about fulfilling a new life goal, missing the post but gaining something much more valuable in the long run, a foundation I can actually grow from — and even finish the book from, more comfortably and in a better way than if I had done it by myself.
I used to read a lot of Terry Pratchett when I was a kid. There’s a quote from one of his early Discworld books I always come back to: May you live in interesting times.