Do I fit in ?
Last week, a friend of mine told me that I could have a nice boyfriend once I have settled down. This made me reflect on what I have learned from travelling and the question whether I actually want to settle. The last 8 years, I have been moving from one place to the other: Maastricht, Sint Jansteen, Milan, Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Jinja (Uganda). I moved for a specific job, study, or internship, or just to discover another part of the world and its beautiful diversity. I had quite some exciting adventures in every place, met new people in a short period of time and shared lots of stories. I got used to being open and vulnerable while only knowing someone for a few days. I bonded with people that I had come across on my journey, just for 2 or 3 days, to finally say goodbye again. You can exchange phone numbers, but you both know, you are not going to call each other. You just met each other to have company for 2 days. And that’s okay.
My 6-month stay in Uganda was crucial for learning that #Icanbeme in front of strangers. I naturally connected with the locals and adapted myself to their lifestyle easily. At the beginning, I didn’t connect on a very deep level of sharing inner feelings with locals. However, while travelling, I cannot really ‘wait’ for someone to finally share how you are doing. At some point, I felt so alone, I just HAD to share something, about what has happened to me that day, or my incredible story about my culture shock. I taught myself to be open to strangers. I taught myself to cry in front of people I barely knew, just because I felt homesick at that specific time. And I never really got scared of getting hurt or taken advantage of. Being myself and #saywhatis has never really gotten me into trouble. It was an easy way to cope with my feelings, sometimes connect, and finally move on.
I may be confident about this flexible lifestyle. But about settling down, I am a bit doubtful. I sometimes feel that I do not fit in. In the Netherlands, people plan a lot of things and people love to be organised. Sometimes, I believe they do stuff out of fear of things going out of control. For example, we (financially) insure EVERYTHING. We are afraid of getting robbed and we find all kinds of ways to protect the house and our belongings. I find this so ridiculous. We are such a rich country but still, we do everything to protect ‘our’ belongings. We build huge walls between our house and the neighbour’s house, just to make sure this is ‘our’ land. I get sick of this sometimes. I want to be free. Free to decide that I want to go for a spontaneous cup of coffee with my friends. Free to be disorganised and to just let things be. What if they rob 100€? Or my TV. Or my laptop. Life goes on guys, with or without possessions. I want to be free to FAIL and free to just be, instead of do*. I get sick of our need to be productive constantly, to achieve, and to perform. As if we do not have an identity without it. Gosh, I really sound anti-capitalist now don’t I, haha!
Most of the time, I do feel like I fit in, because I share the values that Dutch people live by. For instance, in Uganda, women are not as independent and equal to men as women are in the Netherlands. This is what I love about the country I was born in. My mom told me (indirectly) that being gay is okay, she told me that foreigners are welcome, and she told me that everyone is different and therefore should be celebrated. Both my parents encouraged me to be who I want to be, to make my own choices. They never told me what I should do, which path I should choose. They never told me I should become ambitious or succesful. They always wanted me to be happy. And maybe sometimes they are worried, but they show eternal trust in my capabilities. Perhaps that is what makes me feel like being different, not fitting in. And maybe, that is something to be freaking grateful for. Will I ever settle down? I am not sure if I will find a place, but for sure my heart is settled.* Notice again the difference between “doing” and “being” that was also mentioned in the blog article about the Balance between Discipline and Wasting Time
Written by Renée IJsebaert | Last edited: 13th June 2022