I am reminded of a song from one of my favorite plays: Rent. In the song Season’s of Love, a question is asked, “How do you measure a year in a life?” I mean, let’s consider that. One year, 52 weeks, 365 days. It seems like a lot, doesn’t it? So much can happen in those 365 days though. The last year of our life has been a hurricane in the best way. One year ago today, we arrived in the Netherlands to begin what was going to be a year-long adventure.
In the beginning, I didn’t believe we would stay this long. We were so excited, but not long after landing, reality sunk in. I thought we made a terrible mistake. Those first several months were painstakingly lonely. In a world where we are always connected, we felt so far away from everyone. While we were happy to see our friends having fun and living their best life, we also had a severe case of FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out — crazy, I know! I mean we got to live in Europe, and here we were; sad we were missing out on all the fun with our friends back home. There were many tears and arguments in the first few months. It was a roller coaster of adventure, new challenges, and culture shock. It was exhausting.
After a few months, Z started school. He was afraid, I was scared, Rob won’t admit it, but I know he was too. Z was going to the Taalschool (language school). It’s a prerequisite that you graduate from there before you go to a public school. When he began, he was the only one in his class who spoke English. He was utterly lost in translation and did not want to be there. Z cried nearly every day. It broke my heart. I would take him to school, smiling the whole way and telling him how incredible it was going to be if he just gave it a chance. Then, I would cry the entire way home because what if it didn’t?
For the first time since I was 15 years old, I was not working. I felt absolutely lost. What was my purpose here? I have been a hairstylist for 12 years. Now I was cooking and cleaning and doing laundry every day?! Some days I was so depressed, by dinnertime, I would wonder what happen to the day and realized once again I wasted it by binge-watching yet another show. What was I doing?!
By November, we had been here for 4 months and been to at least 4 countries. When we were home, we were still in a rut, but we were not alone. We had finally met people who had been through the same things we had. Making such a big move, putting our kids in a school where they didn’t understand the language, sharing the same concerns. Making these connections would prove to be a life force here. I began having coffee with some moms from Z’s school. I didn’t realize how important these women would become in my life and their kids in Z’s life. Maybe as the song goes, we can measure life in cups of coffee?
At Christmas my world was turned upside down, I lost my mom to lung cancer, and that disconnection we all felt seemed so far away as friends from all over called, showed up, and sent so much love. Mid-January, my biological Father, passed away. It had only been 5 months of living here, and I felt like I had experienced a lifetime of emotions. Maybe we measure life in loss or love?
By the time February rolled around, it was like things started to fall into place. Z was happy in school and making really great friends. Friends from the states came to visit, and we got to share with them everything we loved about the Netherlands and Europe. I was so grateful. I also realized that I was forming even stronger bonds with friends back home. The distance somehow allowed us to chat and be open in ways that we never had before. Maybe we measure life in laughter and connections?
In March, we decided we would be staying here for at least another year. We were happy. The dark days were slipping away, and we realized this is where we were supposed to be. The growth I see in my self, Rob and Z is incredible. Rob and I communicate so much better, Z is growing into a kind, smart, funny kid who knows way more Dutch than either Rob or myself. Not working at a salon isn’t a bad thing. I have been working, on myself, my relationships, being a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Maybe we measure life in growth?
As summer approached, our lives changed so much. Through therapy, I had started to heal. I have been focusing on my Yoga practice and hope to take the class to become certified in January. Rob’s job was going so well, he got a promotion to Team Lead. Z graduated the Taalschool and enrolled at a Dutch public school. We have more than just support here, we have friends and a life that walking away from seems scarier than moving here did. Maybe we measure life in success?
While the beginning of this adventure started off challenging and lonely, it is one of the best decisions we have ever made. We have been to nine countries. We have learned so much about other cultures. As the first year of our adventure wraps up — I wonder — how will I measure this year? I think with gratitude. Gratitude for laughs, cups of coffee, connections, growth, success, love, and even the loss. This year would not have been what it was without any of these things. I would not be the person I am, and we would not be the 3 Traveling Landers.
Thank you for joining us this year! Thank you for your recommendations, and for your good vibes and prayers. Our adventure isn’t over.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Rob, Z and I.
“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life.” – Season’s of love (RENT)