It’s so hard to believe that I just turned 25! The marking of time passing is so strange because I think of my twenty-second birthday and it feels like it was ages ago, like I’ve lived a few different lives since then, and at the same time it seems weird to me that three whole years have flown by so fast. One thing I always say about my life is that I have all these things that I never knew I wanted and thinking back to my twenty-second birthday, that could not feel more true.
Over the last year, I made some of the best friends of my life and it feels perfect to talk about this around my birthday in memory of our joint birthday party last year in Amsterdam. Moving to a new city and starting a Masters program (WITH A BROKEN FOOT AND SCOOTER BY THE WAY) is really scary at times and its so awkward making new friends in this setting. Like, you all know you need to become friends but at the same time you really gotta pick through and find the right ones from the get-go because otherwise you will end up trapped in the wrong friend group for a whole year of group projects / thesis writing / life etc.
Three great things happened right away to ease this process: First, I kinda knew one person already, Kat, and the first time we hung out I knew right away that she was a gem of a human and I was lucky to have stumbled into her life. She is also the kind of person that doesn’t let conversations get awkward, and I really appreciate that 😉 Lucky thing #2: a tiny, spritely, Luxembourgish girl (Catherine) popped right up to me and my scooter at orientation and started to chat. Third, friendly Catherine (henceforth referred to as Catty) had already solidified her friendship with two other smart/sweet people in the program Job and Luke. Voilà! Fives a party, perfect friend-group in the making.
Well, the work wasn’t entirely complete… Kat and I put some blood, sweat, and tears into planning evening drinks for the whole program and we ended up being the only two people who showed up for at least an hour. But! When the clock struck 8pm, the smiling faces of none other than Job, Luke, and Catty appeared (and a few other sweet souls throughout the evening). The rest is history! Throughout the year I was so lucky to spend time with these people, evenings at Oedipus, lunches outside the library, SLIM week, many group photos they begrudgingly agreed to, and weekends with Kat and Catty trying new restaurants, biking around, and drinking iced coffees. We lost Luke to China for awhile but when he came back it was just like old times, and my friendship with these people has been one of my favorite parts of the past year, I couldn’t have done the whole grad school thing without them.
Of course, none of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for the most defining aspect of my 24th year which was living in Amsterdam! What a sweet sweet life it is. Sometimes when I’m in my house in Montreal I think about our old grocery store, favorite cafe, or my sunny forest jogging route, and it feels like I could just hop on my bike and be in the middle of it all again. There is a simple magic to living life in that city that is so hard to explain. I always knew I wouldn’t be there forever so each time I was biking around I would try to take an extra careful look at the city; the crooked old architecture, the dynamics of the street, my neighborhood, I tried really hard to soak it all in. Being super present in those beautiful moments was one thing that made life so special and awesome, but of course when I think back on it, it breaks my heart a little to think that I don’t know when I will be able to go back and if I’ll ever be able to look at it that way again.
I’m so thankful for every moment I was able to spend there, I’ve learned so much (not Dutch oops) and I’m obliged to say that if you ever have the chance to move somewhere that inspires you and energizes you for a year or even six months, DO IT! You will never ever regret it. Even if the logistics of making it happen are frustrating and defeating and hard as hell, the challenges it presents you with will force you to grow in ways you can’t imagine. I grew up in so many ways over this year which basically means I was constantly updating my understanding of how much more I have left to learn. And I was so lucky to do it alongside someone I love. Maybe moving into a 300 sq. ft. studio in a foreign city with your long distance love after knowing each other for less than a year is a reckless move, but it worked for us 🙂 and loving someone and letting them into my whole world was an experience I didn’t know I was missing out on until I had it. Like my dad always says, Life’s an Adventure!
In the end, twenty-four was a remarkable and wonderful year to be a Holls. I laughed a lot, I cried a lot. I had so many magical people visit me in Amsterdam and bring little pieces of home with them that I will keep with me forever. I challenged my own ideas about how strong and capable I am. I let go of some things that I needed to, and I held on for dear life to the people who keep me sane, and make me whole, both new and old. I’m proud to say that I love this version of myself. And that I’m so happy I didn’t stay twenty-two forever. I guess the sweetest things in life happen when you let them! I can’t wait to see who I’ve yet to become.