Thursday, 5 March 2015

Taking in the Present Moment

There are times when I sit down at the end of the day and think "I really should write on the blog"... and yet I feel I have nothing to say. Which, of course, isn't at all true! This is a benefit of living as an expat: there is always something that comes up. There are new adventures to be had everyday. But even so, between work, social commitments, coming down with colds passed on from my students, visiting family, and trying to stick to some sort of writing schedule...well, it's easy to see how the blog can simply be forgotten.

It is quite easy to be caught up in the daily hectic rush; finding time (or making time) for things can be a challenge. Not too long ago, I was riding my bicycle to a friend's place just north of the city centre; it was a beautiful evening and the bicycle path ran right along the canal. I was struck by the peacefulness of that brief moment when day slips away into evening: long shadows rushing in to capture the remnants of the day. I always find that moment rather wistful. It's the end of another day, and I tend to look back a bit on what has been accomplished (or what hasn't been, as the case may be). It's when I start making lists for the next day. But on this bicycle ride, I put all that away and thought just about that moment. I felt the cold air of February nipping at my exposed skin on my face; felt it sneaking in over my collar. The sky was awash with pink and red, and along the canal you could hear the lapping of the water, and birds singing somewhere. Although still in the city, that moment was truly peaceful. The dying of the day... there is something rather magical, yet sad about it.
Evening in Groningen

It was nice to be reminded that sometimes we just need to take in the present moment. I wonder if we do it enough?

It's now the end of another day, and I find myself looking back to last year. Is it really only a year since I began one of the greatest adventures? I was taking a course, experiencing an early spring "heatwave" (certainly not the case at this moment!), and making ready to start my dream job. The time has flown by in the most wonderful way, and I have learnt and experienced so much. But even after a year or more here, I am glad there are still new things thrown my way that I can appreciate. For example, this week I had to do my Dutch taxes. I was lucky that mine weren't overly complicated; however, it wasn't the most fun I've had of an evening (taxes in a foreign language is not high on my list of invigorating activities...), but it was definitely a new experience.

I suppose it is good that there are new challenges to keep me on my toes! Having been here a year also means that there are things to look forward to again, such as boekenweek. I can hardly wait to nip down to the bookshop to choose a new Dutch book and receive a free one with it; this free book will also allow me to travel for no cost on the following Sunday. (And let's be honest, anything free in the Netherlands is something to celebrate. That it has to do with books, well, even better!). Then there's King's Day and Liberation Day... and the spring and summer to follow. Quite exciting, when you stop to think about it. Warm days, beers on cafe terraces with friends, reading in the park, evenings that stay light for ages... whizzing about Europe on long weekends... I can't wait. 

There is something quite satisfying in looking back and seeing how far one has come. For myself, I just can't believe how lucky I am: I get to wake up every day and do what I love (though some mornings I really wouldn't mind staying in bed for another hour...).

At the risk of sounding like a motivational poster, please go live your dreams, folks. Get out there and make your dreams come true. I couldn't imagine living any other way.