A tale of two cities

Once upon a time there was a young girl who grew up in a tiny village in a desolate corner of the country. Or that’s how she knew it to be. All she ever dreamt of was leaving this world behind to explore the possibilities other worlds had to offer. So when she turned 19, and graduated from school, she packed her bags and turned her back on the life she had. Or so she thought. Six short years later, a cruel twist of fate forced her to go back to her past, and make peace with it. At first she was rather reluctant, and fought it as hard as she could. But soon she came to see the beauty this city she thought she knew had to offer. So when the circumstances forced her to spend half of her time in this place, she made a bold decision. She moved there.

Well. This story isn’t a fairytale. We’re talking about my actual life.  So I’m going to cut out the embelishments.

In the summer of 2017 I received my schedule for the first semester of the new year. I soon realised that instead of two days a week, I would take classes three days in a row. This might not seem like a huge deal. However, I live 200 km away from my university. So that would add up to fifteen hours of travelling per week. Weeks on end. Not my preferred way of spending my time. So in a splitsecond I decided to search for a small room in the city I needed to be half of my time. That same evening I found the smallest space on internet, I sent a mail, and just two days later I signed the lease. So began my adventure of living in two cities.

In a way, this adventure wasn’t completely new. My little loft was around the corner of the secondary school I went to. And it has a view on the house my best friend at the time lived in. Nine years before I moved to Groningen, I ran away from this area as fast as I could. But my choice of a future career forced my to return. It is the only place in the entire country that offered the education I need to learn my desired profession: chaplaincy. For several years I travelled there and back every wednesday and friday. Two hours by train in the morning, two hours by train in the evening. It was tough, but I managed. When thursdays were added to my class schedule, I decided that it would be better for me to stay half of the week. I had these visions of a perfect life: I would wake up, workout, go to class, come home, and spend the entire afternoon – perhaps even evenings – studying as hard as a could. I would hand in assignment after asignment, because I wouldn’t have too many distractions. I could decide my own hours. Meet with my friends there. And when I would be home I would have all the time and energy to be with Matthijs and my friends there. Boy, was I wrong.

As you might know from perusing this blog, my health is somewhat unsteady. When I eat the wrong types of food, or experience too much stress, I collapse and fall ill. At first it was just an uneasyness in my body, which would go away when I would throw up (sorry for the visual). Later it turned into numbing pain in my abdomen. All things I know how to deal with. But in the past six months I developed severe migrains. So my dream of productivity turned into a nightmare in which I had up to four attacks a week. Coming home from class – if I was able to go at all – only able to lie in bed with the curtains closed. Waiting for the attack to pass by. So when I got home to Matthijs I was exhausted, and still had to prepare all my classes.

While I’m writing and re-writing this, I keep wondering why I wish to send this story into the world. When I have to possibility to polish my life, and forget about or neglect the darker stuff, why wouldn’t I? The answer is simple: life is not only about those varnished moments. I love the real, raw life, the hard to get through days, and the shitty moments just as much as the birthdays, weddings, and cosy cups of tea with a friend. It’s what makes life. And it is in those harsh bits that you get to see someone without the mask they created to get through life. It’s why I wish to be a chaplain. And it is what I would like to share with the world. Hoping to create a safe environment for those that do not live up to the high standards society sets us. The high standards we set for each other. And ourselves. It is ok to live in your own pace. With your own defects.

My defect is my physical response to stress. While I’m writing this, I no longer live in my six square meter room, which I loved despite everything I mentioned above. And over time I have reconstructed what caused the insane amount of migraine attacks I had in the course of six months. First, a workload that was too heavy for me. And in addition to that, the air-circulation at my university, gluten, caffein, not eating regularly, living out of my backpack, constantly being on the move, and not even having one day a week where I could be quietly by myself. Since then, I have taken care of these things, and I hardly suffer from migrain attacks anymore. So I’m slowly working towards realising my dream.

Before I call in the elephant to blow out this story with its long snout (sorry, bad litteral translation of something Dutch parents say to their children when storytime is over), there is one more thing I would like to add. My husband is an absolute hero. The past two years haven’t been easy. I had a burn out, than I fell ill for six months, and to top it up I moved away for another six months, and when I was at home I spend most of my time in front of the television unable to do anything else. It has been hard on our relationship. And me living somewhere else was a lot harder than I could have ever expected. What made it difficult is that we didn’t align our calendars from the beginning. So before we knew it, we were living almost completely separate lives. But when we noticed, we took action. We called each other out when necessary, and made some adjustments in our patterns. Not that our relationship was ever in question, but spending so much time apart makes you easily loose sight of the other. And it’s not easy to maintain a relationship without knowing what’s going in in the other person’s live. So we started to date again. It is the best thing this adventure has brought us. Even now I’m at home again fultime, we take some time out of our days to consciously connect. Something I recommend to everyone living together. So in the end, this adventure wasn’t all bad. But if possible, I would choose to never repeat this again.

To show you some of the beauty I found in my teenage nightmare, below some pretty pictures of my teeny tiny room and my secondary school. One day I will write I short guide on this wonderful city.

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