And the worst blogger finally decides to sit still for more than an hour. And even then, it’s been three weeks since I wrote that previous line, so here goes round two.
Julian Casablancas sang that “ten decisions shape your life, you’ll be aware of five about.” Well at the semi-ripe age of 21, I’ve become aware of two.
Ever since I’ve started my journalism degree, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone time and time again. I still smile when I think about my first assignment – talk to twenty strangers on the street and just ask them how they’re going and what’s happening in the neighbourhood. Terrifying. I was shy, fresh out of high school and extremely awkward.
When I first started interviewing people over the phone, I would have to script everything before I could ring them. Literally, everything; “Hi, this is Sharon calling from…. how are you today?”
It’s been three years now, and since then I’ve interviewed countless strangers in their homes, learnt to tweet, travelled to parts of Sydney I would never think of venturing to otherwise, and pressed politicians about their policies.
Some time in late 2012, when I finished one of the biggest journalism projects of my life (smogmagsyd.wordpress.com), and landed an amazing editorial internship I decided that it was time to push for more. I had the feeling that I had done everything I wanted to do in Sydney and it was time for me to move on.
After I filed my application to study abroad, I also began writing for two of my favourite online publications, and completed my final journalism major work on the Annandale Hotel – one of my favourite music venues in the world. I put my heart and soul into that, and by the time that was done too, I was ready to leave.
Amsterdam. I had never lived alone, barely knew how to cook and was the proud exhibitor of a permanent floordrobe at my home in Sydney. And for the next six months, I had to fend for myself.
This is one of my earliest memories of Amsterdam: everyone being overly-friendly in the first few weeks of moving into student housing (even forcefully so), I invited a flatmate to have lunch with me. So I serve the stir-fry I had just made and heap a mound of rice onto his plate. I take a bite – the rice is better described as hard than soft. Good one, Shaz. At that early stage, my flatmate is too polite to say it’s inedible (a few weeks later he will relentlessly tell everyone to bring penicillin when I’m cooking and periodically remind me I’m the only human being who can’t cook rice), sort of grits his teeth and says it’s just “slightly” under.
And now I can cook and have become friends with all those people who have figuratively died eating my food. My flatmates were my family and best friends. I’m most nostalgic of waking up and knocking on their doors to go exploring the strange, seedy, wonderful city.
I never thought I’d ride my bike to clubs and double lock it to prevent it from being thrown into a canal or stolen by a junkie; I never thought I’d go to a cat boat and cat museum on the same day. I never thought I’d meet a Norwegian in my life (nor did I think about them much previously, if I am honest), and I never thought I’d fall (platonically) in love with so many strangers. Friendships were fostered in the most unexpected and organic ways.
I’ve learnt bits about the Swiss democracy, about Spanish birthday traditions, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve learnt to appreciate and enjoy the time I spend with myself.
I initiated more conversations with my parents, was excited to tell them about the strangeness and hilarity of adapting to a city with such a unique culture. I became even closer to my sister and became more of the sibling I had always wanted to be.
I grew up, I became more mature and honest about my feelings, and reevaluated the way I saw myself.
I arrived in Amsterdam largely unfamiliar with its culture and people. Being alone for the first time in my life, I became the best version of myself.
My hunger has grown – for unknown cities, for friends I have not yet met and for that feeling of having this vast, terrifying opportunity to experience EVERYTHING looming over me.
I’m not advocating travel as such. What I want to tell you is to push yourself to do things that make you nervous, things that make you squirm and things that make your heart beat a little faster just thinking about it. Dreaming isn’t enough.
Tunes that stuck with me throughout Amsterdam, enjoy: