The Writing on the Wall

I am a firm believer that the universe sends us inconspicuous, yet palpable messages to guide us on the right path. Everyone’s path is uniquely different and that’s important to realise. Unfortunately, we are so preoccupied inside our own heads that we are blinded to the subtle signs that require our acknowledgement.

An Irish friend recently moved to Amsterdam (I like to keep friends’ identities private out of respect) – no job, no apartment, only a suitcase and a dream to pursue a passion in a city that was calling her. Naturally, as doubts infiltrate your mind, she questioned her spontaneous move. Was this an impulsive mistake? One day as she lifted her head up from a cloud of anxiety, she was reassured when greeted with a piece of graffiti that simply read – Trust yourself. 

Last year I attended an event with David Allen. He’s a productivity consultant with a New York Times bestselling book called ‘Getting Things Done – the art of stress-free productivity.’ Admittedly, I’m very cynical of these ‘self help’ individuals. Sometimes their approach feels very ‘preachy’, dare I say a substitute to religion in a world full of atheists seeking answers. Nonetheless, I braved through the lashings of rain on my bike and attended the Sunday morning event. He was charismatic with an all-American sparkling-white smile. I didn’t expect much, but he said something simple, yet profound that truly framed the remainder of my year. “I trust myself.” When the ego starts to plot against you in an act of self sabotage, you need to stand firm and utter these three simples words – I trust myself. We talk about positive affirmations, but trusting yourself and making it known to yourself is one of the most impactful acts of self love we can practice. The next time you find yourself questioning your abilities or in a challenging situation, take a moment and tell yourself – I trust myself.

As I previously mentioned, Amsterdam is tough city to crack in terms of alignment – you can’t get an apartment without a job and you can’t get a job without an apartment. Talk about a catch 22 dilemma! There are moments when the sun shines and life feels easier. People are happier and this translates in their general demeanour. But as the dreary winter days approach, the struggles of cycling against the high winds and the cold spitting rain against your raw cheeks brings about doubts of the unknown. Am I on the right path? Only yesterday I found myself in this exact situation – exhausted after moving house (4 times in 1.5 years – no moving trucks, just a bike and strong will) and working a long day. JESUS FUCKING CHRISTTTTTTT!” I screamed furiously at the wind. Tears disguised as rain rolled down my cheeks and legs shaking to maintain my precarious balance. I looked over my right shoulder to see an older Dutch woman. “Don’t give up. You can make it!” she shouted and zoomed off in front of me. Just as I was about to give up, a stranger gave me the strength I needed in that very moment. I regained my balance and followed her path.

I recently moved out of my beautiful central Amsterdam apartment, idyllically located in the famous ‘De 9 Straatjes.’ I recently made a YouTube video explaining my dilemma in 2019. I found a job that promised me more than it delivered and this beautiful apartment that in the end, brought me more pain than pleasure. Everything was aligned on paper, but the universe was telling me otherwise. Ironically, it was written on my front door! But of course, I was blinded.

Holly...

I was ecstatic to move into this apartment, as you can tell by my cheerful selfie outside the building in January 2019. I was happy, smiling and full of joy. The space was bright, full of light and hope, or so I thought…

Social media records our best moments. Behind the façade reveals a different narrative. I remained very quiet on social media throughout 2019. I enjoyed living life in the moment without the need to take out my iPhone at every moment, but I also felt very lost and unsure of my path. I should be happy, but I wasn’t.

I attended a friend’s housewarming party in early February 2019 and met a lovely Polish girl. We immediately clicked. She was bubbly, spontaneous and a strong female – three characteristics I’m drawn to in anyone, regardless of gender. We stayed in contact. I invited her to my housewarming in April and we met up again in May. We didn’t know each other very well, but she immediately sensed it. “You’re not smiling or happy like you were when we first met. Something has changed in your energy!” I was shocked by her blunt words, but I knew they were coming from a place of concern. She was right. I was in denial. It hit me like a tonne of bricks. Essentially still a stranger, she saw straight through me – absolute transparency.

A cloud of negativity had engulfed me and my self confidence began to chip away. I was trapped in a dark hole with no way out and afraid to tell anyone. I always saw myself as a strong feminist. There was a personal shame to admit that an individual could make me question who I was as a person. My friends and work colleagues always associated my personality as bubbly, charismatic and positive energy. Unfortunately, I listened to a manipulator who lacked these desirable characteristics. Fake, miserable, overtly sensitive and possessive – constructing me a new identity against my will that didn’t align with my true self. I lived in a constant state of high anxiety, questioning myself and became emotionally defensive at every glance, verbal exchange and physical touch. I felt weak and craved control, which soon reflected my frail physique. I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled. I remember my cheeks hurting from smiling and laughing so hard. But now, they were deflated, replaced with sad eyes that avoided contact with anyone. My iPhone was filled with hundreds of photos and videos containing happy times with friends. I looked at them to reminisce on the good times, but it also brought about a great deal of sadness because I couldn’t remember who that girl was anymore. I was so embarrassed to look anyone in the eyes because maybe they too would see the unhappiness, making it more of a reality than I wished it to be. I don’t usually discuss these personal topics on my social media platforms, but I also think that’s part of the problem. Physical abuse is visible to the eye, but emotional abuse is more opaque and covert. You can’t see it and that’s the ultimate danger. 

I recently saw a quote that said “the red flags you ignore in the beginning are the reasons you leave in the end.” The ‘gut feeling’ or intuition never fails us. We fail ourselves when we ignore it. Gaslighting is one of the most dangerous aspects of emotional abuse because it makes you question your own sanity – Am I being too sensitive or did that really happen? I am lucky to have some really close friends in Amsterdam and without them, there is absolutely noway I could have remained here this long. When I was blind, they reconfirmed the reality of my situation.

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Back to the apartment – Tourists regularly congregated outside my door, as there was a coffee shop (legal weed shop) directly downstairs. Bikes, coffee shop loiterers and pedestrians walking by, usually made the footpath difficult to navigate. My overwhelming anxiety caused me to rush to the front door with my key in a state of panic. Soon people started taking photos outside the garage double doors, which honestly made me laugh. A few girls even asked me to take their picture. Of course, I obliged. Even still, I didn’t see the writing on the wall! I focused on their high energy, wide smiles and joy; the features I craved back in my life. If only I could inhale their ecstasy for life, something I once possessed.

On December 31st I moved out of the beauitful apartment. As the property bubble continues to inflate, my landlady sold the building to an investor- a blessing in disguise! My Irish friend, who I mentioned above was there to help me with my move – no questions asked! It’s true what they say, those who show up for us in our hardships are the ones who truly have our backs and I’m truly grateful for her. It’s interesting because we attended the same high school together, but we weren’t ever close friends. I was the happily uncool, tall girl and she was part of the popular crew. Six month prior we spontaneously bumped into each other when I was coming back from the gym one evening after work. Similar to the movie ‘Léon: The Professional’, I was a less than glamourous Nathalie Portman crossing the road, but with a fresh lavender plant I had just picked up from Albert Heijn. Only minutes off the bus from Berlin, and sporting a new cropped hairstyle I was unfamiliar with, we somehow immediately recognised each other. Talk about fate! 

New Year’s Eve is a tricky time to move anywhere in the world, but especially in Amsterdam because it’s the one day of the year when fireworks are legal and people truly take advantage of it. With my whole life packed up in boxes in front of me, I finally saw the writing on the garage doors: Smile More. 2019 taught me so much, more than any other year in my entire life! The universe was trying to tell me something, something I always prioritised and expressed – joy that translated to smiling, something that became a rarity.

I think the universe throws us situations to teach us lessons. Without pain you can’t experience pleasure. Without the hardships you can’t appreciate the good times. My biggest lesson of 2019 is to follow your gut no matter what. I always thought that as we become older, we stop making these ‘mistakes’. Although, another lesson of 2019 was that even older and wiser souls fall victim to ignoring their natural intuition – age means nothing, but lessons mean everything. Integrity always confirms your sanity.

Holly

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