4 Weeks ago I was supposed to fly back to Australia. I’d spend a year back in The Netherlands with my family and friends. Due to COVID I had postponed my return flight already and when everything looked promising I booked my flight for the end of May.
I’d organised everything, cancelled the lease of my small but cute granny flat style place on a farm on the outskirts of town where I’d been living for the last 7 months. I went through everything I collected over the year, sold lots of things and packed the rest in my suitcases. I had organised a place to stay upon my return to Perth. I was organised and ready to return home. My friends in The Netherlands had even organised the best surprise goodbye party one could wish for.
But despite me looking forward going back to Australia and starting a new chapter in my life, the weeks leading up to my flight I started to feel very anxious and nervous. I told myself that was completely normal as I was also leaving part of my life behind. Over the last 10 months or so I had started to build a new social network, met new people, build new friendships and now I was going to leave that all behind, go back to the other side of the world and start over in a city I did not know many people yet. I would have to start all over again from scratch.
The last 6 months in particular I have been struggling with depression and loneliness.
It’s hard to pinpoint down exactly what caused my mental struggles. Big changes in my life, expectations which weren’t met, disappointment in myself and struggling with the sense of belonging and feeling home. But I was looking forward to settling and to start building a new chapter.
In April I’d been to the States to visit a few amazing friends I met during different stages in my life. The first few weeks I spend with a friend I have known for over 30 years. We grew up together, living next to each other. She moved to the USA and I moved to Australia but we always kept in touch. She knew my struggles with the feeling of belonging and the difficulties loving 2 different countries. She also struggled with the same things, the differences in cultures and sometimes missing having Dutch people around. It has been very valuable spending time together and explore the different areas of “belonging” and “home”.
The week before my flight we spend several hours talking about my growing anxiety about going back. I was beating myself up about leaving everything I had build in The Netherlands over the last year behind. Why would I do that to myself? Why move back to the other side of the world where people also had moved on. She was able to help me gain insights in the meanings I had given things and the patterns I was running and how to change them. But despite the awareness I started losing myself more and more. I was worried I was trying to escape from my feelings and emotions by going back to Australia instead of facing them.
On the morning of the day my friend would pick me up and drive me to the airport (we would stay overnight in Amsterdam so we would have plenty of time the next morning) I said goodbye to my beautiful niece and nephew and my sister. I packed the last boxes and handed the keys of my house back to my landlord. That’s when I freaked out and in full panic I called my friend. “I don’t know what to do” I told her. “I don’t want to go”. “It doesn’t feel right”. “My whole body is screaming it’s not the right thing to do but what do I do?”
I am so lucky and fortunate my friend knows me through and through. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and have supported each others through many difficult life events. She told me; “F*ck it Sietske, just cancel your flight”, “we’ll work it out”. “Everything will be okay”.
Cancel my flight I thought? That only happens in the movies or in real life when someone dies. You don’t just cancel your flight last minute. Or can I?
I returned the car I had been using from a friend and went over to my parents who would drop me off at the train station. I told them about my doubts and that I was in 2 minds about what to do. I did not know if our goodbyes were going to be short or long term.
They dropped me off at the train station and while I was waiting for my train to Amsterdam I thought, let’s just do it and get this over and done with. I called the airline and cancelled my flight which left me standing in shock. While I was on the train to the station where my friend would pick me up I realised what I had done. I had cancelled my flight, I wasn’t flying back the next day. And now what….I had no house anymore, no place to live, my life was packed in 2 suitcases.
My friend picked me up and I told her what I’d done. She bursted into tears with mixed emotions. Happy for herself that I would be around a bit longer and sad for me. We drove to Amsterdam and spend the night in the hotel we’d already booked. Not to have a farewell party but a celebration party of life instead. She called her husband and told him she’d be taking me home the next day and I’d be moving in for a while. Luckily I get along with her husband very well. They were my lifesavers. The days that followed have become a blur. I remember just wanting to stay in bed, trying to get my head around what happened and worry about “now what”.
That was 4 weeks ago.
A lot has happened since. I am very fortunate to have a few amazing friends around me who know me through and through. They helped me find the calmness within myself so I could think about the things that really mattered to me, coming from a place of being grounded and authenticity so I was able to make soul inspired decisions about where to go from here but also own those decisions.
Talking to several people around me has made me realise how many other people struggle with being truly connected to their authentic selves. To feel grounded, to have a sense of belonging, being able to make soul inspired decisions and having the confidence to own those decisions.
How do you connect to your authentic self? How do you know when a decision is truly yours and not that voice in your mind trying to take over?
It is also a topic that comes up in coaching quite often.