The Happiest Place in the World

Early September 2018

Weightlessness is beginning to feel like a good thing. Weightlessness is beginning to feel right. It’s scary, no doubt. But I’m learning to embrace it. I’m beginning to make unexpected decisions in rapid-fire now. We are leaning into uncertainty.

It’s early September and people are asking me more often whether I have started searching for jobs yet. “You’ll be back before the summer, right? Have you started looking for jobs yet?” At first I would say yes. Saying yes makes me sound less insane. But now I am confident enough to provide them with an emphatic “No, and I have no intention of doing so.” Oh, my sweet family. They have been such troopers in embracing this newly evolved wild child of theirs.

People are shocked every time I say things like that. I understand that. All I can give them is this: “I’ll be okay, I promise. You don’t have to worry.” Then I change the subject.

Mid September 2018

Anyone who spends a lot of time with me (or watches my stories on Instagram) will know that I love my apartment. I adore my apartment. There are not enough words to describe how infatuated with my apartment I am. I literally have an Instagram highlight called “Apartment Gush,” which is where I have gushed love for my apartment in videos and photos. Appreciation; it’s important to me.

I moved into this apartment 4 years ago. It is 19 squared meters – I think. It’s tiny. It’s a studio apartment with a lofted bed. It has a small kitchen and an even tinier bathroom. The toilet was placed at a slant just so they could still make space for a sink. To me, it’s a palace.

It is the happiest place in the world.

It’s the first apartment I have lived in alone. It’s an apartment in which I have gone through some of the biggest changes in my life. It’s an apartment in which I broke down a lot of my own walls. This apartment is a place in which you are safe. You and I, we can bond here. We can be vulnerable here. We have fun here; we laugh until our bellies ache.

I have had many visitors in this apartment. I have given friends my keys and told them “I won’t be in Amsterdam that weekend, but stay! Stay in our apartment!” I have had friends that I’ve just met crash on my pathetic pull-out sofa and, later, on blow up mattresses. I’ve had friends I had never met do the same. I have squished into my loft bed with my best friends and had sleepovers in which no one wanted to sleep on the couch because they’d be “too far away” – it’s like one meter. One. We have squished three bodies into that bed and were unable to turn because turning would mean one person (me) falling down to the floor. I have had two temporary roommates in this apartment.

Our apartment is the happiest place in the world. I have no intention of letting it go. Because rationality dictates that you don’t let things like that go, right? Right.

That is why earlier this year, as my plans were developing, I took the necessary steps to arrange a sublet situation. All good.

It’s mid September now. This seems as good a time as any to finalize things. Only two and a half months to go, after all. Time to sort out your affairs.

Now, it bears noting that the process of subletting has already been experiencing some complications. Without getting into the long, bureaucratically boring details of it, things were getting shaky. A big ol’ wrench was being thrown into my plans.

I’m feeling doubts boiling up in my gut. I’m feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of making this all work. But I can’t quite place what it is that my gut is trying to tell me. I’m operating on some form of autopilot as I continue to fix, fix, fix. This is what rationality dictates, Nicole. 

By now I’ve discussed this shit show with both of my parents. They have offered me solutions; ways in which they can help. They have assured me it will be okay.

And then.

Wednesday, September 26th

I receive word that in addition to every other step in between that has gone awry, it turns out that I simply will not be able to sublet the apartment. A definitive, resounding no.

Complete numbness. That moment you feel like your stomach has dropped out of your you-know-where. There’s now a ringing in your ears.

I continued in “fix it” mode. I did my due diligence. Read through my rental contract. Shit. Called a firm for advice. Fuck.

I could go into extreme detail regarding what followed but essentially it was an absolute, complete meltdown on my part. It was not cute. It was wet, snotty, disgusting sobbing. I sobbed and sobbed and eventually pulled myself together. Well, that’s that, then. You’re giving up the happiest place in the world. It was a scary thought and I needed someone to confirm that I wasn’t insane.

So I did what any self-respecting, strong, independent adult would do. I called my parents.

No immediate answer. Damn you, time difference.

I reached out to a few of my closest friends. I told them I was not okay. They offered me just what I needed which was a simple, “You’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. We’re here.” I will, it will. Thank you. I love you. One of them called me and upon hearing how distraught I was, talked me through the bulk of it and promptly ordered me to go to bed. No more answering the phone. Thank you, I love you.

I washed my face. Started crying again – snot, snot, snotty snot. (Delightful story, no?)

I crawled under the covers and my phone rang. My mom. I of course had firm orders to sleep, but I needed to hear her voice.

As most parents would, my mom again went into her own “fix it” mode. More solutions, more ways that this could be salvaged, ways I could keep the apartment. And for some reason, it made me angry. Suddenly, I was an angsty teenager again – Moooooooooom why don’t you understand me? You remember the days. I felt like an asshole. Here she is being a supportive parent, and I’m lashing out. She seemed perplexed – and rightfully so. We settled on me sleeping on it. We agreed it would be best to discuss it tomorrow. We hung up with an “I love you.”

I realized I probably should have followed the orders. I couldn’t stop thinking now. Why was I being so difficult? Why was I rebelling? What’s up with you, Nicole?

Suddenly, it came to me. I realized why I was proverbially kicking and screaming at the prospect of things working out. Why I was kicking and screaming at being able to keep the happiest place in the world.

I was rebelling because contrary to all rules of logic, I wanted to give it up. That gut feeling that had been bubbling for a while finally reared it’s head for real. Angsty teenager vibes: Nicooooooole why don’t you understand me?

That was it.

I secretly wanted to give up the happiest place in the world.

What?

Too tired to figure out the “what?” of it, I slept. I slept the kind of deep sleep that only comes to you when you’ve cried that much. A sleep that comes from absolute and total emotional exhaustion. The one you get when you’re juggling too many balls and finally see some of them drop. They’re scattering at your feet now.

Thursday, September 27th

I woke up in my loft bed and snuggled in it’s warmth. 30 seconds before reality hit: wait, you’re seriously going to give this place up? It felt scary. 10 seconds of scary and: but why does it feel so right?

I cycled to work, beginning to feel even more weightless. It began to feel good. Why does everything seemingly illogical suddenly feel so right?

Back to “fix it” mode, though suddenly with a very different goal in mind. If I wanted to give up the apartment, that meant I legally had to hand in my notice 2 months before moving out. That meant 2 months before December 1st. October 1st. That’s on Monday. I began to draft my letter.

I printed it out and held it in my hand. I cycled home with it and put it on my kitchen table. My marble bistro table that I carefully selected for the happiest place in the world. I sat on one of the chairs I carefully selected for the happiest place in the world, thinking things over.

My mother called.

“I’ve been thinking it through and I think I understand why you want to give up your apartment. I think it makes sense to avoid all of these high costs and uncertainties when you don’t even know who you’ll be in a year, or what you’ll want. I think it makes sense. I think it will be a beautiful new beginning.”

I’m glad you’re saying that. My letter is printed and ready, the envelope is addressed. I’m sending it in tomorrow. I know it will be beautiful and I’m relieved that you think so too.

“Ai dushi (sweetheart), I’m so proud. ” So am I.

I haven’t cried sad tears since then. Only excited/nervous/happy tears. Those are some of the best kind.

Sunday, November 4th

I haven’t really started packing up my apartment even though by now I really should. I’ve arranged other things; cancelling the various contracts, arranging the final inspection with my landlord.

I’ve had friends and family over for dinners to celebrate the new adventures to come and to say bye to these very few squared meters that have felt so big to me; to us.

I’ve used many, many words here and yet I’m still not sure they do justice to what this place makes me feel. I suppose that’s okay –I also thank you for your patience if you’ve made it this far.

I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the many reasons why November 1st mattered so much to me. It’s one of the many reasons why today, November 4th, matters.

In 16 days, on November 20th, I will be off on my biggest adventure to date. I will spend the next 6.5 months traveling through parts of Southeast Asia and Australia. I have no set plans and no set itinerary.

In 16 days I will be without a home of my own, and without a clear career trajectory. When I return to Amsterdam in June, I will have no specific skill set on my resumé that I directly wish to use. I will make a career change. To what? I have no more than a strong gut feeling. I will need to move into a new apartment. Where? I have no clue about that, either.

I will have to rely for the largest part on my faith in myself. But do you want to hear the greatest news?

I am beginning to learn that I have that in spades.

I am ready for the countdown.

This post is part five of a six-part story. Go ahead and click through to read the first, secondthird and fourth parts.

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