It’s been one of those years. You know the type. When you’re like, “Oh, I’m gonna get this super duper important thing done in February, after I recover from the holidays.” Then you’re like, “Oh damn, it’s already April? I gotta get that pretty important thing done next month.” Next thing you know, you’re like, “What month is it now? July? Time’s passing quickly, huh?” Then finally you’re like, “I never got that thing done, and it’s November. It was somewhat important, so it’ll definitely get done after the holidays.”
Is this a thing? Or just me?
So, what’s that important thing that I keep meaning to address?
Fix yo life.
As if one day I would finally decide to make all the right decisions, put everything in the proper place, and start living my very best version of life. And since this would be me living my best life, I imagined this would all be accomplished before noon on said day.
I still haven’t gotten around to it.
Instead, in the past year (plus or minus a decade), I’ve prioritized putting out fires and running away from flames. The daily struggle has felt real, and the bigger picture has become vague. Between freelancing to pay the bills, pounding the walls to open doors for Ancestors unKnown, and grasping at a social life, I haven’t recognized the time to do much else.
Yet, in my assessment of my failures, something surprising happened. I came up with a list of ways in which I’ve actually gotten closer to the “fix yo life” goal. Turns out the day to day problem-solving contributes to the bigger picture, even when events don’t feel so significant in the moment.
Here’s a sample:
Got a legit residence permit.
Well, this one felt big in the moment. For nearly a year I struggled to re-legitimize my residency in the Netherlands. No longer a student, but still not making much of a dime as a business owner, I fell into an unwanted and undocumented void. And I can’t stress enough the stress this caused. Having chosen the country in which I want to live (at least for now), I desperately searched for a legal right to do so. It may have required an application, an appeal, another application and multiple rounds of bank account acrobatics, but I finally met the standard.
*insert inspirational quote about persistence and perseverance here*
I picked up that residence permit from the immigration office and walked lighter than I had in months.
Got health insurance.
Sure, it’s the law to be insured. But what if you’re momentarily living in the law’s margins?
While debates about healthcare have raged on in the U.S., over here in the Netherlands, I’ve been praying quietly for my own good health. After my previous residence permit expired, I promptly received a letter from my health insurance provider. It said something like, “See ya, sucker!” (In Dutch, of course).
As you might imagine, stress levels go up at times like these. I feared ailments and accidents alike. Whenever I felt dizzy or nauseous, I debated debt vs. death.
Just take me, cough. Just take me.
Thankfully, I survived. Now, with legal status, along with all the preexisting conditions I can count on my fingers and toes, I’m re-insured. And for some strange reason, I’ve never felt healthier.
Crises abound. Nothing stops me from traveling. This past year has been no exception.
In 2016, I went to Afropunk in Paris. And I visited Portugal (Porto), Austria (Innsbruck) and Italy (Venice and Milan) for the first time. It was a disastrously memorable train ride through Germany that got me to Innsbruck. And it was a stunning bus ride through the Alps that took me to northern Italy. I also visited the U.S. twice (a back and forth that was not unrelated to my undocumented status). Pre and post-election chaos aside, I enjoyed the brief enough visits to my native land.
Family, (new) friends, work, food, drinks, beautiful surroundings and dating apps. I enjoy traveling.
Finished Tinder (and its ‘cousin’ apps).
Speaking of dating apps, I’ve put in my time. And now I think I’m done.
While I was in New York, a friend and I sat in silence for a good 30 minutes, each of us swiping through our respective dating apps. I went between Bumble and Tinder, she was more of a Tinder loyalist. Occasionally we broke the silence to compare notes about the limited number of Black men in our feeds:
Q: “Have you matched with this guy?” A: “Yeah, I ghosted him last week.”
Q: “This guy looks normal, right?” A: “No, not at all.”
Q: “Left swipe?” A: “Left. Swipe.”
Q: “This guy looks familiar. You know him?” A: “That’s my cousin.”
The real awakening came when I saw a familiar screen that appeared frequently on my dating apps in the Netherlands. It said something like, “no new potential matches.”
My friend responded, “How can that be?! It’s like saying you’ve reached the end of the Internet.”
Indeed. It’s just like that. I deleted the apps a few weeks later. (Only to re-install and then delete again a few months after that).
No, I still don’t speak Dutch. Check out my post on that matter over on the Black Expat: Confessions of a Language Imposter.
But not long ago, I spent an entire day without speaking any English. Granted, I didn’t talk to many people, I didn’t have any in-depth conversations, and I wasn’t impressing anyone with my intelligence or grasp of complex political matters. Yet, I said things in Dutch; people said things to me in Dutch; and we all understood each other. It was a win.
Learned how to use gifs.
And life will never be the same.