I’m overjoyed living the life no one expected me to
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
I was in my early twenties working when I first heard these lyrics by the Fleet Foxes and they really hit home. I too had been raised up believing I was unique. Hell, my parents had done a wonderful job! All my childhood, teens and yes even puberty I felt like I was pretty amazing, dare I even say it … better than the rest.
In my last year of college for the first time I started to question my greatness. I had chosen a major I liked but I didn’t share the passion a lot of my fellow students showed and I had no clue of what was to be next. An extra master’s bought me time, and a good internship boosted my confidence again, so when I threw myself on the job market, it was kind of like an over-excited Legally Blonde tadaaaaah style leap.
Months and countless unanswered job applications later, I felt at a complete loss. I wasn’t that amazing after all. I was… unwanted, unnoticed even. One interviewer however, told me I was too self-confident. My American best friend assured me, this would never be said to someone interviewing for a job in the States. And that’s exactly what the problem was, after a few years abroad as a child my parents had taught me to dream big: I would continue this international lifestyle – they for other reasons had had to abort. And I would leave behind petty Belgium. I would become a traveller with countless success stories about getting degrees from internationally praised colleges, friends from all over the world and would eventually forget my mother-tongue and instead become a citizen of the world.
I looked down upon people whose aspirations didn’t reach any further than their hometown but when the time came to go abroad and leave my family behind, I couldn’t. I convinced myself I would travel later, when my youngest sister wouldn’t miss me so badly. But after a six week backpacking trip in Cuba with some girlfriends, I had to confess to myself that I had been very homesick. More even, at that point I couldn’t imagine ever living apart from my three sisters. (if I’m not mistaken, this is something Jo says in Little Women too, which is- needless to explain why – my all-time favorite book and movie! Winona forever!) Suddenly I couldn’t picture what I wanted my future to look like, at all.
I want a family of my own
Also in these times my family was there for me, although soon they became pre-occupied: our perfect family, was about to go through an earth-shattering divorce. In comes Bart. Despite the surprising self-confidence I had always had, I was very insecure around boys. Boys I liked that is. And boy, did I like Bart! He had to deal with a hot mess (yes hot, I never said all of my positive self-image was gone :p) but he stuck through the awkwardness and we became a great couple. My love for him, my immediate wish for having a family with this man, made the future a little bit clearer. My love for traveling rubbed off and together we saw much of the world but always coming home to our home country and family.
Ten years later,…
Today, ten years later, we are celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary with two gorgeous kids (and they really are unique as a snowflake – just kidding). I am intensely happy in a humble, not-career driven job in petty Belgium. What’s more, I live around the corner from where I was raised and a block away from my family-in-law. When I bike to work with Elliot and Amelia, the three of us shout out good mornings to the hair dresser, our sister-in-law and I’ll run into colleagues and family members at the local store,… and I love it.
I’m not going to be the woman to say a man changed me, because he didn’t. I had always been this homely, sensitive person only, I had been pushing her aside for a trendier version of myself. Now, older and wiser, I appreciate the beauty of the familiar, the mainstream. Bart is ambitious and that’s perfect because we balance each other out. With all the cheerleading my parents did for me while I was growing up, I had never considered that a humble job, close to a happy home with a family of my own, in the town next to the one I grew up in, … would be something to strive for.
And now, I am so happy that I had an honest sit-down with my twenty-two year old self back then and talked her out of the pressure of becoming a life-changing lawyer, a green-eyed master’s in economics with a minor in Chinese (apparently this was the way to go to become rich and successful as a blonde Caucasian in the early 2000’s) , an international entrepreneur,... All of these challenging jobs seem amazing but they really are not for me.
Friday night chills
Just give me time with Elliot and Amelia, with Bart and with our family and I’m a happy camper. There it is: I’m a mediocre, thirty-something year old who drifts off on Friday nights at nine pm, watching The Bridge on Netflix with her husband, who passed out ten minutes earlier with Amelia on his arm. And while at exactly the same moment successful globetrotters are only just getting ready at nine pm for dinner on the hottest rooftop bar in Shanghai or somewhere far far away, I pinch myself in the arm because I feel crazy happy here. Just here.
Check out the photo gallery for some picture of our wedding day,…