The city of fading lights


It was inevitable that this day would come – although It’s still a bit sad that it has arrived. Amsterdam has fully moved on from me. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I have moved on from Amsterdam, never having planned to.

I left Amsterdam in August 2015, after fifteen short years. I had built a life for myself, made good friends, and finally decided that my one year sojourn to the Netherlands could finally come to an end, as I faced down the barrel of forty.

I knew that the challenge of returning home would be onerous. Even though Ireland is ‘my country’ I had been away for too long to simply slide back into normal life, without a touch of psychological constipation. I had done my research, and it was as tough as expected. This was no surprise. When I first moved – way back in 2000 – it took quite a period of adjustment to acclimatise to Amsterdam – a number of years in fact. My naivete at that time, blinded me to the realisation that I was the one who had moved country. But that this did not mean that everyone else’s life remained static in my absence. I may have been the glittering star of my own existence, whereas I had simply been a co-star in others’ lives. Everyone is the main character of their own epic tale after all. As the months and years since my departure grew, my star billing in faraway people’s stories would fall. This didn’t meant that we were no longer friends. People’s priorities and circumstances would change.

Therefore when I arrived back in Ireland, I had to reappraise my position, and adjust myself to the new reality. I remained friends with certain people but more in the manner of friendly acquaintances, rather than the bosom buddies we once were. Luckily some carried on as they always had . Some fell away. I made some new friends. After a rocky start, life took on its new equilibrium.

At the back of my mind I always had the option of returning to Amsterdam if the going got too tough in Ireland. I had sold my apartment in the Dam purely to eliminate the easy escape route that that would have provided. Had the option been there in the challenging year that accompanied my return to Dublin, I would have been out of Ireland like a bullet train.

I’ve just been to Amsterdam for the weekend for a dear friend’s birthday party. It was lovely to see her and her family again.

I was however faced with the realisation that my time there is over. I can always choose to move back regardless – no-one is forcing me to stay anywhere. It’s just that I have now been out of there too long to easily slot back in again. Just like I spent too much time out of Ireland to ever really reintegrate when I returned. Time stops for no indecisive returning immigrant, who no longer really fits in anywhere. For starters Amsterdam has – like Dublin – become unaffordable for all but the rich. I could of course get a flat in the stultifyingly dull towns of Hoofddorp or Lelystad or Almere – towns where heterosexuals flee to raise families, and develop wine problems, far away from the big bad city. I am an Amsterdam boy however – you won’t find me in such places. That is too far – it would require me to live in bleakest suburbia – where hope goes to die.

I met up with some friends I had not seen for a while. It was lovely to catch up with these wonderful people. I suspect that I will not be back for some time. I can still escape to Amsterdam but it will be an escape to a brand new city, not to the place I used to know.

No point crying over spilt hemp oil though.

That’s the rhythm of life. Onwards and upwards.

4 thoughts on “The city of fading lights

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