This morning, I sat for the written portion of the NT2 II exam and, this afternoon, I will sit for the speaking portion. In the next two weeks, I have the listening and reading comprehension exams. The NT2 translates to “Dutch as a second language”. These are the level two exams and so this should tell anyone looking at my resume that I am fluent in the Dutch language.
Nope. Not fluent. I don’t feel fluent. I don’t know what that would feel like. I still sigh and squint as I read Dutch text. My heart still races when I speak Dutch. I still use Google translate. I have to consciously suppress my, “Oh Shit!” face when people ask me a question in Dutch.
Other people, other immigrants, say they dream in Dutch. Blek! God I hope not! Other people start watching Dutch television programs. Why? I come from the land of “Scandal” and “House of Cards”. One word – Netflix
My family and friends from America speak slightly awe struck when I talk about sitting for these exams. Everyone else smiles and thinks, “It is about damn time. You have lived here for ten years.”
Taking these exams makes me feel equally parts old and privileged. I’m an immigrant just like they are, but I am termed an expat or even mistaken for Dutch because of my skin color, my hair texture, my clothing, my last name.
Most of the other people at this sterile government office building are here as a requirement to continue their education at a Dutch university. They have so much ahead of them. In many ways, they have so much behind them. We all sit here dreading the same thing – The great equalizer, government red tape.
(Image by morethanexpat)
People asked me what my career goals were and I’d say accounting manager or something or other that meant working for a big corporation. I could ace any interview that came my way. I knew what they wanted to hear. I thought it was what I wanted. I ignored that dread that weighed down my limbs and shook it off as nerves.
I’d take a job and six months in I’d start dreading Monday’s. I’d go in everyday and give it everything I had and feel like I wasn’t being appreciated enough. The resentment would start. My cousin made a comment about why she started working for herself that really struck me. She said that she realised that maybe it wasn’t the job or company that was the issue, but her. She didn’t fit the traditional mold. It wasn’t the company or the boss or the job. It was me. Ouch.
Maybe I am a square peg in a round hole. I felt like I was working much harder than everyone else. To some extent, that was true. If I commit to something, I will finish it. It will be my best effort. No half assery.
But pouring yourself into something just because you are good at it and it is safe is a losing battle. Sooner or later, the well runs dry. And doing something for someone else’s approval, it feels like hiding.
The only way to stand in my own shoes is to dare to say that my ideas are good enough and to give them the light of day. They have been hiding inside me so long that I stopped hearing them.
And instead of beating myself up about that, I need to go find my square hole to fill.
And so I am making a start as a business owner. Will you come along with me for the ride?
(Image from freeimages.co.uk)
They sang a Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) song tonight on The Voice. (We can watch it here in The Netherlands, but it is on a delay.) For me, CCR (and John Fogerty) is synonymous with my Dad. It doesn’t really matter which song. When one plays, I am right back there in the cab of my dad’s pick up truck. I am sitting in the passenger’s seat as he drives. Or I am cutting across farm fields driving on country roads. Or my twin sister and I are belting out a song while heading to our softball game. Then I am huddled in a chair next to his open casket begging for this nightmare to end and cursing my father for taking my kids’ grandfather from them. All the while, CCR plays in the background.
Then I have this thought that Dad is looking down from wherever he is and feeling like he isn’t missing much. Yes, he is missing out on memories with his family, but outside of that little circle, I bet he doesn’t feel like he is missing much. I wonder if he felt that while he was still alive. Do we all feel like that at a certain point? Do we eventually feel like we have seen all we want to see? We have hit all the milestones there will be. We have felt the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows and nothing else will ever push us to those extremes. Do we reach a jaded, ragged, easy assurance or peaceful resignation? Is that the goal?
(Photo by Piano Piano! from Flickr)
Look at this face. She is gorgeous. Her smile just lights me up from the inside. She has that effect on everyone. Wiglet is eight and a half months old and sitting up. She just goes for it. In her quiet, happy way, she sets her sights on something and wiggles her way over. Her crawl looks more like the worm at this point. And she love, love, loves her big sister E. She squeals with delight when E tries to make her laugh. Wiglet laughs so hard she gets the hiccups. Their relationship right now is such a gift to watch.
Izzy is our little trooper for sure. I think she had a stomach bug for two days, but I could not be for sure because she was so happy through it. Everything that went in came right back up. She gave the meaning to the words ‘throwing up’. She would fuss, pause, chuck her guts across the room, look at me and start gurgling and smile again. No crying, no fever, no sleepless nights – what an angel. And beautiful on top of that. How did we get so lucky?
I picked up our second batch of meals today. I found a nice woman that makes great food. Once a month, she makes us a batch of seven meals. It is so nice to try new food, to not cook and to not grocery shop. Tonight’s meal was a bit of a miss, though. Goat stew. It was well made, but, well… And then there are these buns. Wow! Yum! They are filled with beef or curried chicken. So great! I could wolf down five of these.
I started my new job this week. That is why you haven’t heard from me. I will not go into it much, but I am working for a software company. Sweet lord, is it fast paced. It feels like I jumped ship from the Titanic and onto a speeding train. I think it will be great.
So, here we go again. And I am trying hard to keep that mythical word “balance” in mind. It is right there – in the back of my mind – laughing at me. There is no such thing as balance right now.
Our home repairs took a giant step forward this week. On Wednesday, my day off with both girls (sigh), our new floor was installed in our bedroom. It is beautiful, but the stain it was treated with stinks to high heaven. So it took a few more days of airing out the room before we could sleep in it again. This week, our built-in closets get re-installed in our bedroom and the sliding glass doors to our deck get measured for replacement. All of this is thanks to our frenemy, water.
Then we get to cram all of our clothes & linens back into our closet just in time for my mom to arrive for a month visit. As always, I am really looking forward to her visit, but I am still crossing my fingers that all will go as planned and she will have both a bed to sleep in and a place to put her stuff.
Here are pictures of the new floor and hole in our bedroom where a closet will hopefully be by the end of the week.
So here are pictures of the cake I made today. I ended up spelling “Older than Dirt” with gummy worms. The marshmellow fluff icing turned out great. To make the dirt along the bottom, I added chocolate cookies to the cake scraps.
Here are the recipes I used:
Marshmellow Fluff Icing
Devils Food Pudding Cake
Dark Chocolate Ganache