A big pink suitcase, a new break up inspired haircut and a broken heart. That pretty much sums up what I brought when I moved two New York exactly two years ago. I didn't have a permanent address (although that's not that strange for this city) and I didn't know if I'd last longer than a few weeks, let alone finish my grad program at The New School. But I'm writing this from the place I call home in Hamilton Heights, where my still incredibly pink suitcase rests in my closet, so for the most part you can guess what happened.
The heartache is now long gone, something you could not have told me two years ago. Many people said it anyway, and I didn't believe it. Everyone who's ever been hurt this badly understands that I thought that the end of the relationship was the worst thing that could've happened to me. They'd also know that, of course, that turned out to be untrue. If only because I'm still rocking that same haircut. Who says impulsive decisions are bad?
As much as I thought the break up was the worst, I also thought it would be the biggest change in my life. You probably see this coming now, but I was wrong again. Let's get all cliché and mushy for a second and say that the biggest change was me. I'm much stronger than I was back then, and definitely happier. I did a lot of growing up, and even more learning. Which led to turn me into an activist and a feminist (amongst other things). Some other things that happened; I became part of an all female film collective, graduated from The New School, finally visited some more states (here's to you, Arizona, Texas & Louisiana), marched and worked during the historic Women's March in DC and most importantly, made new friends that I consider family. On a lighter note I drank way too much coffee, got stuck on the subway too often (plus learned how to properly curse at the MTA) and have gotten too good at killing cockroaches.
A few questions I've gotten a lot over these past two years, from both people here and back home, all have to do with immigration. It usually starts with what visa I'm on, proceeds with if I'd want to stay here forever and ends with if I'd give up my Dutch citizenship. The short answer to that last one is never. The longer answer includes me ranting about healthcare and education (do ask me next time you see me at a party and want to feel bad about the US). And in all honesty I'll add that I don't even know in what situation I'd have to get to be forced to give up my Dutch citizenship, I just know that it's a little too radical for my taste.
If you thought I forgot about that nice little middle question that might just give me commitment issues, think again. Forever is an awful long time, even for those who think life's too short (I'm still debating). As I could not have predicted these past two years and have no clue what the next two will look like (if I don't get my new visa, things will drastically change in a month from now), I can definitely not make any solid statements about forever. I love living here for now, but that all might change again. And the fact that I love living here, also doesn't mean I don't love being Dutch (because, you know, cheese and socialism). It also doesn't mean I love everything here, which brings up another frequently asked question; Why would you want to live here/there?
This is a relatively new one. To no one's surprise it started surfacing last fall and became a regular this winter. I even got into a fight over it the day after the election. That might be another party story, but the gist of it was that if I was so disappointed by the electing of Trump, I should just go home (this was said by someone who voted for Clinton). I couldn't disagree with that more, as I don't think that me wanting to live here means I have to agree with everything that happens here. Me loving New York doesn't mean I love all of the US (I can't even say I know most of it).
I guess I understand the question, but I don't understand why people would assume that I'd just go back because things could be better. Things like the scary gathering of white nationalists this past weekend in Charlottesville are horrifying and anger me, but they don't make me want to leave. Much of what I've learned these past two years has to do with activism, but also with the simple acts of just speaking up, of voicing your opinion, of helping each other out. This current political climate definitely makes me want to do just that. And if anything, it makes my work as a documentary filmmaker interested in social justice issues much more interesting.
It also brings me back to my new found New York family, something I've talked a lot about this past year. Beyond the work (which I couldn't love more and am so grateful for), it's the people that keep me here. They set apart this place for me. These are the people who were there for me when I couldn't stop crying over my break up. The people who opened their hearts and homes to me. Those who raised money for me in efforts to keep me here. The ones who inspire me, make me laugh and teach me something; sometimes about myself (like that I still can't properly pronounce the 'th'), sometimes about this country or other cultures. They are the people who made sure that I felt at home when I was new, and the ones I now go home to.
And as my story of why I came to New York finally doesn't revolve around someone else anymore, I'm hoping that soon I can answer that first question (remember, visa) by saying I am a filmmaker with an artist visa that will keep me here a few more years. I hate to disappoint, but to the last question, the answer will stay no. God no! (Does this make me an honorary American? I love you guys!)