"My mindset has shifted in so many ways during these 7 years. Fears I used to live with have started to evaporate. I've realised many are mere illusions."
I guess with current circumstances, it's been pretty hard for all of us to understand where things are going: when can we travel again? When can we see family and friends again? Will we be able to celebrate various traditions like Christmas normally this year? It's been hard to find anything to look forward to whilst this global pandemic rolls on.
As I've told you before, it's coming close to the end of almost 7 years of living and working in The Netherlands for me. In a combination of choice and necessity, I'll be heading back to the UK in just over a month's time. My feelings about it are polarised - excited for future opportunities, the security of being at home again and near to family, but also a deep sadness to leave a city and environment I love and some very dear friends who I won't see 'quite' as often.
So, just as the season is changing in The Hague, the season is changing for me too. As I wander the streets and parks of my adopted home, seeking out autumn photo shots with my camera, I reflect on how far I have come and where I am going.
Coming to live abroad was a very scary thing for me and a tough decision that I almost didn't even make when it came to it. It meant giving up various things I saw as secure. However, once you make that move, you learn something valuable - that you are stronger and more resilient than you think you are. In fact, once you dare to step out of that comfort zone, it liberates you. You realise that some of those securities were limiting you and holding you back, and in fact were invisible chains around your ankles. This is because by pushing those boundaries (and realising that you survive!), you learn that far more is possible than you believed.
You also learn that you build new securities, and where securities fail, that's ok - you adapt and you quickly make new ones. The reality is, you have to keep your faith in yourself and understand that even if things go wrong, there's always a solution. Now, of course, this does not happen overnight; experiences teach you this over time.
In a city that once seemed alien, with an unpronounceable language everywhere I looked, I now feel safe and at home. That foreign language now feels familiar and I even understand some of it. It was always deep down a dream of mine to be able to do something like this; I was crippled with homesickness when I first went to university at age 18. Around that time, I had the opportunity to ask a question to one of my idols, Ricky Martin. I asked him how, at the age of 12, he managed to leave his island of Puerto Rico alone to pursue his dream with the boyband Menudo. Wasn't he afraid? His reply was "forget about fear, fear limits us. Sometimes you have to go, learn and experience things, and then return and share that learning".
Before I left the UK, I really wanted to learn photography and how to use a camera properly. For some reason, it was not until I took on this challenge of stepping out of my comfort zone that I also found the drive to pick up the camera and log onto the online courses. In fact, my mindset has shifted in so many ways during these 7 years. Fears I used to live with have started to evaporate. I've realised many are mere illusions. It's perhaps a cliche, but it really is true: you have to face your fears and do what scares you to grow as a person. Until you do it, you don't realise how true it is.
There are many wonderful small cafes in Dutch cities. I especially love some of those close to my home. I am sure going to miss those excellent cappuccinos and the friendly staff who I have got to know. Sitting there with my camera, going over photos I have taken, I start to think about the photo opportunities back at home. Particular street projects come to mind, as well as landscape photos at some of the beautiful places we have in and around Warwickshire. I also start to dream of photos I will take when I can return for visits again to Den Haag, to Spain and other wonderful places.
In fact, I see this era of taking photos in The Hague as merely my start point and "photography practice" period - the true nature of my photography is yet to emerge.
In the coming weeks I'll start packing. It's all a bit harder leaving in this uncertain time. There are many people I won't really be able to say goodbye to properly. But I am optimistic. I am under no illusions about the challenges I have ahead in terms of adapting to my new/old environment. I've learned that if things don't work out, you take another path. Sometimes you have no idea what that path is yet...but it surely exists, and believing that is key. You just have to look for it and take it, even if you aren't entirely sure where it leads to. And if it's not the right one, take a chance on another. I'm not saying that's easy, but even small steps forward are still progress.
I also know The Hague is but a 40 minute flight away, whenever I need a cappuccino or a fresh mint tea on a nice terrace...with a slice of appelgebak and to see a good friend face to face 😊👍🏻
The thing is, where I once felt restricted, I now know so much more is in my power. I believe in myself more. Barriers are broken down. Theories are tested. The main challenge is to not forget this - and sometimes I will - but so long as I stay on track overall, it's less about where I am than who I am.
Hopefully in all areas of life, I can keep achieving and growing. And not least, in my photography: I'm looking forward to new subjects, expanding my portfolio and finding new ways to bring my photography to more people. To do this, I need to keep learning and not stop daring to challenge my comfort zone.
So, one step at a time...and the next step, I guess, is to start packing...
Have you done anything to confront a personal challenge or get out of your comfort zone? Have you overcome something that was holding you back? What did you learn along the way? Tell me about it below! I would love to hear your stories ❤️