I’m sitting here on the couch at 6 in the morning trying my best to not start complaining because that’s not who I am. Not at heart anyways. But it’s become something of a habit in the last year or so. I’ve also been married for the last year, so who knows, maybe it’s related.
It’s been tough adjusting to a new country and being married. I am the quintessential independent American woman. Back home I know what the hell I’m doing and here nothing makes any sense to me. I really wasn’t expecting such a huge culture difference between The Netherlands and America as I’ve experienced. Well, Amsterdam is pretty cool, but that’s up north of me a few hours.
This far south it’s . . . uh . . . it’s a little back in time shall we say? Some small town mentality, and also a bit too . . . uh . . slow. Things that are experienced as simple and easy back home, get drawn and dragged out here like it’s a herculean task.
For example, last spring they brought in some dirt to do landscaping at the park we live by. They brought in a little backhoe which slowly and carefully laid out large rectangle metal slabs onto the nice green grass of the park. Ones like they lay over the road when they’re in the middle of road construction. Maybe about 6 of them? So a pretty large area.
Next came a big semi truck with a full load of dirt, backing into the actual park. Then the backhoe slowly and meticulously began to unload the dirt, one shovel at a time onto the large metal slabs. I can’t be sure, but I think there may have even been a second large truck full of dirt. But anyways, after that the backhoe spent some time shaping the pile of dirt, riding up and climbing all over it.
At some point in this process, a neighbor complained about something (maybe the noise) and they stopped what they were doing and left for a few days. So this alone took up nearly a week of time.
Once that was done, a group of people came to actually work on the landscaping in the park. The place where the dirt was actually needed was on another side of the park completely (it’s a decent size park), so another small tractor-ish vehicle the size of a smart car would drive all of the way to the big pile of dirt and get a scoop and then drive all of the way back to the area they were working on. Slowly back and forth, back and forth.
That was a day or two. Then the pile sat there unused for awhile. How long? I’m not sure exactly, but long enough that the neighborhood kids started to play in it and we began to accept it as a new feature of the park. It was weeks.
Then one day, a big loud truck showed up ready to take the dirt away again. The little backhoe meticulously scooped shovel after shovel of dirt back into the trucks. This took a little while because hardly any of the dirt pile had actually been used.
Finally, the backhoe switched it’s front tool and started to lift the metal slabs off the ground, taking chunks of ground with it. Underneath revealed a huge patch of now dead grass, leaving me to wonder what the point of the metal slabs were in the first place. Was it to protect the dirt from getting grass in it? At any rate, that whole section of the park looked awful and I couldn’t really tell what they had done with the dirt they had used.
Back home, that same job would have taken a fraction of the people, been done in a few hours, and the park would have looked pristine and perfect.
If you take that difference and then apply it to multiple things that make up a person’s day, you start to get a sense of what kind of culture shock I’m dealing with.
Back home, pausing to cough put me two weeks behind at work. Living at that level of efficiency and speed is an art form all in itself. It was a challenge and one that I excelled at. Well mostly. If you don’t include the times I tripped and burned and crashed into a magnificent explosion of woopsy daisy.
There is zero room for error in that kind of life. There is little to no room for feelings or appreciation of the things that really matter in life with that kind of lifestyle. Everything is so rushed and a blur of events. I swear a whole year would happen in a day it was that fast. There’s very little time for reflection or stopping to understand what you’re doing it all for.
I mean major life events would happen in a person’s life, such as a parent dying, and a person would maybe take a day off. Like that level of crazy fast. Our schedules booked to bursting, sometimes being tripled booked for meetings, potentially hundreds of emails a day. Somewhere in there you had to get the actual work done. Taking care of family, running errands. Go camping, to Disneyland, lay on the beach for a few days every year and then back to it.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to go two years with no vacation. I would run 10-16 hours a day at full force for years.
God I miss it.
Not the burning out part. It took me some time and a lot of mistakes, but I did learn how to manage that better so that I stayed healthy. I started to make time for myself and for the things that really mattered to me because I saw just how fast life can pass you by without realizing it.
So I quit trying to climb the corporate ladder and was content with just helping the people I worked with. Including reminders of what is really important in life when they themselves got too caught up in the hubbub of it all. We are analysts, but don’t lose sight of the people behind the numbers, I would say. It isn’t all about the bottom line. I’m not saying neglect the bottom line, I’m just saying that isn’t all there is.
In that world, it doesn’t look good if you don’t steadily progress upwards. Something is wrong with you if you don’t want to be a Manager, Director, VP. Like you won’t work as hard or give your all. And yet, I did. I always do because that’s just who I am. I don’t do it for the paycheck or for a title or to appear successful. I do what I do because I do things with my whole heart, otherwise why bother doing it at all.
So I left for greener pastures. I was so ready for a quieter life. Ready for a different kind of life. One where I could focus more on what was important to me personally. So that’s more or less the reason I was willing to let it all go.
But then staring at that pile of dirt out of my window for weeks on end made me want to go a little Daffy Duck, screaming and bouncing around the room like a lunatic. Questioning what I had done. I CAN’T DO THIS PACE!
There must be an in-between, you know? Fast enough to get the rush and clarity of mind, but slow enough to appreciate and enjoy it all. That’s what I’m looking for.
Lucky for me, I have a husband who is all on board with me. He’s coming from the other direction. A life that is so slow paced that nothing really changes. Nothing gets you charged or motivated to get moving and make a difference in the world. It’s like living the life of a stoned sloth. It’s nightmarish in its own way.
He’s been teaching me about his world and I’ve been teaching him about mine and we feel between the two of us, we’ll find that perfect balance. As I learn to slow down, he’s learning how to speed up and we make adjustments as we go. I feel like I’m trying to get a sleeping elephant up a flight of stairs and he feels like he’s trying to slow down a coked-up road runner. Meep Meep.
Well it’s time to get to some other things, so I guess that’s it for this Early Morning writing. Until next time!