Life in a State of Loneliness

For the past month this blog has been sorely neglected.  So much has happened in the last four weeks that each week it becomes harder and harder to write.  Where do I even begin when my life is so different now than it was a month ago?

I guess I should start by saying that I am no longer in the Netherlands.  I had been planning a trip back home for a long time, so I got on a plane with Willem at the end of August and we spent two weeks traveling the east coast of the U.S.  I had intended to post every few days during the trip, but we got so busy (and were having such a good time) that I never had the time to sit down and write. I am still planning a bunch of posts about the trip, so rest assured, they will come eventually.

But how did that two week trip end up with me in the U.S. and Willem back in the Netherlands? It feels like a long story, but in reality everything happened very fast.  As many of you may know, I have been trying to find a permanent job in my field in the Netherlands, but navigating the IND (the Dutch immigration department) and their convoluted rules and regulations regarding work permits has been a nightmare. I ended up with plenty of positive reactions to my applications, but no job offer because employers just weren’t willing to be a sponsor for my work permit.  I was getting restless, and generally just feeling like I was going nowhere.  It is really tough to get rejected time after time. Even if you know the rejections come through no specific fault or deficiency of your own, it is still hard to swallow.  But I think most of all I was tired and bored.  Tired of worrying all the time about what I was going to do with my life, and bored after going from being a workaholic grad student to suddenly having nothing worthwhile to do.

As much as I wanted to stay in Europe, to be with Willem in our wonderful apartment and life in Haarlem, I began to apply to places in the U.S, just to see what would happen. I didn’t set out to move back to the U.S. though.  Lo and behold, only a few days after I sent in an application to a really great non-profit think tank in Washington, DC, I got an email asking if I would interview with them.  I had my interview a few days later over skype, and the week after that I was offered an internship there.  And they wanted me to start as soon as possible.  This all happened less than two weeks before I left the Netherlands for my planned trip back home with Willem.  Suddenly, I went from sitting around all day with nothing to do but wade through job applications to a flurry of activity trying to sort out details before our trip.  How long would I have to be away from Willem? Where would I live? When would I start? What will I do with all my stuff? Could I really do this?

Long Distance Relationship, Globe, Heart, LDR

I ended up postponing my start date until right after our trip, but that meant that when Willem got on the plane back to the Netherlands two weeks ago, I wasn’t with him.  Instead, I drove straight to my aunt’s house, moved in, and started work the very next morning.  It was a shock to the system.  Everything happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to process how quickly my situation would change.  As a result, the past few weeks I have felt more conflicted than I have ever been in my entire life. On the one hand, I am happy to finally be doing something in my field, something that I am sure will move my career forward in a positive direction, and that I find both challenging and exciting.  It has been nice to recalibrate my thinking. To go from feeling like I wasn’t good enough to get ANY job (even through no fault of my own), to feeling like I can do anything again. I needed that confidence boost.

But at the same time, it seems like every time I get a step ahead in one direction, I get pulled back in another.  Being away from Willem is the worst feeling in the world. I didn’t think it would be this hard.  The first week we were apart, I had to fight back tears multiple times a day. Everything that reminded me of him, or that reminded me of how we weren’t together (which was everything) made me want to cry. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so lonely when I was surrounded by family, friends, and coworkers.  The time difference has been the worst part of the whole separation so far. Six hours doesn’t seem like much, but because both of us are working full time, it is impossible.  Every time I wake in the morning, he is in the middle of his working day. By the time I get off work and get home, he is already in bed. And when he wakes up, I am fast asleep on the other side of the Atlantic. There is no time to talk properly except during the weekends.   I know we love each other, and I am sure things will work themselves out, but that knowledge doesn’t make the situation any easier.

Long Distance Relationship, Cartoon, Heart, LDR

So what does all this mean for my blog?  Throughout the past year, this blog has been mostly focused on expat life in the Netherlands.  Well, I clearly cannot write about experiencing “expat life” without actually being an expat.  My Dutch adventures are on hold, at least for a while.  So just like my life, this blog will be re-focused in the coming months.  I plan to continue to travel (I definitely won’t ever stop doing that), and to explore the Washington, DC area as much as possible.  Maybe I will even come to a greater appreciation for the travel gems in my own country.

After all, if I truly wish to lead my life “in a state of wanderlust,” I can’t limit myself to Europe 🙂

9 thoughts on “Life in a State of Loneliness

  1. Sarah- I’ve loved your blog and you’ve shared some amazing places that I now have on my list to visit. But I do know how you’re struggling right now. I empathize with the whole transition.

    I did the exact same “un-planned” spur of the moment repatriation, landing in DC, not expecting to stay here. But I went to work the Monday after I leased an apartment, and like you began to navigate strangers as my new friends, missing my partner and trying to understand what makes DC tick.

    If you ever need to reach out to a friend here- someone to commiserate with, let me know. It does help!

    In the meantime, check out the Expat Partner Online Coffee facebook group and the resources there -( (Box 53b) just came back from Singapore and Jacqui Kane just returned to Scotland (good post- R is for Resilience. They have each been invaluable to me.
    I hope having family close by helps and that your internship provides you with that sense of satisfaction you needed. Best to you! –

    Jonelle Hilleary ( – my resource page with lots of adjustment information.

    • Thank you so much for those immensely kind words. It is so nice to hear how other people have gone through similar circumstances and come out better on the other side. 🙂 If there is anything that blogging has taught me, it is that everyone goes through tough times, and that no matter what it feels like, there are so many people out there that care. Thank you for all of the links and suggestions, too. I will definitely check them out. You’re right that a support system makes all the difference.

  2. Sarah, I have a new term for you, an “orphan spouse” although I’m not sure if it’s you or Willem who’s the orphan. 🙂 Here’s the link to the original article and you’ll find a very lively discussion about it in the Facebook group that Jonelle mentioned. Don’t for one minute think you can’t write about your experiences because you’re no longer an expat. Your situation, with a partner living in another country, is becoming increasingly common and we need to raise awareness of the challenges as well as strategies for making it work. I look forward to following your blog.

  3. You write so well about the issues that many (most? all?) expats experience when moving to a new country because of love – finding meaningful work and purpose. Although I’m older and could be considered “semi-retired empty nester” I’m struggling with this also, and many of my younger American friends here in Norway are too. It will be interesting for me (and all your readers) to follow your thoughts as you and your love navigate this path on which you find yourselves. I send warm thoughts across the miles!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s