The time I spend with myself is as important as the one I dedicate to my boyfriend, close friends and family. I need it, and yet it happens to forget to save some for myself. The most beautiful thoughts, feelings, and uplifting revelations came to me in moments of solitude. It is also when I connect the most with my surroundings.
With the simple purpose of getting a present for a friend’s anniversary, I stepped out into the world this morning. I left my home in one of the quietest areas in Amsterdam East to find myself, half an hour later, into the pulsating and English speaking De Pijp.
The weather was balmy for October and rusty leaves cracked under my footsteps as I walked along narrow side streets peppered with alluring boutique shops and cafes where a young and trendy crowd was enjoying Saturday brunch. I left my camera at home on purpose and I thought that was a good decision. I would have felt clumsy and intimidated to take photos there in any case.
I got the present, then felt like having a coffee. Impossible to find a place at one of the terraces, especially when the sun was shining. The speciality coffee shops were just as packed, so I had to let go. But I didn’t feel like coming back home just yet. Without thinking too much about it, I stepped into tram 3, direction Amsterdam West.
I got off in the Oud-West. Another neighbourhood, another feeling. My mind was still hooked on that cup of coffee. I sat down at a regular cafe facing Kinkerstraat, happy to have found a table in the sun. A warm cappuccino in my hands, the view of the street in front of my eyes and the weekend mood was slowly getting a hold on me. The people of the West, so much more diverse than those I had seen in De Pijp, the alternation of trendy eateries with ethnic shops, the oliebollen kiosk on the bridge, the cafe I stopped at – I was again reminded that no matter where in Amsterdam I chose to live, the West would always be home. If I had my camera, this is what I would have photographed.
Tram 7 brought me back to the East, the side of town where I try to build memories and get a feeling of belonging. Fewer people on the street, shops and cafes. More space and peace. Less for the eye, more for the imagination. I would have taken a photo of the rusty boats along a canal which never saw the reflection of a traditional, old Amsterdam house, or of the uninspired apartment buildings built in the 70’s, with their strange aesthetic and chromatics.
One more time, I realized today that the place I live means more to me than comfort and convenience. My immediate surroundings – my home, my neighbourhood, my city – are either feeding me with energy or depleting me of it. I feel out of place in De Pijp, home in the Oud-West, and part of an experiment in the East.
I didn’t take any photos today, but the time I spent with myself – for myself – was all worth it.