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  • Roisin Fitz

Growing pains; Adolescence in Amsterdam

Coming to Amsterdam was not only a culture shock but also somewhat of an identity crisis. People’s assumptions and expectations became a solid foundation on which I could build my identity back home, but here I was anonymous. I found my once poignant feature’s fade away in correlation to my past life at home and the people I had left behind me. I could write lists upon lists of my dislikes until my wrists ache and scream like a cement mixer. I know when I’m sad I watch Wes Anderson, if I’m overexcited I find stability in taking long runs and in stressful situations I often fidget with my hands. I know plenty of things about myself but I’m dumbstruck trying to figure out how all these fragments conjoin.

I perched myself by the tram window like a shiny, untainted pearl still snuggled in its oyster, unsure of what’s to come or my role. As a faceless young adult, the many distinct districts of Amsterdam fascinated me. I was filled with an indescribable envy — even docile inanimate objects seemed to have more of a defined existence than myself. These buildings had a stable foundation on which they could build themselves higher and higher while I was struggling to merely stand up.



The tram sleepily crawled through the center of Amsterdam. I had always had a particular fondness for this area of the city despite its high concentration of sheepish tourists. Perhaps sheepish is too insensitive of a description, after all, I was just as lost as they were, except at least their main concern was figuring out the metro lines. The sun was high in the sky on this particular day, oozing out light that covered the landscape like warm, glowing molasses. My surroundings seemed oddly theatrical. Everything stood tall and strong and seemed to demand my attention. The shop displays, bell towers and decadent street lamps possessed such an abundance of compelling energy that I wondered how they'd become animated if I turned away. How fulfilling it must be to have a life like these buildings -to entertain and fascinate. Perhaps it was my destiny to immortalize my existence through performance and beauty, to become my own live tourist attraction and win the hearts of travelers that cross my path. Surely I may never question my identity again if I had a myriad of admirers reassuring me of my place in the world.


In due time the metal carriage found itself in Amsterdam’s business district Zuid. The business district was a stark contrast to the anomaly that was central Amsterdam. The assemblies were silver, exact and proud – the way they glistened in the sun seemed to brag of their capability and power. The clock neared 1pm and the doors of offices swung open to facilitate the mass movement of workers onto the street. All clad in brilliant white shirts they marched in succession alongside one another, swinging their arms and taking their strides in unison. The more I observed the more I couldn’t help but liken them to little toy soldiers – each one swinging their arms rhythmically and stamping their feet in unison. The more marching men I saw the easier I envisioned myself as one of them. It would be awfully impressive to become one of them, to reduce my bag of flesh and bones to cogs in a well functioning machine. I could see it now: me in my own little white straight jacket — vibrissae twinging, ears peaked, eyes fast forwarding to success.



When I arrived home I felt awfully overwhelmed. This sensation of confusion was paradoxical. It was comforting knowing that I had endless options at my fingertips to choose from. Now I was even more reluctant to choose one and apply a label to myself. I knew that picking one meant losing all of the others. The possibility of wasted potential had its rotten, decaying hands wrapped tightly around my throat and seemed to be whispering obscenities in my ear. It was dusk now and the sky had darkened seemingly in parallel with my mood, ironically this had shed some light on my situation. My bedroom window provided me with a bird's eye view and if I stood on my toes and focused my eyes I could see the majority of the city skyline. They seem a lot less grand than earlier, they were sullen and eclipsed by the clouds and cries of rainwater from the sky. It was only now that I was overcome by a wave of gratitude. How lucky I was! How lucky I was not to be bound to one place, identity or foundation by physical or abstract inertia. As a young adult moving to a new stage can be turbulent. Many people do beg the very same question asking who they are and what their role in the world is. I, like many others, was attempting to slot myself into a predefined category in order to restore some sense of balance,comfort, and belonging, in my life. However in this effort to commodify myself I would have to cut and empty some pieces of myself to fit the mold Sure enough, sorrow would make a home out of the voids in my being this creates. The longer I spend in this new city and era of my life the more appreciative I become of my ability to shift and change according to my mercurial demands.


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