From the desk of The Irrational Library, Joshua calls out to you Haarlemtown. For the last 16 years he has been among you, seen you and has gotten to know you. And now from the depths of Haerlemse Bodem he will rise to meet you, Haarlemtown. To once a month share and deal with you a little slice of life here in Haarlemtown. A slice of life taken from our communal feast. One for all of us to be nourished upon as we go about our Haarlemtown days.
Alles komt goed
When I first started living in Haarlem in 2000 (it was still only Haarlem to me and not quite yet Haarlemtown) life was not as simple and secure for me, as it happily is now. Setting up a new life anywhere, for anyone, can be a bit stressful and somewhat difficult. At once both exhilirating and exciting, daunting and defeating. But you can’t stay put in one place for too long and not expect life to happen. Wherever you roam, life will catch up to you eventually.
So, after a somewhat extended vacation of living in a bubble, life showed up with a safety pin and found me here in the good hands of Haarlem. And just like that the bubble burst and life began to seep into my sanctuary of serenity. There were good times and of course there were times that were not so great. I will call them the Haarlemtown highs and Lowland lows. Stress with money, stress with acquiring work permits, residence permits, stress with new relationships, stress with not understanding the language, stress with attempting to speak the language and having Dutch people find that cute. Stress when buying one thing at the supermarket and ending up with another and due to the fact of not being able to read the label on the item and being too stubborn to ask for help, I end up buying the wrong fucking thing. I knew what paracetemol were but had no idea what zetpillen meant. Ok, hahahaha, a simple mistake I made once. Hey, a new country, a new life, a new way of inserting painkillers into my anus. One day ask me about the story of my friend who mistook the hygiene schoonmaakdoekjes in my WC for babydoekjes. Ouch. Another mistake a person only makes once. Go Holland. Hup.
And even during those somewhat gloomier, grey days where it felt like life just did not seem to want to play nicely with me, I was lucky enough to have a number of good people, new friends and acquaintences around me. One thing that a number of these new faces would quite often say to me was “alles komt goed“, that everything would be alright. I remember at certain points hearing this said to me a number of times a day, by a number of different people. Not that I had such dramatic troubles back then. I mean in comparison to a number of people I had met in my inburgering/language course at the Nova College, my life was a dream. The bumps in the road, just small cushions to lay my head softly upon. But then again we all have our own shit to contend with. Hearing my friends and coworkers say to me that I shouldn’t worry, that “alles komt goed“ was at the time a very comforting thought. It felt good to hear that the people around me, who were just getting to know me, had not only confidence in me but also in the situation turning out alright. This made me breathe a bit easier.
Hearing my friends say to me that “alles komt goed” was at that time a very comforting thought
After one or two visits back to the United States and then to the IND, FNV, lawyers offices, gemeente lokets, politie kantoors, the U.S. embassy, living with wacked out housemates who owned housecats and the overflowing uncleaned kittylitterboxes next to the shower, relationship break-ups, unexpected pregnancies, out of the blue invitations to fatherhood, watching September 11th happen at De Fietsznfabriek and then the eventual death of De Fietsznfabriek. It was all a bit too much for me. To be honest I was a bit shaken up. For the first time in my life too much was happening. My life in Haarlemtown had begun to make my head spin. Yet everytime I needed someone to talk to, to just unload upon, one of these new friends was there for me. After a few beers and a few joints, or even just a few cups of coffee the conversation would eventually end with a hand on my shoulder and the words “alles komt goed“. For these words and those friends, I am still grateful.
15 years on and I still know a number of these fine Haarlem people. Some of these folks I still see quite often, while others I have lost touch with. Life is still happening for me in a good way in Haarlemtown, for this I am grateful. I knock on wood everyday. I continue to feel fortunate about the life I have built up here and for the people I get to share it with. One can only put in the work and hope for the best. Eventually, alles komt goed, right?
Could it be that the words themselves just don’t fit the times anymore?
But…yeah ok, here comes the but, the maar… my idea that for some reason or another, I have come to the conclusion that I rarely ever hear people saying “alles komt goed” anymore. Could it be that the words themselves just don’t fit the times anymore? Are we, are you, are the Nederlands Volk simply not as optimistic as they once “sort of” were?
I am quite aware that a lot has happened here in Holland in the last 16 years. Dutch society has changed. Attitudes about a number of social issues are much different now than a decade ago. How we all go about handling one another in our day in day out communities has altered. Be it smartphones or just dumb people, attitudes towards relating to one another have changed. Acceptance and tolerance have become simple catch phrases to help guide the “burger” through the process of understanding someone else’s inburgering. Society at large here in Holland seems more concerned with individual concerns then the collective.
OK, maybe this is has to do more with my own “af en toe“ pessimistic outlook upon our world. I do my best not to be too negative about my fellow Haarlemmers and other human beings. To just accept what life has dealt me and not to be a dick about it. I look beyond the poplulisme and look towards a time when people will be smart enough to lead themselves and have no need for a populist pied piper. I try not to worry about what others do and just get on with my own life. Life is after all that which that we have to share with one another. And when someone I know, a friend or a new acquaintance has got something on their mind, something that they need to get off their chest or kwijtraken I do my best to listen, give feedback and in the end say to them, what so many people said to me, don’t worry, alles komt goed.
The trick to making those words work, is just in the end believing in them.