I own a tattered deck by author Judy Reeves. It’s a stack of writing prompts along with a guidebook on how to use its suggested exercises when away on a creative or contemplative retreat. I must’ve read the word “suggested” too literally, because I’ve never attempted a single writing exercise from this series. The cards are well worn, though. I throw them in my suitcase every time I head somewhere for solitude. I’ve read the guidebook from front to back, the deck from top to bottom. I reference the book when I’m planning to host my own private getaways. Yet, I’ve never done any of the recommended writing.
I pulled out these cards just the other day. I’m not headed anywhere during the lockdown, but the deck seemed to beg my attention. So, I obliged. When I opened them, I was faced with a prompt titled “Planting Seeds, Tending Gardens” which encouraged me to “write about being transplanted.”
People often ask why I moved abroad. Like a good multipod, I don’t have just one answer. There are multiple factors that went into my family’s decision to pack up our Los Angeles home of nearly a decade and make a new start in Amsterdam.
The Netherlands had never crossed my mind before a solo trip to Italy landed me at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (with my Judy Reeves deck in tow) on a brief layover.
Inside, I found myself dwarfed by giant cardboard cutouts of Dutch Canal Houses. I really don’t know how to explain this without sounding super woo woo, so prepare yourselves. What I felt, in that moment, was a strong presence of light. Holland didn’t feel like my future, it felt like my past. I’m not a person who even believes in past lives, but underneath the cheesy cutouts, I felt called to this place—or maybe, called back.
I had grown really accustomed to life in California. So much so, I would’ve sworn Los Angeles was my forever home. I met my husband there, raised babies there, bought a house with a yard and learned to love the avocados that grew back there.
But my time alone in Italy and the layover in Amsterdam forced me to see that I had become a little too comfortable in the Golden State. My inner multipotentialite goddess needed to shake things up a bit.
Back in the States and barely unpacked, I announced my bright, new idea to my spouse. “I think we’re creatively stagnant. Everything is far too familiar here. We should leave…the continent!”
My partner is a Taurus. For those of you who don’t speak astrology (I just learned this myself), it means he’s one seriously grounded dude. When I spoke the words change continents, he had been with the same company for 18 years. His wife, on the other hand, could barely hold a job for 18 minutes. I think he admired this about me.
Since we’d been married for almost as long as he had held his job, he learned how to steady himself whenever I decided to turn our worlds upside down. Not every life-altering idea I throw out there materializes, so he coached himself to play along and not worry about the brand new thing actually actualizing.
We had a lot of fun during his denial stage. We watched plenty episodes of House Hunters International. We got caught up on every selling point of Dutch culture—low incarceration rate (I’m into freedom), the world’s happiest families (we deserve joy), anti-prudish (I detest fake virtue, even if I’ve been guilty of it plenty myself).
Dutch cigar wrappers kept showing up in front of our house. Either this was a sign or our neighbors wanted to encourage the move.
We even expanded our horizon, entertaining the thoughts of other cities—Stockholm, Paris, Cape Town, Barcelona. We went to visit some of these places too.
Then, I got scared. California is warm. Sweden and The Netherlands are cold. Plus I had avocados growing on a tree in my backyard!!
People were starting to respect the work I was doing locally. I had transformed the ground floor of our home into an alternative art space, where I organized group shows. Folk seemed to appreciate this work. Would it make sense to pick up and leave when I was just gaining traction? And didn’t I say, out loud, about a decade ago, to a rapt audience of friends, that I would never live in Europe, the land of my colonizers?
I was ready to pack up this living abroad dream and all of the research that went with it, when my husband got a ring from his employer. The boss had called to say he had to lay my husband off, permanently. Yep, from that job of nearly 18 years!
That Amsterdam airport light, once warm and inviting, was now beaming, strong and aggressive, like a searchlight summoning us out of hiding.
We both knew we had to step out and show up in the world.
Transplanting, in horticulture, is the process of removing a plant from the place where it has been growing and replanting it in another. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
Flowers that have been started indoors may be transplanted when all danger of frost has passed. (Britannica)
We uprooted during the summer months with the frost of Holland a safe distance away. By the time the winters I feared had arrived, my family was snug and firmly grounded in our brand new, old country.
One final quote for the road…
You too can follow the prompt. Tell us your multipotentialite transplant adventure in the comments section. Have you relocated to a new a job or a new town? Maybe you’ve transplanted yourself from one major field of study to its polar opposite. Share all the Putty deets below!