Aged in Amsterdam

My nose- and ear-hair trimmer is getting old and unreliable — and that just about says it all.

When I moved to Amsterdam, I was a vigorous 25 years old. I had entered fatherhood ten months prior to arriving in the Netherlands — but I was one of those cool, young dads. I stood tall and strong with a full head of hair. A few months after arriving in Amsterdam, a friend even helped to give me a fashionable “Euro-cut.” I styled it with a big tub of green gel which I gradually used up until there was nothing left in that big tub. That is to say: I had all kinds of hair on the crown of my head. And no (noticeable) awkward old-man bristles growing out of my facial orifices.

The years in Amsterdam, however, have changed me. The years have changed me in many good ways — particularly in regards to my emotional and spiritual development. From a physical standpoint, however, the Amsterdam years have been less kind. At least, it’s clear that they’ve marked a notable transition from youth to middle-age. I get paunchy if I don’t watch what I eat and keep exercising. I have regular back problems. And my hair has made a noticeable migration, thinning out on top while thickening up in the ears, nostrils, and eyebrows. Some gray is starting to creep in, too.

Aging in Amsterdam 01

Why this sort of process is so common among middle-aged men, I’ll never know. I only know that it’s happened to me these last ten years. Anyway it happened that somewhere along the line, perhaps halfway through my decade in Amsterdam, I decided I needed to invest in a little, battery-operated nose- and ear-hair trimmer. I’ve been using it ever since.

I just think it’s funny that I’m so old now that my nose- and ear-hair trimmer (which was brand-new when I got it) is itself getting decrepit! Not only have I entered new eras during my time in Amsterdam; I’ve actually walked enough miles in those “new” eras and experiences that they’ve become well-worn. I have this idea that moving back to Ohio in the next couple of weeks is going to feel like a scene from “Back to the Future” or “The Flight of the Navigator” (childhood film favorites about time travel and awkwardly acclimating to supposedly “familiar” faces and situations). It’s going to be “same old me” going back to live in the “same old places” among the “same old people” — except it’s going to feel totally foreign and new and unusual. I’m a 35-year old instead of a 25-year-old. I’m balding and graying instead of waxing and styling. I’ve changed a lot through the course of my years in Amsterdam.

Aging in Amsterdam 02

Believe it or not, I really don’t care that much about my hair (or lack thereof)! I just think that the hair is a remarkably visible symbol of a lot of other threshholds that I’ve crossed in the last nine-and-a-half years: parenting, pastoring, writing, and on and on. Time has passed in an astonishing way! I’ve got an eight-year-old daughter who was nothing but a twinkle in my eye when we first moved to the Netherlands. We have friends who are now expecting their fourth child, even though the two of them hadn’t even met each other when we first moved to Amsterdam!

Honestly, I don’t mourn the passage of time. Growing older has some disadvantages, of course, but there are also many good things about it. And I especially appreciate the ways that Amsterdam has aged me, like wine in an oaken cask. Having aged in Amsterdam, I’m a different flavor or sort of person than I would have been under any other circumstances. The experiences of the last nine-and-a-half years can never be taken away from me… even if the hair on my head might.

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