That moment you arrive in Belgium and your homeland welcomes you with a huge shower of rain. It's a ritual. The smell of autumn, the frizzy hair, I don't care because I AM HERE and I can't stop smiling. Coming home is usually paired with an excellent soup of mixed feelings. The first week is always fun. Seeing friends' surprised faces when you show up unannounced at their house or work. A slight heart attack of happiness, followed by hours of telling stories of the past year. The second week, you realise everyone here has a life filled with responsibilities and you start to feel pretty useless between 9 am and 6 pm. Maybe you should look for a job. Is it still okay to couchsurf your friends' and parents' homes at 28? Maybe you should look for an apartment. And before you know it, you're stuck in a rut.
Then you find an unopened golden envelope that looks familiar. A letter to myself, written in the Nevada desert. Sent through the Black Rock Post Office. Burning Man dust and quick scribblings remind me there was no time to lose. Letters had to be written but frolicking in the desert was the number one priority. How strange to read these words I wrote while I was in such a different place. Like a time traveller, I discover words of inspiration I wanted to keep in mind when I would be back home in rainy Belgium. Magic travels. "Burning Man as the ultimate inspiration that nothing is impossible. Take this with you wherever you go: take action! Love, Joke"
"Damn right!" I say to myself as I'm reading the letter one more time. I might be back in Belgium and as usual, nothing much has changed. But I have! So I decide right then and there to not let myself get dragged into a life I don't want to live. To see my homeland with a fresh set of eyes. For too long I have been selling Belgium to foreign countries as a 'tiny boring grey land filled with people who practise complaining as a national sport. Who look at you as if you have shit on your face when you smile or wish someone a good morning.' That is how I have experienced Belgium to be, because I myself easily turned into a complaining moody Belgian who is weary of shiny happy people in the street. But no more! I choose to be shiny and fabulous as ever, handing out smiles until my face hurts. Even when it's pouring rain. All the time.
Blame it on the jetlag, the lack of sleep, the ridiculous amounts of chocolate I have been eating, drinking, staring at. The Burning Man letter that sent shivers down my spine of sweet summer memories. Or maybe it's the fact that I haven't even been back for one whole week yet. But as long as this Belgian optimism stays, I stay.