No bank account, no local driver’s license, no identity card, nothing. It was like I had no existence in this country that I hoped would be my new home.
Every time I had to show my card people looked at it – and at me – funny. It was about half a page in size, folded in half and tucked in a plastic sleeve. Oh, and a nice blend of orange and pink. I could almost hear their thoughts: “What the hell is this? Is this even legal? Who is this girl?”
But my worst memory is definitely the first day of school, over a year ago. I was finally signed up and excited to learn Dutch. My boyfriend even enrolled for Portuguese classes so we could go to school together on Monday evenings. However, a few days before that I had my visa request denied and the damned orange card taken. Again, I only had my passport.
I sat through the first half of class, then everyone had to go downstairs to the office to buy some course material. They checked my file. They needed some identification, I showed them my passport. Drama. The school couldn’t accept it, there was nothing on it but my entrance stamp.
“But the guy from the Huis van het Nederlands said any document with my picture on it would be okay!”
“Sorry, we’ll have to cancel your enrolment.”
But I just want to learn. I cried in front of the crowded office. I’m not ashamed. I was so fed up with being pushed around. I went up, found my boyfriend’s class, got him downstairs so he could give his account number and get the money back (I didn’t even have my own bank account at that time!)
Now we all know that everything turned out okay but that feeling of rejection scarred me a little and I’m always grateful to have a national id to show and all the rights that come with it.
Today I have a bank account, a driver’s license, a health insurance card, a resident permit. It seems a little ridiculous to lay your “being a person” on a bunch of plastic cards, but for some people it might make sense. Those plastic cards give you rights and freedom.
And you know what gives you more freedom, more choice? Work, money.
Not having a job or an income for almost two years has done things to my head that I hope turn into wisdom of some sort. Having everything I need to survive and more, I still feel a lack of purpose, of energy, of excitement, of identity. I feel less.
I know deep down that I am who I am and that is beautiful and enough, but it’s hard to shake off the idea that I need to work and make money to feel more like a mature, independent and free woman.
What makes you feel more or less valuable? How do you deal with it?