17 April 2012

Living the hard way: 'Nobody said it was easy'

Even my first memories from primary school, when I was about 4 years old, were that I didn’t really fit in. Basically, that stayed during my whole primary and secondary school time. The other kids in class were different; or rather, I was different from them. I loved doing things on my own, such as drawing, jigsaws, and craft projects in class. Other kids loved playing in a group outside, I didn’t really like that. I couldn’t run as fast as they could, I wasn’t very good in playing hide and seek, I definitely wasn’t the best in maths and I didn’t like gymnastics, as I was always picked last for a game. I wanted to try out other things, loved geography, loved going on holidays and loved playing with kids who I only shared a few words in their language with.

In university, my life changed. When I was only 16 years old, I was living in a student flat. Away from my hometown, I found myself amid a group of new potential friends. People who were more similar to me, whom I shared interests with, who also loved trying out new things, and who also were a bit weird, as they loved going abroad, speaking other languages and learning about foreign cultures. Suddenly, it was easy to have a social life, and I enjoyed my university life a lot. I loved going abroad, and I didn’t mind that I had to socialise multiple times a year, to build a new group of friends, while doing my best to stay in touch with my existing and older friends. I moved about every half year, and even though I started off a bit anxious about that, my curiosity always won. I had to rely on myself. Listen to my gut feelings, and had to stand up for myself. It made me a lot stronger, even though it wasn’t always easy.

These years have shaped me. Especially, when my health issues evolved from some attacks every now and then, to continuous pains, and worries if I would be able to get to work OK. I was hard for myself; I told myself that I shouldn’t complain, as ‘other people had issues too’. During these years, I was determined to do everything I wanted to do, despite my annoying pains. At one point, I couldn’t any more. I had to give in. Living a life, so stubborn and determined, also made me neglect that the pains that I got used to, could be more serious than I thought. My inner voice took the upper hand, and I went back to my home country. 

After years, I didn’t have to deal with my health alone. I could ask my parents for help. Even though, that was hard. After years of being independent, I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t get up the stairs by myself, and needed my father’s hand. 
I moved to a new place, a new city, and I started a new job. This time, with less excitement. I didn’t find the joys of going abroad anymore, and I found it hard to make friends, which was completely different to the years before. I spent many nights alone, in a new flat. I had to learn to deal with my new and bad state of health and my diagnoses, which basically put an end to many ambitions I had. I felt alone very often, also because I was different again. Different from my colleagues, because I spent years abroad, and I didn't share their university experiences in the Netherlands. Different from my friends, because very often, I cancelled on birthdays or dinners, as I was too tired or was in pain. Different from my family, because I was the only family member who wasn’t living in their hometown, and didn't feel at home there.

It took this old country, this new city, this new job, and this new flat about 4 years to grow on me. It has definitely not been the most enjoyable time of my life, and most definitely not the easiest. I didn’t like the limits my health has set on me. I miss my friends and life abroad, even though I love having some of my old university friends in the Netherlands. I miss travelling, speaking other languages and having colleagues who are more open-minded, and are less direct. I miss the excitement of working with people from other cultures, working in an international environment. 
But, I have to count my blessings. I can travel again because I’m in less pain, and visit my friends abroad. My family is nearby, and I can go and visit them. I can work, even though I don’t like my work that much anymore. I can try out new things, although I’m less flexible as before. Learning the hard way. 'Nobody said it was easy'. It will remain my way of living.

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