A few weeks ago I watched a Chinese movie called “Go away Mr. Tumor” (滚蛋吧！肿瘤君), it’s a story about a 29 years old girl fighting her cancer: non-Hodgkinlymphoma, which my grandpa had as well. It was a sad movie but inspiring at the same time. The movie reminds me so much of the year of 2013.
2013 was probably the toughest year I have had so far, considering I am turning 26 this March, I can’t say I had many tough years but 2013 was very unforgettable.
To make sense why it was the toughest year for me, I will give some background information: late 2012, my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer and a very serve kind: non-Hodgkinlymphoma. When he was diagnosed at the hospital, it was at a very late stage and the doctors informed my family he cannot live for long anymore. It was shocking, I was only 22 and I didn’t expect this would happen to one of my close family members. But on the other hand, who would expect cancer? He was only 69 years old when he got the information that the cancer probably cannot be cured.
2013, It started quite well at the beginning, I was doing a full-time internship in The Hague, in the meantime I was also working on my Bachelor thesis. The busy student and internship life kind of got my mind off the whole cancer thing. My grandpa’s situation seemed better after several chemo therapies. I Skyped with him almost every week for 3 months. Some of you might ask, why don’t you just go to China and visit him? If things were only that simple. You need to work for a certain amount of hours at the internship to get credits, and I also needed to have regular meetings about my thesis with my supervisor, but overall, I was just afraid to see him suffer I guess.
Then in May his condition got worse, much worse actually, I couldn’t stop thinking about it but I couldn’t help him or my family at all. The only thing I wanted to do was to graduate in time, bring my diploma to him and make him proud. I was really working my ass off. In 2013 I also learnt a hard lesson, no matter what you do or what you have achieved, there are always people disapproving and/or judging you. So the best way is not to have a fight about it, but prove them wrong, stay strong and be confident.
I was running short of money for quite some months and I didn’t want to ask my parents because they already had enough to worry about. So I worked part-time at my internship during summer, part-time at a bakery (which I worked at in 2012), and worked on my thesis at the same time. Things didn’t go all smooth with my Bachelor thesis, I had many hiccups. But thanks to my supervisors from school, mentors and colleagues from internship, and whoever proof read and corrected my thesis. You helped me to get through it. And I want to thank myself for not giving up, for my dedication and hard work.
Thesis and graduation are never just easy, but because of so many things were on my mind I felt really stressed out. International students have to pay 4 times as much tuition fee compared to the Dutch students, so if I would have major delays with my study, the amount of money I would have to pay for school and for living will be huge. As I mentioned before, I didn’t want to ask money from my parents anymore because they were having enough on their plates and I was old enough to earn some money. I was so eager to finish on time not only because I wanted to save money, but I believed I could finish in time.
By the time I graduated, my grandpa also passed away. It was September 2013, 5 days before my flight back to China. I never got to see him ever again. At the funeral, he was lying there, he looked so tiny, so lonely and my tears were just running down like crazy. I had so much regret that I didn’t see him and company him while he was suffering. The last time I saw my grandpa (not via Skype) was in the summer of 2011. Words couldn’t express my sadness and grief, it still can’t. But now I can at least let it go, because I think a kind guy like him,doesn’t deserve to suffer so much, knowing he is resting in peace makes me feel relieved as well.
I stayed in China until the end of October, I really needed to spend some time with my family and friends. My dad even arranged a job interview for me in a World’s Top 500 multinational company. But I decided to go back to the Netherlands. Not only because Bram was here, but I wanted to see how far I can go. At that time nothing seemed to be on my side. No luck, no money, no experience, very limited connections in the country and it was bad timing (financial crisis was not over yet) as well.
When I came back to the Netherlands, I was working in the bakery (Michel) 3-4 days a week, from 7.30 to 17.15. Then when I got back home, I would look for a job. The only thing I received were rejections. The money I made was just enough to pay rent, food and some other bills. It was tough, especially when you have to constantly calculate every penny you spent. However, I never regret working in the bakery, instead I am so grateful that they offered me the opportunity. They could have taken other candidates who are Dutch or fluent in Dutch. I met so many nice customers, they tried to help me to look for a job and they even gave me gifts when I left.
I had this “search year” ID which allows students who graduated from Dutch higher education to look for a job in the Netherlands, the only condition is that you have one year to do so. I was so worried I would not find anything meaning I would have to go back to China. That meant Bram and I will be in two different countries with a huge distance and time difference. Not many couples can survive that, and both of us knew it would not work for us. Bram was a student so the only solution for me was to stay in the Netherlands.
Time files when you are having fun, it also flies when you are not having fun. 2013 passed, it seemed a very long year, but it also seemed a very short year. I never cried so much for all kinds of reasons or no reasons. I never felt so helpless, desperate and I felt like I was a loser. But in the end I survived.
Whenever I am having a bad day, I always think of 2013 and tell myself: “if I can survive that year, I can overcome whatever is coming.”
When life is not treating you well, probably because you don’t work hard enough to let it treat you well.
RIP Grandpa, I know you will always bring me your blessing.