Wow. With people that I know ( even my own son), I want them to travel and see the world because it expands their own personal world, right? What was that experience for you, as a young child? To go and see these different places? And how does that play upon you now?
It’s funny, you know, because it was fascinating. As much as I thought it was a part of life, I was always grateful for the experience. It was just amazing. I look at it in retrospect. Because for several years beyond the age of nine, I didn’t travel at all (for) my mom was ill. So, I really really missed it.
(Travel) also helped me develop my inner voice and confidence. So, if I wasn’t always the loudest child in the room, or the most popular, I would “drop some knowledge” among my friends (laugh). They would say, “How do you know that?” and, the reason was, “I was worldly.”
I didn’t realize it, but I have learned so much. And, I never knew to take credit for it because: a) that’s not how I was brought up; and, b) it never felt like it was my own wisdom or my own findings. I was just repeating what I’d learned – whether that be through stories or facts or food or culture…whatever. I was just sharing what I had learned with people who had shared with me. So, it was incredibly rewarding.
I am so grateful that’s how my life started. It gave me an automatic “open mind.” Even now, my friends say to me, “you’re so liberal,” without it being political. They think I’m “super laissez-faire.” I mean, I definitely have my own values. But, I don’t know how it’s like to live the life of someone else for living my own life keeps me busy enough (laugh). And, I can never judge.
So, now I am trying to be what my mother was – a woman in control of her own life traveling the world and doing with the purpose.
Okay, I am blown away again. (they both laugh)
Let’s talk about and give you some credit around your bravery on talking about your mother’s illness (when you were nine years old). What was that experience like when you found out? And, going through the process of diagnosis and treatment?
On the (website) post, the middle image (see page 1) is of my mother and me…that’s when I found out. That was the day my mom told me. My aunt was with us; and, had come from Holland. She lived in Amsterdam at the time, and came to support us. I really didn’t know what was going on. The way my mom told me that day was like it was a cold (slight laugh). So, on the one hand, I didn’t like that my formidable mother who was so tall and (someone) I genuinely and literally looked up to…this giant of a person…I didn’t like the fact that she was ill in any way. But, at the same time, I didn’t know how serious it was until a few months later when chemotherapy started; and, she was like a different person.
My thoughts…and my daydreaming and storytelling…that’s when it really kicked off prolifically because that’s when I needed to be somewhere else in my head. (That time was) a shock to my system. And, I just plowed through… I remember the ages of nine to about thirteen, I just plowed through with my schoolwork. I was one of the best in a very difficult school – not necessarily because I was an Einstein. It was because I needed to work hard. I needed something to focus on. It was a blessing, and it made me have something to show my mom…for her to be proud of.
At the same time, I came across a lot of ignorance, from people my age, obviously. It’s such an unusual thing to have to deal with (when) so young. (Additionally, there was) ignorance around the subject of grief – how people expect you to grieve or behave. That is something that I truly battled with and I’m still coming out of.
The only other thing is, unfortunately, I didn’t cry – especially not in front of my mom. So, I just pushed everything down, and held it in. That’s when my introverted nature came out and took over. My only outlet was through dance and writing.
But, on a practical note, as soon as (my mom) received the diagnosis, she decided that she couldn’t dance anymore. And, we start living a completely different life (financially). We lost the house that she had been renting and was about to buy. We moved in with family and friends because we were homeless for a few months. So, mom went to university; and, put herself into studies. Through that, I saw her fighting. It was probably one of the most uplifting things; and, (something) I held onto throughout all those years until I was about 17 or 18 years old. Then, I started to do the same for myself and open up a bit more.
So I’m glad that you said that you appreciate me writing about it because I actually didn’t talk about it. Really, I’d tried not to think about it. I really didn’t express the fear and pain, and the feeling of being hopeless, until I was in my late teens. It’s still difficult to talk about now.
Well, that’s understandable. As you said, everyone has to go through their own grieving process, the way they best know how. There is no book or manual that says “On day one, you will be doing this…on day two you will be doing this…on day three you will be doing that.” It’s just a process. So, thank you for sharing that with us.
Another piece of this is, what I would say is bold (as well)…though you write about this dramatic and traumatic experience, you also write about “strength and courage” – which is a beautiful sentiment and leads into that old adage, “when you have lemons make lemonade.”