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Category Archives: I believe

My 8-year-old self

Inspired by this post by Melissa. A reflective question: what would your 8-year-old self think of your life today? I started responding as a comment, but then decided to hijack it because…

My Lord, how different my life is than I could have imagined. I never tried to imagine it…

My 8-year-old self didn’t have much concept of a future. Her idea of the future was wearing a white dress to the grade 7 ‘prom’ which we had in South-Africa. I can remember how it looked in my fantasy: off-white, with tied spaghetti straps and simple and sweet. She just went to school, did art and drama, wore glasses, did Voortrekkers (like scouting but SA style) and read too many books. I had read all the Secret Seven and Famous Five books by the time I was 8, along with most of Saartjie and Trompie… (Afrikaans children’s books). I’d even read Oliver Twist when I was 8 or 9… I was a curious girl who knew a lot and learned even more. I loved planes after I went on one, thought it would be amazing to be a pilot but knew it wasn’t for people with glasses. If people asked me what I wanted to be I said a professor like my dad -not that I really knew what he did, it just sounded interesting- or a teacher like my mum. The latter was the least favourite option because I had teachers myself and it wasn’t very cool to be one. I hadn’t thought about it, really. (I only thought about it when I had to apply for university!)

My 8-year-old self didn’t know I’d be a C-cup when I was 13, making the spaghetti straps a bit more complicated if you’re the only one who can’t get away without a bra any more.
I suppose my 8-year-old self saw herself pretty much going along with the groove of life, growing up, going to uni, getting married, getting a job, having babies… She didn’t really think of happiness, happiness isn’t something given much attention where she grew up. She expected to grow up into the wind and grind of adulthood she saw around her, perhaps she imagined a sort of importance. She was taught to work hard, and that she needed to take care of her family one day so she needed to do well in school to get a good job. My 8-year-old self was fascinated by stories about children elsewhere, but never imagined she’d be one of them.

I don’t know what she’d think of my current life. I think it would open a whole new world for her, to be honest. She was raised in a very Christian world. I’m not sure what she’d think of me living together ‘in sin’ and possibly having a baby out of wedlock even some day. I’m living together with a non-believer. When I was 8, I thought everyone believed in God. I think that would have been a bit tough for her to grasp. Also interesting: he’s Tall, Dark and Handsome. And Spanish.. Sounds a bit like a prince from a fairy tale! (Except that his white horse is a broken white bicycle and his castle is an apartment, but we can still hold the ‘happily ever after’ option open).

She would be thrilled to know I’m no longer cross-eyed and don’t need glasses!! Also she would be happy to know she was more or less right about her hair turning brown when she grew up. She’d be really devastated about missing out on the grade 7 dance though. We moved to Holland just before I turned 12.She’d hate Holland. Too cold.

I am also not sure what she’d think of me not being thrilled about my job all the time. “But you’re a DOCTOR”. Yes, it’s not all that you think it is. It’s what I do, and not who I am. I help people, yes, and I can pay my half of his mortgage with it. I am more than my job, my life is more than my job. I think, if I went back in time and I told her this, she’d make different choices throughout her life.

My 8-year-old self could never imagine growing up into the current me.

Yet, if she knew, I could never imagine what she’d make out of my life.

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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Dear Diary, I believe

 

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Considering a Busy Baby

Considering a Busy Baby

So a while ago I thought I’d write about ADHD and relationships. I don’t have much material and I don’t think we’re facing more issues than other couples. Perhaps I should write about it more, then. Everything is, in generally, going well.

I’m 29 and in some sense I suppose a certain clock has started ticking. Perhaps it’s just that I’m in a phase where everything is well, and that leaves me time to -gasp- think about the future. Children is something that seems to have moved from the ‘maybe one day’ time slot in my head to the ‘possibly relevant over the next few years’ time slot. I won’t be talking about trying to conceive on here, I’d just like to keep certain things to ourselves. I will probably mention it again when that possibly-somewhere-in-the-imaginable-future Busy Baby is actually on his/her merry way.

It’s just that here I am, thinking ahead.

Yes, the world is about to end.

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Hey, wow, it’s still there.

I’m anticipating that pregnancy would bring along certain challenges for me. I have a complicated past, I have ADHD and use medication for it. I would have liked to get more info on what to expect, what helps, what doesn’t.

So I googled.

‘ADHD and pregnancy’ in 2 languages and a few different ways, gave me one almost useful result: a blog post from 2012. The rest was all about medication and ADHD: we still don’t know if it’s safe. What I found a bit disturbing is the amount of results focusing on things to do during pregnancy to cause ADHD in your offspring. Most popular one: tylenol or paracetamol apparently. I’m pretty sure that’s skewed research and perhaps the reason WHY women need pain killers can be the risk factor? Stress during pregnancy is a known risk factor, pain causes stress so… duh. Besides, why are people so terrified of ADHD anyway? At least I’ll know what ’caused’ it if I have a kid with ADHD…. me.

So, no useful info.

I then realised it may just simply be ‘new’ grounds. I’m part of the first generation of women who go into pregnancies and motherhood KNOWING they have ADHD. There probably is very few research about it, there’s simply a lot more glamour in -I don’t know- demasking Paracetamol as a possible cause of ADHD than there is in finding out how pregnancy affect women with ADHD and how to make the most of it. It’s not that the data isn’t there. Women with ADHD have been having children since women have been having children, but to find out about ADHD and pregnancy you’d actually have to go talk to them, you know.

I’d like to know how to cope, that’s all. ADHD forums (something I’ve been avoiding, to be honest) are littered with the meds-or-no-meds debate. Not useful. Meds are only 50% max of what you can gain.

And I suppose perhaps that’s the answer.

I’ll have to find out what works for me and I’ll have to find support from those around me.

Just like ‘normal’ pregnant people.

So I went out to look for a normal pregnant book. (Ok, fine, I walked around the city centre, looking for a book, mainly because I was off my Concerta and needed the business and the walking to think. Getting it online would have been easier, but I needed to think). I wanted a book that was fun and practical. Because of Dutch being my second language, I went to the American Book Store first, but What to expect when expecting and the like was too text-y. Mindful pregnancy or something like that seemed too Buddhist… I ended up getting this colourful Dutch book, which seemed just right:

  

Yes, I know, I’m a doctor and I don’t need fruits to explain to me how big Baby is, but it has a lot of practical tips and overview tables which I do find useful. It’s cheerful, it’s fun. TDH complained about it being too ‘simplistic’. I handed him my Gynaecology and Obstetrics text book from med school. ‘You don’t really think I’m going to read that, do you?’ he said.

I’m probably going to go for some preconception advice at some point, considering everything. I just don’t know where to go for that. In this country, midwives do preconception stuff too, but then I’d have to find a midwife I like and who understands this kind of thing first. It might end up with the same impasse I’ve run into before: I’m a doctor.

I think rule number one is to just chill out.

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Then I was thinking about what kind of mother I’d like to make. I’ve heard that I have a natural ‘knack’ with children a few times. That I’d probably be a very relaxed mum. Possibly true.

My own upbringing has more resemblance to Bringing up bebe than the ‘self expressive’  upbringing common in Holland. Despite many things I would want to do differently, I think I owe a lot to my parents for that. Especially considering who I am and what my shortcomings are. I was reading something about the French style, and it reminded me of the way I grew up. I think I want to read one of the books about the French parenting. Imagine how disastrous it would have been if my parents had given in to my whims. If I try to think what I would have been like if I’d been raised like the Dutch, I can’t imagine a functional outcome.

I wouldn’t be so resourceful if my mum didn’t send me back to go amuse myself if I complained about being bored.
I wouldn’t have the frustration tolerance I have -and need- if I hadn’t been told to wait till the grown ups finished talking, or to wait until dinner.
I wouldn’t have my perseverance if my parents didn’t teach me that.
I would have frustrated my parents too much if they didn’t set boundaries like they did. I wouldn’t have learned to make the best out of what I have if they had accepted ‘not in the mood’ or ‘a C is enough, do what you please.’

I fully believe I would have been less creative if the focus had been on self-expression.

It comes down to this: I believe in boundaries for children. I believe that they need to learn that they’re part of this world, and that it’s harmful to them to deny them a safe ‘cadre’. We can be friends when they grow up. They can do as they please when they’re older.

Sorry, Busy Baby, you have an Afrikaner mum.

Yest

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in adult ADHD, Busy Baby, I believe

 

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‘Normal’.

So I’m going to write about something completely irrelevant to Christmas on this Eve of Christmas Eve. This post is inspired by a thread in an expats group on Facebook, of all things.. I suppose it still is a sensitive thing for me, living in this country. It’s not about ‘fitting in’. It’s about wanting different things.

Anyway.


normal
ˈnɔːm(ə)l/Submit
adjective
1.conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
“it’s quite normal for puppies to bolt their food”
synonyms: usual, standard, typical, stock, common, ordinary, customary, conventional, habitual, accustomed, expected, wonted, everyday, regular, routine, day-to-day, daily, established, settled, set, fixed, traditional, quotidian, prevailing More
antonyms: unusual, abnormal
(of a person) free from physical or mental disorders.
“until her accident Louise had been a perfectly normal little girl”
synonyms: sane, in one’s right mind, right in the head, of sound mind, in possession of all one’s faculties, able to think/reason clearly, lucid, rational, coherent, balanced, well balanced; More
2.technical(of a line, ray, or other linear feature) intersecting a given line or surface at right angles.
“a single plane of symmetry with a diad axis normal to it”
3.MEDICINE
(of a salt solution) containing the same salt concentration as the blood.
“dilute the stock solution with sterile water or normal saline”
CHEMISTRYdated
(of a solution) containing one gram-equivalent of solute per litre.
4.GEOLOGY
denoting a fault or faulting in which a relative downward movement occurred in the strata situated on the upper side of the fault plane.

noun
noun: normal; plural noun: normals
1.the usual, typical, or expected state or condition.
“her temperature was above normal”
informal
a person who is conventional or healthy.
2.technical
a line at right angles to a given line or surface.
“the view is along the normal to the surface” (Source just plain Google, I think?)


Too many years in Holland have completely changed what ‘normal’ means for me. Before, it was just a vague term, with not much judgement in it.

Then I came to Holland. (I refuse to say ‘the Netherlands’ simply because I can.). Country of ‘doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg’ (translates to ‘act normal, then you’ll be acting crazy enough). A few other bloggers have also explained this utterly important Dutch cultural norm:
Stuff Dutch People Like
Dutch Language Blog
Lily in Holland.

‘Normal’ is the thing to be over here. Being ‘niet normaal'(not normal) is highly frowned upon, and may leave you shunned until you’ve normalised yourself. Coming from a place of diversity, and a place where it’s completely OK to want to stand out in a good way… this was a hard one to get used to. ‘Normal’ seems to be what white Dutchmen have in common, mostly. It’s this very stringent moral code and behavioural code. Do not dare deviate.

I’ve drawn this simple logic conclusion: if the entire nation has to try so hard to ‘act normal’, it’s safe to assume they’re not normal. Perhaps it’s a ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ kind of thing?

See, I ran into a problem pretty quickly. While the exact boundaries of ‘normal’ sometimes still are a mystery to me, I’ve learned one thing: I am not ‘normaal’. And I pretty much suck at acting it. I keep on failing this integration exam.

  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I am from South-Africa. I didn’t bother to point out that, if normalcy is defined as where most of the majority fits in, South-Africans outnumber Dutchmen 3:1 so that may change who is defined as ‘normal’.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because of the ADHD thing. Formally this may be true, but I’m lost as to why it has to be such an issue. I’d rather suffer from ADHD than this thing called ‘normalcy’, to be honest, because ‘normalcy’ seems to be more limiting.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because my build has been described as somewhat ‘exotic’ by a Dutchwoman when I mentioned altering my bikini top to prevent it from falling down. Cool. Exotic sounds interesting. I’ll take exotic. Not what springs into my mind when I think of me, but still.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I know how to use shoe polish. Yeah, there’s this thing about Dutch women’s shoes… I have a pair of worn down flat boots which I save for when I need to appear well integrated in order to save my life.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I’m lactose intolerant, just like the majority of adults in the world, apparently. I’ve been at organised ‘luxury’ lunches (bread with more than just cheese on it, and three types of milk to choose from) where I had to bother kitchen staff for a glass of water because, well, three types of milk is still milk.
  • I am not ‘normaal’ because I don’t aim for ‘just sufficient’, or, because I’m a woman, I am not a perfectionist. I like to give 100% and see how far I can get.
  • I am ‘not normaal’ because I don’t want to control every small aspect in my life. That terrifies people.
  • I am, mostly, ‘niet normaal’ because I don’t fit in the box. I think the owner of these mental boxes really is missing out on life. Sadly, not fitting in the box makes it harder for me.

Over the years, I’ve tried to ‘act normal’. It only made me very unhappy.

The harder I try to conceptionalise this ‘normaal’ thing, the more I end up defining it like this:

Terrifying, isn’t it? That’s the mental image associated with ‘normal’ for me now. It’s not that far off. The norm ‘normal’, and the negative response you get from being ‘niet normaal’ is destructive to creativity, to love, passion, to diversity and many things that makes humans wonderful. Especially when combined with the ‘headiness’ often seen in Northern Europe, where the mind is glorified. A crying child will hear ‘act normal’ snapped at it by it’s mother.

It seems like ‘niet normaal’ is the worst thing for a Dutchman. This, also, is an easy way to ‘integrate’ by the way. Instead if calling something appaling, or horrible, just call it ‘niet normaal’. Understanding this helps me to supress my initial ‘so what?’ thoughts when someone comes to me with something they consider ‘niet normaal’.
“It’s been going on for weeks! ‘Dit is toch niet normaal?’
My thought: not normal? So what… oh wait, you mean you’ve spent the last weeks being terrified that it somehow is outside of your concept of normal and it’s unbearable? I see that everything really HAS to be normal for you, even though I don’t understand why’.
“I’ll have a look at it, see what we can do.”

There is nothing wrong with normal, in the end, but everything wrong with using ‘normal’ as tool to judge.

I think the obsession with ‘normal’ is the love child of Calvinism and today’s secularism, in which ‘good and bad’ are perhaps a Christian thing, hence not accepted in a society which believes everyone should decide for themselves what their values in life are. Normal is the collective average,I think. ‘Niet normaal’ is the new ‘you’re going to hell’. You can be whoever you are, as long as you don’t stand out. As long as you’re ‘normal’, as long as you’re average. You can be whoever you are, as long as you’re exactly the same as everyone else.

I have a problem with that, and not only because I’ll never meet those standards of normalcy.

For the record, I don’t care if I’m technically abnormal or not. I’m fine as I am.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in I believe, Rant

 

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‘Normal’ seems pretty overrated!

My two cents on the issue from this NYT article… The one promising a natural fix for ADHD.

Without trying to dismiss the burden of having ADHD: I think they have a partial point. Speaking for myself: 90% of my problems related to ADHD has everything to do with ‘normal’ people.

ADHD is not a ‘psychiatric illness’ that needs ‘fixing’.

I see ADHD as a neurobiological variety which needs special attention (pun intended) in today’s society. The problem with it is real, the burden is real.

ADHD is formulated as a disorder by normal people. The DSM was not written by ADHD individuals.

Saying ADHD is a disease or an illness is the same as saying I am a disease or illness. ADHD is how I am. Not to say I am a bunch of symptoms, but I have ADHD in the same way as I have dark blue green eyes and a skin type 3 according to skin cancer risk charts.

A fair skinned person needs sunscreen else they burn in the normal sun. I need concerta, else I burn in daily life. Knowing I have ADHD helped me look at myself and the troubles in a different way, so I can find a better way to deal with life in the West in the 2010’s. ADHD individuals are a minority, you know.

But I don’t think the world could do without us.

I’ve been through a lot lately, and thanks to my ADHD I’ve been riding the buzz, and actually: I am ok. (Apart from some non ADHD issues). In part, I suppose, I am also OK because I’ve learned from prior experience.

I hate how ‘normal’ is seen as something desirable. I’m grateful that I am not ‘normal’.

It seems extremely dull, to be honest.

I’m just me, and can’t speak for everyone that has anything to do with ADHD…

A few random points:
– No, I am mostly incapable of sitting still for as long as most non ADHD individuals. Guess what? Normal people usually need more exercise than they’re getting. Sitting still is overrated: the only times I actually need to sit still are times in which it bothers others if I don’t. I’m not bothered by my tapping foot!

– I lack the ability to think in ‘boxes’. It is a gift, really.

-actually: understimulation stress is a real problem for me. Boredom can cause me physical pain. The flip side? When stimulated I can do twice as much. ‘Normal’ people can’t always handle the amount of stimulation I need. Why is that a problem? I can’t focus in a white room, they can’t focus in my living room. Why exactly is my white room problem any worse than their living room problem? Because I am part of the 3-5%?? I am also probably part of the 3-5% when it comes to IQ, and that’s not a problem, is it?

– I don’t fully understand why schools and uni’s work like they do. My observation is that most normal students would do better with the study adjustments I’d need too.

– Normal people usually don’t have the amazing high-energy creativity ADHD individuals often have.

– Just imagine: having a quiet mind most of the time, not being able to do multiple things at once, sitting on your bum all day, only thinking of one thing at the same time, not being able to think clearly during high adrenaline moments… (Tip: choose an ED doc with ADHD!!)… Imagine having so much trouble thinking out of the box! I mean, normal would be handy sometimes, but it seems awful to be normal all the time. It seems horribly boring. I’d miss my fantasy, I’d miss my random brilliant ideas… (Have I told you about the chai hot chocolate I invented the other night because I was curious how that would work out?) I’d miss the intense joy I can experience. I’d miss the ability to think the way I do, I’d miss …
Me.

Yes, ADHD has it’s problems.

Being normal has its problems too, actually.

We are all people.

And I believe my God isn’t going to ‘fix’ my ADHD because He made me like that.

Saying that my ADHD is an illness is devaluating.

I am not broken in that sense, I do not need a natural or unnatural fix. I just got a more challenging set of cards to play in a world that is -quite frankly- rather control freakish and boring. Good thing I like a challenge!

I am Busy Darling. Never a dull moment.

 
 

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It’s still a bit of a nightmare…

When it rains, it pours…

In my case, the ‘pouring’ is happening in my toilet, from the roof, where it’s leaking. It’s dripping off the lamp, so that means no electricity in that ‘group’. For some reason, that group is basically all electricity in my house except for the bedroom, extra room and one wall (aka one socket) in the living room. It started leaking last Thursday, excellent timing. (Reported it, nothing has been done, because the cause is still unknown)

The ‘rain’, is in addition to the pleasant stress associated with planning to move in together, the trouble with my training programme has reached what I hope is it’s maximum. Had my evaluation on Friday. Basically they flunked me. Because of, essentially, the personal matters. Because, essentially, due to all the trouble I’ve been having with it, I’m far behind. Because they want to see me ‘reflect, evaluate and change my behaviour’. And more importantly, talk about it in a setting where I don’t feel safe talking about myself. And, of course, verbalise it in a way that suits them, not necessarily me. They want me to use the ‘I did’ form for everything, while I’ve learned to use a more neutral, descriptive way in order to deal with my internalising issues.

And because, somewhere, I ‘flipped’ into a character I don’t know, but I remember from long ago. I didn’t get much chance to ‘flip out’ again, because of the ongoing pressure, and I fully agree that that ‘character’ isn’t fit to practice. I’m not being me, I’m acting like someone that reminds me of when I was a scared girl in an unsafe world, at the mercy of others. A powerless child, misunderstood, and basically never good enough. I’m essentially trying to disappear.

It didn’t help that I wasn’t being heard when I did speak up. I’ve written enough about this.

I’ll hear in two weeks what my options are, in the meantime I still have to prove myself, because there still are ‘conditions’ for me to live up to at work, if I want to finish my training. I still have to ‘flip out’ of that character. I am essentially doing it, but I’m still not feeling up to full power yet. I also have to think about ‘what I need’ in terms of the ‘special tract’ I’ll be entering. Essentially that comes down to a magnifying glass while I prove that I can do this (and, yes, I still need to talk about myself, in a way that doesn’t ‘fit’ with me, and meanwhile -for my own sanity- not implode).

I’d need to know the options, really. I know one thing: if I had to make my own plan, I’d probably try to do the impossible with chances of burning myself out with all the consequences that has. I’m a woman who’s spent her life trying to be ‘good enough’, trying to fit in the ordinary world… and I was only diagnosed with my ADHD 3 years ago. All I’ve heard was ‘if you really want to, you can, so stop whining, stop making excuses’. While perseverance is a good thing, there is a point where you should stop. I may not be anorexic any more, but I still am capable of pushing myself too far. So please don’t ask me to make the plan of how I’m going to save this thing that’s really important to me: I want to prove that I can do it, and essentially do the entire year in half a year… preferably graduate with the guys I started with and -just because I’m mad- prove that I can be better than most in my group. So please, tell me the options, and tell me it’s impossible to do what I’d want to do… and then allow me to accept this ‘failure’.

Speaking about that little history of mine: the fact that I’m not dramatically underweight, tube fed, ‘bringing my honours to the porcelain god’ or… dead… proves that I’m capable of reflecting, analysing and changing my behaviour. I’ve come a pretty far way from the way I once was, went from essentially diminishing myself to fit into the world, to the woman I am today; I’m pretty strong, pretty resilient… and pretty much loved for who I am, not for who someone thinks I should be. Because I am more than enough. I was made to be me, not to be someone else.

I’m trying to understand what went wrong here, because I’m really not up for a rerun of this episode in my life. What is the lesson I can learn? Irrespective of the actual training programme. Was it the pressure to conform? Was it actually trying to conform? What triggered this sick cycle? And how do I get out of it? Is conforming ever really the answer? Am I wrong for dreaming of a world in which we can work together, each bringing their own valuable persona and their own valuable part? A world in which there is no majority, just love? In which we learn from each other, in which we all listen carefully to each other… see the beauty in one another?

 
 

In other news… Moving In Together!

I’ll be doing a new theme on this blog: relationship(s) and adult ADHD. My aim of this blog still is to give a reflection of my life, me and my ADHD. You could say it’s an ADHD ‘lifestyle’ blog but what bothers me is that a lifestyle is something that you choose. ADHD is not something I chose, it’s just the way I’m wired. If 90% of the people were wired that way, this blog would have no reason to exist as it is. But given the fact that 95-99% of people are NOT wired this way, it makes things a bit more, er, interesting. I enjoy writing, and I hope people enjoy reading. I even have a small bit of hope that it can mean a bit more sometimes. 

As you all know, I’m in a long term relationship with Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome, aka TDH. Things are going well between us. Really well. He’s my pull and I’m his push, except early in the morning when I can not be moved in any direction at all. We love each other. 

We will be moving in together. A massive step. 

He must be nuts to want to live with me. Seriously. This blog isn’t called ‘A Devastatingly Heavenly Darling’ for nothing. 

This is going to be a very exciting time, possibly somewhat trying every now and again. 

A period in which I think we both will learn a lot, about each other, about ourselves, about simply making it work. 

We’re not going into this as a ‘test run’ to ‘see if it works out’. We’re committed to each other, and we’re both motivated to see how it works out. Look, every relationship may fail, even after many years. The plan is not to let it fail, the plan is to let it work and to have an amazing life together. We are figuring out how to do that. So far, so good. 

We’re both new to this, but so far we’ve learned that it’s important to keep communicating… and as Kelly Flaningan points out in his Marriage Manifesto, it’s not about our own selfish needs. It’s about us, it’s about loving the other. It’s about, you know, being a couple.

I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself. I can live without TDH. 

But I don’t want to. I want to be with him. 

He makes me so much better, he says I do the same to him. Life is just so much better when we’re together. Even if it’s not always like that. 

I mean, he still won’t let me paint every room a different colour… and I still won’t let him hang his ‘portal’ canvas in the living room. (No, darling, REALLY…)

 

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Doing it SA style!

I actually have no idea why my home country is in my head so much lately. Maybe I’m homesick.

Maybe it’s a coming-of-age thing.

Maybe I should have left this place a long time ago, maybe there’s still a hidden reason why I am here.

And right now, I regret letting the Dutch get to me like they did. I regret not staying true to myself.

For years I’ve been taught by those around me the Dutch way is superior. I was also trying to adapt to a new country.  It took me years to realise that the Dutch will consider their way superior, because that’s part of being Dutch. It took me less time to realise that there is no way I could fully become Dutch, and that I had very little desire to do so… and that it would be completely pointless as I’ll never be fully accepted. And that’s OK. I needn’t be fully accepted as Dutch. I’d rather not, actually, given the hell I’ve been through here.

I think it was an article I read in some women’s magazine. The point of the article was that women need to learn to let go or something in that line.  What struck me was this sentence, translated: ‘The current generation of 20 somethings and 30 somethings have grown up in an affluent time. Everything was possible, they could have anything, so they choose everything. Stress is a status symbol these days‘. In my mind, I saw my ‘peers’. The young women, raised by SAHM’s, who were taught the values if individualism, secularity and their own control of their lives. They’ve had it good.

Bam. That’s not my generation. My generation has experienced adversity. We knew what rape was before these Dutch kids got sex ed. We’ve seen our country change, we’ve known since our early years that nothing comes for free.  We know nobody who knows nobody who has never been confronted with violence. White South-Africans of my generation will never experience the elitist position our parents had, we’re just in there with the rest of everyone. And we knew that all along. We get on with life, shrugging ‘alles sal reg kom’. It will. Everything will be OK somehow, even if it won’t.  We, all of us, are building a new country and a new culture. And we’re in it together, yet most don’t realise it. (Most white South-Africans have no idea how African they really are. Distance allows for perspective!)

Well, I’m here.

And I am once again realising that I’ve grown up in a different world than the Dutch kids I was supposed to ‘integrate’ with. I regret how far I’ve gone before realising it’s futile, and I regret many of the choices I made. I regret not staying true to myself, but I can’t really blame myself. I regret allowing some Dutchness tempt me, but I do not know how I could have done otherwise.
These kids were affluent, grew up in an individualistic society and they were raised with all the ‘rights’ they have. They were raised to be individuals, just like everyone else. They had every opportunity available, yet never appreciated it and never had to do more than barely enough for it. I’m startled these days to see children whose parents are on social benefits walk around in expensive clothes, but they’re entitled to it. (Apparently off my tax money, but that’s a different story!)
I grew up in a rapidly changing country, and a relatively unsafe one at that. I was raised to consider myself part of the community, altruism being somewhat a given thing. (Let generalisations be generalisations please!). I was raised with the idea that I had to provide for my family one day, and at least be able to take care of myself. I never had the shiny stuff many other kids had, in South-Africa it wasn’t as bad. In Holland I had less, and they had more. When I was 14, there was no money for a new winter jacket for me, so I wore my rain jacket over my red-orange-yellow jacket, designed for a 4-year-old but made in a size I’d never grow out of. (My mum bought it when I was 9 or 10. She didn’t realise I’d be wearing it at age 11 until it fell to pieces somewhere in my mid teens). The rain jacked was stupid, but at least navy is less prominently visible than red-orange-yellow. My parents were stricter and any ‘personal development’ was aimed at my future. In fact, while many of the Dutch teens were allowed to do whatever they pleased after graduating with whatever grades they pleased doing whatever they thought would make them happy… I found myself caught in between parents -especially a father- who not only pressured me to make most of the opportunity I had to go to university, but to make sure I put survival before pleasure. …. and my Dutch school on the other hand who did not understand this at all and pressured me to pick ‘whatever makes you happy, it’s about you!’.

The same school that half marginalised me and my foreign friends – none of us here because we like tulips so much- probably because it was easier than dealing with cultural differences. Funnily enough, those I’ve managed to follow on Facebook turned out to be doing all right. And me? I’ve proven that Zaffa chicks don’t die. I’ve never had it easy, and I’ve had to deal with some pretty serious stuff I think. ADHD is the annoying one, the dangerous ones were depression and the eating disorder. Not only am I not on benefits, but I’ve graduated medical school, am working full time as a doctor and I am very much fit to practice. Thank you very much.

Side note: apparently the Dutch are one of the happiest nations in the world. This puzzles me. I rarely see them being happy. I see them being cognitive, sure, but if someone’s happy you can see that without asking!

Anyway.

Then the economic crisis hit. The Dutch responded by doing what they do best: discussing it.

I rarely stick around for Dutch discussions, as there rarely is an outcome.

I’m watching this whole circus go on. As a whole, they’re still better off than South-Africans. I watch the massive results being booked by Oliver’s House, with gifts from the community, in South-Africa. I watch the Dutch go on about how the solution is to basically give everyone the same income. MEANWHILE there ARE children here, living in poverty, but I’ve seen no community incentives to gather food for them, like I’ve seen at my relatively well-off primary school in South-Africa EVERY YEAR. I have stopped following the news, sometimes just scanning it on my app, just in case SOMETHING happens. Usually, it’s just talk talk talk. The minister of health SAYS. But what does she do?

Then there’s this new trend, mainly among Dutch women, of ‘consuming less’ and mindfulness. Flow magazine, anyone? Look, I’m a pretty creative person, but Flow magazine just makes me nauseous. It’s a middle class thing, sort of hipster I think. Main goal is to find depth and happiness I think, to each their own… I don’t understand the self-orientation in it. Doesn’t matter. Often it also involves being more of a housewife than they were before. Speaking of which, the ‘feminist’ magazine ‘Opzij’ recently woke up and smelled the coffee on sexism. Nothing I didn’t know at age 12, when I learned what being a woman in Holland meant.

Anyway. I’m watching. We have freedom of speech here, but I’ve also learned that there’s little point to voicing an opinion that isn’t mainstream: they don’t care.

And I’ve realised that this shit is not going to be over soon, and this society needs some massive changes if it wants to survive.

Nope. The Dutch way is NOT superior.

The South-African way definitely has it’s drawbacks. I mean, we’re still talking about a country in which paperwork involves actual paper and an hour long sit at the embassy or home affairs to fill it out. And we still actually DO have street children…

But still, I am doing things SA style from now on.  Why? Because, looking back, we’re a pretty amazing nation… and my dad was right about so many things the Dutch seem to be wrong about. And because it’s the only way to fix the ‘damage’ done by trying to be Dutch.

Lesson learnt. Never try to keep up with the Joneses if your last name isn’t Jones.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in I believe, Random, society