a summer night spent in bed

July 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Once a week, I said. Now I’m not sure when exactly I wrote the previous post, but hey, here I am. Twenty-one now, by the way, and I have to say: this age suits me well.

I am laying on top of my matress-on-the-floor here at my parents’  house in Sunnemo, Sweden. It’s almost 10 pm, but you surely wouldn’t say that when you look out of the window. The sky is still blue, dotted with light-grey and pink-ish clouds, and judging by the amount of light, it feels as if it’s only around seven. It is a beautiful summer night; I would definitely be outside now laying on the grass, wouldn’t there be so many bugs and so little company. It is a terrible summer, bug-wise, even the 90-year-old neighbours agree to that. Fortunately, today was exceptionally warm and sunny, and thus my skin is still glowing from the hours I spent in the garden with my book, soaking up the warmth. Just before dinner I took a quick shower, and when I looked at myself in the mirror I was happy to conclude I did get a slight tan after all, this July. I strongly dislike entering fall without any bronze, it makes me even more pale during the winter than I’ll already be in the darkest days, when it takes so much effort to step out of the door at all.

Don’t worry about that now, Suusie. These are the days, the days of light. And remember: ‘in the midst of winter I found there was within me an invincible summer‘. It all keeps getting better. The winter that is -inevitably- coming, will be different than the ones I’ve been through so far. This time I’m ready.

Speaking about change, I’m still a little surprised at how strong and balanced I’ve felt over the past two months. More than ever I fit comfortably in my own skin, and it keeps amazing me how good that feels. Instead of fighting against myself, I work together with all those different parts I am. Moreover, I don’t judge the things I do. Sometimes I am the good girl, many other times I act in ways I’d be so confused or disappointed about before. Now I’m neither of both. I just watch, observe, do, and feel. Every now and then I hush my inner child when she tends to let panic take over. Let it go, my dear. Just breathe, and it will be alright. The art of letting go – yes, I more and more come to believe that is one of the few big things that life really is about. Observing, knowing, being at peace.

Oh, my inner buddhist is bouncing up and down. (Not really, of course –  if she’d be a proper zen woman, she’d just sit on her rock, legs in lotus position, with a wise smile. Well, guess I have to learn a lot on that part.)

So wow, I’m amazed by how fluent and easy it goes, writing all these paragraphs. The words just flow out of my fingers, just as they do when I write on my Dutch blog. Maybe there is hope for my English after all. Next challenge – a blog in Swedish? ;)

on English: a revival

July 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Woah, it’s a blogpost! Yes I know, it’s really been a while now, and it was about time that I’d log in to my account and just start writing. To be honest, it took me quite some courage to actually do that… I have noticed that over the past few months (as in: ever since I’m back in Holland) my level of English decreased dramatically. Naturally, the only way to change that is read a lot, write a lot – (c) Stephen King on those words! – but you know how it goes with these things. You want to, you try, and maybe you write a few messages to a far-away-friend, but it’s not enough. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I went to Amsterdam last week to meet up with a Canadian friend who I met back in Taipei. Suddenly I had to talk English again, to a native speaker, and I was surprised by how self-conscious that made me feel.

Now, more than a week later, I’m with my parents in Sweden and since my American grandparents are here as well, I’ve heard and spoken quite a lot of English over the past few days. Yet, I still feel far from on ease with the language. I keep making mistakes all the time and it happens so often that I’m in serious doubt about things I wouldn’t even have thought about half a year ago. At or in the end of the afternoon? On or at or in or by or…  I just lost track of my natural language senses – you know, the ones that used to be so strong. Meh. Positive thing is at least I hear myself make the mistakes (although I’m sure this piece of text is still full of them), and I am willing to dig my knowledge up again. Still, apart from the clear mistakes and shortcomings (WHERE is my vocabulary?! I keep saying the same things because I can’t come up with different words anymore!), I now notice how much harder it is to write this whole blogpost, than it was to do the same thing back in January.

Yeah, well, it’s clear now. I need to practice, period. Good thing is, I now have an excellent excuse to kick this blog back into the public sphere of attention. So hey, hello dear readers, welcome back. From now on, I’ll try to write one post a week on Suusified, about whatever I feel like sharing. Therefore I don’t promise it will be interesting or well-thought every time; maybe I’ll just chat around for some paragraphs, but that’s OK to me. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I keep writing. The King said it: read a lot, write a lot. That is, after all, the only way to become a writer yourself.

It’s bed time now. I’ll take my new-bought book with me – it’s in English.

 

the key to change is to let go of fear*

February 26, 2012 § 4 Comments

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post in English. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve logged into my Suusified WordPress-account ever since I left Taiwan. Shame on you, Suusie! Luckily, it’s not like I didn’t write any English over the past few weeks; Taiwan has not forgotten about me, and I didn’t forget about Taiwan either.

Nevertheless, my whole exchange adventure seems way back already. However cliche it may sound, I almost can’t believe that I’m only 16 days back in The Netherlands. That’s less than three weeks! In a way, it’s like I never left. I’m just home from a two-day trip to Leiden, where I said hello to my grandparents and had a relaxing night with pizza, wine and movies at my cousin’s place. My cousin is about six years older than I am and he also studied European History. Although he lives on the other side of the country – which to you might sound more impressive than it is, don’t forget The Netherlands is a tiny nation! – we meet up regularly to hang around together. We are both fans of comfort food and decent wine, and he has quite a collection of movies and tv-series. Thus, although we hadn’t seen each other for about a year, yesterday evening was quite the same as it used to be. Good.

Not only do my social contacts seem just the way they were before, at first sight it looks like nothing really changed here since I left Nijmegen last August. Naturally, it’s winter now – I’ll come back to that – but after all I’m still a student. I moved back into the same room I lived before, my housemates are still awesome and the kitchen is still an acceptable mess. But, of course, there are changes. Major changes, inconspicuous changes, things inside and around me that are different than before. Or maybe it is really just me.

One of the first things that surprised me is how I do not dislike the cold and dark-ish winter anymore. I used to hate it when the temperature drops below 15 degrees Celsius – and it does pretty often, here in Holland. OK, somehow I vaguely understood how people enjoy the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve; the coziness, the little lights decorating many buildings and the evenings with hot chocolate around the fireplace. And yes, of course even I could see the beauty of a landscape covered in fresh snow. But really, that was all. So obviously I was very happy in Taiwan, where winters are not really cold at all – and if it does get chilly in Taipei, it’s certainly still around 20 degrees in Tainan. But to my own surprise, after a while I started to actually miss the winter times. And now I’m back, and I enjoy the season as it is in Europe.

I’ve been thinking about what made the switch for me. It may partly have to do with the fact that I take better care of myself than I used to. I’m not as skinny as I was before and for the first time I cherish that. Now my lips and finger nails don’t turn purple when I go outside, now I’m not cold to the bone when I have to wait 10 minutes for the train. Yes, it is cold sometimes, but winter doesn’t hit me in the face anymore. Besides, I do realize that the winter-est days of the year are long over; February is definitely not spring yet, but the days are a lot longer – and thus less dark – than in December.

Most of all however, I think it’s really a state of mind. The mind is a powerful thing and it can trick you into a hell of a lot of things. I’m convinced now that you can really talk yourself in or out (almost) anything; and thus, I taught myself to cherish the winter. Not soon will I forget first the evening I was home. I walked 20 minutes to the supermarket and while I was outside, it was getting dark slowly. Taiwan knows no twilight; it’s either day or night. Snow is uncommon too. On February 9 there was a little snow left in Nijmegen, and all day the sky had been bright blue. I saw the sun set slowly, the blue-pink sky decorated by the black scratches of empty trees. After I had done my grocery shopping, it was night, and then the sky had become a color I can best describe as a blend of azure and violet. It was stunning. If this is winter, let it please be winter next year again.

Enough about seasons. There’s more – too much to put in one blog post, I realize while I’m writing. I’ll tell you one more thing today.

Another significant change is the way I plan my days. I used to be terribly busy. Always. I followed my courses, and besides that I worked at my part-time job for about 12-18 hours per week. Moreover, I had a huge social life with contacts all over the country, and I expected from myself that I met up with everyone on a regular basis. Also, I wanted to stay in shape so I tried to go running at least two or three times a week – as you may guess, this was quite an unrealistic goal at the time. Plus I had my boyfriend, who I wanted to spend enough time with, and my family, who naturally wanted to keep in touch with me as well. And probably I still forget a few things…

In Taiwan I experienced for the first time in ages what it was like to live by the day. As an exchange student my study obligations were limited and I didn’t have the opportunity to plan my week full with social activities – simply because I didn’t have so many contacts around me. And yes, that was confronting at first, but after a while I started to value all the time I had. So when I went back home, I promised myself to never be too busy again. I need my space, period. It’s crucial for me to have enough time to rest, to sit back and think, and moreover, to leave enough space in my week for spontaneous activities.

I won’t lie; it’s not easy to keep this promise to myself, but the difference is incredible. To protect myself against my own enthousiasm and to  prevent falling back into old habits, I’ve set myself a few ‘rules’. First of all, I have to keep 3 free evenings a week. That means no obligations, no meetings and no parties planned. I just have dinner at home… and then, if I am still energetic and feel like going somewhere, I can decide at that moment. Or if I’m tired or have to do some studying for the next day, there’s time for that. Whatever I feel is right for me at that time, instead of doing what I planned to do four weeks earlier. Woah, that’s something else!

The second rule turns out to be a lot harder to follow. I try not to plan anything further than a week ahead (except for Really Important Stuff such as exams, holidays and family parties). The problem with this is that, since I used to be so busy, I have gathered a lot of people around me that have similar schedules. Moreover, many live in other parts of The Netherlands, which makes it not so convenient to meet up just for a cup of tea. For that, it’s almost impossible to just wait for the right spontaneous moment to come up. It seems much easier to plan ahead…

But yesterday morning I realized that I’m done living that way. I was getting ready to leave for Leiden, while in fact I unsuspectingly had a lot of Important Stuff to do (no exams ahead, but crucial paperwork). So my first urge was to cancel my appointments and stay home, but then again, I had been looking forward to see my cousin again all week…  So I went – and fortunately I did, because I had fun! – but this moment was the wake-up call I needed. I want to do what I feel like doing (no worries, I feel like studying quite often these days!) and I can’t predict what I want to do three weeks from now. That’s the way it is.

So from now on, I’ll give the second rule more priority. Although that is a little scary to do – what if I’ll never see my ever-occupied friends anymore? – I know it is the right thing. At the beginning everyone – including me – may have to get used to it, but I am convinced that the people that are worth it will adjust.

Now like I mentioned half-way this post, this is not all. In the 16 days that I’m back a lot of stuff passed by and it’s interesting to notice the different way I react on things that happen to and around me. No doubt, there’s a lot left to write about and hey, I’d like to continue doing some of that in English – but of course every writer wants to be read. So, to conclude with a question to the audience: are there any readers here? ;-)

*Quote by Rosanne Cash.

to lose balance is part of a balanced life*

January 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

You know, this week I learned a new difference by going through the extremes. OK, that sounds heavier than it is, so let me explain.

Last Thursday I came back to a deserted Hsinchu after I had spent four days in Tainan. At first, that didn’t seem so much of a problem. I had been staying at the home of my Taiwanese friend, and although her family had been incredibly welcoming to me, after half a week I felt it was time to be on my own again.

Hardly one day later however, I was craving company – and even more, activity. Due to the Chinese New Year the whole campus was closed and everybody had gone home, including the staff of Dining Halls, the swimming pool and my favorite waffle place. Even the dormitory was more silent than I had seen it before; at first – after four months of living in one room with three other girls – I found this a relief, but after a while I had to admit I didn’t want to turn off the lights and music at night.

And as fucked-up as my biorhythm already was, this week it became even worse. Nowadays I never fall asleep before 2:AM;  that way I can keep in touch with my Dutch friends, whose free evenings start after the Taiwanese midnight – and wake up around noon. Not that I’m so tired (I mean, I barely do anything except for clicking around on Facebook and watching endless episodes of Lost), but mainly because if I wake up late, the day will pass sooner. Damn, that doesn’t sound very positive, does it?

Don’t worry, I’m not feeling blue. Main thing is I am terribly bored. Add a significant amount of frustration to that, and voila, there I am: in my dorm, alone, with literally nothing to do and a great desire to hop on a plane and fly home. Or actually, there I was, because as the days passed I slowly came to realize that this, too, is actually an important part of my Taiwan-experience. And once again, I started to calm myself down with some of the words that have been so powerful to me since the day my Macbook crashed last October: it’s a test, Suusie. It’s just another obstacle of life. This event is not really what matters in the end. The real question is: how do you deal with it? 

So on Thursday evening, after spending the whole afternoon in a 14-degrees-Celsius-room (shivering despite wearing three sweaters and wrapping myself up in a fleece blanket), I stood up and packed my bag. Book, pen, notebook and purse – what more does a girl need? I walked through the empty campus lanes to the Starbucks on Guang-Fu Road, ordered a signature hot chocolate and sat down in the comforatble chair by the window. Time to read.

It’s Tuesday evening now and since I’m back from Tainan, my days have been more or less like described above. But despite that this week hasn’t been outstanding, it did bring me another valuable experience. Just the fact that I had to force myself into writing this blog and that it took me more than an hour to finish it, underscores the realization that I need enough daily input to keep myself inspired. How many times I may have cursed my always-busy life in The Netherlands… now I realize that doing nothing brings me nowhere either. Although I still have to be careful not to put too much pressure on the things I do, I know now I need at least some goals, stuff to do, sources of satisfaction. I need to believe that I’m growing, no matter how.

Luckily for me, yesterday most buildings on campus reopened their doors, and since my leg stopped hurting I finally could go running around campus again. And it wasn’t until then, that I really noticed the ‘difference’ I mentioned in the first paragraph. All these little, daily things I had been doing for months – swimming, running, walking to the waffle house for lunch – suddenly gave me so much more satisfaction, and however cheesy it may sound, I felt grateful for being able to do them. This afternoon I printed some articles I have to study for my new courses in Nijmegen (the new semester over there started today..) and gosh, I felt it tickling in my tummy while I read them. When I finished, I had this rush going through my head surprisingly similar to a runner’s high. Note to self: in the end I do like studying, I am that girl.

Tomorrow it’s finally time to pack my suitcase and get ready to leave Hsinchu. I will spend the last six days of my Taiwan-trip in Taipei; besides reading in cafes and eating at nice places I don’t have particular plans, but one thing’s for sure: I will make the most of it. It’s time for some new input. Get excited, Suusie. Visit a museum, walk for hours, have deep talks, dance all night – because it’s exactly those extremes that make me feel alive.

*Quote (based on)  Elizabeth Gilbert.

if it’s good, it’s wonderful, if it’s bad, it’s experience*

January 21, 2012 § 3 Comments

I believe that you keep developing any skill that you practice. So, for that, I push myself to write a second blog in English today, although I’ve felt some doubts and hesitations. Woah, when I put the link to this new blog on Facebook I didn’t expect the reactions to be so enthusiast! It feels both as an encouragement and as a pressure, because to be honest – and I’ve said this before – I’m not even sure what this blog will be about. I mean, of course I could write about my life and the things I do, but yeh, I actually already do that on Suushi.nl. On the other hand, since I’m one and the same person writing maybe it isn’t strange that there is some overlap between the two. And isn’t it nice that my international friends and family now also can get a better view on my life?

So. Over the past few weeks there have been a lot of things going on in my head. Yes, that’s always the case, but since I feel brighter than ever, it’s like I finally can get a grip on these patterns of thought. A few days ago I had a small mental breakdown, but it took me just a few hours to realize what I was doing and that continuing to walk this path has never brought me happiness. And thus, it’s very likely walking that old road will not make me a stronger person in the future. So the next day, I woke up feeling peaceful again. No harm done. Just another experience.

Since I’m in Taiwan, my negative moods have become different. In contrast to half a year ago, now even when I’m upset, obsessed, confused or depressed it still notice an underlying peace in me. It will be alright, Suusie. Even though you’re convinced it will not, it will be alright. Simply put, my dark side can still rage from time to time but doesn’t posses me anymore. Last week when I walked the stairs to my dormitory, I realized that this is one of the greatest things Taiwan has given me: a solid base of self-confidence. Although there’s a lot to discover – hey, I’m only twenty! – for the first time there’s a foundation on which I can rely. I know what I am, I know what I can (well, most of the times.. I still tend to forget every now and then, but you know, that’s why life is a work in progress). I am able to fly on the other side of the world on my own, and manage. I can do nothing all day and still feel good about myself, and I can be 200% productive and deliver some quality work. I can walk into a room of strangers and say ‘hello’ without feeling ashamed of myself. I can let my fears be without letting them dictate my deeds.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have fears or doubts anymore. Like I pointed out in the first paragraph, there are many things left I feel unsure about – writing English is only one of them. Yes, I can still stand in front of the mirror for half an hour, wondering if the dress I’m wearing makes me fat. Yes, I can still start blushing and losing track of what I was trying to say when talking in front of a crowd. The difference is, that in the end these things don’t deeply upset me anymore. It’s life, it’s all part of my winding path. I am allowed to feel unsure sometimes, but that does not make me less as a person. It just makes me a person. I do not value myself any less. OK, so I’m scared to write another blog. Now I’m going to do it anyway.

So I’ve created this solid base, and that means it’s time for the next step. Now I can watch the world from my chair and think clearly: what do I want now? I am not just struggling though the days anymore, trying to survive in the darkness of my head. I can take my own hand and lead the way. As I pointed out before, I have no idea wherever that might be, but my first destination is Nijmegen. It’s time to move the wild flower from her small protecting pot – she’s outgrown it. I’ll plant her in the forest now. And you know what? Spring is coming soon..

*Quote by Victoria Holt.

Suusified: a short story on the HOW & WHY

January 16, 2012 § 4 Comments

In May 2006 I was a 15-year-old girl spending a big part of her free time browsing through the internet. One one of these afternoons I coincidentally came across a Dutch website that provided a free weblog service. You know, these days I loved registering accounts on various random websites. I could spend hours thinking about a new username, another cool nickname or a new text to put on my online profile. Naturally, five years ago Facebook was not a big thing in The Netherlands yet (I’m not sure Facebook was even online in Europe at all), so I had to find other ways to distract myself from things I had to do. I guess the only thing I had to do back then was my homework and cleaning my room, but anyway, this is more or less the reason why on the 25th of May 2006 I registered my first weblog. From that day, asmilemakesyourday (yeh, I know..) became the place where I wrote away my World Problems. Thus my first blog posts included matters such as ‘will I pass the next test in mathematics’, ‘this is how I spend my summer vacation’ and, when that same summer I got heart-broken for the first time, ‘boys are the most stupid creatures on earth’.

Well, if I look back like this, I can’t help but smile a little, ’cause what has changed, really? Right now I’m a 20-year old girl/young woman (depends on my self-confidence for the day), and I’m still blogging about the things that keep me busy. Obviously, there have been a few major changes in my life. I graduated from high school at 17, became a student in History and moved out to live on my own at 18, got a lip piercing at 19 (and got rid of it within a year), was an exchange student in Taiwan for half a year at 20, had various boyfriends and made lots of amazing friends through the years. In between all this, a lot of smaller – but no less important! – things happened and I tried to write about most of it. I blogged at xizy and vik until I finally got my own domain in 2009, Suushi.nl, where I still keep track of my life and thoughts today.

At the moment, I’m still in Taiwan for another four weeks. A few days ago most of the international students I met over the past months left the country to travel around elsewhere in Asia and/or to fly back home. Unfortunately, due to several financial misfortunes during my Taiwan trip I don’t have enough resources left (yes, money) to do similar things. Besides, to be honest I’m kind of done with travelling for now (but oh yes, I’ll come back here someday!) and more and more I realize it’s time to go back to Nijmegen, my hometown. However, my thoughts on this have been fluctuating a lot over the past days. It’s a mixed feeling. On the one hand, I’m ready to leave, but on the other hand I don’t want this exchange to be over yet. I’ve met so many great people and I loved to share stories, thoughts, experiences. Whether it was in the middle of a crowded MRT or on the top of a deserted roof, these memories will last.

So for you, dear friends, I started this blog. For you, and for several other reasons. First of all, I want to keep training my English reading and writing skills. It might sound stupid, but four months ago I was afraid to read an article in English, because I was convinced I couldn’t do it. And although I’m sure I still make a lot of mistakes in grammar and style, I’ve developed a basic feeling of trust in myself – not only for the matter of English, by the way, but more on that in later posts. Secondly, although Suushi.nl is still of great value to me, there are some issues I want to to write about that don’t fit on my Dutch blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about environmental issues, vegetarism/veganism, the extremes of youth and most of all simplifying life lately, but I think these are difficult topics and there’s a lot of controversy, even in my own head. Writing always helps me to see things clear.

One more thing: I want you to know that I’m not sure in which way to lead this blog yet. There’s no plan, no general concept or idea. It’s like life in general: you never know what will happen next, and I consider that something to cherish.

Hope to see you soon,
-Suus