25 things I have learned by 25

So last week, on July 5th, I turned 25 years old. A quarter of a century. You’re no longer considered to be too young to marry someone, buy a house or even to have kids. I’m not anywhere near the position to be able to do so, but it is a funny thought nevertheless. It was my fifth birthday without my mom, which still is something I have to get used to. I don’t know if it will ever get easier to be honest. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be spending my birthday with my boyfriend and his family. It made my otherwise rather lonely birthday a very pleasant one.

I feel as if I’ve learned quite a bit since then. I have a lot to learn still, but wisdom comes with age. The last evening I spent as a 24 year old I spent with my love and we just drove around, looking at the beautiful skies as we had a deep talk about how my life has unfolded itself up until this point. It was rather emotional, as I always used to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it to 25. A lot has happened and I’ve been struggling with my mental health for well over a decade. Hitting 25, in a way, was monumental to me. That evening and that talk got me thinking about the things I have learned in my still young life.

So here it goes.. 25 things I have learned in 25 years on this Earth!

1. It is okay to cut toxic people out of your life. You don’t have to relentlessly keep trying to fix a relationship that is bad for you.

2. You don’t need a whole lotta friends. When I was younger, I always wondered why I didn’t have as big friend groups as some of my peers did. I never was particularly popular and could count my friends on one hand. Now that I’m older I only have one friend of that bunch left and made some new ones here in Denmark. They’re always here for me. It’s all about quality, NOT quantity!

3. Be kind to others. It makes yourself feel better, but also others. Be nice to everyone you meet, EVEN if you want to gouge their eyes out. My mama taught me to kill them with kindness.

4. What others think of you doesn’t matter. With that I mean that what strangers think of you is irrelevant. Wear crazy colours if you want to, dye your hair a different colour if you think that that is pretty. The ones that truly matter will love you no matter what.

5. Judging others will only make your self-criticism worse. It just isn’t worth the energy. Live and let live.

6. Stop pleasing others. Making others happy is important, but don’t let yourself burn out in the meantime. Don’t be a doormat. Say no if you can’t or don’t want to do something.

7. Don’t buy something, not even when it’s on sale, unless you absolutely love it. Accumulating clutter is SO easy, getting rid of it is way harder.

8. Stop using ad hominem attacks when arguing. Going for the throat is the quickest way to win an argument, no doubt. It also does the most long term damage.

9. Let it go.

10. Cherish the bond you have with your siblings. I learned this after my mom passed. Living in Denmark makes seeing them hard, but when we do get together, it’s all good. Keep them close. You never know when you’ll need them.

11. Pictures and videos aren’t real life.

12. Everyone has their own timeline. This one in particular was hard for me to accept. Most of my peers are settling down right now, marriage, kids or buying a house. I’m not even remotely in the position to do so. And that is okay. There is no such a thing as a blueprint for life. We’re all just winging it. Some just get it done earlier than others.

13. Your life won’t change until your goals and habits do.

14. Stop playing the victim. It’s easy to sulk in self-pity, but reality is that you’re just holding yourself back.

15. Self care is important, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. For me it is crucial to have some time alone every day. It is my way of recharging.

16. Exercise!!! Exercise is essential for health. Work out because you’re striving to be healthy, not for aesthetics. Sure, a tiny waist and a bubble butt are nice, but what are those things worth when you’re not healthy?

17. Eat healthy. Unhealthy food is good in moderation, no doubt. I’ll be the first to say a big fat YES to deep fried food, ice cream and cake. But too often isn’t good either. Preventative medicine is the best medicine.

18. If you have the means to do so, travel. Traveling gives opportunity to expand your mindset. There is so much to learn from different cultures and seeing the world from another perspective is never a bad thing in my opinion!

19. Carpe diem. Each day is a new opportunity to improve yourself and be the person you want to be.

20. Cliché, but follow your dreams. Do what makes you happy. You only have this one life, so make it the life you want to be. Don’t settle for a job you’re not happy with or an education you’re not passionate about.

21. Money doesn’t make you happy BUT it can provide comfort. Save up!!

22. Read. A lot. It can be anything, really. From fiction to scientific articles. Feed your mind. It makes you an interesting person.

23. Go out in nature. It is so easy to get caught up in the buzzing city life, but such a hectic lifestyle makes it easy to forget about yourself and the people around you. Nature has a great way to unwind and recharge. For me it’s the forest. My Opa always took me and my sister, when we were little, out into the woods and the energy there calmed my thoughts a lot. Even now, at 25, the forest still has a way of making me forget about all my problems for a while.

24. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you mess something up, laugh about it.

25. Know how far you have come since 16, 18 and 21.

So there’s that. 25 things. I could probably think of about a 100 more, but this will have to do for now. It has been a wild ride so far. I wonder where life will take me next. I used to say that I wouldn’t be able to hit 25. I was depressed, broken and beaten down, but now, at this moment, I truly mean it when I say that I can’t wait what the next 25 years have in store for me. I just hope it will be good.

What are some important life lessons you have learned? I would love to hear them!

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: Tis the season?

Well well, it has been a while.. I have to admit that with this busy exam period going on, I haven’t had much time to think about the Christmas season, but last night it just hit me. Christmas is right around the corner! Not being able to see my mother around this time of the year is tough.

Growing up we celebrated Christmas when my parents were still together, but my mom became a Jehovah’s Witness in my early teens, so after that I’d often go to my grandparents to celebrate Christmas there and it wasn’t really until I moved to Denmark that I actually started celebrating this time of the year.

But despite the fact that my mom didn’t really celebrate Christmas anymore in the last years of her life, I can’t help but miss her a little bit extra during this time. I see a lot of my peers going shopping for presents with their moms, and as happy as I am for them, I can’t help but hurt inside when I see it. Thoughts like ”Why can’t I do that?” or ”They don’t know how lucky they are” go through my head. Because I really do wonder sometimes if they realise how lucky they are. Something as simple as just calling mom to tell her how her day was or to ask her if she’s 100% sure if she wouldn’t like a tiny little Christmas present anyway is something I’d do anything for to experience one more time. But it will never be. And that hurts. The silence is loud. I want to get that phone call on NYE to wish me a happy new year, and damnit, why can’t I have that phone call?

Luckily for me, I have enough things to keep me preoccupied for now with work and exams. I’ll be spending Christmas and New Years with my Finnish family, so hopefully I won’t be feeling too blue, but I know not everyone who is part of this club is that lucky.

Tis the season to be with family and make memories for most. But for me, my sister and everyone else who lost their mom, tis the grim reminder that we’ll never make those memories again.

People often say that this loss loses its sharp edges and that you learn to live with the pain, but why does it for me feel as if the pain and burden only gets worse over the years? Because I still can’t talk about her without wanting to curl up and cry. She was still supposed to be here, she was supposed to see me get married and have kids. But she will never. And that’s unfair. It shouldn’t be like this.

To my fellow motherless daughters out there,

Stay strong during this time of the year. I’m thinking of each and every one of you out there. We got this. We can get through it.

Lots of love,

Naiyee

Exam stress: Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Oh my, I have not been able to write anywhere near as much as I would have liked to lately. Writing is very therapeutic to me and it just feels good to get my thoughts out. Reason for my lack of time for basically everything is because I have exams coming up this month and I don’t feel anywhere near ready.

Main problem being my fear of failing. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember and it exceeds your average nervousness when exams are starting. With me it can get so bad that I barely eat or sleep. It is annoying to say the least. I have exams in Drama, Biology and Mathematics and math in particular is taking up more time than I’d like it to. You see, we get about a month off to read up on things to get ready, but since 75% of our exams have been planned in the first week of said month, it basically means that I’ve been spending the past 2,5 weeks reading and writing summaries, since I won’t have time for it otherwise. Throw the anniversary of my mom’s death in the mix and well.. Let’s just say that I am EXHAUSTED.

Taking up math again after years of not having had it was a humbling experience to say the least, but I would also have to say that it really forced me to work hard on my weaknesses, so for that I’m grateful. But I have to admit that Biology and Drama had to take a backseat because of all this. Not proud of it, but I guess I can afford it, considering these are subjects I naturally have no problems with, whereas with math I do. Tomorrow I have written math, which I don’t think I’ll have a problem with, but oral math I am not excited about. Nor the exam in oral Biology… Nor the exam in Drama. I suck at oral exams, I absolutely hate them when they’re not languages. I perform better in my written exams and well.. Bad grades in oral exams don’t help my average very much. I guess it is just something I got to get over.

It does make me wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew though. But I guess only time can tell that one. Right now I’m just studying my butt off, dreaming of Christmas and spending time with loved ones.

Do you get stressed when exams roll around or not, and if not,  how do you manage not to get anxious about them?

Any tips are welcome!

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: The story of how I lost my mom

Today’s post is going to be a tough one!

Next week, on the 29th of November, marks four years since my mother passed away. Growing up I had heard stories of my peers losing a parent, but I had never really given the idea of losing my mother any thought. ”That would never happen to me!” I’d say.. Until it actually happened.

I was 20 years old, embarking on this whole new journey in my life. I had just graduated vet tech school and I had just moved to Denmark to be with my boyfriend at the time. All in all I was very excited about the start of my new life. That was until I received a phone call from my Opa. He was in tears, I still remember till this day how upset he was. ”Your mother has been admitted to the hospital and it isn’t good. We don’t know what is going on, but it’s bad news”. Those words still haunt me. I was all alone, my then boyfriend was at work and it felt like the ground was disappearing from underneath me. I tried to go about my day, phone in my hand, until Mama called me. She told me they would take some more tests, but they were pretty sure that it was cancer. Cancer. The disease that I’ve seen wreaking havoc all around me. I had seen people die from it. Heck, my mom has undergone surgery for it a few years prior, but the doctors said it wasn’t anything serious.

To hear that it came back felt like a slap in the face. No, actually, it felt like a punch in the stomach. My mind was racing a thousand miles an hour.  The following weeks were a blur. I’d try to Skype with Mama and the rest of my family as much as I could. They ended up finding out that Mama was suffering from a very rare subtype of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. She’d keep me updated about her progress and how her rounds of chemo were going. Eventually she started losing her hair and we Skyped while my sister shaved off Mama’s hair. It was raw, it was rough and I was struggling to keep my emotions in. Mama actually sent me a lock of her hair, which I today still keep in a little box with some of her jewellery.

The chemo started taking a toll on her health. Mama has always been a bit weaker. She had been suffering from chronic illnesses for years at that point. At this point, three months in, she needed me to be there, so I hesitantly booked my flight to be there with my family. I was scared.

”Is she still the same? She looks so different.. What if I make her sicker?”

I arrived and I could tell she was filled with joy to see me. I wasn’t too happy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. A couple of days leading up to my arrival back home we found out that my childhood dog Lilo also had cancer and wouldn’t be around for much longer. A couple of days later we had to put our beloved Lilo down. It definitely was a blow for all of us. But I tried to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. I accompanied my mom to her weekly trips to the hospital and all seemed well, until Mama started getting sicker again. She couldn’t keep anything in and the doctors decided that it’d be smart for her to be readmitted so they could run some tests and scans. The day before I was supposed to go back to Denmark I decided to go to the hospital and be with Mama. Her doctor came in and asked if we’d like to come to the family room to discuss her PET scan results and I immediately sensed something wasn’t right. I told Mama, but she seemed confident that it was all fine. I remember saying: ”But… If everything is fine, why wouldn’t she want to tell us here?” Mama shared a room with some other patients and well.. You wouldn’t bring bad news in a room full with other people. Off to the family room we went..

”I’ll just cut right to the chase. Your treatment isn’t working anymore. The cancer is fighting back a couple of times worse than in the beginning.. I’m really sorry, but it’d probably be better if you would go home and spend the time you still have with your family..”

I don’t think I have ever screamed and cried as much in front of my family and strangers as I did that evening. It felt like my world shattered into a million pieces in mere seconds. Watching Mama and Opa break down was the worst thing I have ever had to witness. They were the people who seemed invincible to me. The car ride home to Oma and my sister was long. I recall Mama trying to hold my hands, but I was completely out of it. I couldn’t look at her, it hurt too bad.

”Don’t you want me to hold your hand?”
”Fuck, Mama, what am I supposed to do without you?”

She held me and we cried on the back seat, all the way home. My sister and Oma were devastated too. And then we suddenly had a funeral to plan. The doctors couldn’t say how much longer she had. Could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple of months. The cancer rapidly took over her body up until the point where she was bed bound. Mama had decided she wanted to be put under palliative care instead of choosing euthanasia, since she thought euthanasia would be too hard for my sister and I. I’d have preferred if she opted for euthanasia, but my sister was happier with the palliative care. Only goes to show how this differs for each individual! Seeing Mama’s health deteriorate so badly was hard to watch.

Mama and I had a complicated relationship. We fought a lot as I got older. For the most part I’m a carbon copy of her, maybe not necessarily looks, but definitely personality, just minus the ADD for me. I used to see her as this invincible entity. Mama who could do anything, Mama who would scare anyone away who’d try to hurt me, Mama who would ALWAYS be there, right? Having to take of her, helping her out of bed, making her food, taking her on walks was something that suddenly didn’t seem like a chore anymore, but I actually liked it, knowing that her time here was coming to an end.. That end came sooner than any of us really anticipated.

The day she decided to be put to sleep came and we had to say goodbye, since she would sleep until she would eventually pass away. It was rough. None of us wanted to say goodbye. I still wanted to ask her so many things, go on so many more hikes, have so many more barbecues, sing so many more songs.

”I am so sorry it has gone so fast Nennie.. I really am”

We hugged, we kissed, we laughed for the last time and then she slept. Four days later she finally passed. When my bonus mom came up in my room to tell me she passed, it felt like a relief. Mama wasn’t suffering anymore. The funeral was planned and it was just the way she would have wanted it. We got a bunch of permanent markers, which people could take to write a message on her casket with and the casket transformed from a boring white casket to a casket filled with messages and flowers. It left an impression for sure. It’s funny how one person could have such an impact.  Mama was a dog lover and part of a big community of dog enthusiasts. When she was driven away to be cremated all of her friends were there with their dogs to pay tribute to her and honor her. I look back on it with a smile, knowing she would have loved it.

Having lost her also meant my sister and I lost our childhood home, our dogs and our safe space. Losing her was so much more than losing just her. We lost our old lives and suddenly had to start something new. In the beginning I was convinced I couldn’t do it, but so far, I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well.

I miss her. I miss her so much and it hurts. I wouldn’t even say that it hurts less, because I’m still hurting as much as I did the moment her heart stopped beating. I’ve just learned how to live with it..

In the end, you can’t lose someone who sits so deep within your heart to death. Their memory and stories keep them alive in a way.

– Naiyee

 

Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love.

Sorry I didn’t write on here sooner, but it has been a busy couple of days I guess! With a math midterm and reading up on some of the things I’ve missed while I was away to see my family and trying to get enough sleep in, it was hard for me to find a moment to just sit down and write. Today was nice and quiet, so here I am!

On Monday I came back from a lovely couple of days in the Netherlands that I’ve spent with my family and love. In a previous post I wrote about how hard it is for me to go back and how the days leading up to it always end up being incredibly anxiety inducing for me. However, whenever I’m there, it feels like coming home, truly. We spent most of the time at my sister’s, as she lives close to Schiphol Airport and the rest of Amsterdam and since my boyfriend has never been in the Netherlands before, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to be a tourist in my own country and show him around a bit. We had a blast. Amsterdam really is a special place.

We also celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which took place in my hometown, so we decided to also spend a night at their place, so I could show him where I’m from and where I grew up. This idea in particular scared me at first, as I’ve only gone back there two or three times ever since my mother passed away. But I felt like it was the right thing to do. I showed him the houses I grew up in, the schools I went to, my poem that ended up winning a competition and actually ended up being put down in tiles on this big square in my neighbourhood and lots of other things. It was quite something.

It was special to me, because to me it felt as if I was walking through a photo book as I was reminiscing all of these memories. But it also made me think.. I realised that for the most part of my adult life, I’ve been running away from my old life back in the Netherlands, just trying to get ahead and create something new. Ever since I’ve moved to Denmark, I’ve been doing something. Be it learning the language, getting to know new people, getting a job or studying, I have always made sure to do something, so I wouldn’t have to doubt anything or be sad about the life I no longer have.. This trip however made me feel weird inside. I felt homesick, truly homesick for the first time in well… ever? It was just eyeopening how the conversations I had with my grandparents, father, sister and other family members made me feel less empty in a way. I wouldn’t say I’m this super unhappy person in general, but my struggle with depression makes me feel very empty inside. But whenever I’m with them, the feeling disappears. I know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it never is actually, but it does make me wonder whether I’d be happier over there or not.

For shits and giggles I actually decided to sign up for a bachelors degree in Biology and Medical Research over there and see if I get in. I want to give myself a year to figure out if I’ll feel better and if my situation will change, but if not, I might just go back home. That would also mean that I’d have to give up my dream of getting into vet school and I’m not quite sure if I’m ready for that yet, so we will see. The idea of researching a cure for cancer, especially since my mom died from it and I know a lot of people who have been sick from it, sounds like a very exciting thing to do. But at this point it’s still all out in the open. I guess that’s the fun thing about life, the uncertainty of it all.

I just find it funny how this trip opened up a whole new can of worms for me. I didn’t expect to end up not feeling like going back to Denmark, but luckily for me I have a lot of kind people over here as well. In the end, home isn’t really a place for me. It’s the people that fill up that space. It could be at the other side of the world, but as long as they’ll be there, I would be okay. It would be home.

Where do you guys feel at home?

I would love to hear about it!

– Naiyee

50 years of love: Things my grandparents taught me about love

This week my grandparents celebrated their golden marriage, something that seems to be a rare occasion nowadays. Growing up I never had parents to show me what a loving relationship looked like, since my parents divorced when I was only 6 years old. But luckily for me, I have grandparents who are the living breathing example of what a loving marriage should be like. They have faced some really difficult challenges, but fought through it all. They really live up to the ”for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part.

I never really knew what it was like to live in a household where both parents truly loved each other. My parents got together under weird circumstances and their divorce really didn’t come as a surprise. I often spent days over at my grandparents just looking at their daily routines and observing how they interacted with each other. They bicker a lot and my grandmother always has to correct my grandpa whenever he’s telling stories, but when you look past all that, it’s obvious how much those two love each other. I’ve asked Opa often how he did it. How is it possible to stay with the same person for decades? And he gave me some pretty great advice..

”A marriage is a give and take type of deal, but you ALWAYS give a little bit more than you take. And a good partner does the same thing for you in return.”

He told me that you shouldn’t want to be selfish in a good relationship, since you are in this together. Of course it’s okay to be selfish every once in a while, but you should never do things where it would only benefit you. In the end, the goal should be to make this person happy and only thinking about yourself can ultimately damage your relationship.

”Choose each other, every. single. day.”

My opa and oma have had their fair share of health issues. My oma has had a bad functioning body for as long as I can remember and my opa ended up with a really bad back injury three months into their marriage. He was bedridden for months and Oma took care of him, without complaining. It was a rough time financially though, since Opa was the one bringing home the bacon, but he couldn’t work. They made the best of it though and despite all of this, they still look back on it as the best years of their marriage and a period of growth. Opa took care, and still takes care, of Oma because she can’t do as much. Many people have criticised and berated him for staying with her, but he stuck with her, and still does till this day. When I asked him about it, he simply said that the easy way out isn’t always the most fulfulling and that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

”Have fun. Lots of it.”

My grandparents like to joke around a lot. Whenever I’m there Opa likes to crack lots of jokes about how small Oma is, or how she can’t do anything to him anyway, since she can’t run that fast. He’d have to duck though, since she has no issue throwing her slipper across the room. But they always laugh a lot. They have these funny little inside jokes that only they can laugh about. The kind of jokes that would raise eyebrows if they would be said out loud in public. And I love them for it. Lots of bellyaches have occurred in their living room from laughing too hard.

”Stick together, even when times are rough.”

They’ve experienced the one thing every parent out there fears. The loss of a child. The past four years have been really tough for them, but they fought through it. They still struggle with it, but they raise one another up when falling down. They hold each other when the days are tough and they make it through anyway. They could’ve chosen to lose optimism and succumb to that downwards spiral, but they didn’t. They make the best of it and try to spend their time doing things they like doing. Together.

”Communicate. Don’t ever go to bed angry at each other.”

One thing that Opa and I talked about a lot, is the fact that you should never go to sleep when you are mad at one another. You never know if you’ll wake up the day after. Talk through your grievances, even if it means that you’ll be sitting there until sunrise or if it means that you’ll end up fighting. Sometimes it needs to get bad before it gets better. But it’s never good to let small annoyances or frustrations sit there and fester. These small things combined can lead to something nasty, so why not just solve it by talking it through the moment it bothers you?

”Don’t stop falling in love with each other”

And with that I’m not talking about the happy sappy cheesy ”get a room” honeymoon kind of love. I’m talking about kissing each other on the cheek while they’re doing the dishes, or putting your hand on their knee as they’re sitting next to you on the couch. These small and subtle little gestures you can barely see, but that are there. I feel warm inside when I see those tiny little things as they go about their day. It’s so obvious that they’re still crazy about each other after 55 years of being together. It’s sweet and adorable.

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My bonus mom actually gave them an AWESOME surprise. She got a wedding cake made for the occasion and they were just so happy.

I really admire the way they handle things and I can only hope that if I get married one day, that won’t be the kind of love you read about in fairytales, but the love my grandparents have for each other. It’s real and raw and it hasn’t always been pretty, but it also shouldn’t be. My opa and oma are from the generation where you fixed things when they were broken, instead of throwing it away. And I’m a firm believer of that as well. Obviously, if it no longer works you have to let it go, but problems that are easy to fix, should always be fixed first. I am proud to have such amazing rolemodels in my life, knowing that not everybody is that lucky. I am grateful for them and I am grateful that I got to experience their love for each other. 50 years down, and hopefully a whole lot more to go!

Do you have rolemodels like these?

I’d love to hear about your stories!

– Naiyee

New names, new beginnings and such..

So.. A couple of days ago I decided to change the name of the blog. Main reason being that I don’t feel like I’m just living a Danish adventure anymore, but it has gotten way bigger and more exciting.

The people who have known or followed me for a while know that I moved to Denmark because of love and that was a huge adventure in and of itself. But my life has changed so much during these four years. My ex and I split up and I’ve found love in yet ANOTHER country! I’ve lost people and new people made their way into my life. My life is a bit crazy and complicated at this point and I felt like my blog needed to reflect that. So yeah, that’s why I made the decision to go from ”Nen’s Danish Adventure” to ”This Crazy Complicated Life of Mine”.

Would you like to come along with me on this journey called life?

– Naiyee