Everything Else

Story of my beautiful life

October 11, 2018

Recently, a young lady made a comment about how good her life is and when I heard that, I was envious of her life and how good it has been for her, though my life isn’t actually that bad. At least I’m still alive. Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve hid from people all my life and now, I am ready to confront it and tell my story. My past made me who I am today and I want to learn to embrace even the painful parts of it. Hence, here is the summarized story of my life.

[1994] I was 4 and attending nursery when my crazy classmate decided to strangle me and I thought I was going to die. It was such a traumatic experience for me that till today, though I barely remember anything from my younger days, I remember this incident and the fear I felt at that moment. This was the first time I told myself I must learn to be strong and stand up for myself. I will never allow myself to be bullied again.

[1997] When I was 7, my mom got diagnosed of kidney failure and we learned that she had to go for dialysis pretty much the rest of her life, unless she got a transplant. Then, I never really understood the meaning of kidney failure, that it is a deadly illness where if one does not receive a transplant, they would eventually die even with regular dialysis. Perhaps because I am the only daughter, my mom relied on me a lot emotionally and I went with her for her treatments almost every time; 3 times a week. That was the first time I learned to be a pillar of support to someone who fought death every single day.

Unbeknownst to me as a young 7 year old child then, things in my family began to change. My mom, overwhelmed by the prognosis, began to change, and so did my dad. From then on, fights became a daily event and my family was slowly torn apart. As you would imagine, the impact it had on a 7 year old child witnessing all of these, was unimaginable. I remember vividly that everyday for many years then, I would sit by the window and pray to the gods, begging them to make us happy again. Then, all I wished for everyone around me was that they’ll always be happy and that no one would ever have to suffer the way I did, and I prayed for all the bad things in life to fall upon me, if only that could take the pain away from everyone.

[2002] Things finally reached a breaking point and my parents took it to court. They asked us every other day who we would choose to follow if they divorced. They literally forced us to choose between them, both of whom are equally important to us as children who understood nothing about adult relationships. I was brought to the family court to witness all of these, and there, I bumped into my schoolmates who were also there for their parents’ divorce. Though the divorce fell through, I learned then, that relationships are fragile and nothing last forever. I was just 12, the age where kids were supposed to be happily enjoying their childhood and living carefree lives.

[2004] Sometime in between and many years later, when we’ve all gotten used to the police coming up to our place regularly to mediate the fights, we received the call from the hospital of a matching kidney. However, such an operation has its risks and what we knew back then, was that she could either die during the operation if there were any complications or after a successful transplant if her body rejects the kidney. But what choice do we have? She was going to die either from her kidneys eventually completely failing, on the operation table, or still, die if her body rejects the new organ. Or she could possibly, just possibly, live relying on medication for the rest of her life even if the transplant was successfully and her body accepts and adjusts to it. Thankfully, everything went well and she adjusted to her new life with the new kidney. Then, I thought, perhaps this is the start of a new beginning for all of us, perhaps we could finally go back to the happy family we used to be, a history I don’t remember any of. Here, I learned that life itself is fragile and we should always be thankful for whatever little we have.

[2007] I graduated from secondary school (or high school) at the age of 16 and moved home to live with my family after living with my grandmother for the first 16 years of my life. It was a culture shock because even though I slept over at our place occasionally, their rules and lifestyles were completely different from those that my grandmother enforced and taught me. At my grandma’s, we ate regular meals, and though we were very poor, I was never starved because she made sure I was always filled. Moving back, however, I realized that my mom was only capable of caring for my brother, and I had to take care of pretty much everything myself. From phone bills, school fees and supplies (which were extremely expensive for a design student), transport, to other general living expenses like clothes and food, I had to manage everything myself. My dad gave my brother and I a lump sum that was deposited into my brother’s account, and we were to withdraw them as and when we needed. I was always very careful of how I spent that money as I knew I had to learn to manage my finances. Once, when my parents found out the money was depleted, I was accused of spending all the money recklessly and pretty much took the blame for everything I never did, even though I was able to present evidence that it wasn’t me. Then, I learned that every single person in this world WILL fail you, even if they are family. What a precious lesson for a 17 year old who just moved home to live with her family.

[2011] I finally graduated from school after struggling for 4.5 years instead of the regular 3 years that everyone else took. While living with my family, I watched my mom buy food for my brother, give him money for school and expenses and take care of his needs. I had to earn for things with my own hands. Through these years of working, studying and living on maximum S$1 (about 0,60€) a day for 3 meals (not $1 for each meal, but $1 for all 3 meals), I learned that no one in this world will fight for you. You have to fight for yourself. I frequently hated myself for being such a strong, independent, reliable, and responsible person. I wished I had someone to rely on as well.

[2014] After 3 years of working in various jobs and trying to find my place in life and society, we received the news that my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and had less than a year left to live. Then, I had already moved out to live with my cousin for about half a year. I was unsure of how to react to the news and struggled to understand the meaning of all these, constantly asking God why my life had to be so full of trials. Even though my life was always filled with tough and difficult situations, perhaps for the first time, I learned that there are things I cannot control, no matter how strong I become, no matter how hard I tried.

[2015] I resigned from my job to spend the last days of my dad’s life with him. I never told anyone in my workplace that my dad was sick and never told them the real reason behind my resignation. Right after my last day of work, I went on a trip with some friends. On the second day of the trip, I received a call from home that my dad’s condition turned for the worse and I should get home on the next flight. I got myself on the next available flight that evening and flew home. I spent that night sitting next to my dad and mom in the hospice while my dad moaned in pain and tears, asking me to go home, saying that he is fine and I should go home and rest. I held his hand for the first and last time since I was a child. The next morning, my relatives came to take over and we went home to rest. I was struggling with accepting that my dad was going to die in the next few days. So much that I did not visit him again until I received the message from my mom that he had passed. Those hours before, my relatives were calling me desperately and sending me messages to get me to go down to the hospital to see him for the last time, but I never did because I basically received calls and words like these almost everyday in the past week before he finally died. When I rushed down to the hospital with my brother, all that was in my mind was the words that everyone said in the calls and messages, “Your dad wants to see you for the last time.” I thought I knew pain, but this was when I learned what excruciating pain is, the pain of loss. 

[2017] It took me a long time to get on with life and be strong again. After my dad died, I stayed out of job to recover from the depth of grief I was in. When I finally found an overseas job in November 2017, I was so excited about leaving and starting something new. The next thing I knew, my girlfriend texted me that her sister, someone whom I loved, treasured and respected, had died. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and I called a common friend to check. This was when I found out that she had indeed died, and that she had killed herself. The next few days that followed, I basically buried myself in tears and the pain of grief and loss filled my heart once again. This was when I learned that you will never get used to the pain of loss.

[2018 and forward] Though I never knew the meaning of happiness or learned how to relax and fun (I thought I did but I really didn’t), I’m thankful for everything I have today and to be honest, things were so overwhelming during the time before I came that I didn’t even have time to process the fact that I was coming to live in the French Alps. After being here for almost 7 months, even though things here have been great, I have to confess that it wasn’t easy to live so far away right after a dear friend died. I am still grieving and perhaps will forever grieve for the deaths of my dad and my friend, but I am nonetheless thankful for each breath I take every morning, each sunrise and sunset I witness. Some days, I feel like everything here is so surreal and maybe it’s just a dream that I haven’t woke up from. Other days, I’m afraid that I’m going to wake up from this dream soon and go back to reality, the reality of a life I never wished to lead, a life full of trials and difficulties. The fear that things will change and life will turn once again for the worst just cripples me and prevents me from simply enjoying the moment.

The comment of a young and innocent girl made me reflect on how far I have come and how much I have been through to become who I am today. After living for a short 28 years, I guess I can say I led a full life that was though painful, full of amazing lessons that helped me grow.

I want to take this opportunity to explain something too. A group of amazing people I met here celebrated my birthday yesterday and I’m really grateful for all the thoughts and beautiful words from each person. But I believe I didn’t look happy and was a total spoilsport. The reason is that birthdays celebrate life, and I find it hard to celebrate my life ever since my father died. For how can I celebrate my life when the person who gave me life had died? So I didn’t like celebrating my birthday for the last couple of years. That said, I really sincerely appreciate the amazing brownie, the thoughts, the wishes, the words, and the beautiful birthday song in Spanish. These guys made a lot of difference to my year abroad! ❤️

I also would like to publicly apologize to my friends everywhere, for behaving strange and mostly being a terrible idiot, especially in recent weeks. The truth I hate to admit, is that life had been really tough, and I can barely deal with any of it. Everywhere I go, everything I do, and everything everyone says reminds me of my dad and my dear friend, the precious lessons of my painful life, and sometimes, it’s just too heavy to recall. I sincerely ask for your forgiveness even for the stupid things I will do and say in the future, because I know I will not be able to change my past, nor be able to change overnight how I react and respond to situations. I just ask for your forgiveness and patience with me. Thank you very much! I love you! 😘

Joette Quek

Joette is proud to be a jack of all trades but not so excited about being the master of none. She believes in creating opportunities and making things happen as the idea strikes, rather than waiting forever. She started this website to share her experiences and help others find answers to common struggles of living in a fast-paced world where we hold responsibility for our decisions.

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