“I was at my aunt’s house when we received a phone call that my dad had passed away. I was living in Suriname with my mother at the time. My dad lived here. Despite the distance, he tried to visit me as much as possible. He would always bring expensive clothing from The Netherlands, which made me the coolest kid in my street. The last time I saw my father, I was nine years old. During his last visit, he took me to all these different places and told me a lot about his life. It was as if he knew that it would be the last time we would see each other. My father got buried in The Netherlands. I was supposed to stay only a few months until after the funeral, but my mother thought I would have a better future here in The Netherlands. My mother went back to Suriname, and I stayed with some relatives. Growing up without your parents is difficult. As a kid, I didn’t know how to express my emotions. Anger became a way of expressing my pain. My outlook on life changed when I turned eighteen. I would hang out a lot with my friends on the street. One day, a man from my neighborhood came up to me and said: If we are lucky, we have a few people who take care of us in this life. I have been watching you. You are not taking good care of yourself. After he said that, I realized that I needed to take better care of myself and deal with my emotions. His words hit home because he actually noticed me.”
“About a year and a half ago, someone knocked on my door late at night. When I opened it, my mother was standing there with tears in her eyes. She didn’t have to say anything – my father had died. He had a rare heart condition, so we knew, at some point, that he would just go. It was peaceful, apparently, and very quick. My mother found him in his favorite chair at home with a book in his lap and a coffee on the table. My world collapsed. Growing up all I wanted was for him to be proud of me. I was so afraid he’d die and think of me as a disappointment. But three days before he died, during our last phone call, although we didn’t know that yet, he said “kid, the world is yours for the taking, and I’m so proud of you, and my work here is done.” I had just graduated with a bachelor’s and I was making plans for grad school. When I was younger, because of his condition, he was always trying to impart wisdom just in case he wasn’t around when I needed it – so for example he gave me serious relationship advice when I was twelve and it made no sense to me. Six months after he died I went through a really difficult breakup, and his decade old advice suddenly came back to my mind. He did everything he could as a father, to prepare me for the world.
I came to Amsterdam a year ago to do a master’s degree. The first few months were really hard. I was afraid to make friends of get attached, I think, because I was afraid to lose more than I already had. But there’s something about Amsterdam that either forces you or encourages you to just figure things out, and slowly I reached out and made friends and connected to family and really settled in. And Amsterdam became home. Coming here when I did turned out to be the best thing I could do for myself. This city has healed me. Right now I’m on my way to meet my Mum. She’s visiting because tomorrow is my graduation. That my Dad isn’t here as well is – is really hard. But today would’ve been his birthday, so we’re going out to get cake and celebrate.“
“My girlfriend suggested I should try wearing a color. I picked out a purple Hugo Boss suit and it just felt right. Now the only item in my closet that isn’t purple, is a black raincoat. I wore it a few days ago but I wasn’t really feeling it..”
“Why is that?”
“I guess because black is just so black..”
“It just makes life so much better..”