P O L L Y  G R A C E

 Amsterdam | 2018

P O L L Y G R A C E 

City  Amsterdam
Age  52
Love life — Single
Profession — Purser at a Dutch airline, Vitality Coach, Network Marketeer
Years in Amsterdam 34
Location — Brunch restaurant Dignita

T H E  A M S T E R D A M  S T O R I E S

‘HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

IS THE BEST THING

THAT EVER

HAPPENED TO ME’

  • What makes you really happy?
    “My Buddhism. It helps me grow and get back to my pure self, to how I was as a kid. I grew up in Curaçao. We left by boat when I was five, and weeks later, after I turned six, we arrived in The Netherlands. My mom said that when I was a young child she would shower or bathe me, and fifteen minutes later I would just walk around naked. In Curaçao you have a bigger family than just your own. People would call my mother and say: ‘Hey listen, don’t you have any clothing for her? Because she is walking around naked and pooping in our garden.’ That family would bathe me again. That was me as a kid: walking around and looking at the world with a lot of love. What also makes me happy, is being able to touch people with heart-to-heart communications and sharing what I’ve gotten from my own struggles. It’s like a little present, people can choose to open it or not.”
  • What is your best personality trait?
    “I think my openness and my willingness to listen and learn. Sometimes listening is not easy, because you can also hear something about yourself that you might not like. However learning makes me grow. Before, I use to be a little bit arrogant, I knew it all. I think my warmth is also one of my best traits, but that doesn’t mean I’m easy. I’m comfortable speaking my mind. I don’t worry about people liking me or not, the most important thing is, I like myself.”
  • What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
    “Hitting rock bottom. That process started when I became purser. One day I was on a flight with two other women my age, and as purser, I was in charge. During the entire tour I noticed them talking behind my back, I didn’t express myself, because I thought it wouldn’t add value to my life. Deep inside I felt attacked, as if in their eyes, I wasn’t good enough. Of course that had everything to do with the fact that I was feeling unworthy (cries). At the end of this six day tour I fell ill. The day came that I wanted to go back to work, however when I woke up, I couldn’t stop crying. That was the moment I realised I needed to talk to a professional and try to figure out what was going on, see what it touched in me. I am grateful I made this choice, because after that, the process of truly learning to love myself started. I stopped doing my life and started being my life. I got back to being me, and let go of doing good for others. It’s just like the flight safety instructions in the plane: put on your own oxygen mask first.
    At one point I encountered those two women again at the airport. They were still doing the same thing, still whispering behind my back, but it didn’t get to me anymore. I remembered thinking, “I have grown so much and they didn’t seem to have changed.”

  • What is your biggest fear?
    “I’ve been saying this since I was little: I don’t have any fears. Because one day I decided that I needed to be strong. It’s debatable what really happened that day, because I was only four years old, I was sitting at the table with one of my sisters, when she said to me, ‘This is not your daddy.’ I said, ‘No, this is my daddy too.’ And then she spat in my soup. I thought it was disgusting, but I spat back. Then she yelled ‘daddy she spat in my soup.’ I told him that she did it first, but he didn’t listen to me, he listened to her and I had to eat my soup. I felt so alone and unloved (cries). Those who should be supporting and protecting me weren’t there for me. I felt alone. So I decided to protect myself and do it all by myself. Now I know that I have fears as well, but I don’t let them stop me from doing whatever there is to do in my life.”
  • What is your biggest disappointment?
    “Not staying true to myself and not saying the things I should have said, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. By keeping silent I ended up hurting myself. For instance, I never told my brother how I felt when he made negative comments when I shared something about my life. When I finally did tell him this, it was the accumulation of all the times I said nothing before, I ended our phone call with, ‘I hope you have a great life.’ It would have been better to have sat down with him and talk much earlier. Then it would have come from another place and energy and not from when I was fed up.”
  • What is your biggest sadness?
    “The way my family members are dealing with each other. I would like to experience more love, but there is a lot of hurt in all of us, we all have emotions and stories we hold on to. We all need to sit down and express ourselves, clear the air and take responsibility for our own behavior and not blaming others is this pride that says, ‘You did this to me, so I am not going to talk to you.’ It’s a shame, because we all lose out. I miss the times we celebrated Christmas with the whole family, that was so fun and warm. And now as a Buddhist I chant for their happiness. I’m at the point where I’m letting go of the grudge and try to move past the hurt. I didn’t feel loved by my mom, I was always getting punished . Now after nine years of chanting I am able to feel gratitude for both of my parents, I would not be here without them. My mother is a one of the stronger women in my life, and I am who I am because of her.”
  • What do you regret most in life?
    “Not living in the moment. At 35 I went to this self-development training and I realised I had been asleep through most of my life. Everything was just happening to me, I was never in the driver’s seat. I didn’t know where to go, like a rudderless ship. Now I am aware and happily fulfilling my mission- healing myself and other people.”
  • What advice would you give to other women in Europe?
    “Stay true to yourself and follow your heart. Through my practice of Nichiren Buddhism, I have overcome many obstacles and changed my life by chanting ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’. A quote from Nichiren Daishonin I want to share is: ‘Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy and never stop chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!’”
  • What is your biggest dream?
    “Freedom! Being free to be my own woman and getting out of that prison that is called self-criticism. Saying to that critic inside my head, thank you very much, but it’s ok that I am who I am and that I express myself sharply every now and then. Another dream of mine is to live near the sea. Whether it is on a boat, or having an amazing house that overlooks the ocean on the island of Kauai. I’ve always said that I want to have mountains at my back, the beach and a forest around and the sea to look out over. I am taking steps to making that happen.”
  • What does Amsterdam mean to you?
    “I have travelled the world, but Amsterdam is still my base. The international vibe that I encounter while traveling, I encounter here as well. I love that there are so many international people here and that we are open to our differences. Amsterdam is bustling; there are always people on the streets; there is always something to do. I feel really fortunate when I am walking along the canals or on the streets on a beautiful summer evening. I’m happy to be here, to relax in friendly little gems like this café, or just go to a park. Also, the people here are crazy. Look at how we celebrate King’s Day or when our national soccer team wins – everyone is out there and about. Once the party is over, the city is cleaned up immediately. A couple of times I have noticed a slight difference between people who are born and raised in Amsterdam and those who are not. Authentic Amsterdammers want to see what else is out there in the world, but at the same time inhabit this little ‘village’ called Amsterdam. They have this down-to-earth mentality, like, ‘Your business is your business. I’ll deal with mine, you deal with yours.’ Still I experience people are open to helping each other. And they have this boisterous way of showing that they are from Amsterdam. I love this genuine and authentic way of them expressing their love for their city.”

Photos by Mabel van den Top

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