S O N J A

 Amsterdam | 2018

S O N J A 

City  Amsterdam
Age  36
Love life Single
Profession In between jobs
Years in Amsterdam 8
Location — Brouwersgracht

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

‘I ALWAYS

THOUGHT

I HAVE

NO FEARS’

  • What makes you really happy?
    “Even when things go wrong, I can still feel happy. But I’m at my happiest when I don’t worry. At the moment I worry about my financial situation, because I’m in between jobs. Three years ago I woke up after a nap and when I looked in the mirror, I saw that the left side of my face was paralysed. Apparently the chickenpox virus I had as a child became active again and I’d gotten Bell’s Palsy. It took a lot of time and energy for my face to heal. Not that I felt particularly sick, but my energy level was lower than usual. I went back to work too soon and got burnt out. Now I feel better again, but when they offered me the opportunity to quit my job, I took it. Of course that means that I don’t receive as much income as I used to. I can’t spend as much money on fun things as I did before, and in the beginning I wasn’t sure if I could make it till the end of the month. When I don’t think about any of this, I am at my happiest.”
  • What is your best personality trait?
    “Staying true to myself and to other people. I don’t placate people. I’m not going to make nice when I think it won’t help you, I’ll give you my honest opinion. That’s why a lot of friends come to me with their difficulties. They know I will give them sincere feedback. When I look around – I love observing other people – I don’t think that everyone has that talent.”
  • What makes you different than other people?
    “I’m free-spirited. People open up to me very quickly. Not only because I’m really open myself, but also because I don’t judge other people. Of course people can do funny or hilarious things in my eyes, but as long you’re not hurting someone else, be my guest, do your thing! Whatever floats your boat… Also, I’m not easily embarrassed, I just go for it and have fun whenever the opportunity for fun presents itself. Plus, I have no trouble laughing at myself.”
  • What is your biggest struggle?
    “That I am not at the place in life I expected to be right now. I am not entirely sure which career I want to pursue, so I am trying to figure it out at the moment. I am a bit envious of people who at a young age already knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life and went for it. I don’t have a thriving career and I don’t own my own home. But I don’t want to keep sharing with roommates forever and worrying about how much money I can spend. I accept that my life turned out this way, but I want it to improve, so I keep developing myself. My goal is to be financially independent, so I can do whatever the hell I want and not be dependent on the government, my parents or anybody else. I love to dream about owning my own house in Amsterdam, in Barcelona or in Curaçao, where I was born.”

  • What is your biggest life lesson?
    “Be you! Stay true to yourself, because if people don’t like you, they won’t like you anyhow. And if they like you, they might as well like you for who you really are, instead of for someone you’re pretending to be, or want to be. Be your best self, trust yourself and do it yourself, because no one is going to do it for you. One of the reasons that I’ve had this mindset since a young age, is that I lost one of my best friends when she was hit by a bus. I was nineteen when that happened and since then, I’ve looked at life differently. I understand that life is short and that nothing makes you more unhappy than not being yourself. So be whoever you want to be. And don’t judge other people if they’re not like you. It’s ok, just love and be loved.”
  • What do you regret?
    “The moments that I didn’t stay true to myself. When this friend died, adults told me I should still attend university, while I believed it would be better to work for a year, save some money, heal my heart and soul a bit and then go to university. But I didn’t listen to myself, because I thought the adults knew better. As it turned out, even at that age I knew what was best for me. Now I think twice whenever someone is trying to tell me what’s good for me. I really try to listen to my heart and soul.”
  • What is the best advice someone gave you?
    “Do whatever feels good to you, because the people that mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind. Sometimes you forget about that, but I was reminded when I got my face paralysis. Some people really cared, some people kind of forgot about me and some people didn’t care at all. I’m grateful that I went through the process, because it was very enlightening to find out who my real friends are. I will benefit from that the rest of my life. But of course it really hurts when you can’t rely on the people you thought you could rely on. Those were lessons learned.”
  • What is the best thing that happened to you?
    “This may sound strange, but my face paralysis. On the one hand, it’s very bad and I’m sad that my face is ruined, but on the other hand it made me wonder, what am I doing with my life? Am I living my best life? Am I doing what I like? And I realised I wasn’t doing that and I needed to change things. Although it wasn’t an easy decision for me, it feels really good that I quit my job. I’ve landed into my own body again and I am kind of starting over. I already know that I would like to work on events or projects, because I am very capable of working under pressure and I like a challenge. I need to be busy, I can’t sit still for too long.”
  • What makes you insecure?
    “Sometimes I still feel insecure about my face. It’s a lot better than it used to be, but when I’m laughing out loud, you can see pretty well that my face doesn’t work on one side. So I don’t like to look at pictures where I’m laughing. It’s not really about being pretty, but it looks weird. Sometimes people try to make me feel better by saying it’s not too bad, but then you’re not acknowledging what has happened to my face. Although I’m not struggling with it on a daily basis, it remains a big thing for me.”
  • What is your biggest fear?
    “I always thought I have no fears, but now I realise I do. Some people thought it was fearless of me to quit my job, but sometimes I think, o shit, what did I do? I feel a little bit scared because I don’t know what is out there for me yet. Was this really the best decision, or will I regret this down the road? But now I know I can be a little bit afraid too. And that’s ok.”
  • What does Amsterdam mean to you?
    “Here I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Amsterdam has everything I need: parks, museums, shops, my friends are here, it’s close to the sea… I think pretty much anyone can be themselves here, and that is so important. I believe no other European city is so open-minded. A lot of women in Amsterdam have this sense of independence and freedom here. And tourists come to Amsterdam especially to experience that freedom. We have transvestites, Gay Pride, the Red Light District. And of course the weed. All those tourists smoking joints don’t bother me at all. Although I do notice that they believe it’s a normal thing to do on the terrace of a regular café. I often think, dude, where are your manners?”

Photos by Mabel van den Top

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