BFF | Having confidence in your own abilities


My mother had a no-nonsense approach when it came to raising me and my three siblings. When I was angry at my mother I yelled: “I will jump out of the window!” She looked at me calmly and said: “And if you are not dead … you will also get spanked.”

Don’t get me wrong, we had a nice childhood, although we did grow up in a very strict and protective environment. For example, my parents drove me back and forth to school, to friends and so on. Biking or public transportation was not an option.

During my teens, in the 1980s, turmoil had the upper hand in Suriname. A military regime brutally took over the government. This impacted many aspects in Suriname, including the quality and continuity of the educational system. Lack of teaching supplies, teachers, and food, together with low expectations of the future, drove students to protest against the military regime. The slogan “No bread, no school!” often echoed through the street of Paramaribo. Due to this unstable political and economic situation, the school doors remained closed for a long time. These times cultivated in people from my generation an enormous drive to break free and make the best of life, regardless of your situation.

Right after these turbulent times, I finished secondary school and wanted to go to medical school in Suriname. Unfortunately, I was not selected. I was not interested in other fields of study in Suriname and decided, under slight pressure of my mother, to go abroad. After a short detour, I ended up in the Netherlands, a route that is very familiar to Surinamese youth.

My initial days in the Netherlands were very difficult. I had an abundance of food, learning supplies and a good outlook on the future, but still it was a daily struggle between continuing or quitting my studies, chemical engineering at TU/e. On the one hand, I enjoyed the freedom. On the other, as an incredibly shy youngster, I had to deal with prejudice and people who had little faith in my abilities.

Also, my own insecurities and disappointing study results during the first two years at TU/e aggravated this difficulty even more. Furthermore, I spoke Dutch but had trouble with the Dutch accent, the directness and humor of the people, being at the university from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of the work schedule suited to a tropical climate from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All these things brought my spirit down. One afternoon in my first year at TU/e, after a tiring chemistry lab session, I walked towards my bike. It was raining cats and dogs. No parents at my service to take me home. I realized then and there that I was on my own. A tear rolled down my cheek.

Mi no worry mi no care mi go marry millionaire if he dies mi no cry mi go marry other guy. This was written on many pages of my cool diary and that of many of my friends in Suriname. Now I see this as a metaphor that everything in life is expected to come to us without much effort. In the Netherlands this perception of life broke down little by little.

Believe it or not, I’m not married to a millionaire. Through all these setbacks I have developed a mindset worth more than a million dollars. Standing on your own two feet and having the confidence that you will get through difficult periods no matter what, that is what I wish for everyone. Don't avoid the difficult times. These times will train your ability to rise after falling!

For a short bio of Monique (Frizzy) look here. 

BFF | Bald, Frizzy or Flowing is a joint initiative of Willem Mulder (Bald), Monique Bruining (Frizzy) and Luc Brunsveld (Flowing), that they started at the beginning of 2023 on the site of Cursor.

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