COVID-19 pandemic is giving most of us cabin fever and making most of our demons resurface.
Today I want to talk about hugs and human connection. If you know me, you know I am a very huggy person and the type that hugs people for no real reason just that I feel like it.
A few years ago I moved to Germany for college. I moved away from my family, my country, from everything I have ever known. The fact that I moved to a place where people are less warm towards each other meant I had no choice but tone down on my hugging.
About a year ago I started working at a bar. This allowed me to meet new people from different places, doing different things and also if I would say, diving into the Bremen community. My first realization was that there are more internationals here than I thought and that we were not that different as I initially thought; well no one will beat my Rwandan people when it comes to hugging. But with my new job came new friends and Natalya.
Natalya moved to Bremen from Guyana in 2015, and just like me, she moved for university too. She has been working at the bar for 2 years now so she is my senior, and she used to always give me pointers about how things were done but would always apologize after her statement. I was always confused about why she did it and it led me to ask her why she was very apologetic for just helping me improve. She answered that many people are easily offended by the tiny comments made even if it was for the smooth running of the business. This conversation led to another and we started talking even more and becoming friends, adding each other on social media(the only way we Millennials and Gen Z know how to run a relationship) and yes, she ended up finding my blog and made constructive comments about my writing and I even confessed to her how I was dealing with block now and then.
One event that prompted our friendship was the hugging lady. During my trial period at the bar, this random sweet lady came up to me and randomly hugged me. She hugged me again as she was leaving the place. I later found out that she is a regular client at the bar and that was her way of welcoming me there. Honestly, her actions put a huge smile on my face. I had not hugged anybody in a while. At the end of my shift, Natalya asked me why I was so jolly and I told her the story. And that’s when she decided to share the following story with me.
During Natalya’s trial month at the bar, the same lady hugged her multiple times in the same evening and till today she hugs every employee she walks by when she comes in. But Natalya confessed how these woman’s hugs brightened her days and the way they saved her life. Like most of us the change, being far from all you have ever known, the culture shock and everything can sometimes be too much to handle. Considering that also some people are already carrying heavy emotional and mental baggage. Natalya is the firstborn in a family of two and her younger sister is 14 years younger than her. Not only is she a role model to her younger sister, but also she was raised by her parents in a way that showed her that their expectations were way too high and she had no right to make any mistakes on the way. “Yes, it is good to push your children but sometimes you break them instead of bringing the best out of them,” said Natalya explaining how she feels about her parents.
Natalya is enrolled in a German-speaking university and had to learn the language for a year to then enrol in her desired university program. But learning her actual courses in this foreign language was nearly impossible. Maybe it’s because she lost interest in the subjects she loved and continued just to please her parents. All this pressure pushed her to conclude that people die and life goes on so her life wasn’t any more important and decided to end it. She had it all planned, she even wrote a letter to her parents apologizing for her actions. She had planned to drown herself in the Weser (a river in Northwestern Germany goes all around Bremen). That fateful evening, the hug lady came in and as usual hugged everyone and Natalya too. After the hug, there were no initial feelings towards it. It was normal. It was the next morning when she realized the profound effect of that simple hug. She always thought she was invisible in this foreign world. In that hug, she found what she missed about life and decided to give life another chance. Here we were two years later and she was sharing her story.
Natalya’s story taught me that no matter we might be going through there is always a reason to stay alive. Like this lady living in this cold northern German society who had refused to conform to societal norms and lived her life the way she wanted it to be by distributing hugs to strangers. We tend to give much importance to things such as a degree, a career, how we will be judged forgetting that what we are all looking for is a reason to live life. The only place we will find it, is within our souls or other people’s souls will pass it on to us and, well, pets(So let’s say God’s creations, not man creations).
For this suicide prevention month, let us help each other heal. Be human with your colleagues, smile at everyone whenever you get the chance, greet the security guy at your door. We live in a crazy world and we all have it hard every single day so let’s just help each other go through the day, this will be the only way we’ll be making an actual impact.