27 May

Chapter 13: Discovering pathways of opportunity (1)

Earlier, I posted Chapter 1-12 of my new series of blogs, which will collectively form an online book. Below, I have attached Chapter 13. For Chapter 14 click here.

Chapter 13: Discovering pathways of opportunity (1)

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Since this is primarily a fictional story, please do not take everything I write too seriously.

As the clock inched closer to the grand farewell of another year, the world outside painted a scene straight out of a festive postcard. The panorama before us was alive with the spirit of New Year’s Eve, its vibrancy loudly declaring the arrival of celebrations. Through the window, Elara and I observed for a minute the bustling streets of the Netherlands, where the cold air was crisp yet welcoming—a refreshing change from the usual dampness that cloaked the city. The absence of rain always felt like a rare gift in the Netherlands, allowing the winter light to cast a magical glow over everything it touched.

People were in a hurry, their steps quickened by the ticking clock, as they sought to wrap up their work and gather the perfect gifts. It was a dance of anticipation, each movement choreographed by the desire to reunite with family and friends, to share in the joy and hope that the New Year promised.

It was still hard for me to believe that the turmoil of the previous years was now behind us. All those crises that I worried about in my thirties are almost over. Those years of turmoil, which once seemed like impassable peaks, were now behind us, leaving in their wake the promise of a fresh start—a new beginning that would finally allow the hopes of a world full of limitless possibilities, persistent equality, and shared wealth to take root and blossom. As the festive chaos unfolded outside, I found myself lost in this deep thought once again.

Suddenly, Elara turned to me with a look of intrigue, her curiosity sparked by a side of me she had never known. “Interesting,” she remarked, her eyes glinting with curiosity. “I never knew you were so deeply involved in hacking. You’ve never mentioned it before. Did your parents and friends have any idea you were engaged in such activities?”

Her question transported me back to those undercover nights spent in front of a bright screen, exploring the digital underworld. The fun of breaking through security and the relief of obtaining the desired information used to be my own thing when I was young. Overshadowed by the mystery of leading a double existence, I was truly journeying alone into this virtual world of technology and hacking. The complexity of this world was also a language not easily understood by those around me; its meanings and challenges were too far removed from the everyday conversations of those around me.

I chuckled, shaking my head. “No, they had no idea. It was my little secret, my escape from the chaos of the world. Besides that, many wouldn’t understand, and the consequences of revealing such a part of me could be awful. For example, I knew that if I started talking about such things in real life, for example, with my parents, not only would they become angry, but I could also lose my laptop. It was just too risky to consider losing this laptop, which served as my gateway into the digital world. Even more terrifying was the idea of being cut off from the internet, losing all connection to the network that had become my second home.”

I added, “I never discussed my hacking experiences with friends or anyone in real life also. I understood the potential troubles it could bring, especially since hacking was strictly forbidden when I was young as I mentioned before. So, to summarize, I ended up leading a double life. In the real world, I was perceived as this cute and quiet girl who excelled in school, but wasn’t heavily involved in activities outside the house or with many friends. And at home, in the digital world, I could be the “real me,” living a life that surpassed the imagination of many.”

I stopped and continued, “It’s strange, isn’t it, how we all have these hidden facets?” I asked.

Elara nodded, her curiosity growing. “Well, I can assure you that many didn’t have such an adventurous lifestyle like you. And it makes me wonder what other secrets you might be hiding,” she remarked, amused.

I laughed and said, “I can assure you that even now, as we speak, those around me may not truly know who I am. The people around me, those who think they see the entirety of who I am, are still blind to the depths of my past. They see the surface—calm and collected—never suspecting that beneath it lies a history intertwined with the clandestine world of digital exploration and secret identities,” I admitted.

With a shadow of disappointment etched across my face, I found myself confessing even more: “At the tender age of 16, as I mentioned earlier, I made a vow to myself to abandon the clandestine world of hacking, to step away from the seductive shadows of the deep web. The digital realm was my true playground, my kingdom. That was where I belonged, my territory, my domain. But I decided to let it go; I made up my mind never to use those talents again, or so I thought.”

With a rueful smile dancing on my lips, I continued, reflecting on my younger self’s innocence, “Little did I know, in the naivety of my youth, that the things I tried to hide, what was already a part of me, would actually be what would save me later on. As I grew up, I had to use those skills I thought I buried deep inside. I needed to use them once again in my adult life.”

I leaned back, sensing that the journey of self-discovery was unfolding before me like a vast, uncharted ocean. Reflecting on this, I continued, “The skills that I never would have guessed I had back then have had a significant impact on my life, a realization that is only dawning on me now. You know, even after all these years, I still struggle to completely grasp certain aspects of myself. I realize that there are parts of myself where I excel, yet I am unable to fully understand them. It’s as if my mind is operating at a frequency that I’m not fully aware of. I’m still fascinated by this unsolved mystery, this complex dance of neurons and synapses, and the intricate way my ideas and experiences connect in my mind. This puzzle continues to captivate me. I promise to circle back to this topic, to explore more deeply into the labyrinth of my psyche. But for now, let me share another important chapter from my past.”

“So, to get back on track with our main topic,” I continued in an introspective tone, “I had to undertake an internship as a way of gaining practical experience when I turned 16.” I chose the Netherlands Refugee Center since it was near my house, and I knew a few individuals who worked there. It was a place filled with stories of strength and optimism, where I found a strong connection with my mentor. She guided me through my internship, offering wisdom and support.

One day, in the midst of our work, she asked me about the decision-making process behind the educational program I was enrolled in at that time. With a heavy heart, I explained to her that I hadn’t really chosen it – I felt forced into it.

“I dreamed of becoming a lawyer in this country,” I explained, “to help those in need and defend human rights. But the Dutch education system, with its tough rules, didn’t make it easy for newcomers like me. It limited my options for higher education, so I ended up in a school that didn’t fit my ambitions.” And then I explained to my mentor all the details and paths I was forced to follow that weren’t aligned with my wishes.

When my mentor heard my story, her eyes lit up. ‘Hold on,’ she said excitedly, ‘I might have a solution for you!'”

It was in that moment that I saw her not just as a mentor but as a remarkable human being, whose essence I had grown to admire deeply. Her short hair framed a face of striking beauty, and she stood there, a vision in her green T-shirt and jeans, a symbol of possibility and new beginnings. In the dimly lit room, she moved with purpose toward a wooden cabinet that stood solemnly in the corner. Its surface was cloaked in a fine layer of dust—a testament to its long-standing neglect. With a gentle pull, she opened the wardrobe, her fingers dancing over the contents until they settled on a single piece of paper. She returned to where I sat, anticipation coiling in my stomach.

“Look at this information folder,” she began, her voice laced with a mixture of hope and resignation. “I think this school will be much more suitable for you and will expedite your journey to higher education.” Her eyes met mine, carrying a weight of disappointment that she tried to mask. “You see, there is, however, a complication—or rather, two.”

She paused, collecting her thoughts before continuing. “This school offers a special program designed for higher educated refugees. It’s tailored for individuals over the age of 21 who have completed 12 years of education outside the Netherlands and can provide proof of such. Unfortunately, Marya, you meet neither of these criteria. You’re 16, not 21, and you haven’t completed the necessary years of education required for admission.”

A heavy silence fell between us, punctuated only by the ticking of the clock on the wall. “But still, perhaps they can offer some guidance, or maybe there’s another path that leads to higher education for you. I’m not sure. See what you can do with this.” She extended the piece of paper toward me, her gesture a mix of encouragement and resignation. As she said her goodbyes, I noted the time—nearly 5 PM. A quirk of Dutch culture, the workday here always concludes at this hour, a routine as predictable as the setting sun. Left all alone in the office, I decided to linger a while longer, curiosity guiding me to explore the school’s website, hoping against hope to find a sliver of opportunity in the words she had left unspoken.

Click here for Chapter 14.

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