I was knitting a scarf at the end of the summer when it was still warm in England, my German friend saw it, laughed and couldn't help asking: ‘Isn't it a bit too early to make this?’ ‘No, no, no,’ I said: ‘In China, we have an idiom, which is “repair the house before it rains”.’ Actually, what I didn't say was I love the colours of this scarf so much, it’s just like a rainbow, a rainbow of dream in my heart.
Dream… Do you still remember the aspiration or goal you used to have? Are you one of those who also think it’s too late to think about the dream? Do you also think life is good as it is now, stable and simple, while secretly you feel so bored and admire others who can still follow their dreams.
When this scarf was half way through, my affection towards it also grew. Those colours seem to represent different phases of our lives, or different moods in our lives — red of enthusiasm; blue of purity; green of hope; grey of gloomy; purple of romance…
Colour of lemon
Have you ever seen a leaf that never withers? Or a sun that never sets? Have you ever seen a bird which never stops flying? Or a person that always smiles? … I believe they exist, but I’ve never seen them, I want to find out. I want to see the different faces of moon from different angles. When there are so many questions in my mind, the colour of life is lemon — confusing and sour. I want to know what it tastes like when the lemon is not sour anymore.
Therefore, I embarked my adventure, with only one camera. I gave up my so-called ‘good’ job in China, and decided to go abroad to study. During the preparation period, I endured doubt and misunderstanding from my family and friends. Perhaps, this is quite common for Western people, as you are more likely to pursue your own dreams, but in China, especially within the traditional values, this is very hard for people to accept, even the most supportive English teacher couldn't resist asking: ‘It’s a nice thing to go abroad, but do you think it might be a bit too late now given your age?’
Too late? I asked myself. No, I am not a tree, after the winter always comes the next spring. I only have one life, if it is already too late, then when is the right time? Can anyone turn the time back? The only thing I could do is believing in myself and never give up.
When I first received the university offer, I was so excited. If it had to be described in colour, then it should be green — full of hope and passion. Not many people knew I had been preparing for this moment for almost five years. After I finished my undergraduate in China, I got a job straight away in a renowned airline company. But it was a temporary contract, so I had to do extra work, with less salary. If my family had not supported me, I could not survive in that city. I worked very hard and after three years, I became a formal employee. Many people thought I was so lucky.
At weekends, I would travel to other cities with my colleagues and try to enjoy my life. It seemed that life was treating me well, and I should be content. But only I knew it was not the kind of life I wanted, even thought I tried my very best to enjoy it. It was too stable and I could see the end of it — settle down, get married, have children, and then spend the rest of my life looking after the family. But, I haven't seen the world yet! This was when the seed of going abroad being planted in my heart. I went to almost every talk relating to studying abroad. Gradually all those terms and phrases I have never heard before became familiar, and finally, I got a university offer.
The green of hope also contains elements of other colours. It wouldn't have been green if I had given up, even for a little bit. If we add the colour of gratitude to the people who had helped us all along the way, the green could also be very warm.
With wishes and blessings from family and friends, I arrived in Scotland. It was midday and the sun shed in the taxi. I called my father, he said it was already evening in China. Some people say blue is gloomy and sullen, but for me, it is the colour of Scotland which is cool and exciting.
It was June. At 11pm, it still had day light. I still remember my friends and I laughing while running alongside the River Clyde, as if we were the seagull flying across the sea and embracing the sky. My mother said she had never seen me as happy as that, and she was happy for me and my choices.
However, life changes, and there is no way that one thing can stay forever.
Looking back, I would like the colour in the end to be orange, because it is tense, but warm. I used to believe hard work could make everything go smoothly. But gradually, I changed my mind with things that happened, like failed exam, homesick, visa expiry and so on. Many setbacks came one after another, and how to face them and deal with them became the most challenging thing. Although I was ready to face all the difficulties, it was still the hardest period I’ve had. I kept telling myself, everything will be fine and keep being positive, never give up. So, I continued working hard and at the same time, I travelled and visited almost all universities in Scotland which have the subjects I am interested in. Also, I asked for interviews with some lecturers. I still remember how nervous I was when I first met a course organiser. She rejected me in the most friendly way, because my language could not match their requirement, and she told me not to give up. For me, that was the very important first step. I’m still grateful for what she said and also for my own courage. After that, I spent my spare time doing charity work, and found a volunteer job in Oxfam. At that point, I was doing an English language course in a language school, and I was happy to be able to practice it outside the curriculum. Every colleague there was my friend and English teacher.
People often say being lucky is one important factor for doing something well. Things that happened to me last year seemed to prove this. At first, I was not lucky, even my English teacher asked me what had happened to me, because they thought I would be the first person to pass the exam, but I did not. Then I changed to another university when everything was going well. I even got the two-year student visa. However, just before the course started, I was told by the university that I could not continue studying there without any proper reason. This only happened to two people, one of which was me. This means we could not continue staying in the UK except I find another university which can give us an offer. But because the time was so short, we had missed many deadlines applying for a different university. According to the new visa rule, most universities who would give an offer would not if they knew we already had the two years visa. I cannot use any words to describe the feeling I had at that time. I did not cry, or say anything, except waking up every night from bad dreams.
One dream that kept occurring was that I stand at the top of a mountain without any clothes, and I saw my mum in front of me, talking to my sisters, I called her loudly, crying: ‘Mum, please help me with some clothes, I am so cold and embarrassed!’. But she could not hear me or see me. When I woke up, the pillow was wet, hopeless.
However, the one thing I knew for sure was never give up and catch every possible opportunity, and I believed that life will be better. It seems I should've used grey to describe that period, but I prefer the orange. Orange is like fire - warm, but could also be burning pain. Without hope, everything turns into ash. Looking back, the only thing I can still feel is love. My friend cried and said: ‘I am too scared to tell my parents about what happened, they will hate me, and other people will laugh at me.’ But, reality proved we were wrong, it’s always love from parents whenever we are down. And the fate should always be controlled by ourselves, not others.
I am still grateful for people I met during that period, for those setbacks, and myself who did not give up. The ‘unlucky’ was the luckiest for me, because it makes my life colourful. Just one week before the visa expired, I sent an email to a teacher who is currently my supervisor, because I found this subject was exactly what I really wanted to learn, and then I was invited to have an interview with him. Finally, I got the new offer from this university, and I was so grateful for this opportunity. Count your blessings, keep the positive attitude, life will become what you wanted. Thank you to all my friends who encouraged me and I will put you all in my heart. Every time when I feel upset, I remember my landlord who loves flowers so much saying to me: ‘Jane, remember to draw back the curtain, let the sunshine come in, then the flowers will grow beautifully.’
If you think everything went smoothly after the new offer, you were wrong. Questions from the Home Office, looking for a new flat, problems from the courses did not allow me to stop working harder and harder. The fact was I actually started to enjoy those difficulties - they did not make me feel helpless and anxious anymore, because I believe if there is a problem, then there is a solution. I would use cyan to describe this period, not blue or green. It is a ‘walking’ colour, you do not know what it will become. I just tell myself, keep smiling, keep being grateful, there is no black night forever, after it, the sun will glow on your face.
Now, I have finished this colorized scarf. It is so warm. I used to think that many things and people are just passengers in my life - if I continue walking ahead, I will forget them. But actually when I look back, all of them are still there, they have bended into my life, like this scarf. I cannot cut off any part of them, if I did, it would not be complete. Sometimes, a picture of me crying in the rain would suddenly occur, but like all other setbacks, it will go away with the rain. There’ll always be rainbow after the rain.
I do not know what colour it will be in the future, I just know, I’m going to see and find the northern lights in a few days time.
Jane (Jie Meng)