Responsibility and Wellbeing- The Reflection of my catastrophic but enlightening 2020

Time reached 2020, and I have been in the year of my 38th milestone. Living with my loving husband, my two naughty children, and my parents in Switzerland, I have experienced, learned, and inspired so much extra in this particular year. Most people like to label 2020 as the most miserable year in human history. The economy breaks down, the vast number of ill and dying people, the contradiction between the democratic institution and capitalist system, etc. It appears that every citizen, institution, organization, and nation, no matter from which economic level, have been suffering to a large extent in this pandemic. From January with the onset of this Covid 19 pandemic, until now in December, the new version of the virus has emerged in the UK with a much higher spreading speed; this year can be remarkable in human history, with various dynamics described in fears, unknowns, darkness, and restriction. Therefore, on the eve of the new year towards 2021, we expect the alternative path of cheerfulness, knowns, brightness, and freedom. As said in the Chinese proverb, “A green and bright spring will never be far after a long and cold winter.”


My 2020 is an exceptional year. Generally speaking, I have gained what I have lost. Despite tremendous deep sadness and humiliation, I have learned how to stand up from where I have fallen badly. I have suffered very much pain from the physical and mental disintegration, while I have tried re-integrating them in the end. I have so much to appreciate what I have learned from what I have lost, for those who continuously support me and those who have made me even stronger.


There are several significant events in 2020 that happened in my history.


January

In January, I organized the Davos World Economic Forum side event--Identitat Global Forum in Davos, Switzerland, discussing a New World Order theme. Unlike the previous events that I organized, this event was remarkable. We had a full panel of experts/opinion leaders from the East and the West, delivering their perspectives to the global audience. I learned a lot as an entrepreneur and scholar from this event because each step encountered many uncertainties and risks.


February

In Feb, I experienced the second time of discrimination and bullying in my workplace, after the first bully case in May 2019. The same senior faculty deprived my rewarding research fund, office, supervision rights to Ph.D. students, even against the labor law and regulation. His allies also deprived my research membership and job tasks in the end. As an Asian immigrant scholar and professor in West Europe, my past journey taught me to work extremely hard and never complain. With many international awards and global recognition, which other seniors couldn’t achieve, I started to encounter gossips and misconducts from a few of senior faculties. When I reported the bully case to the senior leader, I was told to be quiet with a “friendly advice” to leave because of my ambitiousness, excellence, and being a mother (so I should be home looking after my children). This format of “you deserve to be bullied” because of “you are too good“ bothered me quite a lot. After experiencing tremendous pain in body and mind after I chose to be quiet after losing my unborn baby due to the bully-related stress in June 2019, I decided to speak up and let this ugly behavior emerge on the surface, more disappointment and injustice came along with the mentality of the leader. In addition to protecting the abuser and asking me to be quiet, it seems the institution and the leader did not want to have anything to do with it. Every abuser tried to hide behind and pretend nothing has happened. With lots of stress, I, unfortunately, lost my unborn twins at the end of February. This time of losing unborn kids completely pouched me down to the earth. Physically and mentally, I had hardly stood there. Eventually, my medical doctors urged me to break and leave all the bully cases to the attorney.


March

In March, I was very honored to be selected as one of the 2020 Harvard Business Review China Management Mentors. The job is imparting management theories and practical experience to Chinese enterprises and managers, facilitating the development of future entrepreneurs, and jointly contributing to the prosperity of business management practices in China. This honorable job is an excellent confirmation of my work after so many years, and also it supports my belief in the connection between academics and practice.


This month, I faced the betrayal from one of my Ph.D. students whom I brought to Europe to study and to do research with me and for whom looked after as my family member. The pain and scar were deep, which added extra salt to my existing pain from being bullied and losing unborn babies.


April

The Covid 19 pandemic spread to Europe. I remember in early Feb when China was already in the deep hot water of this pandemic, I wrote a letter to the University leader, giving him the reason that we must be cautious and responsible for our students' health safety on the campus. I suggested applying measures and a digital education system as early as possible to avoid the unsavable damage. Unfortunately, this letter received nothing positive back. And, predictably, the consequences of this pandemic to the education campus like ours are severe.

Similarly, due to the carelessness and improper focus (only on the elusive side of the economy rather than the consequences of the economic crisis because of the pandemic), the whole of Europe played themselves under a mess, with endless difficulties in dealing with epidemic from the individual level to the national and EU level. The fundamentals of such a consequence were the misinformation about the new-landed virus, people’s distrust of institutions, geopolitical distrust at the country level to each other, and misunderstanding at the mass level about the merit of freedom, the value of life, and the essence of democracy. For such a series of discussions, I had written a number of articles published at the various outlets during the pandemic lockdown. Mainly thanks to Harvard Business Review China for posting my thoughts and opinions.


May

The Post-lockdown time: During the period of lockdown, I also tried overwhelming myself with the practice of Taichi, Qigong, meditation, and exploiting traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine. My Taichi Wellness Club has attracted many peers to join me in practice to integrate the whole health and wellbeing. My health (mentally and physically), with the help from the medical doctors, love and care from my family, and the daily practices, has been gradually back to track. Very grateful! I got my lost unborn baby returning after two miscarriages and encountering the loss of three baby souls on my shoulder. My current pregnancy carrying my baby girl, Angelina, has been safe and sound so far since June. Yes! 2020, definitely to me, when I faced a series of vivid baby souls leaving me and coming back to me, is a disaster, but also is a TREASURE.


August

August is probably my surprisingly no-disaster month in 2020.


First, the Swiss immigration bureau issued my parents’ residence in Switzerland, allowing them to live with me in this country. I am a single child for my parents. Having them next to me in the senior ages is my fortune and the biggest happiness for them.


Second, my loving husband and I organized our belated wedding in August with a small group of friends. As an important milestone, this ritualized and simple wedding was arranged for our kids, our lost unborn babies, and our coming dearest Angelina. Yes. I cried when I was standing with the vows from my husband and tearing down when I vowed mine (we wrote our vows to each other, instead of using the traditional standard ones). I felt very blessed to have my husband in my life and very thankful we can be supportive to each other, no matter what.


Third, in the same month, the Dutch Customs who violated my right as a Dutch citizen at the Schiphol airport on Nov. 14th, 2019, finally acknowledged their misbehavior after almost one year of legal procedure. They paid a sincere face-to-face institutional apology at my attorney’s law firm and sent me the official apology letter with determination to correct their attitude and misbehavior. I felt significant relief after this case. Being an overseas Chinese, I have experienced explicitly and implicitly discrimination at different levels with different formats as the daily normal. Experiencing this individual-institutional legal case with the Dutch Customs, I learned that injustice could be happening everywhere and to everyone. But whether you deserve justice or not is based on your willingness to respond. I didn’t expect my case with the Dutch Customs to find so much acclaim and resonance from fellow victim immigrants (Chinese and Asian people). But I am very grateful, because eventually, this case's success helped many others I do not even know but shared the same experience with me. Perhaps, the consequences of the bullying case against me from my workplace will be the same, being able to help many other women and minority professors speak up and make a stand for their fair and just treatment.


October

The pandemic in Europe does not have a sign of slowing down. Everything was still following the online and digital mode. The benefit is that the connection cost is reduced significantly compared to the previous offline/on-field way. However, the downside is that you have to learn to “live relatively with yourself” (because of less social life and offline contact). Together with my experience in 2020, this downside benefit (where the whole world is forced to slow down) has given me a peaceful moment to reflect on the core of life and the merit of responsibility and freedom. Even we all have families, friends, communities, etc., around, eventually, on each typical day and moment, we are just with ourselves. You are only with yourself, and I am just with myself. We all can respond to our surroundings. But the point is whether we’d like to use this ability to respond and open up our willingness to respond. I realized that responsibility is not about action; it is about a way of being. Contradictory to the concept of “giving up all responsibility and you will be free,” in fact, in our experience of life, the more we can respond to everything around us, the freer you are. This applies to the individual level but also the institutional level. Recalling the way Europe responding to this pandemic, we can see that it is a show of absence of willingly response, except the logic each government held to either underestimate the pandemic impact or blame other countries for creating such a virus. It seems that we/they are trying to control our life with logic, but in the end, the logic can only help to handle the material aspect of life. Beyond, if you still use the logic created from your previous memory/experience, you will be easily ending up with a mess. From this sense, I realized responsibility is not a reaction but is conscious awareness, offering us the choice of action.


By realizing the above, I accepted my medical studies peers’ request to help them negotiate with the medical university having their legal/legitimated diplomas that they deserved from the study and agreement. The procedure has been progressing until this moment with many milestones and achievement, even though also with so many troubles and unexpected circumstances where many of the students who were acting disappointingly and irresponsibly. Even on the half-way where we have seen the fraudulent party of this case (the University) trembling, this journey taught me that with responsibility, it is possible to transform the most significant adversity into a stepping-stone for further growth. In other words, if you take one hundred percent responsibility for the way you are now, it is possible to have a brighter tomorrow. But if you take no responsibility for the present—but blame others for the way you are, you have forsaken your future even before it comes. Again, responsibility is your ability to respond, to wake up your thoughts and emotions to be conscious of the reality and the fact.


Nov.- Dec.

Among all others, the most grateful I have had so far is having a partner who is willing and capable to share the same value and thought with me. By listing what I have experienced in 2020, with tears, pains, and joys, each piece of the memories could drive my psychological reaction. I am very grateful my husband is always there supporting me, during my most challenging period.


From my 2020, I realized that if you are in a compulsive cycle of reactivity, memory can only distort your perception of the present, that you might lose the ability to respond consciously to the present, of course, an opportunity to grow yourself. By observing how my husband has been going through his challenges and difficulties day by day, and still cheerfully looking up and forward with his big smile and positive attitude, I always have a beautiful thought flying across my mind that everyone has the ability to embrace unlimited expansion, if he/she is willing to. This inspiration taught me to truly understand that the essence of life is you and yourself and the responsibility you have been carrying in your life process. In other words, the only thing that can block you or stand between you and your wellbeing is that you have allowed your thoughts and emotions to take instruction from the outside rather than the inside. Once you embracing this fact, it will give you borderless power within to embrace the true essential of life.


Departure from this enlightening, in Dec. 2020, my husband and I took an opportunity to set up our university--- Singularity Academy in Switzerland and a spinoff True Healing Clinic in Germany. We want to help more people to conquer their challenges and reach their integrative wellbeing status—the singular point where peace, joy, happiness within them is able to drive them to uncover their potential of responsibility (in and out) and embrace the surrounding with the pleasant--- that’s what we usually called Success!


In the end, on the eve of 2020, I want to say, 2020 is not merely a challenging year, a “disaster” year; it is a gratifying year and enlightening year for me. I want to pay my highest appreciation to this year, to those who have given me endlessly (un)conditional support and those who have brought me to this level where I am gratefully converting the adversity to my beautiful life adventure.


Ying ZHANG


29-12-2020

Klosters, Switzerland