Who am I?
I am a nineteen-year-old girl from Baambrugge, a tiny village near Amsterdam, with big ambitions. I like to set big goals for myself, I like to explore my own boundaries and see if I can expand them.
What are my ambitions?
I plan to swim the English Channel in July of 2018. To know more about how I’m going to train for this challenge or to know more about the English Channel in general check out the ‘The English Channel’ tab.
How did I get into swimming?
When I was nine I was part of a gymnastics club. Eventually I wanted to try something new because I had done this for quite some years and well, I sucked at gymnastics. I was alright I suppose but I wasn’t as good as Jaimie for example which might’ve made me a bit jealous.
Anyway I was looking for something new and one of the older girls invited me to join her swim practice. Unfortunately I needed to get my swim diploma C for that before I was ready to join Linda but after a couple of weeks I finally joined her.
There were five lanes; the older ones got to swim in lanes 1, 2, 3 and the younger ones, including me in lanes 5 and 6. It was a while ago but I remember that I liked it and that Linda told me I was quite fast.
Every training we cycled there and back together, which was only for like a month because that’s when I moved to Hong Kong. But I had already gotten the feel of swimming; I joined a swimming club there and continued to train there. When I moved back in 2011 I rejoined Linda’s club.
How did I get this crazy idea?
So back in Holland I rejoined de Meerkoeten. After one year of swimming I felt that I wanted to accomplish something great. I had seen Ranomi Kromowidjojo swim at the Olympics and I was inspired. I thought I had the potential to do something like that too. So I wanted to start training for the Olympics but I never really got it off the ground.
Eventually I joined rugby next to my swimming but after a year I kept going to both trainings less frequent. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for rugby and the swimming pool of my club was about to close, they were going to build apartments there. When the pool closed I didn’t join a new club and I didn’t play rugby either. I wasn’t doing anything…
I knew that swimming across the channel was a thing, something like climbing the Mount Everest. The idea was in my head that I wanted to do it but more like an ‘oh that’s pretty cool to accomplish’ dream rather than an actual plan.
A year passed, I still wasn’t sure what sport to take up and I broke my wrists during a ski trip with school. I had given up trying to find a new sport I’d like yet the idea of crossing the Channel was still there.
When I was fully rehabilitated I started doing more research on the Channel as it was still on my mind. I came across Marcel van der Togt who had guided many people with goals like this and I sent him an email asking advice on how to approach a challenge like this. After one training session and talk with him I was sure: I want to swim across the English Channel.
Why am I doing it?
I don’t have a clear reason, in the sense that I’m not doing it for a cause. I just woke up one day with the idea and it wouldn’t let me go. I have always wanted to achieve something great. I have always wanted to prove to others and to myself that I was capable of doing something extraordinary.
Proving something to others is the wrong reason of course and if that is your main reason then you will never be able to achieve something to impress others because it won’t be motivational enough. You won’t be passionate about it and it won’t come from within you. You won’t have a personal drive.
But my years at school have been hard. I missed Hong Kong desperately and I couldn’t really fit it. I was extremely insecure, I didn’t know what I wanted and I started to question if I really knew myself. I felt empty, lost, alone, misunderstood, estranged from the world.
I needed a break from the normal way of doing things: school, university, get married, have kids, grow old. I decided to take a gap year to swim the Channel for my personal development.
I needed to find myself, to find peace within, to gain confidence and self-love, to learn to be proud. I needed to know the value of sacrifice, determination, and patience. I needed to know what it felt like to start something and push through to the end instead of giving up beforehand because of feeling discouraged. I needed to expand my mental, physical and spiritual boundaries.
The reason I’m not doing it for a good cause/charity is because I want to be focused on my personal development. I’m doing this to benefit my well-being and to inspire others to explore and expand their own boundaries.
I might not have mentioned this before but I have an irrational fear of swimming in open water.
Before I started training I had just enough courage to jump into the water, swim for twenty seconds and get out as fast as possible again.
Under the ‘stay updated’ tab you can find a video of my first few training sessions in open water and you can follow how I’m conquering my fear of swimming in open water.
When swimming in open water you’re just so aware of all the space underneath you and that you actually have no idea what goes on down there. In my head, a shark, alligator, piranha or even something as ridiculous as evil mermaids or the monster Cthulhu could grab me at any time.
I honestly have no idea how I ever got the idea to swim the Channel with my fear for open water but it seemed a side issue while I was formulating the idea. As I started training I realized this might be the biggest obstacle I’d be facing but I now see that it’s becoming easier the more I get acquainted with the water.
That being said, you don’t overcome your fear in a day: it takes time, perseverance, a positive attitude and above all: support! 🙂