The Truth About 2018

2018 was a bad year. An unforeseen one. Unforseeingly bad. As usual, it started off with my letter to the universe, revolving around all the wishes and dreams I had for 2018. It was planned to take a year off of showing, a relaxed year was supposed to be ahead with plenty of time on the weekends, traveling and enjoying my time. And as so often, it came completely different.

The jar of gratitude

Already in the first quarter, I quit my job. The one I had thought I was meant to be in. The perfect job for me with lots of traveling and lots of contacts to interesting people. I had the time of my (work) life when it comes to experiences I made during this job. And then I quit it. Moreorless, all of a sudden. I had no idea what to do back then in March, I even started working on my first start-up which did not go as planned either.

Hafl and I were supposed to be training hard and working on our flaws during our one-year break. All seemed perfect with that little extra time I had at hand during the job break. But then Hafl became sick - he needed to undergo surgery again, this time he even had to stay in the hospital for a month! Thanks to his sarcoids, I had no idea whether those massive wounds would ever heal, we tried hard to tuck them together but one of them kept bursting open. It was a month of constant fear and actually, I was thinking of having to put him down. I guess not even the vet was a 100% sure all the time that we could make it work. And it is not only about those wounds, but it is also about those nasty things coming back - bigger and worse than before.

The plan was to keep Opi, my car, for another two years. He seemed to do so fine and whenever I had him at the garage, I walked underneath and wondered how good he still looked although he had been more than ten years old already. He was not doing fine when he had his near-death experience during my trip to Croatia. What a mess to get him back home, reanimate him and make it work for us again. And then, all of a sudden, he died. Just on my way back home. I was devastated because I literally had no plans to buy a new car, I had not had made up my mind on which car to choose and guess what: after paying the vet bill (remember, it was a MONTH in the clinic!), on top of that, my budget was pretty limited.

I lost friends. They did not die - luckily, but it seems that we have lost each other along the way. People change and so do I and there were longtime friends who obviously developed in a different direction.


At this point, nobody should be surprised that I did not get married in 2018 either. Not even close.

So, with all that, it obviously was a pretty shitty year. Unless you take a second look. I started filling a jar of gratitude some years ago and at the end of the year, I unpack all those tiny pieces of paper and read what I had written back then in the moments of gratitude, things I needed to remember, moments when I was just thankful. It does not matter how big or small, I really try hard to keep that tradition going and write down every single incident of gratitude. And it is truly surprising but the 2018 jar of gratitude was fuller than the ones of the years before. It is true, so many "bad" things happen but so many options led to a learning experience, a moment where I developed. It seems like those bad years give you way more options to feel happy again, and you really start to appreciate those good moments. Well, I really learned a lot during 2018, about me, about Hafl, my family and friends, about others. I dare to say that it even was one of the most interesting years where I developed the most. Again, it is not all about sunshine, you need to learn to dance in the rain. When I opened the jar today, I could hardly read what I had written during the year but in the end, 51 times I remembered how happy I was, against all odds. A reminder of how good life is and that bad things have to happen - and most of the time, they are not that bad.

One of the moments was the time when we were filming a short intro movie for my start-up idea. I decided to have Hafl and some friends in it and it was such a gorgeous day, with lots of fun and laughter. Connected to that, I was so happy when I heard the first feedback on my idea.

When I was fearing to live under the bridge (which would of course never have happened) my mum told me that I could come back home anytime - just to make sure to remind me that there are always options and for sure places that you can go to when you see no way out. And those job offers I got immediately after leaving the company - I am still so happy for those people who wanted me to work in their companies! Those same circumstances also taught me how to better work with my money - a capability that still needs a ton of improvement considering the things I am planning for 2019! And eventually I got a job that is bringing me closer to the fulfillment of my dreams. I also took on a second job for a start-up and I like this office I call the Dutch Office (as the founders are Dutch) so much, that is really fun working late nights for them.

Of course, Hafl is one of the top runners in the list of moments I felt gratitude in. Riding, in general, felt awesome in 2018, even more so when he returned from the clinic and I rode for the first time. Such a good boy trying so hard. His canter improved so much I cannot stop cantering anymore! I simply love it now! And he is so supple - I have no idea how I could have ridden him before, honestly. There were even occasions when barn mates told me that he was doing great. Our first attempts of pirouettes may indicate the way to go! Have I mentioned his first two and one tempis yet? When I saw the progress of his healing wounds, I was close to tears of happiness, just because I knew he would make it - and he did! Coming back home was emotional - even more so when we consider it the last travel with Opi and the trailer. I was also happy for my barn mates I helped a little during the year, who made awesome progress with their horses.

This year, I also had another pep talk at a Rotary Club meeting and I talked about my Ikigai and true meaning of life - one of the most emotional talks ever even though the audience was a bit surprised to put it like that. At least it was my chance of being able to tell others about passion and what it means to me. And I will never forget the best self-presentation I gave at a job interview this year - I will even frame those sheets of paper where I draw my life on!

Due to my job change, travelling was limited but I could not not drive to the Netherlands for my road trip with my family - and I was so happy when my mum told me that she was so much looking forward to this trip. What you need to know is that we have partly Dutch origins, meaning it felt like driving home - and she had never been there before! Let alone my trip to Cologne which would normally have happened as part of my job - being there off duty and still meeting such awesome people like Steve Wozniak felt great.


A dying Opi left a ton of good memories of all the trips and things we had seen together but he also gave way to a new family member, Grisu, my new car. He is still green but he will grow into Opi's shoes and I cannot wait to haul Hafl to the next show!

There are thankfully some friends left, and when one told me that probably my flaws are my best assets, it really made me think. What an AHA moment! And there were friends who cared about any of my problems throughout the year no matter what and who offered help.

Have I told you already that 2018 was the year I developed the most? Well, also physically. When I could not ride, I started running - a thing I would never ever had considered before. I had started Nordic walking again in spring but it seemed that I needed to walk forever in order to see any progress. So I started running in August with as little as two kilometers. I could hardly believe that on Dec. 24, I ran my first 9k! I can hardly believe it.

See, the truth about 2018 is: it was awesome! Nothing happened without a reason and in the end, I turned out to be better me.

Thank you 2018, I cannot wait to empty my 2019 jar of gratitude.

A year full of moments of gratitude


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