A few weeks ago I sat in the Volkshotel lobby on a rainy Tuesday.
I had gotten to Amsterdam at 9, recorded a podcast that morning about social pressure, together with Anouk (who blogs here!) and host Krista Arrïens and because I was going to Mayra’s book launch party later that day, I stayed in Amsterdam.
I like days like that; hopping from appointment to appointment and killing time in between. I brought my laptop so I could write and my WSET study books so I could prep for my upcoming exam. After figuring out a place to work with good coffee I settled down in the Volkshotel for a few hours of work.
As I was ploughing my way through a chapter about Chardonnay, my eye fell on a boy who was also sitting at a table, studying. Clearly high school age, decked out in cool clothes. On his table I saw few school books that were obviously math related, and one of those exam prep manuals. Fully focused, he was working on something, big ass calculator in hand.
He was clearly doing his studying; it is exam season after all. “Good for him,” I thought. He got all his stuff he came here and he sat down to study and figure shit out to pass his exam.
I thought about how lucky he was that he could do his studying in this lobby but also quickly reminded myself it could also be a necessity; if your home is loud and chaotic with messy siblings, you might have to find another place. In any case, I think that if a high schooler wants to pass their exams, their family and surroundings have to facilitate them doing that. Maybe let them off the hook with a little less time doing chores, some tutoring either by a parent or an actual tutor, and other resources to pass an exam. Books, but also time and space, love and support.
I looked at that kid and felt lucky myself. I’ve always been privileged and blessed with people around me who facilitated me accomplishing the things I wanted.
It takes a village to do basically anything
The saying is it takes a village to raise a child, but I’d like to pose it takes a village for one person to succeed. We don’t succeed in a vacuum. Some people succeed despite their environment, but most succeed because the environment enabled them to do so.
I know that’s definitely the case for me. Surrounded by lovely supportive enablers, I get to at least try to be semi-successful in what I do.
In fact, the person who I spend the most time with (Vin) has from the jump been the cherry on top of the Ice-cream Sundae of SWEETHEARTS.
As I was working on my book*, while working 32 hours a week, Vin was a champ. He cooked me dinner, brought my cups of tea in my workroom, went to friends’ parties by himself. He’d leave me alone on Saturdays. He’d tell his parents he’d come over for coffee at their place instead of them coming over to ours. That’s what he did to give me the room to make my manuscript happen.
But also my friends, who let me be aloof and absent-minded, who let me cancel plans or be unavailable for weeks and weeks while I was meeting deadlines, and still loved me anyway. Other friends, who let me complain about something cool like writing a book, and loved me anyway. My family who didn’t give me shit for skipping out on birthday parties and loved me anyway.
Colleagues let me complain or be dramatic, they didn’t get annoyed when I disappeared during my lunchbreak to do some quick editing. My manager, who let me use random days off for radio interviews after the book was published.
What if I had had a shitty village?
Now imagine if I had a shitty and self-absorbed boyfriend. Imagine I was dating a guy who started pouting every time I was in my workroom writing, who stubbornly refused to let me off the hook when he wanted me to cook (“because I’m important too!), who kept badgering me about housekeeping while I had deadlines to meet.
Imagine I had friends who were indignant and passive-aggressive about the fact I would sometimes choose a laptop and a cup of tea over hanging out with them at a bar.
Imagine if my parents had been dismissive of my interests and hobbies, who didn’t want to put me through university, and who didn’t support my frivolous writing and ambitions. Imagine my coworkers demanding my time during my lunchbreak, or the hour before appointments.
Honestly, even though I would have tried? I wouldn’t have been able to write a book. I wouldn’t even have the time or energy to write these blogs probably.
It takes a village.
So take a look at your village, your environment? Is your village deadset on supporting you, does it not care or is it actively in your way (for whatever reason)? Is it facilitating or debilitating?
And how are you going to deal with that?
Because it also takes YOU
Because no, you don’t succeed in a vacuum and it takes the people and things around you to align…but it also takes YOU.
No matter how supportive your loved ones, no matter how flexible your boss, how ideal your parttime job is to combine with your hustle, how great your parents are for babysitting your kid while you finish your degree, no matter your great office:
If you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen.
If that kid had told his mom “I’m going to study!” and I would have watched him play Fortnite for three hours, he would have squandered the opportunity he had been given.
If every time Vin had enabled me to focus on my writing I would have been watching Netflix instead, the book would still never have gotten finished.
Something has got to happen that only YOU can do, or else things will not come to fruition either.
Take a look at your village, and take a look at yourself. It’s the combination that makes it work.
*NOT an affiliate link, but now that I have your attention…if you’ve read my book please leave it a good review on Bol.com! Reviews really help it be more visible and I’d love it if Je Moet (Bijna) Niks continued to do well. It’d be amazing if you could do that for me.