Alumni about their dreams: did they come true?
No trains are running between Sittard and Maastricht this week. I’m at the mercy of a small local bus. It drops me off in Bunde, a village where you could hear a pin drop. I ring the doorbell of a terraced house across from a playground. My interviewee’s boyfriend opens the door. “She’s just getting a pie from the bakery round the corner.” Inside, the house smells a bit musty. There’s a cuckoo clock on the wall and a floral-patterned armchair in front of the window. This is going to be the most boring interview of the whole series, I think to myself. Yonne Tangelder (36) soon proves me wrong.
“We’re renting this furnished house for a year. It belongs to a seventy-year-old woman whose husband passed away some time ago. She now lives with her new lover, who is ninety years old.” Yonne wastes no time telling me all about the turbulent life she’s been living. She’s a whimsical, adventurous person who, above all, followed her heart. This won’t come as a surprise to those who read the interview she did sixteen years ago. Her dream for the future was to be free, to do whatever she wanted, to see the world. “I’ll have the rest of my life to work,” she said. After receiving her degree in Psychology in 2006, she put her money where her mouth was. “I wanted to leave. It didn’t really matter where I would go. I was adrift, mentally exhausted. I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted in life.” She ended up in Tromsø, the largest city in northern Norway. It’s a place where the sun never sets in the summer. She would be working for a Dutch professor of Social Psychology there; he repeatedly asked her if she was sure. “He thought I was mad.”
There, near the northernmost point of Norway, she spent six months doing research, asking three hundred people whether they were satisfied with their body. She fell madly in love with one of those three hundred people (she won’t tell me what either of them thought of his body). Yonne followed him all the way to Stord, an island shaped by the oil industry, in the middle of nowhere. “There are a lot of places like that in Norway.” Living there, she was bored to tears. “It’s almost exclusively inhabited by men with too much testosterone. In the pub, they mostly talked about the size of their boat.” After a few months, she managed to convince her boyfriend to travel the world with her – something she’d always dreamt of doing. “A wonderful experience.” Once back in Norway, they bought a flat in Trondheim. It needed work. “We survived travelling the world together, but home renovation ruined our relationship.”
Newly single, she went back to her old love: chess (she was Dutch champion as a child). She met grandmaster Leif at a tournament in Fagernes, yet another Norwegian outpost. “It was love at first sight.” Maybe it was destiny. “On our first date, we found out that we played together at the World Junior Chess Championship in Brazil twenty-five years ago.” Following her heart again, she moved to Oslo to live with Leif and found a job at the drug information service. It wasn’t her dream job, but it was an interesting one. “It’s often parents who call. They don’t know what to do. Ask a few more questions and you realise there are a lot of problems in the family.” Her interest was sparked. “I’d like to work with children in a clinical context and help families regain their balance.” She’s not authorised to use the title of psychologist in Norway with her Dutch degree, though, which is why they currently reside in Bunde. “I’m doing a master’s in Mental Health in Maastricht in the hope of meeting the Norwegian requirements.”
The degree wasn’t the only reason why she temporarily returned to the Netherlands. “My mother had Alzheimer’s for years. We came back to have more contact with her.” She passed away a month ago. “It’s incredibly sad, but I’m glad we were nearby when it happened.”
She and Leif (they’re not married – she already wasn’t interested in marriage years ago: “A ring won’t make my love stronger”) now have a three-year-old son. She enjoys motherhood, although it’s very challenging at times. “He’s a sensitive boy who occasionally throws inexplicable temper tantrums.” She’s changed her mind about using a hands-off parenting style. She used to think she wouldn’t care if her child came home at three in the morning, but she’s learnt (also through her job) that children need limits. “As long as those limits are set lovingly.”
Yonne doesn’t regret the choices she made in recent years. “I look forward, not back.” She doesn’t dream new dreams, though. “If you spend too much time thinking about the future, you don’t live in the moment.”
And that would’ve been the end of this article if it hadn’t been for the brief addendum Yonne emailed us after receiving it. Our interview had made her think. Marriage actually didn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. And that’s why, one sunny Tuesday morning, her son brought his father breakfast in bed and proudly showed him his T-shirt, which said: Dad, will you marry my mum? “It took a few seconds for Leif to understand what ‘marry’ meant, but then a smile lit up his face and he said: gjerne.”
Niels van der Laan
In 2003 we interviewed UM students about their dreams for the future. Now, in 2019, it’s time to check in with them and see where they’re at. They’re about forty years old now; did their dreams come true? We’re using this special year (Observant is celebrating its 40th birthday!) as an opportunity to find out. Former student journalist Niels van der Laan, who wrote the majority of the interview articles in 2003, is writing a fair share of this year’s articles as well. In addition to the previously interviewed alumni, we’re interviewing former Observant student journalists about their fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams.