Photographer:Fotograaf: Own archive/Archive Observant
Alumni about their dreams: did they come true?
His 2003 interview revolved around one thing and one thing only: cars. He wanted to become CEO of Ferrari and would personally save the brand from a takeover by Mercedes or Volkswagen. His house would also have to be big enough to accommodate his fleet of vehicles, which was to consist of five shiny red Italian sports cars for Sunday afternoon drives “and a Golf GTI for grocery runs”. But dreams can change. Sixteen years later, Maarten Scholts (36) doesn’t own a Ferrari – not even close. He drives a Peugeot (“It is a GTI, though!”) and works as a contract manager at… hold on to your hat… NS, the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands.
It isn’t his ultimate dream job, he admits during our interview at a sidewalk cafe around the corner from his place of work in Utrecht. But he’s in the right place now. It took Maarten a while to get there; it hasn’t been smooth sailing for him since our previous interview.
It took him a good while to complete his degree in International Business, for example. “I managed to fail one exam eight times.” He continued to live at home in Weert for the first few years of his studies. “It didn’t help me get into the studying mode, but it was a safe and familiar environment. All my friends lived there and I was still in a relationship with my childhood sweetheart.” That changed when she fell in love with a secondary school teacher who looked exactly like him (“at some point I had complete strangers coming up to me to ask me if I’d marked their tests yet”). Maarten took their breakup as a sign to leave Weert. He moved to Maastricht, where he made “friends for life” at his study association 3MA. But he still didn’t do much studying. “I excelled at doing nothing.”
His partner Bianca would become his “saving grace”. They met at a band night and got talking when Maarten’s date didn’t show up. After a few months of dating, she decided to intervene. “Why don’t you move in with me,” she said, “and I’ll take care of you while you finish your studies.” And so he locked himself in her home, banged out his thesis and finally obtained his degree after nine years of studying. “Thank God I met her. I wouldn’t have got anywhere without her. I’d completely lost myself in less important things. I didn’t want anything, wasn’t learning anything. She kicked me back into gear.”
But that wasn’t the end of it. “It’s not easy landing a job during a financial crisis, especially if it took you nine years to get your degree.” He started working as a mailman just to keep busy. “My career path consisted of a string of coincidences. I even randomly worked for football club Fortuna Sittard for four months, spending days putting season tickets into envelopes. In hindsight, I could’ve been a little more proactive instead of letting myself willingly drift down the river.”
The river eventually brought him to NS, where he blossomed. “As the person responsible for contract management, I try to streamline the entire procurement process.” It’s quite a challenge, considering how large the organisation is. “When I started out, I found a bunch of contracts in the back of a drawer. They’d been forgotten for years, but we were still paying for them.” By now, everything is on track. “I almost made myself redundant.” It’s time, then, for a new challenge. “In addition to my current position, I’ll be managing our contacts with other railway operators, like Arriva and Veolia.”
He doesn’t just enjoy his work, but also his family time. He and his wife (“Actually, no, just write down ‘partner’. My friends keep asking me when we’re getting married, but we secretly already are”) have two sons together, Floris (4) and Valentijn (2). They’re his greatest source of happiness. “I love having water fights in the garden or visiting theme parks with them.” He’s fascinated by his children and how different their personalities are. “Floris likes running around and roughhousing, but he can also spend an hour meticulously creating patterns with ironing beads. Valentijn is very affectionate and loves being read to.” He doesn’t live to work. “I want to teach my children that life should, above all, be fun.”
OK, but can we go back to the marriage part for a second? “I got a job at NS, which is a great company with great employee benefits. And your partner is entitled to share in your retirement benefits. If you’re married, that is.” That’s why they went to city hall on a Monday morning just before he started working at NS. “We even paid an employee of the municipality €12.50 to be our witness.”
Is his family complete now? He’s such a family man – wouldn’t he like to have a daughter? “I wouldn’t, actually. I’d probably just spend all my time lying in wait in the hedge with an air gun to protect her from men.”
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.