Get to know me

I am curious at heart about what it is to live well. This question has been close to me, and will, I’m sure, be close to me my whole life. When working with others, my curiosity is dedicated to them and to their lives; at the same time I show up as a fellow-traveller, from the shared human desire to engage with life and its vicissitudes as richly and fully as we can.

There is something about how our academic career stories are intertwined with what we're really seeking in life that is so fascinating and important - I became a coach because of it.

If you’d ask my ambitious, sensitive, inventive child-self if it has made sense for her to become an academic, she would answer with a resounding YES. 

For me, the way of academia was the way to a life less ordinary. I felt constrained by the norms of my small village in the south of the Netherlands where the culture of ‘don’t stand out too much’ was strong. I didn’t want to be put into a box.

There is something about how our academic career stories are intertwined with what we’re really seeking in life that is so fascinating and important.

It may be that we want to get our voice heard, make sense of our experiences, succeed against the odds, help or support particular others, unlock the mysteries of a particular subject. Or something else. 

In my case, academia gave me license to travel. Away from any box in which I didn’t want to be confined, and to countries, cultures, and environments I may not have visited otherwise.  In social studies of science and technology, and visual culture, I found a way to make sense of life that really clicked for me. A way to think against the grain; to make topics that had seemed boring or intimidating, interesting; to ‘see’ philosophical conundrums in everyday events and interactions. And many of my career successes and failures during 25 years of studying and working in universities make sense from that desire to not be put in a box.

I love being aware of that. Not to change myself, but so that I can become ever more skilful with myself as I continue to find my way. In a word: so that I draw power from it. This is the same process that as a coach I facilitate for my clients: awareness and choice. An alchemy that greatly excites me.

"You must build an empowered relationship with institutional academia, whatever that looks like for you. I think this is about simultaneously being utterly realistic and taking a radical stance for who you want to be in this space, for what you want to create."

Short history of career adventures

A glowing start in academic studies took me from the Netherlands to Oxford, where I felt on top of the world and in my element. After that, I struggled to find my groove in academia. A few years into my tenure-track position in Singapore came the painful realization that the amount I was writing and publishing wasn’t enough to sustain a research-focused academic career. I’d moved halfway around the world for this job and didn’t know what to do.

Working with a coach, I pivoted to a teaching-focused job at the same university. Here I could create, lead and work across disciplines, to my heart’s content. I felt in my element once more. What my colleagues, students and I built at Tembusu College still makes me very proud. Eventually, after combining teaching, research, and coaching/mentoring for several years, I felt that I needed to shift again. I had to find out what I could bring to the world as a coach and researcher/writer by going full out. 

I am finding this out as we speak. Living in Spain with my husband and our dog, I am trained and active as a professional coach and an embodied facilitator, and still active in academia as well. I feel lots of energy and gratitude for where I am, and for how I’m using my experiences, talents, and original desire to escape boxes, to serve others. 

A note on writing

If there’s one place in academic life that has been the clearest mirror for my desires, abilities and patterns of self-sabotage, it must be writing. I’ve been a writer from a young age, loving the focused effort, the play and the challenge of creating with words. Even my running away from writing – even my pushing myself into deep holes of endless refining that compromise my days – signal how much writing means to me.

In academia it is so important to keep writing. But many of us get stuck in feeling that we are don’t have our act together, and feel shame about that. Rather that ‘getting over our issues with writing’ I advocate that we try to tune in and move with it. As we are. Day by day. My writing workshops and courses are about using our bodies’ capacity for movement to access comfort, courage, levity and other resources through which we can support ourselves from the inside out. Then we can meet, greet and express ourselves, again and again, in our writing.