I've never liked introducing myself. This stems from a general dislike to put myself or anyone into just one or two categories, into a description of a few sentences, a one minute pitch.
Each one of us is a unique blend of circumstances and experiences, connections, thoughts and emotions in a unique physical and spiritual body of energy.
This is not to say that I am an enigma, far from it. Of course I can be described, by myself, by friends and family. Put these next to each other and not one of them will exactly correspond to another. Let me get to the point. The only answer to the question "Who is Rieta?" that I am really comfortable with is: I am me, I am Rieta.
What shapes us - and what definitely shaped me - are the places we live in and the people we meet, our ethnicity and family history, the opportunities we get and create, and time.
Places and People
I was born in Suriname and my childhood memories are of playing outside, between flowers that were taller than me, gently holding a butterfly by its wings, steering a small boat across the flooded street, racing toy cars on the tracks build in the sand. With my father, mother and sister I migrated to The Netherlands in June 1980, a few months before my 7th birthday. I've returned only twice for a vacation, and yet Suriname is part of my identity. I was born there and had a carefree early childhood, surrounded by nature.
As you grow older it is the people connected to the places that leave an impression. Rotterdam to me is where I went to elementary school and high school, the places where my longest friendships started. I continued expanding my social networks when I went to Amsterdam to study and work. I like staying in touch with people from all stages of my life and love how varied my network is, with people from all different walks of life.
Ethnicity and Family History
Even though I was born in the Kingdom of The Netherlands and lived most of my life in the Netherlands, I am well aware and have been made aware that I am "not-Dutch". I am Javanese-Surinamese-Dutch. Not a blend, for that would imply knowing what it is to be Javanese or Surinamese or Dutch, and frankly I don't. I am something in between. This belonging, yet not-belonging I think is the source of my flexibility and broad outlook. As a young adult I already identified as a global citizen.
The culture I visually most get associated with is Indonesia and it's the one I know least about. I've been to Bali, but never set foot on the islands my ancestors are from: Java and Sumatra. I've yet to discover how these roots are part of me.
Of course Family history is not just a string of inherited genes. The breadth of family stories I am familiar with doesn't really go back much more than the lives of my parents. This history is so relevant to me, because of the big gap between how my life turned out to be compared to that of my parents. My father could read and write but never finished elementary school. My mother was illiterate. When they were young, their family circumstances forced them to help their household to survive. Taking care of younger siblings, working to earn an additional income. Both my sister and I finished university, the firsts in our family and pursued the careers of our choice and liking.
If the life you live isn't handed to you by privilege, it teaches you courage and independence. And it also teaches you gratitude for the access you get to opportunities.
Opportunities We Get and Create
The education I was able to get has definitely shaped me. To live in a country where if you want to, you can continue to learn with (in my time) financial support from the government is a blessing. I didn't even know what I wanted to do, but because I had finished the pre-university education (VWO) the next logical step if you didn't want to work yet, was to go to university. And even though my family could not support me, finances were not a bottleneck.
I've worked since I was 15 and it was legal to get a job in the weekends. I've worked in a bakery, supermarkets, cleaning offices, in bars and restaurants, administrative jobs, all positions I held before a university diploma catapulted me to a different league. Because I had such different experiences, it wasn't hard for me to take a turn again later in my career. I minimized and simplified my life and even worked in a restaurant again over the summer of 2015, just because I lacked purpose and didn't know what to pursue, but wanted to avoid going back to working a job I wasn't absolutely passionate about.
I think I've always been creative and entrepreneurial but quitting my job and starting as a self employed professional really forced me to rethink what I want to do professionally. It took me a few years and exposure to the concept of circular economy and doughnut economics before things finally started to click. I now know where I want to direct my attention and energy towards and it is satisfying to see that you can search out and create your own opportunities and lead a fulfilling life.
Approaching the end of my fifth decade around the sun I also realise how time has changed me or at least has allowed me to live more from the inside out. Making decision based on my own purpose and values and not on what others expect or want from me. Being more intentional instead of going with the flow of everything that happens around you and to you.
It took time for me to get to a place where I feel comfortable in my own skin. This state of comfort is not a rigid state, it is one of flexibility, resilience and abundance. It's one of knowing that I don't need much, I can take care of myself and I am enough. I am getting better in managing my energy in a way that is regenerative. The closer you get there the easier it becomes to be kind and generous. That is my ambition now: to be kind and generous. With time, and how it mixes all these places, people, connections, insights and opportunities, I'll get there. I hope the people around me will say that I am well on my way.
In closing an attempt to an introduction of Rieta. I am a Javanese-Surinamese-Dutch woman, 48 years old, living in Amsterdam, pursuing opportunities to contribute to a Doughnut Economy with kindness and generosity. This will have to do for now.
Made it to the end of this post? Thank you for your attention! If you'd like to respond, you can find my contact details below in the footer. Have a great day. Rieta