I am Fleur,
I grew up in a small village called Reeuwijk, in The Netherlands, with my mum and dad. When I was a year and 9 months old I got a little baby sister, called Eva who I protected with all my might. I had an amazing childhood, filled with immense love and happiness. I had a few good friends and spent my days playing outside, exploring nearby towns on our bikes, trying to get lost to see if we could find our way back home (a born adventurer).
However, I was also a very sensitive little girl who always took on the weight of the world and felt different from everyone else. I still remember one night, when I was 10 years old and my dad sat at the end of my bed, while I cried, telling me that I was actually 13. At first I didn’t understand. “Did you guys lie about my birthday? Am I actually 3 years older?!”, but eventually I realized what he meant. Physically I may have been 10, but emotionally I was older than most people my age. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders and made me feel like I had this really cool secret that no one knew about.
Over the years I added more and more stories to my life and grew as a person. In ‘99 my biggest dream came true and I got a little baby brother called Joost. I loved him from the moment I saw him and looked over him like he was mine. People often called me “his second mum”.
As my childhood years ended and I became a teenager, the world started looking like a pretty dark place. I began to isolate myself and felt like the loneliest person on earth. I couldn’t relate to people my age and locked myself away, but I couldn’t avoid the pain.
In 2005, after finishing high school in The Netherlands, my family and I moved to the other side of the world: New Zealand! I figured this was the perfect time to start fresh, a whole new life, a new me. I was so incredibly excited! I enrolled at the local high school, ready to make friends, party, have boyfriends and act like any other “normal” teenager, but soon realized that no matter where you live, you always take yourself with. I fought a hard battle and struggled to find happiness. I left high school and started working with children.
In 2009, at the age of 19, things started to slowly change. I took a big step and decided to pursue my lifelong dream of going to Africa to continue working with children. I raised money for my trip and traveled to Kenya to volunteer in an orphanage for 3 months. Although the culture shock was challenging and the homesickness tough, it was an unforgettable experience, which made me a whole lot stronger.
A couple months after returning to New Zealand I visited an Open Day at a University with my mum and sister. I knew I had come to a point in my life where I wanted to start studying and begin the next chapter of my life, but WOW was this scary! After a “few” panic attacks (including one in the Mac Donald’s carpark) I moved away from home, away from my comfort zone and into a small room in Palmerston North.
On the 1st of March, 2010 I started the first day of my degree and the first day of my new life. Like the flick of a switch everything started changing. I met some incredible people who took away the loneliness I had felt for such a long time. I discovered photography and to boost my confidence I won some pretty impressive awards. One of my lecturers pointed me to a book called The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield and day by day I started to change. I began to enjoy my life, I loved my friends, my newfound passion for photography, but most importantly, I started loving myself again.
Since that day in March I have made such an immense leap that it still sometimes amazes me how far I have come. I’ve kicked some pretty decent ass and am proud of who I am. I have discovered a lot about myself and what makes me happy and started to learn more about my purpose in life: helping children and young adults get through difficult times, to find their voice, to follow their dreams and to never ever give up.
Living in South Africa for a year
I may have had difficulty expressing my feelings as a child, but now, through writing and photography, I have found my voice, purpose and place in this world.
I hope you will too!