The art of chasing dreams


Nienke Oostra • 7 feb 2018

When I was 14 years old I made a bet with my father that I would make it to the Olympics as a show jumping rider for the Dutch Olympic Equestrian team. Told by coaches I had what it takes, I had my Olympic dream all worked out, I followed the show jumping closely, studying blood lines of show jumping horses to find the best of the best and learning to spot a good horse from people in the industry. I figured the only way to be able to afford a talented horse which would take me to the Olympics would be buying it as a foal. I came as far as buying a beautiful grey filly in partnership with my father who was bred from the right family to make it to the highest level. Circumstances I had no control over stood in the way of realising this dream, life happened. For every dream, which turns into a reality, thousands of dreams get crushed, plans demolished, hearts broken, an amazing amount of hard work and determination lost in disappointment. This was one of my big dreams. And as I was told my father sold our filly for big money, my heart broke.

“I am a dreamer through and through and even if all my dreams and aspirations disappear into thin air, the chase is worth the journey”. I wrote this after quitting my job and moving back to Europe from Australia in 2013 to chase my dream of becoming a professional athlete. Although I have always had an enormous believe I could turn my dreams into reality and would happily give anything a go, at the same time I have also always suffered from a debilitating anxiety, a fear of failure which would leave me stunned at times it counted the most. People have told me many times again I am hard on myself when I say I failed in achieving my goals since I have competed at elite level and have represented my country at European and World championships as an elite athlete, still in my mind I never managed to reach my full potential. I am someone who dreams big and sometimes these dreams might be unrealistic as I simply do not have the platform to make it all happen and still believe I can without having the support needed. When you look on social media it all looks so easy and amazing the life's of the people who pursue their passion, not portraying the amount of hardship and disappointment which comes hand in hand with trying to follow your dreams.

In the last year, I forced myself to be more realistic and in a way, give up on my dreams, I know in my heart that the move to Edinburgh and the change in direction of my athletic ambitions were the right things to do, but at the same time I found it something very difficult to deal with: Letting go.

I have always gravitated towards people who have a passion, I find it very inspiring, someone who is determined to achieve a goal. People who are prepared to work hard, who see failure as a motivation to try harder rather than to give up. I have found that those people are not necessarily the most talented, fastest or smartest people in the world. But they have an inner strength, people who don’t take no for an answer, even more so, when they get told they can’t do something it will make them more driven to achieve it. I recognise their inspiration and I find their energy addictive. They might have a disease to conquer, a life changing experience they had to adjust to, a dark past they escaped. People who managed to turn something negative into something positive and use their shortcomings as a weapon, turn their weakness into a strength. Those people made me aspire to live my life in a similar way, to not ever give up.

A trip to Utah to catch up with my Uni friend and old flatmate Karen meant that for 10 days I was surrounded by people who lived their passions. And who also, openly admitted to the difficulties of their lifestyles. It was refreshing and energizing listening to their stories of struggles and success.“You can have everything you dream of”, Karen said to me whilst we were ploughing through the snow on one of our run’s through the mountains.

"How could I feel so at home in a place I had never been?", I wondered for a moment taking in the amazing scenery. My heart was content. “Believe you can, don’t be so hard on yourself and get your act together”, Karen continued. It all seemed so simple. Just make it happen. And as I spend the days skiing pure powder, mountain biking with breath taking views and moving through the mountains in the simplest of forms experiencing pure joy I felt the happiest I had been in a long time and my body responded by feeling the strongest it had been in a long time.

I travelled from Utah to Minnesota to catch up with my sister on the way back to Scotland. Seeing her always felt like coming home to me, no matter what had happened in our lives in between. She was my whole entire family and she had always been more than enough for me. Now with four little (and not so little) ones of her own between the age of four to thirteen, it was so nice to live her day to day life as if I we had never been apart. Listening to her husband’s stories about their years living in the Ukraine and my sister giving birth to her 3rd son Joerie in an old, almost ruin like Ukraine hospital, I realised that my sister regardless of how fragile she might appear, with her small thin physique, was one of the strongest people I had ever known, and not unlike me, had bulldozed her way through life dealing with whatever was thrown at her with her head held high. The art of chasing dreams: staying true to who you really are.

“You are Nienke Oostra, you are the most beautiful and strongest person in the whole wide world”; words my sister said to me from a very young age when we battled through tough times together as children and words she still says to me now. “You need to believe in yourself, dare to be you, find out what you really want and it will happen” she whispered to me in our goodbye hug. “Be happy”.

Me and my sister were both born with the ability to purely enjoy the great things in life. The ability to find calm in the sound of beautiful music, to become lost in any form of art, a touching movie or the colours of a captivating painting or most commonly to feel alive when standing on top of a mountain or on an empty beach. It had been our survival mechanism through the darkest of times. Similarly, we were born with passion, born with drive and determination. The ability to laugh, love, and dream in any given situation was our strength.

Some of my dreams had been crushed in the last few years and my heart had been aching. This holiday made me realise it was time to stop beating myself up over it, I was very lucky even with my current injury that I still had my health and my fitness to be able to do the things I loved doing and chase the things I felt passionate about. Time to start making new plans, follow new dreams and work towards what really made me happy. Life was too short and too precious to be wasted on what could have been.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace & gratitude.” – Denis Waitley


Deze blog verscheen eerder op 1 maart 2017 hier.