(Changing) context and identity


(Changing) context and identity

Who we are and who we will become depends on our environment”.

Living in Amman.

Before I left Amsterdam
I had this idea of writing a (small) book
About ‘identity, context, a sense of belonging’
Or something like that.

Intrigued by how refugees survive
Their ability to fit in a new context and culture
What context does to identity
And how ‘belonging’ works.

For refugees in general
And specifically the people living here in Al Za’atari refugee camp.

I found out that this subject is also directly related to myself
My own identity in this new unfamiliar context (Jordan).
Who am I in this environment?
How will it affect me?
(How) do I fit in?

I decided to start writing about this.
It fascinates me.

Now, a few weeks later
- after writing and talking to people about this subject
It seams to be a subject we ALL can relate to.

We all have changing contexts at some point in our lives
One way or another

And the context we're in influences us
Maybe more than we are aware of.
(See my explanation below:“Who we are and who will become depends on our environment.)

I am not only talking about big changes of context
- like moving to another country (forced or voluntary).
Changes happen to all of us.
E.g.: when you start living on your own,
when you travel (a temporary change of context),
when you move to a different area (neighborhood, city, village)
when you get involved in a new relationship
even when you change jobs
you’re changing context.

Yess. Now it’s getting even more interesting.
The effect of changing environments
I want to know more
Figure out how this works.
Curiosity killed NO cat;-)

I have decided to write about this subject in my own free zone.
No client. No obligations.
No science stuff. No urge for a full beating story.
Just my thoughts. My voice. My style.
Quick & dirty.
Freestyle writing.

Starting thoughts

Here are some of my underlying starting points/thoughts about identity.
(triggered by a lecture of prof. Paul Verhaeghe and his book ‘Identiteit’)

There is no ‘substantial’ or ‘fixed’ identity – in none of us.
You are not born with it.
The person we are right now is not the person we'll be for the rest of time.
Identity is mutable. It develops.
And it comes from the outside.

All changes of contexts have influence on who you are and who you will become; your identity.

When it comes to identity there will always be the tension between the need for connection and the need for separation.
A struggle everyone have to deal with. In all changing contexts in life.

Some questions

Some questions on my mind.
Waiting to be answered.

How does it work? Identity in relation to context?
How come genes are much less determinative than contexts when it comes to identity?
In what ways can/does the change of contexts affect your life?
In what extent does it change who you are (your identity)?
Can you resist it?


How do you fit in a (new) context?
When does a place/context feel like home? When do you ‘belong’?
And when (or where) do you NOT belong? What contexts will never feel like home?

Who we are and who we will become depends on our environment

It would be great to add quotes and perspectives from many people.

I am going to interview people here in Jordan (started already)
And I will post specific questions also, the coming months.

 If you already have any thoughts on this subject of ‘identity and context, please let me know!

Post it in comments or send me an e-mail.
Love to hear your thoughts.


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Nature is speaking


Nature is speaking

This summer, I went to Crete
Hired a car
Traveled around

The day we left Amsterdam
I watched a video on my mobile
while waiting at the airport

It was one of the videos of the 'Nature is speaking' initiative
Julia Roberts as mother nature.

I think this is the best and most impressive 'nature' message - ever
Nature doesn't depend on us
We depend on nature. 

That is exactly what I feel when I am surrounded by nature
I wrote about this before
I am a city girl, but also a huge nature freak
I need nature

In Crete, we explored nature - big time
I was impressed
I used to travel to countries far away
Did not expect this impressive nature so nearby

The gorges in Crete blowed me away
So strong and powerful
Made me feel tiny, humble
The words in the video kept on echoing in my mind

When we walked and climbed through the huge gorges
In absolute silence
I could almost cry

Nature was speaking

I am listening



100% beauty


100% beauty

A love letter to my grandmother

A few days ago
I was asked if I was the granddaughter of “Oma Joke” 
While I answered "Yes, I am",  I felt pride.
Deep pride. Real pride.

Last April, it was 10 years ago my grandmother died.
The more time passes by, the more I realize
How much she meant to me
And still does. 

Here are some of my memories. 
Why she was so special. 


  • A woman who slept with her house unlocked. Saying: the one who is stealing from me, must be in harder need than I am. 
  • A woman who had to say goodbye to the love of her life, who died at a very young age. 
  • A woman who walked (really?!) from Amsterdam to Norg (Drenthe) with my father as a baby, to escape the hunger and after-war period in Amsterdam.
  • A woman who must have had the highest car speed in Amsterdam, for a woman her age.
  • A woman who opened up her tiny house in the woods for guys like Herman Brood and Cuby and the blizzards. 
  • A woman who was extremely creative, painting, playing the violin, weaving loom.
  • A woman with the longest hair I’ve ever seen on a woman her age, until her very last day.

100% beauty 

Besides, I can think of numerous funniest anekdotes. 
Note: her real name was Johanna, but we called her ‘Joke’, which is a normal Dutch name, but the English meaning fits in this case;-).

Two examples of things I remember:

  • She planted plastic tulips in her garden. To give the Japanese tourist something to photograph the whole year around. 
  • The day after she had an hip surgery, she was lying in her hospital bed and I saw her blankets moving. She was training her right foot, to heal her "giving-gas-foot" as soon as possible. 

The day she died, I wrote her a letter.
I put it into the flowers on her coffin.
(Which - at the end of the day - ended up with one of my relatives. My flowers including the letter were coming out of the backdoor after the ceremony, because Joke demanded that not one flower should be spoiled or left. Private intimate letter not so private anymore ;-)

Yesterday, I read my letter - for the first time in 10 years.
Here are some of my words.
A love letter to my grandmother.

They said I look like you *
I think they mean physically. 
(Must be the matching bump on our foreheads on exactly the same place)
I’m not even close where it comes to attitude.

I’d wish.
But hey, I am getting there.
On my way growing old like you.

It is not lost 
I’ll carry you with me 
And I’ll hope I will be able to pass it on 
Not via my genes, but via everything I do and all that I am.
I will try. 

You have lived 
Embraced life 
Over and over again 
Grabbed it with both hands 

Everything has been 
As it should be 
It's all okay. 

I am and will remain a beautiful part of you
And I am proud.

So, I wrote this 10 years ago.
I was proud.
And I still am.
This is the feeling I felt a few days ago.

I am the granddaughter of Joke!



Of course, she wasn’t 100% beauty.
But that is the way I remember her.
And want to remember her.
To/for me she was.

* There is more I have in common with her, besides the bump on the forehead. At least  two of the above mentioned things I have in common with her. Guess what;-)

Owh. You can click the  button below any blog post. It's a 'simple like', which means you are the only one who knows. It will not be not stored, saved or otherwise available to see. Just a number of hearts. Just a way to make me feel good. And supported. Love that.  


Playing with doors


Playing with doors

Sometimes you only know afterwards why you did things
Last summer, I spent two weeks in Greece.
Back to basics on a tiny island. 

I photographed numerous old doors.
I didn’t know why. They just fascinated me.

There is something about old doors.
They are used
Carrying stories

All doors were once closed with pain
And were once opened for beautiful entries

They are carrying memories.
Mysteries. History.
Feelings. Life.
I think that is fascinating.
For the same reason, I love abandoned and deserted places.
(I love to be in old factories, industrial sites)

Besides these thoughts
What happened in Greece was a hidden symbolic adventure
With doors, you can open or close your world.
Leaving stuff behind.
Opening new beautiful exciting things in life.

With every picture I took
I closed or opened parts of my life.
I was playing with doors. 

Some doors of life
Are there to keep closed
Put a lock on it
Never open again 
Transform into history

Some open doors need to be closed
Shut down parts of life which are dragging you down
Holding you back
Sucking energy
or just aren't useful anymore.
Release. Relief.
Set free

Some doors are into the sneaky way.
A sneaky look behind a door, catch a glimp. 
Set your mind to curiosity
Playing with doors.

There is the fresh excitement of opening up doors.
New things. Adventures. 
Breath in. Fearless.
Doors wide open: let it all come in.

And there is the overwhelming warm feeling
of realizing some doors are so precious:
never put a lock on it.

I did it all.

Sometimes you only know afterwards why you did things
I have been playing with doors.
Redesigning life and thoughts.

And I still do.
Love it!

BTW. If you enjoyed reading this, you can click the  button of this post. It's a 'simple like', which means you are the only one who knows. It will not be not stored, saved or otherwise available to see. Just a number of hearts. Just a way to make me feel good. And supported. Love that.  


Using the F-word


Using the F-word

There is a company named "Good Fucking Design Advice".
This is one of their statements.

I love it. This is why.
(4 reasons - cited from their website).

The story behind

The story behind is interesting. Founders Jason and Brian found - as teachers and mentors - that students were full of questions whose answers were often simple and intuitive but difficult to arrive at under self-imposed pressure. The help they needed fell somewhere between technical assistance and a kick in the rear. Sometimes we all just need to be told “You know this. Rely on your training. Listen to your gut.”

Inexperience, creative blocks, and minor setbacks are not always overcome by looking outward and asking questions; they’re overcome by trusting ourselves and taking risks. 

The use of the f-word

The GFDA website is a way to offer concise, poignant advice derived from fundamental design principles in a way that was highly accessible and fun. They want to motivate and inspire in the most honest way possible and they do this by using the f-word. 

Using the F-word is rebellious, funny, and driving in its honesty. As they say: "It was a perfect combination. The message coming across was that freedom from doubt and insecurity is found in working very hard and never taking oneself too seriously."

It takes courage to use the f-word. People could feel offended, uncomfortable and could turn their back on you just by reading this word. So, what GFDA does, is bold. They practice what they preach.  

"We're right behind you"

They know how to say stuff. Some quotes.

"Your goals are our goals. Your fight is our fight.
You want to run faster? To push harder? We’re right behind you, screaming the F-word. We cheer when you win because we know that if we do our job right, you’ll be there to cheer for someone else. We cheer when you falter too, because we have faltered so often ourselves—we know that failure requires more fortitude than success. Your fortitude is our inspiration. You’re the reason we do what we do; if you weren’t out there busting your ass, we wouldn’t be here busting ours. We’re building a body of work that you contribute to every time you resolve to get shit done."

"We’ve made it our mission to be the voice outside of you that harmonizes with the one inside of you. That’s the opportunity that we refuse to miss" 

Read more here. 

The Pledge

And finally, they designed the Pledge.
To make shit happen.
Here you go.  

That's why

So, this is why I love GFDA. 
For me. And my students.

Here they are on Twitter.
Here they are on Facebook.

Still having doubts about using the f-word?
Watch this:)

BTW. You can click the  button of this post. It's a 'simple like', which means you are the only one who knows. It will not be not stored, saved or otherwise available to see. Just a number of hearts. Just a way to make me feel good. And supported. Love that.  





I WOW this video*.
Lyrics and performance.
I'm practicing at "Speak up, Dude" - one day...;-)

Watch, listen, immerse, enjoy.

By Alicia Keys

on Def Jam Poetry

I'm a prisoner
of words unsaid
Just lonely feelings
Locked away in my head
I trap myself further
Every time I stay, quiet
I should start to speak
But I stop and stay silent
And now I've made
My own hard bed
Inside this prison of words unsaid

That's what I am
Not a prisoner of war
A prisoner of words
Mostly I say what you wanna hear
Could you take it if I came clear?
Or would you rather just see me
Stoned on a drug of complacency and compromise
I guess that's what I am
Scraping this cold hard earth
For a piece of myself
For peace in myself

It'd be easier if you just put me in jail
You know, if you locked me away
I'd have someone to blame
But these bars of steel are of my making
They surround my mind
And have me shaking
My hands are cuffed behind my back
I'm a prisoner of the worst kind, in fact
A prisoner of compromise
A prisoner of compassion
A prisoner of kindness
A prisoner of expectation
A prisoner of my youth
Run too fast to be old
I've forgotten what I was told
Ain't I a sight to behold?

A prisoner of age dying to be young
To my head is my hand with a gun
And it's cold and it's hard
Cause there's nowhere to run
When you've caged yourself
By holding your tongue

I'm a prisoner
Of words unsaid
Just lonely feelings
Locked away in my head
It's like solitary confinement
Every time I stay quiet
I should start to speak
But I stop and stay silent
And now I've made
My own hard bed
Inside a prison of words unsaid

* Got this thanks to Erik de Vlieger


7 jaar later

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7 jaar later

Vandaag is het precies 7 jaar geleden dat ik me inschreef bij de Kamer van Koophandel.

Min of meer per ongeluk.
Ik dacht een mooie nieuwe baan gevonden te hebben, maar die bleek zo vreselijk, dat ik gillend in mijn proeftijd ben weggerend. Op zoek naar iets anders.
En terwijl ik nog niet eens begonnen was met zoeken, werd ik gevraagd om een interim klusje te doen.
Oké! Even inschrijven...
Zo begon het.
En ik ben nooit meer teruggekeerd in 'loondienst'. 

Ik probeerde voor mijzelf een beeld te vormen van deze 7 jaren.
Een letterlijk beeld van de beweging.
En ik maakte dit (lelijke) schetsje.

Click to enlarge

Het begon met een 'steady' basis: interim researcher voor 2 dagen in de week. Met daarnaast wat korte opdrachten (PvE's enzo...).

Het jaar erna stond in het teken van lang(er)lopende projecten. Ik deed er 2 of 3 tegelijk. Waag Society, KPMG Meijburg, Project 1012,...

In 2009 en 2010 bleef dit zo lopen: langlopende projecten (bij de Gemeente Amsterdam, Projectbureau Zuidas). In deze jaren voor maximaal 2 dagen per week, want daarnaast deed ik de Executive Master of Information Management (toen nog UvA) en werkte ik hard aan mijn onderzoek voor Plan B. Ook was ik bestuurslid bij Prissma en assessor bij de HvA.

Jaren van hard werken en 'steady business', met als hoogtepunt in 2009: de lancering van mijn boek "15 praktijkverhalen over kennismanagement". Twee andere hoogtepunten in die tijd: een geweldige opdracht in Seoul voor de Gemeente Amsterdam en een project (en studiereis) bij RLabs in Khayelitsah – een van de grootste townships in Kaapstad (Zuid-Afrika).

En toen kwam 2012. Met de lancering van Plan B, veranderende alles. Geen langlopende projecten meer, maar korte programma's en vooral veel (héél veel) workshops en presentaties. In 2013 liep dit de spuigaten uit. Een intensief jaar. Met als hoogtepunt: gevraagd worden om een TEDx Talk te geven. Ergens rond augustus 2013 wist ik dat ik niet zo door kon gaan. Deze manier van leven en werken zou ik niet lang kunnen volhouden. Ik schreef hier onder meer over in mijn blogje 'Losing my purpose'. 

Eigenlijk was dit misschien wel een logisch moment; iets met de 7-year itch? Aan het begin van 2014 besloot ik om het roer om te gooien. Allereerst door mezelf te ontslaan ;-) En vervolgens ben mijn eigen Plan B programma gaan doen om de status quo te doorbreken. Ik gaf mijn werk opnieuw vorm en ook maakte ik deze persoonlijke website, onder meer om Plan B meer los te maken van mij.

Het jaar is nog niet voorbij, maar hoogtepunten tot nu toe waren voor mij onder meer de lancering van 'mijn' Boosting Board en de mooie zaken die we mogen doen. En de gast mogen zijn bij het RTL programma Ondernemerszaken. 

En nu? Ik ben weer 'geland'. Duidelijk onderscheid tussen Plan B en mijn werkzaamheden op het gebied van kennis- & informatiemanagement. CV, portfolio, websites: alles is weer geüpdatet. Ik ben er weer.

Ideaal zou zijn om een mix te creëren van de twee bewegingen in deze 7 jaren: een lang(er)lopend project van ca 2 dagen per week, met daarnaast mijn onderwijsactiviteiten en korte opdrachten en workshops.

Op zoek naar een mooi project dus. Voeten in de klei. Getting things done!
Ik kan niet wachten. 

Op naar de volgende 7 jaar.

Owh, en uiteraard blijft het voorlopig mijn missie om alles (nou ja, bijna alles;-) wat ik op mijn harde schijf heb staan, toegankelijk te maken (waarom ik dat doe, schreef ik in dit blogje: 'BAM')


1 Comment