Follow Your Passion
Follow your passion.
Twenty-twenty. As I sit here, almost 56 years old, during this bad B-movie script called COVID-19, I can't help but not just look around in the world of today but also look back for a while. Letting my own life of over half a century pass by. The stuff I did, was exposed to by life itself, the experiences I gained from it all, the developments I went through as a person. In other words, the to me quite colorful life I've lived so far. Yep, it's been an awesome ride.
I regret nothing. Honestly, I don't. Yes, next to the good things I've made plenty mistakes and bad calls. Got hurt, damaged. Hurt and damaged others. Unwillingly, possibly out of a sort of clumsiness. The good and the bad, they all are experiences. All of them are part of a learning curve of someone who means well. I call this the University Of Life. It's made me into that old bottle of whisky which gets better and more expensive with each year added.
I grew up in a blue-collar Amsterdam native family as the youngest of four siblings being raised by both a mom and a dad. Mom being the housewife. Dad, a war veteran with only four years of Primary School education under his belt, providing for the family. Mom being plagued by illness about all my life. Dad faithfully taking care of us and her, and still doing that for his wife today. Mom is almost 90, dad almost 95. Still living in their own house.
I started out as an invisible nobody. At least, that's how I felt about myself. Yes, I felt loved by all members of my family. I was lucky enough to receive a lot of extra attention from my dad. Because I was eight years younger than the youngest above me. As a 'Benjamin' I was the 'second family' which Dad could concentrate on. Especially when he was dismissed permanently from the workforce due to medical reasons. Dad really became my anchor.
Outside the safe confines of my family I still felt an invisible nobody. Especially during my pre-teens. No money to spend, no fancy clothes could be afforded for me for example. At Primary School I was 'that kid with a crazy mother' although my mom was not crazy at all. Endured some bullying there because of it. Until the last year, when I finally took matters into my own hands and smashed the face in of the most prominent bully of them all.
Then it became a turbulent period. Moving to Middle School, struggling with my identity. Feeling I had none, I slowly enrolled into some street gang stuff and adopted their identity. That was over by the time I moved on to High School. In the meantime I had to say goodbye to my dream of becoming a fighter pilot. I barely finished Middle School with Math as a subject. I had to drop this subject, and that dream, on High School. No talent at all for it.
In the meantime I had discovered that I take way more after my father that I originally thought. Dad has always been an advertising artist and graphics designer. Apparently, in my case, he had fucked the gene pool. Apparently, my calling was in graphics as well, establishing a nice long line of artists in the Van Stigt family. Dad's dad, my grandfather whom I have never known because he died before I was born, he was an artist as well.
I was a stubborn boy, never taking advice but drawing his ass off. Finally, at some point, I started observing my dad, and really listening to him when he tried to coach me on the artistic path. Apparently, the old man made sense. It produced results. Especially when Dad had the time to devote his attention to me as that 'second family'. He was my first teacher, first mentor, first example, role model. In essence my foundation as an artist. Even today.
One thing I had inherited from my mother's side of the family: a sensitivity to phobias. In my case this surfaced as a genuine overwhelming fear for the dentist. Thoughout the past decades I was fearless in all other areas. But going to the dentist was like being taken to the slaughterhouse, being tortured and killed. Makes no sense but started early in Primary School nevertheless. This phobia slowly undermined my entire life as years progressed.
That school dentist, actually a real butcher, was responsible for triggering this. This phobia manifested itself as a permanent dark cloud over every facet of my life. And of course, avoiding the dentist as much as possible during decades resulted in that 'cathedral' in my mouth transforming into a nasty 'ruin'. Not only my appearance became tarnished but my own health as well. Both physically and psychologically. I slowly became sort of a recluse.
During those decades I apparently decided that I could not make an impact on others through my appearance. Because I looked like shit every time I thought about it. I had to rely on my mind. Developing it to such an extend that it could completely take over that appearance and win folks over that way. Always eager to learn about a wide variety of subjects, I started reading, researching, learning. I needed to have a story to tell. Always.
Believe it or not, but during those decades with that damaged front I've had girlfriends before I was married, married twice, divorced twice and had some more girlfriends. Probably all falling for my mind. I exposed myself to crowds. As a tour guide in an aviation museum or giving presentations about the history of air war. Way up front, for everybody to see. Relying on a perfected set of gestures, a 'pantomime' game that masked off my mouth.
In the meantime I had several careers as well as a freelance graphics career. Starting in the advertising business in the pre-computer era, like my Dad. Progressing to the existence of a dedicated military aviation artist, which I still am today. Worked in the sign system business, car striping and fleetmarking, house artist in an aviation museum, and now paying my mortgage by driving around city buses in Amsterdam. Doing my aviation artist as a hobby.
Three and a half years ago I accidentally saw a promo on TV requesting candidates for a medical program on National Television. Before I knew it I applied online and became 1 of 4,000 applicants being casted. They only needed 6. Half a week later I received a call. I was in, as no. 6. That TV program was about dental help for folks with a phobia. It was called 'RTL4 Genante Tanden' ('RTL4 Embarrassing Teeth'). That call scared the shit out of me.
Apparently that little voice inside told me that this was my last chance to get help, solving something that would otherwise further ruin or even worse, destroy and possibly end my life if not taken care of. I went about it in all secrecy. Only my daughter, her mother i.e. my ex-wife and some co-workers knew about it. Then, on National TV, I received a new 'cathedral' in my mouth. In a record timespan of almost 4 weeks. 25 minutes on television.
It took a while to recuperate from that four-week rollercoaster. It was like I was hit by a truck. Within four weeks of treatment I had to get rid of a phobia that had been with me for 45 years. Starting as a scared shitless crying middle-aged boy being taken to that slaughterhouse, progressing into a fully liberated person, completely restored in a glory that I had never known before. To some all this may seem silly. To me, I was given my life back.
Yes, there was pain involved. But, once past that, I became unleashed in every way. The sky was, and is, the limit. Now I had both that mindpower AND a decent appearance. Now I was able to fully exploit my potentials. I'm unbeatable. It's like Karma. I'm being rewarded by life now. Good things come to me. Because I'm able to rely on an unrestricted internal strength. A full 100% sailing on my own compass. Starting and ending things on my own terms.
Life is good. Finally I can live that life based on my deepest passions. Setbacks happen but are dealt with way more easily now. Now I'm what I always wanted to be. The thinking, talking, writing and creating Airpower Artist as well as a genuine human being. Eager to share his thoughts and talents with others. Willing to give without expecting something in return. At ease with myself. Yes, I love Your's Truly, and I am able to give that to others.
To all of you...