Interview with Esther


Who are you and why?

I am Esther Donkers and I was born in 1972 on the day Nixon was elected president. This fact thankfully has had no bearing on my life whatsoever, but it’s mentioned in my baby memory book, which also features the indispensable lock of my baby hair and the hospital bracelet made out of actual beads.

When I met you, you were a writer and a nurse, nowadays you work in education. When and why did you switch careers? Do you enjoy it? Was it something you always wanted, or was it something that you discovered during you life that you enjoyed?

It happened organically. I had a job developing teaching materials when a nursing teacher position became available. Since they needed somebody quickly, they asked me to fill that position. I ended up staying in that job for a year, teaching a group and also visiting them during their internships. I really enjoyed it. Since in The Netherlands it’s no longer allowed to teach without having the required paperwork, I thought long and hard and eventually decided to go back to school at 42 years old. I wasn’t the only one: my 40 classmates were all between 40 and 50 years old.

Like me, you went back to school as an adult. How did you reach that decision? How did your environment respond to you going back to school and how did that make you feel? How was your study experience? Was it what you thought it would be?

I thought about it for a long time, because of my age, the cost, the time investment. The first college I approached, didn’t want to give me any dispensations, but the school I eventually ended up going to thankfully did. My environment responded very positively to my decision, my family has been very supportive. It helps that we have always divided family tasks and that my husband is used to run the household by himself. He almost always cooks anyway, if busy times are ahead he even cooks in advance. My studies turned out to not be hard, but very time consuming. I don’t want to elicit pity, but my studies, combined with working as a teacher (and thus a lot of “homework”), has taken up all my weekends in the last 2,5 years. I decided to go for a job close to home, as I wouldn’t be able to keep up working in the Randstad (about 150 km/94 miles from where Esther lives) while also studying in Leeuwarden (a city about 90 km/55 miles from where she lives).

Because of this job change and because of books and other study costs, our family income was reduced by 700 euros (around 860 US dollars) a month. Even when I then got a job as a teacher this didn’t change much: it’s not the best paid career.

All in all, we have had to make some pretty big sacrifices, and I’ve sometimes berated my 18-year-old self for not having finished my studies at that age – all my careers (nurse, journalist and writer) were started at an older age.

I like teaching a lot, but it’s also very hard. The students, teenagers at MBO level (senior vocational education – LP) are not always the easiest group to instruct, and a lot of necessary conditions for teaching aren’t met. Like with nursing it’s all about those magical moments, when you manage to really teach somebody something, a fun class, having a good interaction with a student.

On Instagram you regularly post about rowing, more specifically longboat rowing. How did your discover this sport and what do you like about it so much? What has longboat rowing added to your life?

A friend of mine has been rowing in longboats for 20 years and thought it might be something I’d enjoy. I already had experience with “regular” rowing from the age of 16 on, so I decided to try this out. I liked it so much that I joined the longboat rowing club in Hattem, and I’ve been rowing with them for three seasons now. This sport has brought me so much: it has taught me that my body (1.90m/6’3”) isn’t graceless, but strong. It has really changed the way I view my body. The being outside on the water, the huge physical effort: it empties my head and I feel completely free in my body and mind.

What would you still like to accomplish in life?

That my son becomes an adult who can choose to live his life the way he wants to. I would also like to teach in a country that is less well off than The Netherlands. I would like to finish the two manuscripts I have lying around and perhaps see them being published, although I am not holding my breath. I would like to study script writing. And I would like to go on beautiful and perhaps also useful journeys with our son.

(Photo credit: Esther Donkers)




Next week it’s time for another “Get out of the house!” See you all on Wednesday!