#wearethetides PART 1

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This is the first of a series of interviews with women from all different backgrounds, different shapes, size and age. I would love you to get to know them better. Where did they grow up? What is their connection with the ocean? What does it mean to be a woman?

This is Zeljka's story, this is her wave:

 1.   Where did you grow up? Tell me more about yourself.

 I was born in Croatia in ’88, which makes this year very special for me. It marks not only the number that I’m afraid of but it also marks my twentieth year living in the Netherlands!
My life in Croatia was amazing. I felt so much love from my family and I was very spoiled by everybody. Everything was right emotionally and materialistically I always felt close to nature and enjoyed the beauty of my home. The safe place that I once knew and trusted was not to be trusted. The happiness that I was used to had made place for uncertainty. War had arrived and because of that my family and I had to flee to Serbia. Life has never been the same again and we wanted to start over somewhere else. My new safe place became the Netherlands. Although it’s always cold, cloudy, dark and grey, it somehow fitted. Growing up and going to school had its ups and downs, but one thing never changed; I always wanted to do my best. Enough was never enough, and it always kept me going. Eventually I went to study psychology. I always knew I wanted to be a psychologist. It was such a natural and easy choice for me because of my experiences in the past. Somehow I wanted to study the human mind to understand why people make certain decisions. I always loved to observe and see the micro reactions en interactions among people. It always fascinated me what factors are responsible for the ever-evolving mind. My fascination eventually became my job. 

2.    What is your connection with the ocean?

While growing up in Croatia I was never able to see the ocean, because of the war. The first time I saw the ocean was when I was 8 years old. It was such a surreal feeling that I never will forget. It was kind of overwhelming to see and to feel. The best feeling for me is to hold my hand palms down and slowly letting the ocean touch my hand palms, but never entirely putting my hand in the water. It always feels like I’m being cared for. The funny thing is that I always to this when I’m going into water. It gives me a safe feeling, like I’m being caressed. 

3.  Do you recognize things about yourself in the ocean?  

 What I recognize about myself in the ocean is the stability of the current and the waves. It has a clear pattern, rhythm. I’m structured and use my ratio always, I overthink somehow. I could say that most of the time I’m calculated and steady. But at times like the ocean I’m not always predictable and make my own current and let my feelings lead the way. At times I loose control and let myself experience that side as well. 

4.  What is your idea of beauty? 

 For me the word applies to so many things. Beautiful means feeling free in my body and being able to see past dark parts of the mind. Being conscious of your body and sexuality as a woman is something beautiful to me. I can sense that that my concept of beauty has changed over the years. Beautiful at first had everything to do with physical appearance. Now beauty has a much more deeper meaning and has more to do with personality, nature, earth but also the human body. Beautiful is everything that has a certain impact on me, on my emotions, something that wakes u up. 

5.  Do you practice yoga or meditation? If so, what does this mean to you? 

  I’ve started practicing yoga not a long time ago. My best friend (who’s genius ) who is a wonderful yoga teacher encouraged me to start yoga. I enjoy it so much. My work gives me a lot of stress and I sense that at times I don’t take care of myself enough. My breathing tends to be really up and I’m all tense around my shoulders. Focusing on my breathing has helped me through at times and I also try to apply this at work, especially when I’m busy in my head. Yoga helps my karate a lot as well, because of the breathing and balance. My techniques did improve because of the changes in the breathing. The most important thing about yoga is that my head shuts down for an hour and that’s all I need. Only with yoga and karate I can let myself fully go and let my body do the work and give my mind the rest it needs. 

7.    What makes you feel loved?

I feel so lucky for having all the wonderful people around me, who support me and are always with me. I love to be cuddled and touched. I love the physical connection with another person. I love to feel people close to me. When my parents hug me, or my grandmother, that makes me feel loved. But also a post-card or a written note makes me feel very loved. Knowing that someone loves me far away, or is thinking of me. That makes me feel loved and very special. 

8.   Do you have practices/rituals to help you to feel better about yourself?

 I have always been a melancholic person, so my motto has always been: ‘ this too shall pass’. Somehow that doesn’t apply anymore. This is also a part of the ever evolving human, woman. Now I can see that I enjoy moments much more than just let them pass or not to feel. I focus way more on the things I’m doing by being more conscious of my feelings. Before I would be absorbed in my thoughts and overanalyse everything. Now I try to focus on what I feel and where I feel it. It’s not helpful to think about stuff I can’t control. Sometimes is hard, but bringing my attention to my body has helped me get through hard times. I’m still learning and evolving.

9.   What would you tell your younger self if you could turn back time?

 I was always really insecure about my looks, brains, accomplishments (still am at times). It was, and still is, never enough. Everything I did was never enough, even if I had the highest recognition. I worried so much about my everything, most importantly I always worried about what others would think of me. Somehow I did’t get the confidence from within, but I had to get it from other people. Now in my late twenties I realize how sad that is, and how much energy I spilled on negative thinking and the feeling of not being pretty or smart enough. I try to be less harsh towards myself and not compare myself to other people. Everybody has his or her own story , I have mine. 

10. Any advice you would like to share with other (young) women?

I think many women are preoccupied with social media and competing with other woman: wanting to be the girl with the perfect hair, perfect ass, six-pack, a kid and having holidays on the Maldives. Somehow that seems so enviable. But people don’t post when they’re depressed, down, lonely, lost, that part we never see and people never show it. It sometimes feels like people have an obsession with the concept of happiness. Everybody strives happiness. I always ask myself what that truly is. To me happiness is eating pasta and drinking some nice wine, being kissed, the scent of lavender and so many other things that make me smile, but also make me cry sometimes. I can see happiness in the less pretty things. It’s very personal. I wish we were less influenced by social media, television and others and start to create our own concepts of the things that are truly important. I also think that is important to be less judgmental towards others. You never know what the other person in going through.

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Eline de Jong