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From Rags to Rad: My Backstory

I didn’t become me out of nothing, I became me out of earlier, shittier versions of me.

Growing up with divorced parents, teenage life was confusing for me, probably just as confusing as it was for you. And as we both know: hormones + zero life experience = trouble.

Girls weren’t interested in me. Or maybe they were, but I was terrible at reading social signals so I had no way to find out. When girls did talk to me however, I would always think it was some sort of trap, set up by my friends to trick me.

I don’t know what I was afraid of. My friends all hiding behind a dumpster, jumping out in sight screaming “We made you talk to a cute girl, loser” – what kind of fear is that?

15 year old me in New York City

I will save you from further childhood stories but yeah, I was pretty confused. The only thing I did know was I wanted to become a comedian.

Seeing my parents fight, I saw comedy as a means to bring them together. I guess this is when that magic “comedy bug” got to me. Seriously, most comedians have a similar story and it annoys me. I want to be unique, damn it.

I wanted to do what the guys on TV were doing. My Dutch comedic heroes: Theo Maassen, Hans Teeuwen, Youp van ‘t Hek. I wanna do that.

So then I went out and did exactly that. The end.

Just kidding.

England

The High Street of Ipswich, England

Anyway, when I was 18 I was done with school, and I mean DONE. I didn’t want to step foot inside a school building ever again, nor did I want to go to college. I wanted to explore the world, man. Live life, be free, and conquer the world.

So I moved to Ipswich, England.

There, I found the adventure I was looking for. All alone in a strange country with little money and no contacts I was ready to take on the world, starting with Ravenswood, Ipswich.

In the one year I lived there, I got all the adventure a young man could want. From finding my first job to being threatened with a gun by two homeless girls, I went through it all.

Depression, mom

By the time I went back home, there was no more home. My dad had moved from the city of Alkmaar to Rotterdam and I couldn’t live with him, nor did I want to. So I moved to Tilburg, closer to where my mom lived. I could have moved to Amsterdam or at least closer to where my friends lived, but I didn’t. Was I running away from something?

Thinking back on my time in Tilburg, it’s like time stood still. All the jobs I’d do would either bore me after a couple of months, or give me stress.

Between 2008 and 2013 I lived like a prisoner in my studio apartment. I had no friends, no ambitions and no hygiene. I was depressed.

One Sunday night I was watching House MD. I didn’t want to sleep because I dreaded the idea of work next day. So I just watched TV all night, giving me some feeling of control. At 3AM my doorbell rang. I looked down from my balcony and there was a police van parked there. Did I miss a bill payment? How did they know my name? They asked me to come down, it was about my mom.

She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier that year. She was in the hospital a couple of times, but lately I felt she was improving. I guess not.

She was dying.

The reason the cops came to my home was because my stepdad didn’t have my phone number but did know my home address. Apparently you can rent a cop for these types of situations, who knew.

Once I was at the hospital, my mom was unconscious. Doctors were slowly increasing her dose of what I assume was morphine. I held her hand as she passed away in the early morning of Monday October 22nd, 2012.

My mom with her art
Me with my mom 1997: Sandals Squad 4Life

No money, no home

What followed for me was a strange period.

On paper, this period in my life could be the final straw. Going from depression and isolation to a parent’s death. But instead of that I felt a strong urge to do…something.

I quit my call center job because I finally felt it was time to start my own online business. Also during the summer I met this girl that I really liked.

Unfortunately business didn’t go so well. It felt like an invisible force was holding me back somehow. It didn’t feel authentic to me. It felt wrong. For some reason my response to this was to attempt even more unethical business models and exploit all sorts of “money making methods” that were just plain shady.

The invisible force holding me back

But at this point, seeking within myself was too difficult to do, too painful. So I blamed other factors, in this case the business model. After trying dozens of different online shit, money started to really run out. But I was determined to make this work.

So determined, in fact, that I got kicked out of my studio apartment. I was homeless.

I didn’t have to be homeless. I could have found a job, I could have asked friends and relatives for financial support. Hell, I could probably have applied for all sorts of government aid. But I chose not to.

Why? My psychology, my system simply didn’t allow me to. Being in a depressed state like that narrowed my focus and reduced the time frame I could pragmatically think within.

You see, wealthy people think in decades of time or even about intergenerational wealth building. Poor people think paycheck to paycheck. Homeless people, sadly, often think in hours and spend no time planning ahead.

That’s what I believe is one of the reasons so few homeless people ever make it off the streets. I was lucky enough to have inherited a car from my grandpa, who died earlier that year.

After a few months of living in the streets and sleeping in my car in freezing temperatures, my stepdad suggested I’d sell the car. I thought about that before, but I was at such a low point in my life, I needed someone else to make that decision for me. It’s shocking to me how suggestible I was at that time and how little sense of self worth I had.

Sold the car, bought a plane ticket to Indonesia.

Indonesia

Amsterdam to Bali flight path

Enter my second foreign adventure. I couldn’t believe it. Yesterday I was homeless, today I’m on a plane being treated like a valued customer by the crew. Boy, I’m gonna have me a great time.

After a 12-hour flight I landed at the Denpasar airport in Bali, Indonesia. Remember: I had Kia Rio money now, and I wasn’t afraid to spend it.

I had a great time. New culture, new people, new girlfriend, new everything.

After a month in Bali, I moved to a different city; Bandung. But after a short while, things just went back to ‘normal’. My old problems resurfaced and it stressed me the fuck out.

“You can’t run away from your problems” they said, but it was worth a shot.

Before I knew it, I was back to nervously pacing my apartment building, worried sick about money and slowly decreasing my focus range from a month ahead to weeks to days. Of course this time it wasn’t in wintery, cold Holland but in summery, tropical Indonesia. Is it better to be worried underneath a palm tree?

I stayed in Indonesia for about 3.5 years and went through 2 long-term relationships. I won’t get into too much detail, because it was just…boring. Those last 2.5 years I lived with my ex girlfriend in an apartment building, didn’t go outside much and I’d fly to Singapore every month to renew my visa. Nothing much happened and it just seems so boring compared to my life now.

One thing did happen though: I rediscovered my life purpose. Somehow adult life had made me forgot about my childhood dream of becoming a comic. Like…actually forgotten. Rediscovering my purpose was a giant eureka moment for me.

Although it was boring, I did live among the people and I got an impression of what it’s like to live in a third world country. You don’t know what it’s like until you’ve actually lived there.

Dating a local in a predominantly Muslim country adds even more to that experience and has really broadened my horizon. You have no idea how a society functions until you’ve been part of one. Being a tourist in these countries doesn’t even cover 10% in my opinion.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia where I lived for 2.5 years

During this time, I had taught myself how to build and sell websites. I was a self-made WordPress web designer, but I couldn’t enjoy myself. Something was missing. I thought it was money, or something else?

I had moved out of Indonesia and was now staying in Singapore. I had just broken up with my girlfriend and felt relieved. Like anyone who’s just gotten out of a tiring relationship, I started doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do: improv, one-night stands and, yes…comedy. I performed my first real stand-up set in Singapore at the Blu Jaz Cafe.

After some brainstorming I decided to go back to the Netherlands. I could have gone anywhere at this point: Australia, Indonesia, stay in Singapore. But I chose to return home for some reason.

Returning ‘home’?

Rotterdam, Netherlands, where I currently live

Another great adventure followed. I had my own online business, I stayed at different Airbnb places basically traveling my home country. It was summertime, it was great. Eventually my online business started to weigh on me too much. It didn’t feel right, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I went back to regular day-jobs again and it was fine, at least for the time being.

In the fall of 2017, I did my first stand-up open mic in the Netherlands. Boy, was it fun to do. I would occasionally do a show. I would hesitate before signing up, and even more on the day of the show itself. At the venue, before going on stage, I wanted to run away as fast as I could. But hey, I was doing it.

I believe that my baseline happiness has gradually gone up since that summer of 2017, simply because I started doing more of what I love while continuing to work on myself.

By the fall of 2019, I was doing an average of 3 shows a week. Imagine that. I went from confusion to depression to doing what I love on stage.

On that stage I’m not worried about money. On that stage I don’t care about the future. On that stage I’m fully present.

Doing what I love: being an idiot on stage

Now my goal is simple: be the hardest working comedian in this country, make €5000 per month from my own business so I can travel often and perform comedy 6 times a week.

I no longer want to compromise myself, working some shitty job and putting comedy and personal development off to the side. These things should come first no matter what.

I am a born again optimist.

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