Stella and the performance bubble #4

I am Stella

Everyone is successful and knows what they want. Except for RUG student Stella Vrijmoed. Stella doesn’t know what she wants. Stella fails all the time. Or so she thinks. For the UK, she wrote a short series of personal stories about the performance bubble and the fear of failure. This is the fourth and last part.
By Stella Vrijmoed / Photo by Leonie Coppes / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Animation by René Lapoutre

There are ways to get rid of your fear of failure that don’t involve failing and getting back up. You can move from Amsterdam to Groningen, for example. It worked for me.

It was three years ago when I, then a very panicky and overly sensitive little Stella, became friends with Minke, a laid-back, sensible girl from Groningen. Not only did she calm me down and make me put things into perspective, she also introduced me to her Groningen friends, with whom we celebrated the new year 2015 in Groningen.

That New Year’s Eve, I was introduced to the down-to-earth North and its inhabitants, with whom I felt an immediate kinship. In the end, this was what caused me to decide to do my journalism master in Groningen.

I chose this master over the one offered in Amsterdam, not just because the latter wouldn’t accept me without any editorial experience, but because something told me that Groningen would be good for me. In Amsterdam, the competition is much stronger, and the selection criteria are much stricter.

Open lecturers

This message was also clear during the open day for the master. The atmosphere didn’t appeal to me, while the openness of the lecturers at the University of Groningen did. Everyone was welcome, whether their background was in artificial intelligence or in medicine. They would teach you how to be a journalist. This, in combination with Minke and the memory of that New Year’s eve, made me feel that Groningen would be a good fit for me.

And I turned out to be right. It wasn’t until I had moved that I became aware of the bubble I had lived in in Amsterdam. So many things had been normal in that bubble. Everyone wore Ace&Tate glasses, drank IJ beer, had a crate on their bicycle.

But those are actual, tangible things.


There are so many intangible things I had got used to. It is an attitude I had also noticed at the journalism master in Amsterdam: that life is like a competition. Not only do you have to keep up with everyone else, you should also end up in first place every single time. In my case, this triggered a fear of failure, just to bring that up again. In Groningen, that fear of failure mainly went away.

People in the North know all about the bubble. They call Amsterdam and its surroundings ‘the West’. This name was new to me. In Groningen, I started working at an alternative underground club, which no one in Amsterdam who wasn’t in the music industry had ever heard of.

At Vera, people give exactly zero fucks. There is a waiting list stretching back months. The people on it want to be part of the two hundred volunteers who help run the club. This baffled me at first, because I had learned that nothing is ever for free.

But it immediately shows that here, individualism takes a back seat to working together to keep this legendary place running. The same goes for the Noorderzon Festival. Perhaps things like these exist in Amsterdam as well, but my first experience with them was in Groningen. Therefore, I will always associate this city with my happy place. My happy place, which meant I got closer to being my true Stella self, ready to spread this message.

Randstad bubble

Because I hope that everyone finds their ‘Minke’ or their ‘Groningen’, bursting not just my bubble, but the entire Randstad bubble. Because there a gap between the Randstad and the rest of the country. The disbelief on some people’s faces when I tell them that not only did I leave for Groningen after my bachelor in Amsterdam, but that I loved it so much that I would consider going back there is unmistakably rooted in the feeling of superiority that is so pervasive in the Randstad in general and in Amsterdam in particular.

The satirical website De Speld once wrote: ‘Physicists at the University of Amsterdam have made a shocking discovery. According to the scientists, the rest of the world doesn’t actually revolve around Amsterdam, but the entire planet revolves in an ellipse around the sun. As a result of this discovery, many inhabitants of Amsterdam will from now on have to keep their big mouths shut.’

If De Speld says it, it must be true.


This is part 4 of a four-part series. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here. Stella also writes a blog about this theme, called Submarines (in Dutch only)


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