The Seasons of My Life

Feb 4, 2024 | 0 comments

In my previous blog, I talked about the seasons of life. Of how witnessing the trees being stripped of their leaves, only to regain their beautiful lushness in the following seasons, reminded me that regardless of how ‘barren’ I might feel when the seasons of life change, there is always the promise of a season that follows where I will once again blossom and bloom in the most majestic colors. (If you haven’t read it, it’s short and sweet, and you can find it here). As I reflected on what I had written, I realized there was much I felt I had to share about some of my personal seasons. In particular, about a long ‘winter’.  

To those who have followed me for a while, I was the singer that started her career at a very young age and went on to achieve international success, with at the pinnacle of that success, the worldwide release of my album Azuca’. It was an incredible rollercoaster ride: from being in three continents in a week, to global stages, TV performances for millions, limos, dancers, choreographers, stylists, the works!  

And then… crickets. I had literally dropped off the world (music) map, seemingly overnight. The questions were all around me: “Where’s Maruja?”, “What happened to Maruja?”, “Doesn’t Maruja sing anymore?”. How was it possible that I had achieved what I had worked for, for over 25 years, and then just walked away from it? Even those closest to me didn’t quite understand. They knew the circumstances that played a role, but no one really knew the real reason. And how could they if even I didn’t quite know. 

Here are the circumstances: my mom had two strokes back-to-back when I was touring to promote my Azuca’ album and was suddenly bed ridden. For my dad, it was all too much, and he ended up in a hospital bed beside her, after a complete collapse. They were in the hospital, together, for nearly 4 months.

I’m an only child, and they were my everything. They were also my biggest fans, my rock, and my support system, having sacrificed to give me every opportunity to pursue my singing career by supporting me to move abroad. There was no way I could go back on the road and leave them. So, I moved back and put singing on hold for a while. A while became a year, then two years, and I realized that making my way back to the international career I had put on hold was likely not going to happen. It’s important for me to say here that I don’t regret one minute of it, because it meant I spent the last years of my mom and dad’s life close to them. Honestly, that has brought me so much peace after they passed away. 

Losing myself

But those years chipped away at me… at my self-confidence and my drive. I hardly ever gave myself credit for the things I was accomplishing. I pivoted and started my own research and strategic marketing agency, and thanks to a few key people who believed in me, was working with major brands in the region within a year. Putting it all on the field and always giving a 150%, meant that my name was mentioned in more and more rooms, and my reputation proceeded to open more and more doors. On the personal front, I was blessed to start a family and pouring my love into my first-born son, and a few years later my second-born as well, brought me the greatest joy. My life wasn’t lacking purpose, and I had so much to be grateful for. Now living abroad again, this time in Ireland, I dedicated myself to raising my boys and managed to continue to grow my company.  

And still… I felt like an imposter, riddled with self-doubt. As a singer, I had built a career that took my music around the world. As a marketing strategist, I grew my company to working with some of the biggest brands in the world. I had gone for my wildest dreams and achieved so many of them. This girl from the small Dutch-Caribbean Island of Curaçao, had made the world her oyster. But it seemed like I had completely lost sight of that girl.

I felt like I had failed. Failed to live up to my own expectations. Failed to live up to the expectations SO many had of me. I would look back on some of the highlights of my music career in an almost out-of-body experience, as if I were looking at someone else’s life. “I’ve had a great run and have so much to be grateful for,” became my excuse for not daring to dream bigger dreams, and most definitely not entertaining that little voice inside telling me there was a possibility of more…  

Here comes the sun

But as is the case in every winter, my ‘winter’ saw glimpses of sun as well. Forever the eager learner, I sought inspiration to better myself. I was inspired by the stories of those who transformed their health and their lives, and I started on a journey of becoming a healthier version of me. Determined not to go down the path of continuing unhealthy habits that could lead to the lifestyle illnesses that had contributed to my parents’ poor quality of life in their last years, I adopted a primarily plant-based lifestyle and started making daily outdoor walks a priority. The more I cared for myself, the more the sun came out in my ‘winter’. I started going deep…  with hours upon hours of self-reflection, I did the inner work that was so very necessary for me to be able to heal. I realized that I had somehow buried my music when I buried my parents. Along with it, my ambition and drive. I also realized, as so many mothers do, that I had completely put aside my own goals and dreams and poured myself into those of my kids. And although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, I think so many of us tend to lose our identities along the way after we have kids. In many ways it’s one of the most important roles we take on, and it’s so hard to see ourselves outside of what that role entails. But I knew that to truly be the best mom I could be, I owed it to my kids to be the best version of me… to allow them to see and experience ALL of me! Although I wasn’t quite sure how to get there, I started taking baby steps. 

Then came my ‘spring’… The crazy thing is that to most of the world, this was their ‘winter’. And at the start it was mine as well. Covid sent a shock wave across the world, and sort of paralyzed us all. As for many, it gripped me with fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of loss! The latter being one of my most crippling fears anyway. Although now stuck inside with my family of four, 24/7, I admit that having all of us protected by the four walls of our home, away from the ‘scary’ world, gave me a strange sense of peace. Perhaps a somewhat panic-warped, distorted peace, fueled by the illusion that having my family locked in a house meant I didn’t have to worry about them, but it worked for me! Yet slowly but surely the panic started to subside, making way for a comfortable ease of being together and enjoying this gifted quality time. The hectic pace of life that had now screeched to a halt also brought the time and space for more inner reflection. The quiet voice inside that earlier on had whispered about the ‘possibility of more’, started growing louder. If there were ever a time to be confronted by how futile life could be if not lived purposefully, it was now! And I knew I wanted my life to have meaning and purpose! So, why had I thrown away my greatest love, music? Why was I so afraid of putting myself out there, of getting back on the stage, while knowing how much joy it brought me to be able to touch lives through my music. Why had I wasted all this time?  

Starting again

As I asked myself these questions, I also gave myself grace. Taking time out to be with my boys when they were young was a gift and a great part of my purpose, so I wasn’t going to beat myself up for that. I also gave myself grace for needing the time to grieve – the loss of my parents, as well as the loss of a career I had worked my whole life for. But I knew it was time to let go of the fear that had held me back from stepping out again. The fear of not being good enough anymore, of not being young enough, skinny enough, ‘valid’ enough… How that fear had crippled me! For SO long I had allowed it to cripple me. Keeping me small and playing it safe, instead of playing full out. That girl that I had lost sight of started to show up. At first, just popping her head up every now and then, but soon she was roaring inside of me: “Come on, Maruja! It’s time! It’s time to get back out there! Get out there and share your story so that others can be inspired, and empowered, and give themselves permission to stop playing small. Get out there and pursue all those dreams you have yet to fulfill. You’re here, you’re healthy, you’re alive! Start NOW!” 

And so, I started. 

In December of 2021, months after turning 50 (Yep, you can start again at 50 or 60 or 70, baby!), I released my first song in well over a decade. A beautiful version of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ that my husband had arranged for me years before; almost giving up hope I would ever go back into a recording studio. A few months later I finished and released one of the most personal songs I ever have – one that encapsulates so much of what my ‘winter’ entailed, “When You Smile” (listen or watch the video here).

A year later, I performed at one of the biggest Jazz Festivals in the world, accompanied by stellar musicians and the incredible Metropole Orchestra – a world renowned orchestra that has accompanied some of the world’s biggest artists. In the weeks leading up to this performance a friend, who is also a powerhouse in her own right in the music industry, said: “Only YOU can disappear off the music radar for over a decade, and come back to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival!” I laughed and thanked her for the big compliment, but I also thought: “Watch me!” 

Watch me, because I’m on a mission… to play FULL out so my kids can grow up with the best version of me! To play full out, so I can empower women (and men) out there of any age to do the same. To play full out, because I am blessed to be here and to be healthy, and I owe it to myself to not play small anymore. So, my lovely friend, if you see me releasing new music, starting a podcast to share the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, launching online courses so I can give others the tricks of the trade and the tools they need to fulfill their dreams, turning my story into a keynote concert, just to name a few of the goals I’m working towards, know that I’m playing FULL out, so that you can too.     

As my journey continues to unfold, I want nothing more than to bring you along with me. That is why I do what I do! To remind you that regardless of the season you’re in, your story and your journey are still unfolding in the most amazing ways. No matter how dark and cold your winter may be, it is just a time for rest and reflection because spring is just around the corner, and you will start to bloom and blossom again. I am convinced that every season has its reason and is preparing you for the next. And there is beauty to be found in each and every one. If ever you forget, know that I’m here to encourage, support and remind you.  

Always cheering you on,