Column Ilja: Duck

‘Sun, a bench and a duck. My life is a children’s book. For a short time.’

We sit by the canal on a park bench. A duck swims past us and hops out of the water on the opposite bank. She waddles towards an open door at the rear of a café where the cooks are occupied preparing fries and sandwiches for the guests. The duck stands in the doorway and quacks. One of the cooks crouches down and talks to her. He tosses her some food, and she waddles back to the water, quacking happily to rejoin her mate, who was waiting for her nervously. ‘This is exactly what a children’s book would say, don’t you think?’ my companion whispers. We stay a while. We have all the time in the world today.

I have never had this much time in the last six years. No obligations at the university. No resits in the middle of summer. Aside from sitting on park benches watching what summer is like for people who don’t spend their days in a library, I spend my days with my side job (bats), sports and tidying. I start my master’s in September. After taking six years to complete one half and one full bachelor programme, the new stage in my life is finally here. Or rather, will be here in September, and now, I must prepare.

The bat money will be spent entirely on my first real vacation since 2019

The weeks fly, and I am not yet bored. The underlying motivation is the fact that I must get my shit together before September. On the outside: getting rid of my stuff, I don’t need a couch, and what walls are left to be painted? And on the inside: stamina and mental. The bat money will be spent entirely on my first real vacation since 2019, which will be a solo trip. This journey will help me transform into a person who has her affairs in order. I will feel reborn. Smarter, wiser, stronger…

Most changes are slower. The 18-year-old who arrived in Wageningen for the first time about six years ago had her affairs considerably less in order than the current 24-year-old. It feels so distant that I can hardly imagine what life and I were like back then. A while ago, someone saw my WUR photo, taken in July 2017. He barely recognised me. I have changed a lot over the past six years without realising it. Perhaps there needn’t be all that much pressure on transforming this summer. 

I have changed a lot over the past six years without realising it

We are still sitting on the bench in the sun. Today is a day of rest. After a while, another duck swims past. ‘This is the same duck as before’, my companion says. The duck waddles to the open door again and starts quacking at the cooks, who give her some food again. We feel part of a children’s story again. And we are fine with it. Adult life can wait.

Ilja Bouwknegt (24) has recently graduated from her bachelor’s programme Forest and Nature Management. She is an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica and sometimes does bat research at night.

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