“Hey, I’m a Tjarda and I’m almost blind.” Tjarda Struik (36) begins almost all of her TikTok videos with this sentence. On the catwalk, a mother of two shows how she lives her life with an eye condition that only makes her see 5 percent. It turns out there is a gap in the TikTok market: her videos are a hit among her 60,000 followers. “People even want to know how I wear my shoes.”
When she was 6 years old, Tjarda was looking for ophthalmologist after ophthalmologist. She sees much less than her classmates, but no doctor knows why. After one year and numerous visits to the hospital after that, doctors discover that it is an eye disorder that most often occurs in people over seventy. And although this abnormality is genetically determined, no one in the Tjarda family has the same condition.
The form that Tjarda struggles with also occurs among young people. It soon becomes clear that the 6-year-old will lose more and more of her sight, until she finally sees nothing.
Almost blind during life
“In the years since, I’ve tried to hide my condition,” Tjarda says. “You just want to fit in as a kid.” This stage of denial lasts a long time. “About my twenty-fifth birthday. Then I moved from Groningen to Amsterdam. While I was still cycling through town in Groningen, I noticed that my vision was too poor for me in crowded Amsterdam. I also moved in together, which made me realize that I could only find things if I knew where I put them myself. If my partner transfers something, I will lose it.”
That’s no longer the case, the 25-year-old Tjarda must conclude. “I knew it was time to learn how to deal with it.” Early in her life, she ends up in a rehabilitation center. “How am I going to organize my life from now on? This was a central question during rehab. Nine months later I walked out the door again with a blind stick. I thought that was terrible. From that moment on I felt like ‘that blind man’.”
I started thinking about my selling point. I’m different from the rest, and I want to show people that you can be there too
The situation is not easy, but Tjarda knows that she must learn to accept life. When she decided to start her own company a few years later, she finally made the switch completely. I started thinking about my selling point. I am different from the rest, and I want to show people that you can be there.” Tjarda decided to use herself primarily as a speaker and advocate for inclusivity. At the same time, she continues to work towards her ultimate dream: to become a mayor.” I hope to become the first female mayor. The Netherlands is almost blind.
Followers want to know everything
To put her company on the map, a business coach at Tjarda comes up with the idea of starting a TikTok account. She said, “Go and photograph yourself.” At first I thought this was a very strange idea, but later I thought: Well, you can always try.” She will post her first video on the platform in November 2021, and the rest is history. On TikTok, Tjarda shows with the necessary sense of humor how she leads her life , while you only see 5 percent. Humor has always been my primary value. I want to draw attention to blind people or people with eye problems in a fun and light way. Because the more something appears, the more accepting it is.”
For example, in her videos Tjarda shows how she wears her shoes and how she knows the time. But her most popular videos are the ones with a pinch of salt. I have a video where I’m supposed to show how to ride a cargo bike, and how to know where the pool is. This is the last video my husband and I made this summer – he regularly laughs at me when I come up with another silly idea. When he filmed me walking into the pool and going downhill, we were in a crack again. In moments like this, we laugh and say to each other: What the hell are we doing? “
I want to keep creating awareness; TikToks has a greater social purpose. But of course always with a wink
But not only Tjarda herself comes up with these comic themes for her videos. “I receive the most unusual video requests from followers. People ask how I cook and take care of my children. But also how do I choose my clothes, or respond to TikTok comments. In short: how do I live. Well, I photograph it with love.”
TikToks for a social purpose
Although TikTok fame wasn’t exactly Tjarda’s dream, the entrepreneur is happy to continue it for now. My dream is to become mayor, but social media has become an important part of my life. I always emphasize that in politics. I feel like I should keep doing this – mayor or not. I want to keep creating awareness; TikToks has a greater social purpose. But of course always with a wink.”
This article was produced in collaboration with The best social media.
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