When I was 8 years old, my primary school substitute teacher hinted that I might have faked my reading diary. For two weeks I marked two books read per week. I assure you I wasn’t. There was absolutely no incentive for faking anything since it was a pro reading campaign detached from grades. Simply, I just loved reading and felt that finally I got to share all the fun things I had found.
This unfortunate story has a happy ending: others’ opinions didn’t make me lose my interest in reading. In fact, I’ve kept my hobby and made it into a profession as a researcher. Now, imagine if I had kept a reading diary since I learned how to read. Not meaning to brag – or seem like a fraud – but that list would be massive.
But in research one can never read enough so I’m definitely in the right business. I plough through smaller or bigger piles of books and (digitalised) articles every week. Be assured that my pile includes more than two pieces per week. I’m loving it! My sincerest thanks to great library services.
I’ve also learned to stop reading something if it has not attracted my attention for long enough. In diplomatic terms, that’s called skimming.
Partying is reading. Reading is learning. And there’s no research without learning. There’s no living without learning. Someone would say there’s no living without partying, which is practically the same thing as proven in the quote above. So let’s keep on reading and learning.
Finishing a PhD is something I dreamed about for (too) many years. And now that time is here for me. In 18 days I will be up there giving a public lectio based on my doctoral dissertation and then defend it (publicly) for up to 5 hours. Usually all of this takes approximantely two hours. It is great to be here, less than three weeks from the defence (and the party that follows it).
Yet, I experience this sense of a lost direction. Of course I have plans for my future. I have planned to a new ethnographic fieldwork related to degrowth organising and self-employment, for which I have already started to do some preliminary work (more updates at ResearchGate).
Being in a PhD program is (or rather was) not always fun, as anyone who has survived it can tell. But it is familiar. Life after PhD is unfamiliar and that’s scary.
While experiencing this sense of a lost direction, I should be delivering many things, e.g. revising a manuscript, applying for postdoc funds, preparing my public speeches (two for this Wednesday and of course the Big One on 28 October, i.e. The Defence). But it is hard to start, because there’s no certainty where I am going.
In the meantime, I’m happy to learn how you manage uncertainty. How do you handle the fact that after finishing a big project you don’t know where you are heading next? Bad TV is not a good enough answer. I tried that and it doesn’t seem to work.
In addition to friends, family, and overall familiarity, there are some surprising things I miss from home. Six months elsewhere goes past fast in almost any conditions. But these little observations remind me that I’m not at home.
1. Having more than two big tea mugs
It is surprising how little material we need for living a full life. In reality two big tea mugs is enough. However, having more than one really increases the probability of at least one being clean when there is the odd moment to sit down and relax over a hot BIG mug of tea. I miss my beautiful collection of Iittala mugs designed by Klaus Haapaniemi.
2. Familiar tea flavours
The Danes have a pervasive taste for peppermint flavoured tea. Another one is liquorice but I don’t mind that as much as I do the peppermint. It seems to be in every non-black tea blend. I’ve become somewhat an expert in interpreting the trade descriptions. And in causing a long queue in a coffee shop. Sorry.
3. A bookshelf
As we rented an unfurnished apartment, we needed to get some furniture. But we wanted to get as little furniture as possible. It has resulted in a life without a bookshelf. Now in a family with two readaholics – one toddler and one academic – this decision has its consequences. Now it seems we have no tables to set aside things as they are covered with books. The consequences of living without a bookshelf is demonstrated in the photo.
All in all, it has been comforting to experience that we are just fine with less furniture and material. We don’t need that much of stuff – except books – and life is still good. Perhaps it is even a bit better. During this time I have noticed what is important to me: having a big mug full of my favourite tea by a stacked bookshelf.
One of my favorite words in Finish is “ilo” which means “joy”. I love the sound, idea and meaning of it. But it is not easy to be joyful. I think it is not a coincidence that the International Labour Organization is abbreviated as ILO.
Gretchen Rubin, who writes about happiness, has concluded that it is hard to be light. By this she means that it requires work to be happy although it looks easy. But it’s not. It’s not easy to see the positive side of unpleasant things whereas it is much easier to sulk.
I knew once a person who was able to see the positive side of things. Even when that person was dying, I would hear stories about the lovely soft kitten they had or their smart son. This person had all the reason to sulk and feel miserable being in pain and emotional distress – but decided otherwise. Only years after I realise that lightness was harder to obtain than it seemed to others.
I’m terrible at being light. Becoming a parent has forced me into trying to be light. But at times, I’m sulking when I could decide otherwise. However, it seems being light gets easier when I try harder. It’s hard to be light, right?
I missed my bus this morning. Twice. In a row. I took another bus which is not as convenient for me and finally made it to the Roskilde university. I need a bike, start to act like a Dane and bike to work.
This episode captures something elemental about moving to another country for a time period longer than a vacation but shorter than “for now”. The fact that we put our life on hold in Helsinki for six months and moved over here in the meanwhile makes me feel like I have been teleported.
The smallest things are new, like shopping for basic groceries or finding the nearest playground for our toddler. It takes a lot energy although we get to see fun things too we wouldn’t see in Helsinki. Yet, soon we too will to be carried away by our routines and stop seeing. So now when I notice people going on with their everyday tasks I feel like stopping them and telling all the great (and not so great) things I have observed in the environment and lifestyles. But I guess I’d have been annoyed if someone did that to me in Helsinki.
Yet, feeling like a character out of Start Trek is a unique situation and I should cherish it as long as I can. Soon I’m routinised too. With a bike there will be no more random morning buses.