I’m sat by my desk in my parents’ house – a desk where I’ve written many a paper and finished many an assignment. Outside, the grass is showing off frosted tips, and frost roses are playing on my window panes. I’ve been here before. We’ve just had a wonderful Christmas, and now we reach the days of quiet introspection and thinking things through.
This has been one hell of a year. It’s gone by so fast, and I have no clue where all the leftover seconds ran away to; all the moments I hid away, those I tucked in my pocket for safekeeping and said “I’ll keep these for when I need them”. It’s been a busy year, one where I’ve both overfilled my existing plate, and picked up some plates that were never really mine to fill anyway. But it’s been good, and hopefully it has, and will, lead to many more interesting days and experiences.
But not only has this been one hell of a year; it has been a wild and wonderful decade, and after a chat I had with my mum the other day, I’ve decided to name this decade the Decade of Decision.
This has been my decade of making decisions for myself. This has been the decade I have made a lot of choices, big and small, and the years I’ve had to realize that, though a bit wobbly at times, I do have my own two feet to stand on.
These are the years I started using social media (November 2011, to be exact), and had to figure out what kind of relationship I want with online me. Still working on that one. It’s been the years of deciding what sort of school I wanted to go to, what kind of subjects and courses I wanted to take and pursue, and slowly realizing that the choices I made at 15 are both opening and closing doors for me now at the age of 23.
This decade is the first one I properly remember, considering I was 4 in year 2000 when the last one started. 2010-2019 are the years I decided I wanted to pursue higher education, the years that will forever hold my England-adventure, and the years I met some of the people I never want to see leave my life.
The last couple of years, the end of this decade, has seen our family become both smaller and bigger at the same time; we have said goodbye to wonderful people, and hello to some bright new additions. New people, new routines, new traditions. Permanent changes has been made to our “group”, and those changes have been embraced and welcomed.
I am 23, which means that this decade has been a little bit less than half of my life. However, it’s also just getting started, and though I’m sneakily a bit terrified of what’s to come or go, I can’t wait for the rest.
Bring on new flats and jobs and opportunities, bring on new habits made and old habits broken. Merry Christmas which has come and passed and a very happy new year, now that we’re here.
(Ooof, I know I’m very late with my new years posts this year; just got two more coming in the next couple of days and then we’re properly on with the new year!)
Today is Santa Lucia, the day of light in a very dark winter. It is celebrated on the 13. of December, on the winter solstice that used to be known as the longest night of the year, when the sun would turn on its heel and come back. It was a day for mischief on the farms and for strange things happening, and for candles lighting up the dark.
On Santa Lucia (or St Lucy’s Day) we sing for the the light to come back. We light up the dark corners of our homes with candles, wear crowns made of lights, eat lussekatt-pastries to get us through the cold, and wait for morning and the rising sun. We celebrate and thank the dark winter months, while preparing for longer days of sun to come.
This was my attempt at lighting up the corners of my home, however, as I live in a rather small student flat, there was no way to do this without setting off the fire alarm. I am very lucky, though, to have a pretty thick forest right outside of my home, and it was wonderful to start this project off in darkness and then see how the candles lit up the space around me. Complete silence, the only sounds were the drips of yesterday’s rain that still clung on to the branches and the chirk of the matches being lit.
This video has been a bit of an experiment; a one-take-attempt. I only gave myself one try to record the song, and the video was all done in one go, too. The song because I wanted to see how it would turn out; the video because I was filming outside at night in a cold (and very dark) forest.
And a note on safety: it had been raining for three weeks straight before I filmed this video on the one day with no precipitation, so the ground was soaked, and not particularly prone to catching fire. Just in case, though, behind the tree in the corner of the video, I had two fire extinguishing aerosols and a fire blanket waiting. Candles are wonderful, and when small flickering flames come together they can really light up a space, but I’d rather not light up the whole forest. Be safe with fire! x
“Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language, words like: Thither. Mischance. Felicity. I am always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together. Read it! I know you’ll love it.”- Kathleen Kelly, You Got Mail (1998)
And so began my confused relationship with Jane Austen’s authorship; watching Meg Ryan so eloquently discuss literature I deemed far beyond my 8 years of life well-lived, on my grandparents VHS player.
As explained in this post, I’m not very good at New Year’s resolutions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still give it an honest go every single year. A resolution that’s followed me around ever since getting to visit the Jane Austen House in Chawton (on three lovely occasions in 2018, you can click here to watch pictures and read last year’s Andrea chatter on excitedly about it), has been to read all of Jane Austen’s books. I’ve never read any of her work to completion, but I love the idea of her as a writer. The woman who sharply criticised the society she knew, who challenged the notion of a women’s role in relationships and in societies, and who published her first novel not by her own name, but signed “Written by a lady”.
The resolution was to finish all of her books, but as I still keep restarting Pride and Prejudice, I haven’t gotten any further than I was in February 2018. I had a real boost where I read it all up to where Darcy writes Elizabeth the letter (slight vagueness to avoid any spoilers of this much loved and 206 year-old narrative) but then life got hectic and I didn’t sit down with the story again until it felt wrong to pick up where I left and so I had to start all over again. Cue this happening multiple times, and come July 2019, I’m none the further.
So, let’s get into what this post is really about. I am breaking up with this new years resolution, as I think maybe I’m not ready to delve into all of Austen’s books just yet. I do love the stories of hers which I’m familiar with, and I love hearing people talk about them, but I think right now they may not be for me. I don’t want them to be books I just get through, I want them to be stories to be cherished. 21-year-old me was so sure that I was finally ready to understand what Austen wrote about, but 23-year-old me isn’t so sure. And so I’ll remove this point from my list of (rather lacking) New Years Resolutions, and get to them in my own time. May be when I get back to uni over the summer, or in a couple of years, and who knows, maybe I won’t ever read all of Austen’s books. The ones I do end up reading, however, I will read properly, slowly, and with a big mug of tea in my hands. I’ll process the story and grow on it. In my own time.
I’m turning 23 and I’m not entirely sure what that means yet. I’m aware it won’t mean that I’ll wake up taller, wiser or more confident. I know your birthday is just a symbolic notion and that what helps you grow are all the days in between. However, like with New Year’s Resolutions, maybe birthdays can function as a day of reflection, a definite marker of another year passing. Not for everyone and not for the world, but in your very own timeline. What have you learnt since your last birthday? What have you figured out? What new people have you met, and what new paths have you travelled down?
To “celebrate” that today is my last day as 22, I’m posting this little video. It is a poem I wrote for the OctPoWriMo challenge, last year, about all the things I’d love to tell myself at 16. In the original post I wrote “this took a long time to get right, but I didn’t want to post it before I was happy with it. Felt like I owed 16 year old me that much.”
Filmed in my bed, with a comfy shirt on and a cup of tea waiting. It felt fitting to post this on my last day of being 22, as a symbol of all the things I’ve finally figured out, and of all the things I’ve yet to learn.
Now that we’re about a month and a half into the semester, our lecturers have given us a reading week for reading, revising and getting on top of the course. We’ve already handed in 8 assignments and gotten through quite a lot of set material, so this feels like a nice treat, a “go, focus on the parts of the curriculum you want to focus on.” However, with great freedom comes a completely unstructured week, with what could potentially be just 5 days of off-time. I don’t want this week to slip away like holidays often did when I was a child; one day you’re running home from school with 7 long days of fun ahead of you, and then suddenly you’re back at school feeling like the holiday hadn’t even been a thing in the first place.
But not this time! This time, I’ve made a plan, split my day up into “classes” and focused on different modules. This time I’ll get what I want done, done.
So, I figured, why not make a blog post about how I’m intending to structure and spend this week, and who knows, maybe it could help someone else too. I’d also like to post updates throughout the week, to see how successful this plan is, and how I have to adapt and change it to fit how the week is actually going.
So, let’s get into it!
Make a plan (and stick to it)
I’ve split my day up into hour-long chunks, from 10am-4pm. 2 and a half hour before a half hour break, with one module in focus before the break and another after it. At the end of every hour, I’ll give myself about 10 minutes if I feel like I need it, to go get some food or make another cup of tea.
This plan looks a bit intense, but everything I’ve put on it is stuff I already know but want to either just get further under my skin or want to better my overall understanding of. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get into a good workflow and get most of these things done. Tuesday and Wednesday are also study group days, meaning a change of air and work scenario.
2. Find a place to work
It’s important to find somewhere to work that is the right kind of quiet. I work best in areas where there is a little bit of background noise, but nothing actually loud. Home alone is almost too quiet for me, libraries are perfect, coffee shops are a bit too noisy. I find that if there are absolutely no sounds around me, I get distracted. If I’m home alone and the flat above me is (uncharacteristically) quiet, I start tapping my pencil, looking out the window and reaching for my phone. Libraries, however, have all the “good sounds” that keep you focused; tapping on laptop keyboards, chairs shuffling and bumping into the desks, book pages brushing against each other, and pencils scribbling on paper. Also the occasional heavy sigh from that one economy student in the corner poring over yet a larger book every day. However, this is highly individual, and you need to find out how much noise you’re comfortable with and that makes you the most productive.
I’m going to alternate between the study section of the library and my desk in the flat. For the Norwegian module-part of the plan I’ll be at home because I’ve got a lot of work resources in different books, folders and also taped to my walls, and so that would be easier to do at home. Heading to the library to then get started on the module after the break will provide a bit of fresh air on my way down + a change of scenery.
Note to self: Need to properly clean the desk before getting to work, to tidy away the worst distractions.
3. Make sure you’ve got everything you need!
Print powerpoint presentations, make sure your notes are tidy and organised, have all your books and stationery easily within reach. Have everything prepared so that you can just reach out a hand and grab that book you need with that great chapter, when you get into that work-flow it’s so easy to talk about but not as easy to attain. Also, take a lot of notes along the way, as notes are often easier to revise from than your textbooks when exam season comex around. Keep these readily available too.
4. Get enough food and enough sleep!
You can’t get any productive work done if you don’t eat well and get enough sleep. I’m very guilty of going to bed a bit late, but I am making a conscious effort to turn that bad habit around. Not getting enough sleep makes you drowsy and unproductive, and it’s also just bad for you and your health in general. So let’s get in some early nights, people!
5. DRINK TEA
Okay, this one might not be relevant for you, but I firmly believe that no work can be done without tea. Ever. Tea increases productivity by approximately 102% and those are completely and utterly true facts. Or maybe not. Or are they?
6. Take breaks and call it a day
Make sure that you’re working when you’re supposed to work, and that you give yourself a break during break time. Also, evening time where you don’t think about work at all, is also important. I often find that if I don’t have a plan to follow, everything I do end up taking a lot longer than it needs to, as I’m doing a lot of things at the same time, and not really devoting all my attention to one project. Because of this, I can be working on an assignment for an entire day, and then end up with that final “come on, just get this done with”-impulse late in the evening, meaning it has eaten up all my potential evening me-time. This rarely leads to results I’m happy with, and so that’s why this plan starts the day at 10 and ends it at 4 pm. After 4, I won’t even be thinking about uni, if I can get this right.
I’m excited for this week, and to try out this new system. I know this may seem super basic to a lot of people, but as the degree I did before this was a very creative one, I’m used to working whenever creativity hits, which is often at the most inopportune moments, and I may be a bit guilty of carrying that habit over into this new degree. I’m using this week, however, to get myself properly back on track and hopefully start the process of developing some good habits!
New Year’s Resolutions; a lot of people swear to them, a lot of people really don’t. I like to think of New Year’s resolutions as Valentines kisses. There is nothing stopping you from telling people you love them 365 days a year, but it is nice to have a special day where it’s a little bit more focus on it; if you want to change anything with the way you live your life you should do that whenever you want to, but it is nice to have a day like January 1st where you contemplate what you want to change and why, a bit more in-depth than usual.
However, resolutions sound so strict, I like thinking about them as plans for the new year. Not things you can fail at, but small things you can have a go at instead. These are plans I’d like to shape my 2019 after:
–Try again and finish all the Jane Austen novels
I made this a bit of a delayed resolution last year, as I visited the Jane Austen house in Chawton three times in three months, this year. However, I’ve not really gotten through a single one as I keep restarting Pride and Prejudice. I do really like it however, and want to get through them all, because I love how witty and fun the language and the characters are. I guess you could say that bringing an old resolution into the new year is a surefire way to fail, but here’s to trying again and seeing what happens!
–Read for “cosy” and for pleasure + read more Norwegian books
Yes, I’ve already gotten better at that this year, but in 2019 I want to get even better at reading just because I want to! I’ve also generally been reading mostly English books for a very long time, and I’d love to get more into the contemporary Norwegian literary scene this year. There are so many wonderful books waiting!
–Make a savings account for travelling and adventure planning
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time; I miss travelling. I miss booking plane tickets and getting all excited, planning adventures months in advance and being able to dream up the most impossible plans. This year I really hope to be able to go visit Lucie in Czech Republic and Ana in Portugal, and therefore, another goal for 2019 is to start a savings account specifically coined at travelling. Saving on a student budget is never fun, but with some heavy budgeting I’m sure it’ll work out.
-Create a softer everyday
Kiss your everyday, there are more Mondays to Fridays than Saturdays. I started trying to focus on this in 2018, but I’ll try even harder in 2019! Breaks with tea and blankets, candles and soft music shouldn’t just be a thing for the weekends, but also for small moments in between rushing to and from, throughout the week. I’m excited about this one!
There is already so much stress in the world, but we 100% choose how we want to live our life from day to day. Therefore, this year, I’ll try to stop worrying so much about the small stuff. I’ll also remind myself about the importance of jumping at exciting opportunities even if they present themselves as a little bit scary, and to give both myself and the people around me a few more pats on the back every once in a while. What are your thoughts about New Years Resolutions? Have you got any this year? Here’s to 2019 becoming exactly the year we make it. Let’s create the best year yet!