I suddenly find myself in a situation I haven’t been in before. I’m sat in a borrowed fifth floor flat in the middle of the biggest city in Norway, looking out over the sun setting over Oslo, shrouding the parks and the buildings and the castle in mid-July nighttime. This is a fairly quiet part of the city center, but compared to my 2000 people-hometown, everything seems grand and loud. People are wandering on the streets below me, and I am both in the middle of more bustle than I’m used to, and also so incredibly on the outside of it. Not a bad place to be, really.
Big cities are strange. It’s in the cities stuff is happening. Big cities mean life, big cities are synonymous with energy, big cities smell of adventure, new foods and bright colours. People gather in big cities, huddle together in big cities, but people are also incredibly lonely in big cities. Big cities are for dreams and worries and ambitions and nails bitten short.
At the moment I’m so very new to this city. I’ve never lived with the sounds of trams passing outside my window, and it’s a new experience. Maybe the best way to get used to the city bustle is to sing with it. I tried that; a song about how no matter what else you have or haven’t got, at least you’ll always have tomorrow. Maybe the city is a little bit more mine now than it was this morning. Maybe it’ll be a little bit more mine tomorrow. Like I said, I’m so incredibly new to this city. I don’t know it properly and it certainly doesn’t know me, yet. But maybe one day. Maybe this city will lead to small changes that will lead to big changes, maybe this first temporary stay will lead to some sort of personal growth I’m not prepared for and certainly not aware of at the moment. This feels like the beginning of something – I’m just not sure what.
I brought one of my favourite mugs, filled it with tea and now I’m sat overlooking the buildings and the trees in the park. Cars, trams, taxis and electric scooters; meters below me life is going on and on. I can’t wait to join in, but for tonight I think I’m just going to feel oh so very fortunate to suddenly find myself on the rooftops of the capital, to see the city from above, to be in the middle of what feels like everything, and still be a little bit distanced from it. I’ll learn and grow and get to know this city tomorrow. I’m very excited about it.
I’m moving out of my flat on the 15th of June, which is, objectively, still more than a month away. However, spending so much time inside this flat lately has really made me think about what this flat means (and has meant) to me and what the future will hopefully bring, and in a fit of … not really inspiration and definitely not passion, but in a fit of something, I decided to dismantle my postcard wall today.
I love my postcard wall. When I first moved to Kristiansand I bought my first ever mailbox, and for a couple of moments, I felt like a proper adult. To fill the mailbox with nice things, I joined Postcrossing, and since September 2018 I’ve sent 203 cards and received 202. Every single card has been meticulously pinned to my wall, and today I’ve taken them all down. It took me about an hour – I wanted to have a read through, and properly look at all of them, not just tear them down.
The postcard wall has served as an interesting and unique piece of decoration to make a student flat seem a bit less dull (and orange, that wall is oh so very orange). It was the one thing people always commented on when they entered my flat; there was always a “wow” or a “what on earth is all this?” But more important than that – it made the flat feel a bit less temporary. The postcard wall was “my thing”; 202 greetings from 202 people I’ve never met, 202 people’s handwritings and well-wishes from around the world, and something that slowly built itself up around me. And as I was taking the cards down, I looked at so many of them and I realised that I can remember receiving almost all of them. I remember when specific cards popped into my mailbox, how quickly I ran inside to register them and pop a message back to the sender, before putting them up on the wall, contemplating whether the front or the back should be on show. I do not know where any of the cards I’ve sent ended up, but maybe they’re on someone else’s postcard wall, or in an album or a box that someone flicks through when they need a smile or a giggle. The postcard wall has definitely made me feel safe and at home, like I’m surrounded by these snippets of time, these conversations happening at kitchen tables and desks all around the globe. What a privilege to get to be a part of such a thing.
I’ve moved six times in the last six years, but this is the first flat I’m genuinely sad to leave. Taking down this wall, which I’ve appreciated so much, felt like the first step to taking my time to thank the flat and start moving out of it. Having to rush all of these cards down, while simultaneously trying to pack up everything else just felt wrong; the cards needed their own time and their own moments. Silly, I know, but it just felt right.
So here you go, I hope you enjoy this little snippet of how the postcard wall came to be history. A lot less dramatic than I make it sound, but to be fair, removing the first card felt quite dramatic to me. Then it became a bit meditative, as I read through the kind words of strangers who’ve all given me a little bit of their time on the back of a card, who all helped make this flat feel a little bit more like mine. And without planning for it, the very last card left on the wall, the very last to be carefully taken down, was actually the very first I received. Full circle, and all that.
Here’s to many more postcards, in many more mailboxes to come. I hope you’re having a lovely day, and that you’re staying safe wherever you are.
These last few weeks have been very strange, and I don’t have anything new to add but for my own peace of mind I have to say something.
Since last Wednesday, we’ve seen a lot of societies shut down. In Norway there are travel bans and shop shut downs and all the unis and schools and nurseries are closed. The streets are empty and no one’s at work apart from critical workers.
People are isolating, turning social distancing up to the max and really taking quarantining seriously. Good.
The rules and regulations made to fight off this virus are strict and they’re a bit scary. Never before have I not been allowed to leave my own house, never before have the streets outside been so empty. Businesses are losing money, people are scared for the future, economies all over the world are taking major hits and who even knows how the world will look after this. But I am glad we’re doing it. Extreme times, extreme measure. This situation is strange and scary, yes, but so is this virus and I will loudly support any measure put in place to gather the world to fight it.
“Love in the time of Covid-19” is a phrase I’ve seen a couple of people use now, and it kind of stuck with me. It sounds silly and and silly is definitely something we need right now. I can also how it is a direct reference to Love in the time of Cholera, a book I started but could never finish. Completely unrelated to the current crisis, it is also a great reminder of my friend’s 12th birthday, when her mum rented the film version of said book, thinking “hm, this sounds like a nice film for a bunch of kids”. It was not, but hey, we got a good story out of it.
However, I think that phrase also got stuck because it poses such an important question right now: what does love look like, in these times of not being able to be together?
It is important to talk about how we show love right now, because it’s so very different from how we normally do it. When we cannot express love by clasping our hands together, by pulling the ones we love into the tightest hug, by sleeping next to each other feeling the calm of everyday, we have to find other ways. Right now we are showing love by staying away, by respecting quarantine regulations, by being cautious. We are showing love by isolating ourselves, so that the risk groups can stay safe, by coming together as we’re staying apart. So strange and so very, very important.
We’re almost through February, and I’m sat pondering this year; the months that have been and the months that are to come.
I love traditions, rituals, small things I can implement into my life to create patterns and familiarity. Sometimes a pinch of gung-ho spontaneity is needed, but I really appreciate small things that celebrate and mark the every day. Christmas (which, once again, I’m aware was a while ago) is one of those times a year that is seeped in tradition; most things done from late November to the 28th of December are done because “it’s Christmas, and that’s how we Christmas.” And I’m so here for it.
However, I’ve never really had any traditions or rituals around New Years, and wishing the new year welcome. I love the celebrations with friends and family, the fireworks and the not-champagne-bubbles swirling in champagne glasses, but I haven’t found a tradition that I’ve either started for myself, or that’s really resonated with me before.
This year I celebrated New Years in Swanage with Harvey and his family, and his mum introduced me to the New Years Mood board, and let me tell you; this is my new New Years Tradition with a capital T.
It’s a really simple idea: get a big piece of paper (I found A3 to be the perfect size, big enough to fit what you want on it, but not so big that it feels overwhelming to fill the empty space), get some of your favourite magazines and spend some time browsing, flicking through the pages. Look for images, colours, patterns and quotes that resonate with you and how you want the next year to be. I found this process a lot more interesting than sitting down and deciding on New Years resolutions, because it felt like getting a different view on things, a different perspective, some new input. I cut out images and texts I liked, put it all together just because I liked it, and then discovered what it “meant” as the process went on.
The process in itself was also nice. It was sitting down, quietly, for a couple of hours, listening to music and just being alone with my own thoughts. Saying thankyou and goodbye to the year as it quietly snuck out the door, and welcoming the new one, the one that burst in through the window.
And now we’re here. This little piece is now framed in a very simple, narrow, black frame and resting on my dresser; the perfect place for it to blend into the interior, but also for it to be somewhere where I can throw a quick glance at it in the morning on my way out the door, giving a little thought to “how can I make this moodboard happen today? What have I done to implement these elements into my life?”
My 2020 moodboard isn’t mysterious and filled with hidden riddles and symbols. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to feel a bit more comfortable in their own skin, who is on the brink of finishing her education and dreams of a job and a flat where I’ll actually be able to put things on the walls (hence the image of the mugs hanging on the wall), a place I’ll stay for more than the typical student year. This year I’ll hopefully be able to start crafting a life for myself, a life built on those strange BAs I’ve acquired, on my interests and on my skills and abilities. If I squint my eyes, I can kinda see the moodboard reflecting that. It is also the moodboard of someone who wants to learn to prioritize her own wellbeing while still staying active and engaged with the local community, politics, work and volunteering. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to get better at creating small moments of peace in her everyday; moments of books and mugs of tea and knitted blankets bunched up under my chin. My moodboard is my reminder to myself that there is so much I want to do, but all of it doesn’t have to happen right now. It’s also a reminder that unknown, but wonderful, things are yet to come. Things I’ll be excited about, but that I don’t even know about yet. I want 2020 to be a softer year; a year where I’m a bit more kind to myself and where I try to worry a bit less.
I am excited to get back to this moodboard in December of 2020, and to give it another proper think at the end of the year. I am curious to see whether I’ll be able to look back and see specific moments where this little piece of paper has impacted my life. That’s not really the case yet for this last month and a half, but who knows. Maybe soon.
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!