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For the final semester of my studies, I chose to engage in other activities alongside the work for my thesis. I chose to enroll in 2 classes that I find valuable albeit I could have done this a year ago, had I realized how valuable they were at that time. I do not, however, regret not taking the classes for economic evaluation last year. Other classes filled my calendar last year that I think were also valuable. Then there is the level 3 course in Norwegian, which consists of 2 seminar-like classes a week, each 4 hours long. Considering this semester was my last chance to enroll in this class as a student and given the importance of becoming fluent in Norwegian if one is to settle for a while and find a job in this Northern country, I also find this valuable. The third activity that lies outside the borders of “thesis work” is the internship. And yes, the fact I did not take the internship sooner and that the work related to it is nowhere near what I work on for my thesis, makes it a bit more difficult in terms of having to invest more time in all these different activities that do not overlap that much.  I feel like all these 3 extra activities are valuable if I am to land a job in my field.

Now I admit that that might not have been a smart move because at the time, when I decided to do all these things, I think I underestimated how much time, energy and brainpower everything requires. And what should have been my utmost priority (the thesis) has fallen to the back of the list of things I want and have to do.  Seeing myself in this situation, the idea of getting an extension for the deadline of the thesis submission started to sound more and more appealing. This would be the easy way out (maybe). I would still have to do it, and if I were to get an extension and knowing myself, I think one of the pit-falls would be for the thesis to glue itself to that last position in the list. I might get some stress relief for the time being, and that would be a good thing. I tried pitching the idea of an extension to my supervisor during the meeting we had yesterday. I might not have been clear about it, and I am at fault for not clearly stating my thoughts, but for now, I am not planning on getting an extension. And I’m going to pitch that idea to myself.

Although the meeting went great yesterday and got some feedback and further guidance with the work on my thesis, I could not help but get overwhelmed by this wave of stress that came washing over me as I was walking out from that meeting. I think I had just started to realize then that time was running fast and it was high time to bring the thesis at the top of my priority list. My brain kept bombarding me with a heightened sense that I have too many things to do and way too little time to the point that the only thing I could think of was the swear word f*@k, on repeat. That feeling took me back to some of the instances in my bachelor where I felt the same. It is not a pleasant feeling at all, but sometimes that feeling and the closeness of the deadline make me able to focus to an insane level where I am able to deliver pretty good quality outputs. I realized at one point in my bachelor that that was my working mechanism. I knew it was wrong for so many reasons, but I just couldn’t discipline myself enough to work on projects and my bachelor thesis in good time.

And now, seeing myself “back to school” after a 2 years break, I was reminded of my working mechanism and tried over the past 1 year and a half of exams and assignments to change my working style. I started becoming more receptive to things that help me stay focused and make me begin work early. I cannot say I have achieved that yet. But I am making steps towards a more balanced working/studying style. I know now because I stopped lying to myself, that I CANNOT possibly get focused at home. I tried arranging a nice corner that I would dedicate to work, in my room, but it did not work. So I knew I simply had to take myself out of the room, from the distractions and the comfort and privacy of my room. Luckily there are plenty of libraries that I can go to, and 2 study rooms, with comfortable chairs, in my student village.

That last paragraph was just a deviation from the main idea. The point is that now I am still faced with maybe too many things on my plate to handle. And while I do believe that it is unhealthy to feel stressed and anxious, feelings that stem from thinking that I cannot handle all the things I’ve plucked and put myself on that plate; I do believe I have not reached my limit. I believe that maybe I’ve been too comfortable, spending a little too much time maybe “relaxing”, which in fact is procrastination (most of it anyway). I now think of all these things I want to do as a challenge that I am willing to take on. I want to see what is my limit and how can I manage my time and energy in order to achieve everything. I want to challenge and dare myself to achieve these things. I believe this process can be helpful in finding a more productive and efficient way of working/studying.  What I am also willing to accept today, which I was not during my bachelor’s, is that I might not be up for the challenge. Maybe indeed I will not be able to handle everything I set myself out to do. Today I feel motivated to try and do it, but when the day comes where I feel like I’ve given everything I have, tried my best but things don’t seem to fall into place, I will accept “defeat” and adjust accordingly. I am attempting to stretch a rubber band here. The risk is for the band to break, but I feel confident that I will be able to tell when to stop stretching and not break.

These being said, let’s get back to work!

Three sunsets ago

 

Created this draft … can you call it a draft if it only has a title? I created this draft a year ago but never continued it. So here I am one year later trying to gather my thoughts and emotions from that day. Funnily enough, I can recall quite accurately how I felt that day. Maybe it’s due to the strength of the emotions, the pictures that immortalized that moment and the fact that it’s one year later, the cycle has closed and begins once more.

Sunsets are just so magical that I can’t help but be moved by them.

It was a Saturday. I had just finished work and my gut was telling me to go catch the sunset. I went with the flow and was left in awe by this northern, winter sunset by the water-line.

I had just returned from the Christmas break, and I was quite okay I think (mentally, physically etc.).  I remember being enthusiastic about a new semester to start and quite keen on giving my best. That semester went well.

And here I am today. With thoughts and feelings from two sunsets ago.

 

Going to catch this one was premediated and must admit, I had some expectations. They changed somehow the experience, but I was nonetheless touched by this sunset. Perched myself on one of the highest fortress walls and waited for the magic to happen. It did happen and it did take its time. I love the moments when the sun is just barely starting to touch the horizon line and the way the water reflects the light, but what I love more is the minutes after the whole ball of warmth sinks and there is no direct light coming from it. I love the slow transition of the light, warm colors. The experience was even more dramatic due to the wind that once the sun sank, picked up furiously and started blowing cold breezes over the fortress walls, with birds catching them like a surfer catches a wave.

Just like last year, another semester is about to start. And just like last year, it will be filled with some lectures here and there. What’s new is the master thesis, which won’t get itself written on its own eh? Yeah, that is going on.

One year later, and I feel I’ve yet grown a little more. This growth, however, does not bring certainty. What am I talking about? Nothing is ever certain. Maybe the fact that my formal, higher education is coming to an end is also, inevitably, bringing along worries for what the future will look like. I will very soon be faced with decisions to make, job hunting to engage in (yay! love this sport!), new housing to find (pft … piece of cake). Also, goodbye student benefits, hello full-price transportation. And yet, how can I complain? How can I worry? (How can I not?) Constantly trying to be balanced. I should drop this self-irony for my own good. How can I even dare to complain when I’ve been having it relatively easy? I have the most supportive partner and families that anyone could wish for. I am healthy.     I am grateful.

Things will be okay.  I just needed to do a bit of brain dumping.

When shit hits the fan

You know, from time to time you have a day in your life when everything goes not so great … well, I guess today was my turn to experience such a day and when I think of it, I can’t recall when my last unlucky day happened. So here we go.

  1. Got woken up by a 4 am fire alarm. My room’s outer wall harbors the beast that howls the alarm sound, so it’s pretty intense. But having already experienced 4 false fire alarms, I don’t bother to go out, as I live on the ground floor as well – easy escape in case of actual fire. 10 minutes after, firefighters are here and the beast is silenced and I was able to snatch 3 more hours of sleep.
  2. Today was my third attempt to deposit some cash in my account. I even went into the bank and asked for help ( I know … right, how hard can it be), and they nicely guided me on how to use an atm. So even though there’s an English menu,  Norwegian seems to take over after you enter your pin and my knowledge in Norwegian is limited. I got quite frustrated, and finally resigned thinking maybe my account doesn’t even have the option to receive cash deposits.
  3. I have planned to do the laundry for 3 days now and finally got myself to do it today. One laundry machine available out of 6. “Oh sweet!” I said to my self, “how lucky”. I put my clothes in, detergent and softner as well … only to find out to my horror that the touch screen of the laundry machine does not work and I can’t pay for the wash. I nearly had a breakdown there in the basement but luckily after 5 minutes of trial and error, I was granted passage to pay for my chosen washing program.
  4. Clean clothes in the big blue Ikea bag – checked. As I walk up the last stairs from the laundry room I stumble and fall knees forward, scraping the first set of stairs as someone walks in. I spill some of my undergarments and socks on the floor and as I hastily pick them up, I’m being asked something in Norwegian … Confused, I just pick up my last item and dash to the door when the familiar “Unsskyld!” (Excuse me) stops me. The stranger hands me a wet pair of socks that I missed. Embarrassed I “takk” him and rush back to my dorm building.
  5. I had also planned to cook today, but having already gotten this sense of things-ain’t-going-too-well I was quite doubtful whether it was a good idea to cook, as I think your mood influences how your food turns out. Nonetheless, I had to cook as the minced meat couldn’t take another day in the fridge. All goes well, I got even impressed at my potato stacking skills. And as I place the last layer, I think some beaten eggs will give this a nice crust in the oven. Problem was there wasn’t much space for that and I poorly estimated things and got an eggsplosion on the counter. My tray was way too full, but heck it, it had to go into the oven. One bad decision leads to another …
  6. Tomato juice and egg is dripping on the oven floor, a nightmare but I was too stubborn to turn it off and try to remedy things. I just let it cook and the dripping slowly burn. Halfway through I check things and all is well, no smoke just a little-burnt smell.
  7. One of my kitchen-mates also wishes to use the oven, so I proceed to turn my tray so there’s more place, but I manage to brush one of my knuckles on the 200 degrees Celcius top part of the oven. Great!
  8. Finally, my dish is cooked, looking a little ruffled but taste and texture-wise pretty good if I may say so myself. I peacefully eat my dinner and as I walk back into the kitchen, my colleague is removing his dish from the oven. Smoke all over. Panic kicks in, balcony door is thrown open and the last thing I need today is me triggering a false fire alarm and a chance to get a dandy high fine. But the beast was not awoken and I am relieved.

These being said, I wanted to write the happenings of this day down for future reference.

The day is not over yet, and I have a messy, burnt oven to clean, but hopefully, I won’t experience any other unpleasantries.

First snow and homesick

I’ll be going home mid-December, but I can’t shake off feeling homesick. So in an attempt to make my environment feel cozier and maybe quench a bit this homesickness, I have bought a couple (or more) of candles and 2 cute candle holders.

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Cute birds and detailed leaves. Trying to absorb all the joy I find in such small things.

I should go and study now. Maybe I can be productive still …

And then I gave in

It’s been a little while since the last post and some things changed. Eventually, I gave up trying to fight to stay in the position of being a waitress in that restaurant. Anxiety and a bunch of other reasons had the better of me and just like that, one shift later, I snapped and just talked to my boss and said I will quit. I still had 2 shifts scheduled for that week and I completed them. But then a really unexpected thing happened. My boss offered me a different position. He saw and understood that waitressing was not for me, but he was also aware of my previous position, which was as an administrative secretary back in my home country.

So a month later, here I am, working the hours I want to work, within an area I am very comfortable in, primary accounting. Mind you, almost all of it is in Norwegian, but then again the principles are the same. Differences exist of course, but having worked in this position previously has proven to be a huge help, and it comes with a bonus: learning some technical Norwegian.

These two paragraphs are just a small summary of my last month in terms of work. Feelings and ideas were much stronger as all this was going on, and my last shift left me particularly pleased with how less anxious I was about it and with how much ease I was able to perform my job. Maybe it was just a brain-effect knowing that I did no longer have to perform that job and it allowed my anxiety to slip away and be more relaxed. Anyways, here I am rambling again. My current soul-state is a bit wrinkled, kinda homesick … actually a lot homesick so in an attempt to quench my thirst for home I fuel it with some good folk music. It’s funny how you get to appreciate home when you’re away.

My shift started at 5pm and the restaurant wasn’t busy, but I knew there were many reservations made after 6pm. And maybe because I went in with this perspective of “oh it’s gonna be hectic and I won’t be able to handle it”; I started feeling quite insecure. But then I started taking orders and clearing tables and things calmed down for a while until all the tables were taken. I tried to push myself through the hecticness of it all, but the higher up gave me indications again and tried to make me correct my actions. I tried to follow the indications but just wasn’t up to it. I then made a huge mistake (from my perspective) and I just lost it for a few minutes. That is when I told myself that I will quit, talk to the boss and be done with it, but somehow I managed not to act impulsively. As my boss was leaving, I wanted to approach him and give in but before I could say anything he noted some of my strong points and said something along the lines of “No one is born learned”. This came at the right moment and I’ll have other shifts next week.

Okay, now moving on to the introspection side. It is interesting how such new experiences (getting employed in a foreign country on a demanding job position you never had) that get you out of your comfort zone bring out how one functions as an individual on a social and cognitive level. So then I am faced with my fears and anxiety, and because they are so close to the surface, almost breaking the rim of the water; I not only have to deal with them, but I also get the chance to analyze them and seek solutions for them. One aspect that now stands out to me is how I deal with the idea of failure or making mistakes. I still have to dig deep to find out why I have come to function in this way, but for me failing or making a mistake sometimes equals the end-of-the-world perspective. Like I take it too hard on myself, harsher than I should be. I don’t know why (and this is still a huge puzzle for me), but I somehow see myself like I need to reach some impossibly high to touch standards, standards that I personally set for myself. (Example, I need to be able to do this job from the first try, there is no room for failure). It’s like a bad habit I have developed over time, and whenever in a new, unknown situation I just intrinsically set these standards.

It is not the first time we meet, me and this fear of mine. There were many occasions where I came face to face with this fear, but I don’t think I ever considered trying to tackle it because I didn’t give it the importance it demands. I was just able to quickly slip from the hook (working on deadlines and still having good results in my Bachelor thesis for example). This time I don’t think I can avoid finding a solution to this issue, nor do I want to. I have come to realize the importance of this fear and I am slowly still grasping how it affects the way I interact with the world. What I can tell for sure is that I need to take it easier a bit. I need to start embracing the fact that making mistakes is okay. And then moving onwards, it is also an extremely powerful learning tool. So dear Mind and Self, take it easier and give it time.

 

Well, the I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this feeling from yesterday reached a whole new unexpected level today. I know it is easier to rush to the comforting thought of giving up, because I think of all the things (fears, stress, anxiety) I won’t have to face, and if I do give in to this thought, I fail to see the view from the top of the mountain, I fail to see the treasures that defeating the “Things” brings along and if I do this (give up), I fail to gain a growth in character, in skills, in self-esteem and in confidence.

But I’d be lying if I’d told you that I was having this feeling all day. It was just a peak, some advice and corrections from the higher up at what seemed the busiest timing of all. It is said to get busier, and I cannot but dread tomorrow when I know it will be slightly busier than today and even that, in the eyes of my colleagues is not too busy. So I am left wondering how does the busiest (worst day) look like in a packed restaurant and I absolutely dread its coming, but then on the other side I wish to face it so that I can know what to expect and prepare for the next “busiest day”. All right, enough about this, too many confusing thoughts per squared meter.

Moving on to the highlights of the day, the customers. All of them such nice people, or nice customers in this context. They make things so much easier (despite all the black I’ve been painting this new job picture), and I can slowly start to relax, interact with them and make them feel like guests. I guess it is still going to take some time to adjust and learn new things, but this day ended well overall, so I can go and have some rest unless the homework for the Norwegian class tomorrow will haunt me in my dreams.

First shift as a waitress

And here we jump back to the present time in this series.

Went to work with a slight dread, as I think it usually happens when you start a new job. On my way there, I tried to dig up the causes for feeling this dread, and I think I might have found some. Insecurities in not knowing the food that was being served as most of it is foreign to me, in not being able to recall all the numbers of the tables and the fact that I speak little Norwegian plus a bit of social anxiety. Some of these I have settled today. At some points during my shift, I was just feeling like I can’t do this. The dread was strong in such moments and I felt like just going back to my comfort zone. That never helps. But then there were also moments where I realized that people (customers) are actually really nice (most of them) and there is nothing to be afraid of. For the other insecurities, well as they say “Google is your best friend” (relating to the type of food that we serve). Learning new things takes time, so I have to strike a deal with my mind and realize that I have to actually give it time. It won’t happen overnight and I shouldn’t stress so much about it. I also have very helpful colleagues, which is crucial in a new workplace and I am grateful for them.

Okay, time to wrap it up. It is getting late and I have Norwegian class first thing in the morning.

One month-ish ago we landed in Oslo, Norway and that is when it all started. I feel this urge to document somehow my journey here and take snapshots of my experience here because I feel like this is such a valuable and exciting period of my life. I’ve been absent here most of the time because I felt too far away from the self that enjoys writing, but being in a foreign country and being exposed to so many new things makes me wanna write what I feel and see.

So, here we are. First post of this series.

And before I can begin writing about the present time, I wish to shed light on the two years before landing in Norway. The fact that I am now standing in my dorm room, in Oslo and pursuing my Master’s studies in what I believe to be the best option for me right now in continuing my career in public health, it is all happening because there was a lot of planning behind it and most of all the greatest support I could have asked for. Even after a month of physically being here, my mind is still blown away by the fact that all the planning has become a reality. It’s like my mind was set too strongly on this thought of total disbelief and allowing no room for hopes that I will actually make it here. And now that I am actually faced with the reality, my mind is trying to keep up with the race and slowly, fully realizing what is happening.

All right, enough rambling about how dysfunctional my thought process is sometimes. Back to planning, a throwback on two years ago, roughly around the same time in September.  I had just graduated that summer and enjoyed the break from all academic activities. I allowed myself (maybe too much) time for leisure and not thinking about the future steps in my career. I just couldn’t think about that now and was content with not rushing decisions about a Master’s program. I was looking forward to my boyfriend setting foot on Romanian soil and starting our adventure together. We roamed a bit through Transylvania and enjoyed autumn walks in lovely cities.

I had also looked for jobs in my hometown and online, but more about that in the next post.

*Warning: a sudden end to this post*

Reality check

I planned to publish my first post and introduce the Norway series – a student’s life today, but then life threw me a lemon, a very sour and hard to swallow lemon. I also got some sugar with it, for which I am grateful but the lemon overshadows my day. Put in balance, good news – bad news, today the bad one takes me to the place where I am reminded that life is unpredictable and one’s health should not be taken for granted.