Skip class, get things done

I am a very present student. In the first semester I did not miss even one class. There are several reasons for that:

  • I can remember things better if somebody has told me. If I read them on my own I will forget them more easily.
  • I hate the feeling of sitting in a follow up class and not knowing what is going on. I find it embarrassing to ask questions that have been answered before.
  • I want to hear what the lecturers have to say. More often than not I understand their assignments better when they explain it than when I just read the instructions.
  • Class can be inspiring. As I expose myself to the lecture and the discussion, I hear certain things that trigger ideas. They can be hints for class related projects or for totally different activity.

But now I started to bunk off. Excessively. And there is one reason for it: the wasting of time. I do not take notes during  a certain lecture. I do not take part in the discussion. I only get upset and bored. It is not helping me in any way and it is not compulsory to attend. So I skip it shamelessly.

Instead, I work on assignments and the thesis. No procrastination, no hanging around and celebrating being off university. Only discipline and butt glue. And guess what: It feels great. By now I am done with all the assignments three weeks ahead and I can focus on other things, like this blogging or the thesis.

Instead of wasting my time, I quit what does not help me and focus on getting things done. I let go of the feeling I am missing something and of the shame I feel because I know I should be there. Instead I totally focus on homework, assignments, and other tasks on the to-do list and enjoy the feeling after being productive and having accomplished one or two tasks.

There are some issues I keep in mind when bunking off:

  • I apologized in the beginning. That was because I had been very present in class. Not only physically, but also taking part in the discussion. The lecturer knows me and will definitely recognize when I am not around. Therefore I sent an email in the beginning, saying that I would not come.
  • With a lower appearance rate I stopped apologizing. Otherwise the lecturer will find my emails repetitive and start wondering about this accumulation of apologies.
  • I try to sneak out before the class starts. Only if my remaining classmates ask, I tell them something very vague. I do not want them to lie for me, so in case the lecturer asks, the answer will be that I had to go somewhere or that I had to do something.
  • I do not ask afterwards what I missed. If you skip, you skip. If you want to know what is going on in class, go to class. Be prepared for surprises! The second time I bunked off I had missed a schedule change and a postponed due date. I ended up in class by myself. However, it turned out to be a very productive day.

Where is your home?

When somebody asks me where I come from or where my home is, I struggle. I am born in a place where I did not really grow up. I grew up in a place which I do not really identify with. I identify myself with a place where I studied for only two years. Then I found a second home on a different continent where I have a house. But now I study yet somewhere else where one day I intend to settle. So where do I come from? Where is my home? The person who asks usually either gets a simple answer that is a crass simplification. Or they get the long whole story but they have to sit through it for a long while.

Not long ago I read about someone who has spent her life in many more varying places. She has traveled a lot and lived all over the world. For her, too, it is difficult, if not impossible to name that one place that is home. But she said people like her find a home on the internet.

I find that very interesting and scary at the same time. I certainly prefer real life relationships over virtual ones, and even more real life places. However, recently, especially with involving myself in online communities and reaching out more, I realized I have become almost dangerously homey on the internet. I obviously keep in touch with people there. But I also have a storage there and some photos. My entire music collection is there as well as a post box. That sounds very much like a home.

On the other hand, I am too conservative to embrace it fully. I am actually scared and do not trust all these apps and programs that will rule your life and eat your information. Although I totally understand when people find their home on the internet, where they connect with people, upload their lives and create their identities.

Sometimes I long for that place where I spent my childhood and my heart becomes warm when I get back there after being away for long. Like my friend who always gets excited when she sees the top of the huge church while driving into her home town. Only for me, that place does not exist anymore, I do not have any reason to go back where I spent my childhood. My parents live somewhere else now.

So I abide by my friend, an experienced woman who said: It does not have to be a place. Home can also be a table. Or people.

It depends on your concept of home, not where you live or where you come from.

So what is home for you?

Silence is no crime

Silence is no crime, sings Izzy Gordon.

All the secrets I have to hide

There’s no room for you now

Till I get what I came to find

Silence indeed is no crime. Nobody can accuse you of being silent. When they question your decision, when they sniff about in your past, you are not obliged to answer. In fact, you can keep control in silence. When something is on your mind, you do not have to share it. All the secret pleasures and all the guilty addictions are yours, and yours alone.

Thoughts are free and silence is their gatekeeper and caretaker. You may think what you want. You may imagine things as you please. You may be silent about it.

I even go further and say not only you may. BE silent! Make things your secret by not sharing them. If you keep the sunrise for yourself, or your favourite story, or your marriage, it is not an act of jealous not-sharing, but rather of appreciation and full enjoyment. Keep it in your heart, keep it in your soul, keep it in your mind, keep it in silence. It will fulfill you, the moment and your life. It will be fully yours and no one will be there to judge it or try to acquire it for themselves

Silence makes you fascinating. Mostly it is not the things you talk about, but the things you do not share that make people curious. Silence is captivating because it leaves space for imagination. Attractive silence wants to be shared, not broken. The best people, the friends to stick to, are those you can share long episodes of silence with without feeling awkward. The most resourceful people are those who can remain silent while you feel their self-assurance. They know the truth, but they hold it in silence.

I am not talking about keeping quiet. I am not talking about lying or covering injustice or rejecting support by hushing and not speaking up. You must express solidarity and fight for the right cause and stand up against evil. But even this can be done in silence. Not by looking away and keeping quiet. But by standing firm, by joining the cause for the sake of the cause and not for the sake of having an audience. By spreading the message to support the right thing instead of presenting yourself in the best light possible. By keeping silent about yourself because it is not about you. By keeping silent about the enemy because it is not about the enemy. By being there silently, walking with them silently, singing silently and shouting silently, expressing truth and beauty.

There’s no room for you now

It is only me and my silence. I will hold my peace about myself and what is in my head. I will look around my own silence, indulge in it and walk through its high halls. I will be by myself for a while and go about my business like a lone explorer.

Till I get what I came to find

Drama!

I watch a series that is meant for children but is full of drama. I like to dwell on it like on a pot of honey, knowing that it is just a sentimentality. It is not very elaborate, but it captures me.

After watching some episodes I wonder how it will continue. I remind myself of certain scenes and how the characters acted. I can play these film clips over and over again in my head, indulge in them. They seem to be stuck in my mind even during the day, when I am supposed to live my reality, get things done and be productive. The characters appear again, in the last scenes I watched, and I pity them, or I admire them, or I just marvel at them.

They are very over the top. They have heavy colourful make-up and unusual costumes. They live in a world that does not exist. And they are very dramatic: Dark pasts are haunting them. They have feelings for somebody who does not love them back. Their friends and spouses are lost to somebody else, or to a cause, or to a cruel dictator. They make mistakes, they become guilty, they get caught in intrigues. Then they sit on their beds, head in their hands, with heavy thoughts, and turn their back on the person who comes to help them. They get angry and in their rage lose control. Caught between a rock and a hard place, they do something harmful just to save themselves. They suffer, they mourn, they make things worse.

And if one of those cases is finally solved and one character overcomes his trauma and gets the girl of his dreams, two others are already mired in a net of lies and trouble and messed-up relationships.

Their problem, as it is in most series, is that they do not talk to each other. Instead of spying on the other one from afar, making assumptions and then throwing angry accusations at each other, they should sit down and ask for explanations. But then the series would be pretty boring. Half of the conflicts would never appear and the excitement would shrink by fifty percent respectively.

In real life I cannot afford such drama because it takes a lot of effort to pick up the pieces in the end. I see something suspicious – I talk. I lose a close person – I mourn and then get back to work. No turning my back to someone else. Drama does not earn me a living. When I get caught in a problem, the universe does not stop and wait for me to make a decision. It will keep spinning and probably even provide a solution in one way or the other.

All this accumulated drama is what makes me watch the series, because luckily my drama potential is rather small.

Truth

flower wallpaer covered in silicone, art

Last year I walked through someone’s dream. An artist had set up an installation of rooms he had seen in his dream. I had to remove my shoes to walk through. The rooms were small and bending. All things were covered in silicone: the wallpaper, the floor, the cabbage, the stone and the antelope. Only the roots of a tree simply consisted of silicone, a hollow tube reproducing the pattern of the bark.

In addition, philosophers and authors had written texts with their thoughts on the installation and dreaming in general. I liked some of them so much that I took pictures of them. But up to today I have not re-read them, neither looked for the writers on the internet. Even if I had, what would I have gained from it? More information, more input. More truth?

Unfortunately I keep spending most of my time on the computer, reading and entertaining myself with pixels and reports from the airwaves until I become square-eyed. I felt the same way as a movie character in a certain science fiction series. While everybody was surrounding themselves with fake stuff, paying fake money to get something that is not even tangible in that virtual world, he was craving for something real and true like an apple, like real people.

A friend of mine told me about her journey through South America. There she met a man with a tattoo of a zombie under water, heading towards the surface. We are all under water and we do not know any different, he explained. When we look up, we only see the mirror of the surface and we believe, beyond it there is nothing. But this zombie is on its way up, and if it dares to break through the surface, there will still be the sky.

Sometimes I feel like my own prisoner. Tangled in the net of socially constructed norms and institutions. Entertained by unreal pictures composed of ones and zeroes. Collecting clutter that will add to a meaningless pile. Adding content to a box that is already overflowing. There cannot be anything unique, anything new anymore because everything has already been there before.

Even the idea of escaping all that, finding an exit by going into the forest, into solitude, by traveling, by focusing on nature, is a part of that prison. The concept of the pure and true nature is incorporated into the system. It is like being allowed to go outside to the yard and get some fresh air. Still the idea exists within the prison’s walls and fences.

This makes me urge to create something pure, immaculate, defoliated, skinned. I can try but I know I will fail. Everything springs from something else, everything is already categorized and constructed by humanity itself. And as I keep producing content, I am not closer to the truth at all.

I have no solution for that, so this will remain a rather depressing post. Maybe this year, I can try hard and at least get a little bit closer to truth.

How to take on a good mindset to get the most out of traveling

Coming back from Umeå, I realized the trip was a fantastic idea. I met very interesting people, got some inspiration and shared experiences. And I learned a little bit about the Sámi, something that awoke my interest recently. I furthermore learned what people in the North say about the South where I currently stay. You have to go out, look over your own nose and get a different perspective to find out more about yourself and the place you think you know so well.

Have no expectations.

This trip was so successful because I did not have any expectations. In fact, even on the train, on the way up north, I did not know yet what was going to happen or what I was supposed to do. But taking it easy, not worrying about anything and having no expectations whatsoever made the trip disappointment-proof.

Don’t prepare.

I did not read about Umeå before. I went with the flow. That is how I ended up at the official press reception. I was taken there by my hosts who showed me their part of town.

Decide rarely but quickly.

I made few decisions but I made them quickly and clearly and without regrets. For the journey back, for example, there was only one train that was not tremendously expensive. That meant to sacrifice a university lesson, but to gain one more full day in the Capital of Culture. Click click, pay, print. Now make the most of it. No checking other options later. No wondering about the class I missed. If you start regretting, your experience will turn sour.

Reflect.

I had to recap. The blog series helped a lot with that, but also putting the events of the day in my diary made the many experiences to sink down and my brain to digest them. In that way all the overwhelming things (like trying to communicate to a man in an ice cube, seeing myself reflected a million times in a mirror room, the view over the white frozen river and even the lentil soup with my host) form a positive feeling that will rise up inside me whenever I hear the word Umeå from now on.

Bring very little luggage.

Traveling with as little luggage as possible made the journey less complicated and flexible. My backpack was small, so it fit under the seat in the train. Walking around was much easier for me than for the people whose trolley cases got stuck in the grit. Apart from the Umeå2014 bag, my volunteer badge taped into my diary, a handful of little torches and three papers about the Sámi exhibition, I did not carry anything home. At least nothing that can jam my little room. My mind, however, is full of pleasant memories.

Keep up habits.

This post is a part of the habit that I took on in January: writing 500 words a day. It is important to try and keep up with those habits as much as possible, even while traveling. However, if you keep your expectations low concerning that, you cannot be disappointed. But as you travel and forget about your habits, it will take much more effort to get back on track and take on the habit again after a pause. So even if on a journey, try as much as you can to keep it up.

Lessons from January

Do you remember the goals you set five weeks ago, when New Year’s Eve was just over and you were full of motivation? To be honest, I did not exactly. I had to sit down and remind myself. And I had to compare my goals with this month’s outcome. So here are the lessons I learned in January:

Goals must be reviewed.

Just as I said: Looking back is important because we forget all the resolutions we made in the beginning of the year. Then we break them, unaware. Only if we remind ourselves constantly and adjust our actions we can reach our goals, slowly and one by one, but surely. In that way we learn. That is how I came to put down these insights here. By reviewing yesterday every morning, by recapitulating last week every Sunday, and by going over the last weeks in the beginning of a new month. Don’t worry: It takes time, but once you are used to it, you will find it easy to fill those papers and plans and it will go very fast.

Aimlessness pulls you down.

With the new semester just having started, I did not have any assignments. No project to work on, no mission to prepare. And I realised I was just floating, not making use of the days. Of course there is hardly anything nicer than waking up and reading the morning away, in bed, before breakfast. But afterwards I tended to get unnecessarily lost on the internet, with things that did not in any way help me. Therefore I had to look for a task that could fill my days with meaning again.

Computer eats time.

As I said, without something to do it is so easy to get lost on the Internet. From one article you are guided to the next until you find yourself caught in the web, unable to switch off. I walked in the forest, biked somewhere, went to see an exhibition. In that way, I broke the attraction by the internet, at least for a while. And I adjusted my list of habits to take on: One of the coming months will see the re-installment of a screenfree day.

People are important!

They are what really counts. Not clicks on the blog. Not the newest trend on facebook. Not even books, films or music. It is people who make our life better. I realized that on several meetings and gatherings. So whenever the opportunity presents itself to meet people, to interact, to do something with them, I am in.

Plunge in!

My finances are tight. My classes are important. But when the possibility came to volunteer in Umeå during the opening ceremony for the European Capital of Culture 2014, I went and I was in the middle of it and I enjoyed it very much. Simply because I took the chance and jumped in, against all odds. I missed a class and spend a lot on the train tickets. But I had a fantastic weekend, saw astonishing art and met great people. I came home with new inspiration and fire and ideas for my daily life here.

What lessons did you learn last month? Share them in the comments!

Outsourcing Decisions

Before I went to Umeå, I wrote about outsourcing our tasks and fears and why I do not recommend that. To put it in a nutshell: We should tackle what is in our power and face everything uncomfortable, even if we could outsource it and have someone else do it for us. By doing it ourselves we will learn and grow and gain experience. There are those incidents, though, where we definitely should practice outsourcing. That is when we do NOT have control.

Stop racking your brain. Source out decisions.

Decisions, for example, can be outsourced. When planning the trip to Umeå, there was the possibility of taking a night train as well as going by day. The night train was cheap, but I would not see the landscape. For traveling during the day I had to skip a class and arrive at an odd time, but I would find time to read and write and see the surroundings. I could have agonised. But I left it to my hosts and the volunteer organisation. They would tell me their schedules and I would simply fit in. Decision outsourced.

Let go of responsibility.

Responsibility, too, can be outsourced. When our class has to produce yet another issue of our monthly magazine, traffic in our facebook group is high. People upload their articles, the language group checks them, sends them back. The writer modifies her article, then sends it to the editor who might make more changes and send the article back again. Suggested changes are incorporated, the article goes to the layout team and is finally published. As a writer of an article you might get feedback on it twice, if not three times, and you will find red marked parts of the text and suggestions and questions. Then the discussions take off how it would be better to write and express some idea.

I do not discuss. I usually do not even want to see my article again once it is being edited. You find typos? Change them. You do not understand a certain expression? Rewrite it as you please. If you send me back my article marked red, I will incorporate all your suggested changes right away without reading it carefully again. I trust my classmates with their responsibility as a language editor as I trust myself with producing a good article. Once I have sent it out, it is in their hands and I gladly let go of my responsibility and influence.

Let the circumstances sort the problem.

What I cannot take care of, what I cannot influence, I let go, I outsource. What unnecessarily and without any outcome blocks my pipeline and torments my head, I leave to the circumstances to decide. Something will definitely come up. The problem will be solved even if I do not take charge and intervene. Like that I have more time and energy for things that I actually am able to tackle.

So what will you outsource and let go today?

The Umeå Series: The Fire is out

There is a little town in the North of Sweden with the name Umea LogoUmeå. This inconspicious place happens to be the European Capital of Culture 2014. I spontaneoulsy plunged into that experience – and now I have got some stories to tell which will appear here during the weekend.

I enjoyed this Sunday morning as I usually enjoy Sunday mornings. The town was quiet. The train station empty. Fresh snow had been falling during the night. In the main street, few people were walking around, warming themselves on the fires that had been lit.

father an daughter at fire

After breakfast in a café, I set out to find the reindeers that I had seen yesterday, but they were not around. Instead I found the man in the ice: Lars Lundqvist spent the inauguration weekend trapped in a cube of ice and snow. The ice was so thick that visitors could hardly even see the fire burning inside. A boy asked through the cold wall: Is it nice in there? But the answer came too muffled for me to understand.

boy asking the ice man

This afternoon he was released. The fire inside had caused the ice to melt in a violent and beautiful pattern.

ice needles from inside the ice cube

Opposite the ice cube, at the church, huge photographs by Anders Ryman were exhibited. They showed initiation rituals from all over the world.

big photo in front of church

Down on the river at least, there was some movement. Snow vehicles, cranes and other heavy machinery were back on the ice to remove the left over structures from the opening ceremony. I guessed before that the whole thing might have been a little bit out of the town’s range and so far I heard a lot of disappointment about the opening ceremony. It was said to have been too long, too many speeches, and too high expectations.

view on frozen river from bildmuseet

I spent the rest of the day in two museums, because as the temperatures are slightly rising, the snowfall becomes more wet and uncomfortable.

skis exhibited in västerbotten museum

With the host and the volunteer I found shelter in a cozy book café.

book shelf

By now the fires are out. The ice sculptures are not lit anymore, neither are the Sami fireplaces. The slightly melted snow has frozen again and become a dangerous rink. I am taking the night train back to the South. The town will be back to normal soon. But not for long. In March, the next of the eight Sami seasons which inspired the structure of the cultural year, will be welcomed with yet another performance. Maybe by then the ice sculptures will have partly melted, but the excitement and dedication will live on.