Saturday, August 19, 2023

burning books - for food fire

 I got reminded a few weeks ago about a time when I realized that words matter and "mainly repeating things being told in a theoretical context" might hurt someone.

I was a 20 year old living in a dorm during second year of uni. It was a dorm where we shared one kitchen on 12 rooms (each room had its own bathroom) and we also shared a 'common room' with the TV. This was obviously in the dark ages where there was less internet, modems and no wifi, and TV had a cable package that we all shared to keep the costs down.

We lived together for years, 10 of our rooms with the same people, with two rooms being more transient students. Nowadays probably called "non-traditional" students. It was the Iranian exchange student who cooked food for all of us in the fall - when he made dinner he made enough for 12 people - as long as you wanted to eat at 10pm since it took time to make the rice correctly. (My goodness the rice was amazing!)

And then there was the woman who moved into the dorm room next to the TV room with her fiancee. They were born in former Yugoslavia, and this was post 1996 with the war and the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1996) the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. I had been exposed to the war in my middle school and high school with having class mates from different areas of former Republic of Yugoslavia. Meaning we had students in the class with grandparents and other relatives in the different parts of the then civil war (e.g. Serbia - Bosnia-Herzegovina - Croatia ) and also Kosovo, which meant all of us youngsters needed to talk and get to some sort of agreement on how to address one another as it was very bad "back home for their extended families". (this is a VERY shortened version on what happened in the class)

By some reason I had forgotten some of this when I got to university. Maybe I was living high on my "I'm taking philosophy 101 and 201 and have high standards". Maybe I was just young and not thinking things through? 

Anyhooo, one night were were having dinner together and during the meal somehow we ended up talking about "things that we shouldn't do" and I piped up; "Burning books is BAD", you should never burn books".

And the woman from the room next to the TV-room looked at me, with a specific facial expression and apologetic stance and said to me "I'm sorry, I burned out books in small cooking fires for food when we were in Sarajevo. We couldn't get out of the apartments and get wood due to the snipers, so we used what we could for cooking food and warmth".

I don't think I've ever been more aware of context. I looked at her and felt so bad for making her feel bad. And said in somewhat of a sheepish voice, although she had been perfectly civil and visibly sad they had done this, "I obviously didn't mean when it's a matter of survival. It's more of a theoretical conversation from my class".

And felt like a fool. Burning books if you're stuck in a place and need to prepare food and warmth is not an issue. And I shouldn't have made her feel bad about it.

Still thinking about it to this day, more than a quarter of a century ago, that I feel fortunate this happened. It was a great moment of showing me the meaning of remembering "my experience in life is NOT ALL people's experience" and that there's so much value of knowing people from everywhere with all sorts of experiences. Like all the non-me people I've met moving around the world, changing jobs, volounteering in places and traveling and talking to random people - I always learn something new and it's always something that makes me more humble. Here's to learning more things every year of our lives!

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Beautiful Summer nights - endless possibilities

 It's been an odd beginning to the new year 2023 and now it's over half way done. I've been missing myself writing musings and thoughts in general. I've not come to a "new normal state" (whatever that might mean) after 2020 and the changes it brought on. I have not given myself time every week to sit down in quiet space and write. I miss it, and I know that I need to make time for this. It's on the bucket list and more importantly, it's on the "do now to take care of you" list.

It's especially clear to me since when I sit down and read through my "weekend read list" that I collect through the week (links from articles and newspapers, subscriptions I have to monthly magazines - hello NewYorker, Atlantic, SvD, DN). I have many thoughts, feelings and questions. And while I can discuss some of them right off the bat, a lot of them percolate and make their way into my brain where they fuse and connect with other thoughts and feelings that are there from other weeks' readings.

And then I push them down, move on to something else and miss the opportunity to elaborate in my mind.

Couple this with a sense of trying to answer "what am I doing?". As in; What am I doing career wise? When will I retire? Will I retire? What do I see myself doing in ten years? What makes me happy? What will make me feel ok when I'm old?" and so on..... I guess someone would call it a midlife crisis. Should I call it a midlife crisis? (There's no new red sports car.) So, maybe not crisis is correct terminology - maybe "midlife reflection and slight anxiety of inertia"? "Needing a more clear sense of direction moving forward?". Like the hip people say "intentional movement in a specific direction"?

After all, there's some irony that I'm currently here when I did a podcast episode for Recovering Academic about "Getting out of the Gray zone" (outside the ivory tower) back in 2017 (really, 6 years ago?!?!). When looking at the show notes I had some stuff going on.

"Be able to ask someone else, not you, and go through the experiment with you to see if there’s something you can salvage. Get a pep talk and get someone else to evaluate things”

“The other thing that makes me more happy professionally is that I see opportunity. Not feeling as unsure now that she’s beyond academia whereas as a postdoc, that was harder.” 

Not to mention “Believe in yourself and think that you know it” 

As well as my own blog post pretty much 6 years ago (feels like a life time) "ambition and the difference between contentment and complacency".

In my own defense, there's been a lot of water and a couple of bridges since. Things that happened and couldn't be changed. On the plus side, completing full marathons. And then a world pandemic which brought a few things that couldn't be avoided. And of course, I've been a brooder for a lot of years. Think Angel rather than Spike*.

But I can't ignore that there are a lot of things converging at the same time. And while the path isn't clearly visible and marked - there's a light just beneath the horizon, the sky isn't all dark, and there is a sun waiting to come up to shine the light for the path to be visible. 

Just like those beautiful summer nights in my hometown in Sweden. It's not completely dark, but dangling promise of the next day about to rise. Those nights where it feels like everything is possible and the air is vibrating with promise. Those nights. And I just have to find the idea on what to grab onto and then go with the light.... that's right there.

*probably both dated reference and missing the mark. I mean, I have never lost my soul and made to atone it, nor the other iffy things with the show I really liked back in the day. Ah well, let's just keep it with the blog theme and the outdated references.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

End of 2022 - long live 2022, welcome 2023

I realized yet again how much I've missed writing regularly and also getting the occasional comment. It's been a few years, this blogging format is not as interesting to people as it once were. (Oh the humanity of feeling old when writing sentences like that.)

But rather than write a section on this, I'd settle for writing a two parter - "End of 2022" and "Beginning of 2023" since I noted the other week when talking to a friend that I really need to exhale, inhale and relax. Refocus might be the word. Or just "quiet quitting"? All of the words fit into the idea that the hamster wheel I've been in the last couple of year (let's say since covid started, to make me feel better and not because it is true) and quitting it and making my life a "healthy work-life balance".
Also, I ended up joking about wanting to burn sage and "cleanse the air to move into 2023 without regrets". That's when I really knew I was in the deep end of the pool.
Needless to say, this year has brought its own new experiences to light. And with them, a couple of notions to consider and use for personal growth.
  • What is important
  • What I thought was important
  • What I want to be important moving forward
To no surprise, apart from maybe myself, I've been remiss in my own personal health. As in prioritizing sleep, training and stress management. So that's been a focus the last couple of months. It helped that I had an injury in summer time that made it clear to me how impaired my life would be when/if it would happen due to age. Note to self; "I don't handle not having balance or being able to walk or run that well".

And the reminder when co-workers were offered new opportunities and decided to take them. If nothing else, it makes you evaluate "what is important to me?". Everyone knows that when people leave, especially in the a place where it's not possible to post the position until the person is officially leaving, there is a change in team dynamics and responsibilities. 

It's also a great reminder that you are not stuck in where you are, but as the -sometimes trite - saying goes "you have the ability to change your circumstance". It's nice to be able to turn down offers when deciding what is important and feeling that you got to choose.

And that is mentioning only the most obvious things. There's been other events (smaller in family and larger in world changing) that have affected life and general thoughts on future. Plus the added joy and complexity of family, friends and acquaintances in this world of covid/post-covid/new-normal/new-not-regular-could-we-get-different. (Let's be clear, there are still a lot of resistance to science.)

For this ending of 2022 though, I'd like to be happy that I accomplished a few goals that I set up earlier this year. For the sake of accountability and sharing, I'd make it three.
  • I managed to get my balance back and finished a half-marathon even thought I didn't run the entire 13.1miles (life-joy related).
  • I got a new certification (work related).
  • I continued to give specific% of income to charity and be involved in causes of societal importance, especially with focus to women's health, food security and human rights.
So yes, I would say that 2022 brought a few things to the table to consider for future and immediate future. And I will move into 2023 with a couple of agenda items to execute right away and some to keep on the long-term-to-do-list.

For this post though, Happy End of Year 2022! Let's move into the new year with aspirations, hope and action.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

"No, not pregnant, just fat" - World Childless Week 2022

It seems like yesterday, to be fair it was only a few weeks ago (again), when I was asked if I was pregnant. It was in context of a book I'd purchased so it wasn't to do with my body shape per se, but it's not the first time I've been asked. Granted, I thought this would be a thing of years past. Since I'm now of an age where I personally don't think anyone should ask if I'm pregnant. (Not that there really is a good time for anyone to ask anyone if their pregnant but still.... )

When people ask nowadays if I have children I choose between answering
a) no
b) no, unfortunately not
c) no, that didn't work out
d) I would've loved to but that didn't happen

depending on the situation. Years ago I would've said "no" and nothing else. 

Possibly, I'm now more tired of the presumption that I'm childless since I chose to be childless which is why option b-d is more likely in conversations. Although that opens up for the comments like "aww, have you thought of IVF?" or "there's so many options of having a family today" or "have you considered adoption?". And depending on my mood, if I'm inclined to answer these - coming from a good place yet not the best to say most of the time- statements.

Then again, I'd be the first to acknowledge the journey this have been and how it's evolved in regards to sadness, denial, agony, helplessness, bitterness, envy, hopelessness, resignation, bargaining, acceptance and other feelings that arise when the world, hope&dreams and you are not in alignment.

If there is anything I would like people to consider and know re this topic? 

That IVF isn't the end all solution to childless people. I know that the feeling of many is that IVF is successful. Yet, there is a lot of people and cases who don't succeed with a live baby in the end of an IVF cycle. And with a lot of people, I mean less than 25% are successful. And that is without factoring in age factors. So, not a panacea for all the childless hoping people.

Regardless of my IVF comment above, main issue for me with childlessness is that it's something that is complex and deeply personal. Also probably something that the average person doesn't talk about too much (even though the percentage of people having children is decreasing) since it is complicated and have a lot of feelings involved.

Anyhooo.... this week is World Childless Week and you can find the program here:

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Giving Tuesday - matching donatings

It's "Giving Tuesday" - it's the Tuesday in the American Thanksgiving week.

It means that some donations to charities are matched today, which means more impact than a regular day. It's also a good time to give for the Holidays, the local food bank, the Toys-for-Tots, the Holiday present pantries and other places that focus on giving those who might not have anything something.

I'm listing the charities I usually give to - both today and otherwise, plus great "office gifts". I mean, who doesn't like getting a or "Basket of Hope" or a "Honeybees"? (Heifer).

  • The Gift catalog at Heifer has a lot of different animals, school support and varying amounts of money.
  • Start a monthly micro loan with Kiva .You pick who you loan money to and where they live.
  • Doctors without Border/MSF the ones who stay when everyone leaves, stays closest to the war lines, builds communities and currently, keep giving vaccines to children where others have stopped.
  • More local for me in the South of USA, the MidSouth foodbank who has been working a lot the last 19 months providing children and families with food when schools been closing due to covid19.
  • Another local charity, that helps women with work like bee keeping and making goods with the honey, Thistle&Bee
  • And finally, since the worlds is a scary place and democracy isn't gaining popularity as much as at least I hoped, Amnesty international to send support, put pressure and help people. There's always a support card to send to an imprisoned person or bring attention to a situation that's unacceptable or donate money.

All in all, please feel free to send along other good options where money and attention will help good causes.

Happy Giving Tuesday! Let's make a difference.