Consise History of my Life as a Girl

9 Mar

3: realise I’m a girl. Understand physical difference between sexes, know that I’m just as worthy and capable as my brother. Sorted.

4-6: first loves, both sexes. Problems separating friendship and romantic love. Decide to marry my BF Karoline and live on a big farm.

7-8: decide to marry boys instead, five to be exact (nobody specific), have 20 kids and start popping them out around 16, “so that I am young enough to remember what it’s like to be a kid”. Good strategy for raising kids is to be one, apparently.

9-12: horse girl – good times! Not worried about boys, marriage or number of kids. In fact, great dislike toward boys, starting to understand about friendship though. Realise I’m not a girly-girl (no interest in clothes/hair, not nurturing or “nice”)

13-14: try being a tomboy, aqcuire male nickname and baggy clothes, but suck at sports and have few male friends. Read Harry Potter in secret, discover and try to hide that I’m actually an awkward nerd-type girl

15-16: abort previous “marriage with children”-plan (not that I could find five guys that would want to marry me anyway). Accept that I am a girl, and try instead being The Cool Girl. Fail (not charming, pretty or disinterested)

17-18: embrace awkward and nerdy with likeminded friends – fun times! Now worry alot about boys.

19-20: revert to Cool Girl to try and attract boys more successfully. Prettier now, drink beer like Robert Baratheon, sexually active. Terrible at shots though, not funny, too moody, suck at video games. Still manage to attract a boy

21-22: promptly revert to awkward and nerdy, go to university where this is appreciated, no longer worried about boys cause I have one – fun times!

23-25: marry boy that completes me (is charming, funny and can cook). Also my BF, do everything together but our own thaang too. Still confident that I live in a society of gender equality – fun times!

26-27: pregnant. maternity leave. Realise I am a woman. Embracing household chores, motherhood and nurturing suddenly expected – not so fun times. Only like tidying and organising (nerdy), not cleaning (a sport) or cooking (an art form).

28-29: complete higher education, start work. Empowerment levels temporarily restored. Suddenly worry about pension, pay levels, sick days, future pregnancies, future career, future of my daughter. Realise I’m a feminist.


Disclaimer. Do I need to point out that Matilda is the highlight of my life and that motherhood is of course empowering in many ways? Yes, I think unfortunately I do.

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Should I be worried!? The child started cleaning the wheels of her stroller on her own accord after today’s walk…

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Anti-social?

5 Nov

This is not one blog post. This is the result of more than 25 revisions of a blog post that I started writing over a month ago. I just – can’t – post what I originally started writing, because at this stage I’m bored to tears by my own sentences. I generally have more drafts here than published items. It’s a vicious circle; every time I find something new to write about, I tell myself I have to finish one I’m already working on first, and I can’t finish one I’m working on because, because… Anyway, as anyone can see from my infrequent additions, this means that nothing has been published at all for almost two months.

This blog post started out (actually, the only resemblance to the original is the title) as a rant on your everyday, typical Facebook posts, written in a huff after a very bad day. It was one of those days where nothing works out, everybody is stupid, road-rage takes you over, you shout at your family and do not relent until doors are slamming or someone (most likely yourself) is crying. I was about to take it out on the world but decided against it, and after a few days it developed into a reflection on self-censorship online. Reflection soon became action however, and here I am again with a half-written post, unable to finish and just press “enter”.

At some stage in this process I came across the article 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook, and I think this might be what my enterphobia boils down to. The author of the article claims that most insufferable fb-posts are motivated by image crafting, narcissism, attention craving, wanting to induce jealousy or loneliness (in other words, great qualities that you want to expose to the world, right?). To a certain degree, I agree that people should reconsider before they inform 300 people + that they are off to bed, but I’m finding it hard to identify any post in social media that can’t be boiled down to one of the qualities above. Even hilarious or inspiring ones are a form of image crafting, are they not?  And why would we publicly proclaim something if we didn’t want to receive attention?

So yes, on a bad day I might find everyone on Facebook insufferable. But always, always, I’m a lot more afraid of being insufferable to everybody else. Thus, photos remain unpublished and half-written comments and tweets are deleted. Blog posts are edited until I forget what it was I wanted to say.

Now, what was it I wanted to say? Oh yes, I say, “no more self-sencorship!” Expect to hear a lot more from me in the future, whether you like it or not!

Picture this…

25 Aug

It’s a Saturday morning in late August. There’s been a week or two of late summer storms followed by crisp autumn mornings. Then all of a sudden, you wake up to this…

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Accross the street from our house

Two sisters (and one boyfriend) are visiting and while the coffee is brewing, there’s only one thing to do…

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Ready?

Steady...

Steady…

Go!

Go!

So I’m really doing this, then?

12 Aug

Everyone is an adult, whereas I'm in disguise

 

 

At the bottom of my list of stuff-to-do-when-I-finish-my-thesis from way back in January, I half-jokingly put

  • Get a driver’s license
  • Move to Norway
  • Get a job

and it was all fun and games until last week, when all of this landed in my mailbox,

  • Monday: Ballot paper
  • Tuesday: Invitation to welcome meeting for new staff
  • Wednesday: Confirmation of driver’s license application – approved
  • Thursday: Day care bill

and I’d probably be a bit freaked out right now if it wasn’t for the very last letter, which I got right in time for the weekend,

  • Friday: PAY SLIP!

Assent on the Intake

7 Aug

If you’re Norwegian or if you know someone who is, you might recognise this habit we have of answering a yes-no question while breathing in, a kind of gasp-like noise that many find strange. It recently came up in a conversation with a friend who have also lived abroad for a few years, and funnily enough, it is very appropriately described in a novel I was just then reading.

Astrid does her funny in-breath that means a yes. Assent on the intake, Hannah calls it.

Arcadia, novel by Lauren GroffLauren Groff’s novel Arcadia is about Bit, who grows up in the eponymous hippie commune in the 60-70’s and eventually has to face the world Outside where he remains into the present and beyond. Here, industry, exploitation of the world’s resources and global warming are having increasingly extreme effects on society, and no viable solutions are in sight.

Like the protagonist, this is a subtle, emotional, thoughtful and intelligent exploration of the conflict between assimilating into society and staying true to your beliefs. It shows the difficulty in sustaining a community where everyone’s welcome and anything goes, despite the fact that the core values and founding ideals (self-sufficiency, community, contribution, solidarity) are genuinely good. Eventually, problems with leadership, segregation, corruption and regulation, the very issues they are trying to avoid, will start to seep into the closed community.

As such, both Arcadia and the Outside are presented through their many flaws, especially when considering the different faiths of the many “kidlets” who were raised in Arcadia but only truly grow up once outside. When the two worlds intercept, a wide range of reactions take place for which both worlds are partly responsible. Additionally, the novel shifts between an exploration of the interchangeable influence the larger community and the closer bonds of family have on Bit.

Nevertheless, through the beautiful descriptions of his amazing childhood experiences and the struggles with finding his proper place outside, there is a sense that large-scale catastrophe could have been avoided had the basic principles of Arcadia (and pre-industrial revolution societies) continued to have a more central position in the world at large. By starting in an authentic past, progressing to the actual present and placing the final part of the novel in the immediate future, Groff simultaneously hints that even if we could change the ways of our society, we have already run out of time – a chilling notion that had this Norwegian gasping in assent.

Other similar novels (climate/resource/society-related dystopias):

  • The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
  • The Swarm – Frank Schätzing
  • Mino-triologien (Mengele Zoo, Himmelblomsttreet, Afrodites basseng) and Chimera Gert Nygårdshaug
  • Freedom – Jonathan Frantzen (not a dystopia as such, but similar in themes and tone, and a personal favourite)

I’m a Librarian!

12 Jul

In the first job interview I was at this spring, I was asked whether I felt like a librarian. As I had never worked in a library I thought it wrong to claim that title just yet, but I quickly added that I aspired to become one.

Now I have landed not just one, but two library jobs. I’m already a couple of weeks into a summer gig at the National Library in Oslo where I have a key card and am surrounded by ancient, mysterious manuscripts and ancient, mysterious clients who study them. In August I start as a school librarian at an upper secondary where I expect less mystery and more drama.

So this must mean that I’m now allowed to announce it out loud – I’m a Librarian and I’m proud!

What the Dickens?

11 Jul

“Still reading David Copperfield, eh?”, you may have thought if you have visited this blog within the past six months and seen the picture on the right that I have finally updated. I actually finished it a couple of months ago, and not counting A Christmas Carol, this is my first ever completed Dickens novel. Yes, I have managed to obtain a bachelor’s degree in English literature without reading any Dickens whatsoever. And yes, I agree, they really should revoke it.

Below is my take on this very long, very detailed, very old book that I very much enjoyed. I mostly read American literature from the 20th century, so I’m afraid my opinions are more a reflection of my poor preconditions than Dickens’ writing.

Admittedly some of his storytelling techniques are today more associated with children’s literature, such as names that openly reflect the true nature of the character, like Uriah Heep(-of-shite) and Mr. Murdstone (*shudder*), as well as presenting an ensemble of near-caricatures (especially the “bad” ones). Nevertheless, characters like aunt Trotwood and Tommy Traddles, are so incredibly well-developed you start to think of them as someone you have once known, rather than read about.

Another thing that’s usually more subtly integrated in modern literature is the incredible coincidences that are crucial to driving the story forward and tying up loose strings. It is more fashionable to confuse and distract readers these days, lest they should think, “Bah! That would never happen in real life!” It took a little while to adjust to this, but when I did, oh-ho-ho, I happily accepted that Dickens is of course a master storyteller. Dora’s Dad’s Death for example is of course perfectly timed, yet perfectly unforeseen (and a tad too convenient). The same goes for Ham and Steerforth’s Double-Death, which is heart-wrenching on so many levels.

You could divide the book about half-way through and when you’ve read 500 pages and have already been presented with a dense story including at least one or two beginning-middle-end structures, happy endings plus a frame narrative, you’ve sort of fulfilled your coming-of-age-story needs, you’re happy out. However, the sequel follows immediately and the reflections and actions of DC’s middle-aged life consists mainly of summing up the whole story and elaborating on the lives of other characters. It also veers off into this love story that is frankly not that necessary and definitively too drawn-out- Although I am pleased with the outcome, It’s kind of like he decided to whip up a little romance novel there at the end in order to cater for all audiences.

I do enjoy elaborate plot-lines, parallel stories or brick-sized books (I have read all of Game of Thrones, I’ll have you know), but in places DC is simply simultaneously too much and too little. So, the Dickens project will probably be put on hold for another couple of years. One thing that will definitely ensure my return to Dickens’ Victorian England though, is the language. Oh, the language, and oh, the wisdom…

“There is no doubt whatever that I was a lackadaisical young spooney; but there was a purity of heart in all this, that prevents my having quite a contemptuous recollection of it, let me laugh as I may.”

Reunion

7 Jun

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way.

– A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

The day my class graduated from Upper Secondary School in 2003, our teacher read this to us. It was the conclusion of a 12 year period of public education that started in blissful childhood and culminated in years of raging hormones, several identity crises, friendships and relationships formed and broken, limits challenged, journeys taken, experiences had and choices made.

Our class was a fairly mixed collection of people. We were the weirdos who had deliberately chosen the International Baccalaureate program; all classes in English, 20 final exams, advanced level maths (optional) and the dreaded Extended Essay (not optional). I only knew two people when I started; my best friend at the time and my best friend at present (both friends since aforementioned “blissful childhood”).

We have always been weird, and the freedom of being completely unknown by anyone went to our heads. We were surely responsible for furthering the reputation of “crazy IB people” in the school but we also had unbelievable fun, so we didn’t care one bit! Naturally we were not everybody’s cup-of-tea, yet we did attract a few other weirdos to join our group. But general oddness cannot hold you together forever, and alas, our group dispersed shortly after graduation.

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Giggles in the classroom corner

Saturday was our ten year reunion, and when I arrived a bit late with present-best-friend, our two favourite teachers and half of our former classmates were already there. Incidentally, this was in the same place as we had our graduation party and it was like walking into the past. As we all hugged and smiled and said hello, I was astonished by how little people had physically changed in the ten years passed. As we sat down and started chatting, it became apparent that this to a large extent applied to personality as well. Unfortunately, not many from “our” group were present, but all the more chance to catch up with people we had co-existed with, but not really interacted all that much with due to above mentioned reasons.

Introductorily, we read aloud predictions we had written about each other ten years ago. Some hilarious, some far, far off and some scarily close to reality. Not mine – apparently I would be living abroad, working as a vet, but anyhow… As the hours passed we discussed and laughed about teachers and reading lists, rumours and reputations, old photos and of course ourselves and those who weren’t there – then and now. Although I say that people hadn’t changed much, there was one striking difference in all of us; we were all less self-important and had more self-irony. The atmosphere was relaxed, happy and amiable. All in all, a great night.

Even with the tons of schoolwork we reluctantly struggled through, our intrigues, drama and general teenage angst, I look back at those two years as the highlight of my public schooling both educationally and socially. But the intensity of that time, captured perfectly by the above quote, is forever gone. Thank goodness.

The Strongest Girl in the World

22 Apr

It’s all well and good for me to digitally vent about the choices and changes we are dealing with right now, but Matilda is just as affected by this of course, and she has no blog, poor thing. Luckily, she is exceptionally clever and can tell me a lot about how she feels in her own words, and if all else fails, a good-ol’ tantrum will usually get my attention too!

The two of us have been on the go since the end of March, and not one day has been the same as the one before. So after starting a new preschool  last week and with a particularly eventful day for both of us on Wednesday, we decided to take the day off  Thursday and just chill out around the house. At lunchtime we sat down and watched Pippi on the Run, munching on our chocolate spread bread. Pippi is one of Tilly’s (and my) heroes, and known of course as the strongest girl in the world. She handles every situation with a laugh, but she also has incredible depth and warmth.

We sometimes ask a lot of our two-and-a-half year old and lately I’m just in awe by how well she deals with and settles in to all this newness, facing most situations with curiosity and enthusiasm but also letting me know clearly when enough is enough and rest is required, drawing comfort and security from every resource available to her. I’m impressed and inspired by how strong she seems to me, and sometimes I think I couldn’t have done this without her.

With Batman's cape, Pippi's socks and her bunny and dummy safely clasped in her hands, she is ready for whatever the world throws at her

With Batman’s cape, Pippi’s socks and her bunny and dummy safely clasped in her hands, she is ready for whatever the world throws at her

Beer Garden Blues

16 Apr

It’s been a month since my last confession, and meohmy what a month! Forget all I’ve said about lying in bed reading blogs, watching Gilmore Girls and spending hours alone in the library with my laptop… I thought master thesis writing was intense, but compared to what has happened since I finished, it was positively leisurely. Back in January, I had only one thing to focus on and everything else was pushed to the side, or more accurately, ahead. Now it’s April, and I’m still trying to get through it all.

In search of fame and fortune, I have left Prague. I brought the child but left the man behind, for now. A year ago I was nauseated by the thought of leaving, but as the months passed I got used to the idea and started to anticipate the return, for reasons it’s becoming increasingly hard to remember.

Because no matter how happy I am to be reunited with my friends and family, regardless of how great it feels to be able to chat, enquire, explain and complain to bus drivers, shop keepers, customer service guys and a selection of official people (which is what I spend most my days doing), despite the fact the the food tastes like home and the water tastes fresh, and although I am giddy with anticipation for starting my career, I’m beginning to wonder if I didn’t time it badly, horribly badly, even.

One of these days, in Prague, a miracle will take place. A yearly miracle, but a miracle none the less. If it hasn’t happened already, Praguesters will wake up one morning and discover that it is Spring. It literally happens over night, and where yesterday you donned your hat and mitts, today you may discard your wooly coat for a t-shirt and sunglasses and head to the park.

This is not the miracle of which I speak, however. It is a much more fascinating phenomenon. For with Spring comes the opening of the Beer Garden. A massive beer and sausage serving place in the middle of the park Riegrovy Sady in Vinohrady. And it’s like the people who run it know exactly when Spring Day will occur. Bear in mind that SD changes every year, usually occurring somewhere between the end of March and end of April. You might be fighting your way through the park in sleet and slush one day and suddenly see them working away in there behind the fence to prepare tables and benches, umbrellas and beer kegs for the big day. A warm feeling spreads through you, Spring Day is close.

And Beer Garden is not just a place for buying cheap Gambrinus and greasy klobasa, it is in all respects a wondrous place, a paradise, if you will. Here native Praguensians and expats of all nations mingle happily. Children and animals (mainly dogs) roam together between the tables and you pray that the brown things they stuff in their mouths are last year’s conkers, but you’re enjoying yourself too much to get up and check. It’s like what it must have been in the oldern days. You don’t have to make any appointments to meet people, everybody just gravitates to this place as soon as they finish work or school. If you sit there for a whole day, it is quite possible that you will meeteveryone you know.

It is the most laid-back, good-craic, everybody-minding-their-own-business-together atmosphere that I’ve ever come across, and it’s not only because I’m missing it this year that this is all so hard to bear right now. It’s in no small degree because I have returned to Norway specifically, and in order to work, earn and spend money here. Where the sun don’t shine and the beer doth not flow, and if it does and your kids are around, child services are on the spot immediately.

This is what the paralysing fear from exactly a year ago (coincidence? hardly) was all about. Not not being able to drink beer with Matilda around obviously, but the fear that moving back would somehow force me to grow up, fit in, behave and act according to certain rules I don’t agree with on a scale I’m not comfortable with.

As the days fly by, the snow continues to fall and I remain fame-and-fortuneless, I can’t help but wondering if I should have just stayed put and let fame and fortune come find me in Riegrovy Sady.