At the end of the year, it’s nice to take some time to be still and meditate on the passing of time, honouring the events, thoughts and emotions that changed us and helped us to evolve. It is also a time to feel joy and anticipation for all the possibilities that awaits with the dawning of a new year. For me, the beginning of this new decade coincides with the end of a very special phase in life and the beginning of a completely new era.
6 years ago, I embarked on a journey to become a professional scholar and at the end of that adventure I found myself in a very different place from where I had started, physically as well as intellectually. I began my studies in the south of Sweden but ended up in the capital of Finland, where I eventually changed discipline, and graduated as a Doctor of comparative literature instead of history.
Despite the fact that Finland was a part of the Swedish Kingdom for 700 years, (the minority of swedish speaking finns is a remnant of this kinship), I basically knew nothing of my mysterious eastern neighbours prior to moving there. When I left Helsinki 5 years later, I mourned the loss of a home and a community of very close friends. This little country to the far north, which I first regarded as a detour on the road to a more exciting life, stole my heart.
As my work progressed, I realized that I felt no passion for the rigorous scientific methods that historians used, and found little meaning in their fascination with every sin, crime and failure of which humanity is guilty. There is already too much focus on every bad thing that happens in the world because the dramaturgy of media is focused around stirring up strong negative emotions. This negativity claws at us 24/7 from every tv-station, newspaper, news site and online magazine in existence.
Albert Einstein, who has come to symbolize the genius of modern science, wrote that the most important decision we make in our lives is wether we believe that we live in a friendly or a hostile universe. The choice is ours. We are the masters of our own perspective and outlook on life. As often as I can, I live in a friendly cosmos and I want the light, joy and faith that I experience to emanate from my work. Thus, my heart longed for art and stories, imagination and passion, all of which I eventually found in the field of literary studies. Here, at the blurred border between science and art, I have carved out an intellectual space for myself that I truly look forward to grow and evolve.
To grow my space, and cultivate a life of creative joy and abundance, I like to begin the year with sowing a few seeds of change. Every January, I create a list of personal and professional goals to be reached in the coming year. The list consists of very concrete things, such as “finish the manuscript” (I’d never put “work on manuscript” as a goal because it means nothing, I can work on a text for 1 out of 365 days to fulfill that obligation and make zero progress). For personal goals I try to think of new ways to improve my character. These are the 2 most important personal improvements that I want to implement in 2020 :
- Shop less. In recent years, I have developed an unhealthy obsession with the idea of making more money, which has created a stressful need to buy more things to feel fulfilled. In this era of consumerism, being able to afford nice things is an accomplishment, but at the same time we know that money doesn’t make us happy. Shopping does not have to be a bad thing, but when it becomes a source of stress and negativity rather than joy, I call it a bad habit and want to let go. I never aimed for a career that allows for excessive shoppinghabits because my number one priority in life is not to make more money so that I can buy more stuff, but to have time and freedom to pursue my creativity. This year, I will make a conscious effort to redirect my thoughts to creative projects whenever I feel the need to shop. For example: Since my favourite thing to consume is home decor, I will try to craft all decor and even some furniture using materials found in nature, or by reusing materials, instead of buying new things. Another simple strategy that I will implement this year is to think deeply about what I actually need to buy and make a budget.
- Do things that I am scared off on a regular basis. My work as a post doc-researcher is socially isolating, and since I recently moved to a new country, loneliness can become a vicious circle. Therefore, I challenge myself to overcome my anxieties by trying out a variety of new social events, as well as exploring new places on my own. I want to force myself out of my comfort zone both socially and physically.
The power of words is strong, and I’ve found that the act of writing my goals down drastically increases my chance to reach them. Through writing, you draw a map of your future, so that you know in which direction to go and where to focus your energy.