On getting older and pursuing your dreams 2/2

In the previous post I wrote about getting older and seeing and feeling the first marks of old age in your body. Below a more humorous and light-minded text on the physical changes that a 28-year-old man might find in his body. Below the Finnish original you’ll find an English translation.

28-vuotiaan vartalo

28-vuotiaana otsaan ilmestyy pienen pieniä kyhmyjä, tai näppylöitä, joiden olemassa olosta ei edes ole ihan varma. Iho näyttää jämerämmältä, karkearakenteisemmalta. Sääriin ilmestyy pieniä, aavistuksen muuta ihoa tummempia täpliä, kuin pigmenttilaikkuja, joista aikanaan kehittyy maksaläiskiä. Myös säärien iho on jo kuluneempaa, pienen verkkokuvion peittämää: kuin ihon pintaan olisi uurrettu hienon hieno verkkokuvio, kuin muikkuverkko alle millimetrin silmäkoolla. Ja pohkeiden kohdalla iho on hieman väsähtänyt, vaikka lihasta jännittäessä säikeet näkyvätkin. Jalkaa koukistaessa polvitaipeen iho kuitenkin paljastaa todellisen olemuksensa, hieman veltostuneen ja jälleen appelsiinipintaisen rakenteen.

28-vuotiaana jalkapöydän ihokin muuttuu appelsiinipintaiseksi. Kun venyttää pakaralihasta asettamalla toisen säären vasten toisen jalan polvea ja istumalla lattialla, näkee, miten jalkapöydän ihon pinta muuttuu nilkkaa koukistaessa ja varpaita ylöspäin taivuttaessa hienojen ryppyjen peittämäksi: ihoa näyttää olevan hieman liikaa, se on melko ohutta ja osittain kimmoisuutensa menettänyttä. Samalla näkee, kuinka nilkan iho hilseilee kuivuneena, pintakerroksensa koostuen heikosti kiinnittyneistä pienistä hiutaleista, jotka kevyesti raaputtamalla irtoavat ja leijailevat pois. Samoja hiutaleita on myös jalkapöydän appelsiini-ihossa. Nilkan keskikohdassa, jalkapöydän yläpuolella, iho on kimmoisampaa, se menee vain yhdessä suunnassa laskokselle, muodostaen vain poikittaisia ryppyjä, toisin kuin jalkapöydän appelsiini-iho, jonka rypyt eivät ole suoria ja tekevät siksi ihon pinnasta vanhemman ja väsyneemmän näköisen. Nämä nilkankin rypyt näyttävät kuitenkin jo aikaa nähneiltä, sillä niiden iho on parkkiintunut, hieman karhea ja aavistuksen kovettunut, mutta kuitenkin alla olevien lihasten ja jänteiden vahvasti tukema: jo kokenut, mutta edelleen vahva ja elinvoimainen. Toisin on jalkapöydän ihon kanssa, joka on jo kokenut ja parhaan teränsä menettänyt,  entistä nuoruuttaan muisteleva, menneeseen haikaileva.

Nilkassa olevan pallomaisen luun pinnalla iho on kuin kevyesti veitsen viiltelemää: sileää, mutta hienoja uria täynnä, jotka risteilevät keskenään, muodostaen  huolimattomasti piirretyn verkkomaisen rakenteen, koostuen nelikulmioista, kolmioista ja siellä täällä seassa olevista epämääräisemmistä muodoista. Ihoa sormella vetäessä alueiden rajoina toimivat viillot irvistävät, ja viiltojen rajat nousevat ylös, näyttäen ihon hiutalemaisuuden, aivan kuin nilkan kohdalla aiemmin. Nämä hiutaleet vain ovat isompia, niitä viiltojen rajoittamia kolmioita, neliöitä ja muita muotoja, jotka ovat ihossa vielä tiukasti kiinni reunojensa kuitenkin irvistäessä, kun ihoa vetää johonkin suuntaan.

Ensimmäinen kesä 28. ikävuoden tultua täyteen vie takaisin nuoruuteen: pienenä kasvoissa olleet pisamat ovat vuosia sitten hävinneet, mutta ilmestyvät nyt sääriin, etenkin puolisäärestä alaspäin säären etupuolelle, kun ne altistuvat kesäauringolle. Nämä pisamat ovat tosin haaleahkoja, noin millimetrin läpimitaltaan ja ovat muistuttavinaan maksaläiskien esiastetta: kasvavatkohan ne yhteen vai ovatko ne tulevinakin kesinä erillisiä täpliä jaloissani? Muistan aiemmin katselleeni keski-ikäisiä miehiä, joilla oli näitä pilkkuja säärissään, miettien, että ne pilkut ovat oikeastaan aika sympaattisen näköisiä, viestivät jollain tavalla elinvoimasta, jota mies on imenyt itseensä viettämällä aikaa auringossa, joka on jättänyt jälkeensä lisäksi nuo pilkut jaloissa.

The body of a 28-year-old

At the age of 28 small bumps, or pimples, make their presence vaguely known on one’s forehead, although it’s not quite clear whether they are there or not. The skin looks sturdier, coarser. The shins gain small spots that are slightly darker than the rest of the skin, like pigment spots that eventually develop into chloasma. Also the skin on the shins is already more worn, covered by a net with very fine loop size, like one for catching vendace, with holes less than one millimeter wide. And the skin on the calves is a little tired and droopy, although the striations of the flexed muscle are still visible. But bending the knee forces the skin on the back side of the knee to reveal its true essence, somewhat drooping and, again, with a consistency resembling orange skin.

At the age of 28 even the skin on the top of your foot has the surface of an orange. When you stretch your gluteus maximus by setting one shin across the other knee while sitting on the floor, you’ll see how the skin on the topside of your foot, your instep, gets covered in fine wrinkles when you bend your ankle and turn your toes upwards: it looks like there is just a bit too much skin there, and it’s quite thin, partly having lost its elasticity. Simultaneously you see how the skin of your ankle is flaking off of dryness, its top layer consisting of loosely attached small flakes that, when lightly scratched, are set loose and fly away. Those same flakes can also be found on the orange-skin on the topside of your instep. At the middle of your ankle, above the instep, the skin is more elastic and has wrinkles only in one direction, namely horizontally, while the orange-skin on the topside of your foot has wrinkles that are not straight, causing the skin there to look older and more tired. But even the unidirectional wrinkles on the ankle seem to have been hardened by time, the skin being roughened, slightly coarse and hardened, yet strongly supported by the muscles and tendons below: experienced, but still strong and vivid. That is not the case with the skin on the instep, already experienced and having passed its peak, reminiscent of its lost youth, looking back in the past.

The ball-shaped bone in the ankle is covered by skin that looks to be covered by light and shallow knife cuts: smooth but full of fine grooves, crossing one another and forming a carelessly drawn net, consisting of rectangles, triangles with undetermined shapes in between. When pulling the skin away between two fingers, the shallow cuts enclosing the different shapes sneer grin, and the edges of the cuts protrude upwards, showing the flakiness of the skin, just like the skin on the ankle before. These flakes are just larger, triangles, rectangles and other shapes delimited by those shallow cuts, that are still rigidly attached to the skin but already being lifted at the edges when the skin is pulled to some direction.

The first summer after having turned 28 years old takes one back to his youth: the freckles you had on your face in your younger days have disappeared years ago, but are now starting to appear on the shins, especially below mid-shin and on the front side when the shins have been kissed by the summer sun. These freckles are fair, however, and about one millimeter in diameter, like resembling an early stage of a chloasma: Might they grow together or will they continue to adorn my shins in their spotty way in the coming summers? I remember before watching middle-aged men with spots on their shins and thinking that those spots in fact look quite sympathetic or likeable, that they somehow speak about vitality that the man has absorbed by spending time in the sun that has left its mark in those spots in the shins.

 

On getting older and pursuing your dreams 1/2

The other day I remembered having written a short text on getting older sometime in 2016. I searched in the depths of my computer and found the text. Although I remembered it containing my thoughts on the physical process of aging, I had already forgotten that I had also written about my then thoughts on my career and achievements in life. Having ended my career in procurement and about to start my studies in physics, I have managed to take action and make the situation a lot better. Reading those lines from about a year ago makes me realize how bad the situation was and how sick I was emotionally, spending so much time on things I didn’t like and not pursuing a passion. As inspiration for others in a similar situation and a reminder myself I have posted that text below. The original is in Finnish but further below I have added an English translation.

28-vuotiaana

Kun mies täyttää 28 vuotta, hän huomaa vanhenneensa. Olkavarren ja solisluun sekä kyynärvarren ja olkavarren välissä iho on menettänyt kimmoisuuttaan. Nuo ihoalueet ovat kuin appelsiinin pinta. Liikunnasta palautuminenkin on hitaampaa: uni ei tahdo riittää, ja hyväkään ravinto ei riitä palauttamaan energiavarastoja, jos lepo jää tavallista lyhyemmäksi. Rankkoja treenejä ei voi tehdä viikkotolkulla putkeen, ilman että suoritustaso ja motivaatio laskevat. Päivittäinen kymmenen kilometrin työmatka kävellen ottaa pohkeisiin, ja seisoen työpöydän ääressä vietetyn päivän jälkeen etureidetkin ovat väsähtäneet. Tuntuu, että eläminen rasittaa ja että siitä ei meinaa palautua. Elämä, vaihtelevan pituinen viive syntymän ja välittömän kuoleman välissä.

Vielä verrattain nuorella, 28-vuotiaalla miehellä, voi olla vanha mieli. Oikeastaan tuo vanha mieli voi olla 24-vuotiaalla, joka ei enää halua viettää aikaa saunailloissa tai bileissä, juoda alkoholia ja valvoa myöhään, vaan treenata kurinalaisesti, koska hän ei nuoruudessaan koskaan todella antautunut urheilulle, koska hän lopetti hyvin alkaneen musiikkiharrastuksen liian aikaisin, koska hän ei jatkanut aloittamaansa karateharrastusta paria vuotta pidempään. Koska hän on kokeillut monia asioita, mutta ei koskaan löytänyt intohimoaan, jonka parissa hän voisi viettää sata elämää. Ehkä kehonpainoharjoittelu ja voimistelu ovat hänen juttunsa. Mutta hän on aloittanut liian myöhään, vasta 22-vuotiaana. Hän ei enää voita olympiamitalia, mutta ehkä hän voi silti oppia käsilläseisontapunnerruksen ja spagaatin. Mutta hän ei ole varma, onko hän löytänyt intohimonsa. Siksi hän kurinalaisesti harjoittelee kuusi vuotta, ilman suurta menestystä, yhä tehden samaa harjoitusohjelmaa, yhä tehden samoja liikkeitä, ilman etenemistä vaikeampiin variaatioihin. Hän on sinnikäs, mutta polkee syvällä kuopassaan. Hän tietää, ettei etene, mutta ei uskalla kokeilla muutakaan; mitä jos hän menettää senkin, mitä hänellä on? Mutta eihän hänellä ole mitään. Hänellä ei ole intohimoa. Tai ehkä se on voimistelu, mutta siinäkään hän ei ole edennyt. Hän ei ole saavuttanut mitään, mistä olisi erittäin ylpeä. Hän ei ole voittanut kilpailuja, saanut palkintoja tai julkaissut tekstejä. Hän on opiskellut yliopistotutkinnon määräajassa hyvin arvosanoin, mutta valinnut aikanaan väärän pääaineen. Hänen sivuaineensa olisi pitänyt olla hänen pääaineensa. Häntä kiinnostavat luonto ja tutkiminen, eivät talous ja konsulttijargonilla hutkiminen. Häntä kiinnostavat koneet ja tekniikka, eivät raha ja optimaaliset sijoitusportfoliot.

Hän on onnellinen tehdessään kirjanpitoa. Hän on onnellinen käyttäessään Microsoft Excel -työkalua. Hän on onnellinen imuroidessaan, laittaessaan ruokaa, silittäessään paitoja, ollessaan metsällä, vaeltamassa, urheillessaan, nauraessaan ystäviensä kanssa, maalla, traktorin hytissä, tehden työtä vapaasti omaan tahtiinsa. Ja silti hän viettää joka arkipäivä yhdeksän tuntia toimistossa, keskustellen ihmisten kanssa, tehden esityksiä, arkistoiden sähköposteja, soittaen puhelimella toimittajille, tehden projektityötä ilman suunnitelmaa, yrittäen saavuttaa vuositavoitteet: prosentit ja frangit.

Hän ei uskalla hypätä, ei uskalla edes kyykistyä ponnistamaan. Hän saattaisi vahingossa hypätä oikeaan suuntaan. Väärään suuntaan hän tuskin päätyisi, koska on jo väärässä paikassa. Hän pitää ihmisistä ympärillään, mutta työssään hän ei ole onnellinen. Kun johtaja kysyy, onko hän onnellinen, hän itsesuggestion vallassa vastaa myöntävästi. Myöntyvä vastaus lentää hänen huuliltaan, ja samaan aikaan hän huutaa itselleen, miten hän haluaisi jotain muuta. Mutta hän ei tiedä, mitä haluaisi. Hän pitää teksteistä ja kirjoittamisesta. Vieraat kieletkin ovat hänen mieleensä. Hän on kiinnostunut matematiikasta ja tekniikasta. Hän tykkää myös tehdä asioita käsillään ja rakentaa.

At the age of 28

When a man turns 28 he notices how he has become old. The skin between the upper arm and the collar bone and that between the forearm and the upper arm has lost some of its elasticity. There the skin is like the surface of an orange. Recuperation after sports is also become slower than before: it’s difficult to get enough sleep and even high-quality nutrition is not enough to refill the body’s energy storages if you don’t get enough rest. Hard training sessions cannot be carried out week in week out without a significant reduction in performance and motivation. The daily walk of 10 kilometers to work and back can be felt in the calves and standing the whole day by your desk makes your thighs and quadriceps tired. Life feels like a stressor from which you can hardly recover. Life, a delay of varying length between birth and death.

A relatively young man at the age of 28 can have a relatively old mind. Such a mind can even be found at a 24-year-old who doesn’t want to spend his time at parties, drink alcohol and stay up late but train in a highly disciplined manner, because in his youth he never really gave his everything to sports, because he quit a well-started music hobby too early, because he quit karate after practicing it no longer than two years. Because he has tried so many things but never found his passion at which he could spend a hundred life times. Maybe body weight training and gymnastics are his thing. But he has started too late, at the age of 22. He can no more win an Olympic medal, but maybe he can still learn to do handstand push-ups and a split. But he is unsure whether he has found his passion. Therefore he sticks to disciplined training and practicing for six years, without any great progress, still following the same program, still doing the same exercises without progressing to more difficult ones. He is persistent but is running on his place, deep in a hole he has dug. He knows that he is not making any progress but is afraid to try anything else; what if he loses even that what he still has? But he has nothing. He has no passion. Or maybe gymnastics could be it but even there he has shown no progress. He has achieved nothing, of which he would be especially proud. He has won no competitions, received any awards or prizes or published any writings. He has studied and received a university degree in the allotted time with good grades but chose the wrong subject to major in. He is interested in the world of science, not in business and consulting non-sense. He is interested in technology and machines, not money and optimal investment strategies.

He is happy when he does bookkeeping. He is happy when he uses the Microsoft Excel tool. He is happy hoovering, cooking, ironing shirts, hunting, hiking, doing sports, laughing with friends, at the country side, in the cabin of a tractor, working at his own pace. And yet he spends each weekday nine hours at the office, talking with people, doing presentations, archiving e-mails, calling suppliers, working on a project without a plan, trying to reach the annual targets: percentages and Swiss Francs.

He is afraid to jump, even afraid to bend his knees. He might accidentally jump in the right direction. It doesn’t matter where he’ll land since he’s already in the wrong place. He likes the people around him but is unhappy doing his work. When his supervisor asks whether he’s happy, he, succumbed by his autosuggestion, answers yes. The affirmation jumps from his lips while he is screaming to himself how he wants to do something else. But he does not know what he wants. He likes texts and writing. Foreign languages please him, too. He is interested in mathematics and technology. He also likes to do things with his hands and build.

 

Me – Finally in the open

This post might be the last now in this series; in the previous posts to this series I have described how I found out that the world of business was not my true passion and that I have decided to pursue university studies in physics. The day before yesterday my decision was finally announced at our team at work, so that now all my colleagues also know. Thus, my seeking, planning and preparing has come to an end, or at least a milestone has been reached. I am likely to reflect on my decision later in the future, but for the moment this series of posts has filled its purpose, I think, getting my thoughts on the paper and helping me reflect on them.

After my decision was announce in the team, the comment from my colleagues were without exception positive and very encouraging. Some even said that physics is definitely the right choice for me, and one colleague could even remember a similar case where a colleague had left our company after a few years to move from business to physics. That was encouraging to hear, since already that piece of information gave me additional confidence that this kind of decision can be right. Even if I make my own decisions, not caring whether others disapprove or think it’s somehow weird, knowing that someone else has already done such a move boosts my self-confidence; there is a group I belong to. Although I like to take my own paths, I am human, a social animal.

There are still about six weeks left at the office, after which I will take two months vacation for arranging my things here and moving back to Finland. But before I go, I will arrange for my colleagues and myself a nice barbecue evening or something of the sort to say thank you and show them that they are important to me. Rodriguez sings “Hello only ends in goodbye“, but I don’t think it has to be so. I want to keep in in contact with my closest colleagues, and it’s just a matter of importance: for the important things we can always find time.

This post was originally written on June 16th 2017.

What have I achieved since November 2015?

My blog got started thanks to the blog challenge from Live Your Legend. It’s a recurring challenge that calls you to start a blog, make writing a habit and thus learn more about yourself. I started my blog in November 2015 and still actively writing. Since I have now come to a cross-roads in my life and have chosen to pursue studies and later a career in the field of physics, I decided it was time to reflect on my past writing. In the first half of June 2017 I read some of my earliest blog posts from November and December 2015 to compare my thoughts and goals then and now; whether I have achieved targets I set to myself one and a half years ago, and whether I have internalized some thought models and tools that I vouched for then.

Writing actively

In my first blog post I explicitly stated regular writing as a purpose of my blog. That I have been doing now since November 2015. Initially, I also planned to publish some fiction in my blog. On that front it has been rather quiet, apart from two small pieces, but I might publish some fiction again in the future. What is completely missing is a public reading my blog and commenting on my posts; cultivating ideas via active discussion is something I believe in, so here I have to improve, whether it’ll be live discussions or getting more publicity for my blog.

About networking

In another one of the earlier blog posts I discuss networking and how I’ve never felt comfortable doing it. I still don’t, but I think I have gotten a bit better in it, learnt how to approach people and gained a grain of self-confidence to do it marginally more often than before.

Being grateful

Having been born, at all, and especially in Finland is something I am very grateful for. This farm life  has been enriched by many different experiences and people. Even when I have a rainy day, I try to remind myself how well my things are and that I can have an impact on my future, while still being humble to the randomness of life.

On trying

One of my earliest posts discussed how I was proud of having started my blog as a channel to get my thoughts in the open and trying to keep up with the blog challenge from LiveYour Legend, although I had fallen behind the schedule. This attitude, being proud of even trying, is at the core of what helped me resign in June 2017 and take the leap back to university and start a physics study from scratch with a M.Sc. in industrial engineering already in my pocket. Although my blog did not lead me to participate more actively in the societal discussion as I thought, it helped me raise my voice, try new things and be less afraid of potentially not succeeding in my plans.

I quote here the last paragraph from my post from November 25th 2015 where I wrote about trying and seeking my passion. I believe continuous curiosity and seeking to be the right path in life:

“At the moment I am proud of taking the step towards my dream and passion, whatever they may be. Just actively looking for them is on its own something worth doing, since I have a clear goal and meaning for the actions I take. I hope that those of you, unsure of their direction in life, will also take the step towards finding your passion and purpose. The trip will be worth it. Not trying is failure without alternatives. Trying and not succeeding is not failure, just success in a different form as initially envisioned.” 

My elevator pitch

As prescribed in the blog challenge from Live Your Legend, I created my own elevator pitch to tell what I am building, what I care about and what I am passionate about. In November 2015 my elevator pitch was:

“I am building a person, who is active in his own small town community, helping organize great events and letting others experience the small everyday moments of happiness. I am building a person who helps people learn and grow as persons.

I care about people and their well-being. Seeing someone smile, hearing them say thank you, even in their own head, makes me happy, makes me want to do more for them. Knowing that I do matter, that I can help make a difference, keeps me going further. I also care about myself, knowing that I have to help myself before being able to help others.

I am excited about sports, about nature, about good books, about writing. I am excited about hearing people’s wild, even crazy ideas and making them come true. Unfortunately I have lost some of this characteristic after my university times, but I can still feel the flame and hope to bring it again to its full force. Being unconventional, unpredictable and uncommonly good is an exciting and challenging ideal.”

The first paragraph in this elevator pitch was inspired by a youth camp of my then sports club. I participated as an instructor and had great fun at the camp, thinking that I might want to get more involved in the local community. Yet, I didn’t do it, and now I think that I might not be such a person after all. I don’t feel a burning desire for very active participation in local associations taking an active role in the local society. However, becoming a person who helps people learn is definitely me; as a future physicist I want to expand our knowledge and understanding of the world and educate people.

The second chapter is a bit vague, but in line wity my current thoughts: smiles and thank-yous make me happy and I want to feel I am making a difference. I think one reason I wasn’t happy in the business world in a large company was the feeling of being a minuscule cog wheel in a giant machine without making any difference. Helping others is also something that brings me joy, while I also take care of myself.

The third chapter still describes the things I get excited about: nature, sports, books and writing. Now I would add physics, science and learning to the list. The part on making crazy ideas come true might become more prevalent again when I am at the university, surrounded by other students, many ten years younger than me, with their wild ideas and passion to make things happen.

Summing my current thoughts together, my current elevator pitch is:

I am here to increase the human understanding of the surrounding world, and asking questions like “why is the world such and such” is important to me, something I care about very much. I am passionate about searching for answers to these questions in co-operation with like-minded people, while having fun doing it and not taking even science too seriously.

Making a difference

In a later post from December 2015 I still entertained the thought of becoming more active in our sports/gymnastics club. I ended up becoming the club’s treasurer in February 2016, but I think I had made the decision to apply already before the December 2015 blog post. I did not become more engaged in our sports/gymnastics club, but I think that as member of the club’s board and as treasurer I did a decent job. Becoming more engaged in the administrative activities and arranging events just wasn’t my cup of tea, although I very much enjoyed getting into the trenches and taking care of clear tasks and chores at our events, such as setting the scene and the props between performances at one of our larger, bi-annual events.

My revolution

As clueless as I was in December 2015 on what revolution I would want to lead, I still have no clear picture, but I might find an answer in the area of science and physics. Since I am passionate about learning and science, maybe my personal revolution will take place somewhere between science, learning and teaching.

About team work and learning

The blog post on learning and working in teams from December 2015 discusses some of the difficulties in affirming the required knowledge and level of knowledge for a task. Sometimes, before you set out to do something, you do not know what kind of skills and knowledge are required, which might make the successful completion of the task very difficult later on. The post is not very original in that respect, but the last chapter contains two good pieces of advice: […] as individuals we should have the courage to say two things, the first being “I do not know.” and the second “Could you please help me?” These two phrases I have learnt to use more and will keep them in my active vocabulary.

Me – Guaranteed admittance

Having applied for multiple subjects, not only for physics at Helsinki University, to increase my chance of being admitted to some program, I saw yesterday that I have been admitted to study technical physics at my old university. The admittance is conditional, however: I will be admitted if I am not admitted to any subject that I have ranked higher in my application and will not accept the admittance to any other university. Therefore, even in the case of the unlikely scenario happening that I am not admitted to study physics at Helsinki University, I already have a back up. But in my application, on the list of schools, above technical physics at Aalto University I still have chemistry and mathematics at Helsinki University, so those would also have to fail to admit me before I could start at Aalto. Anyway, knowing that I have a guaranteed admittance to one interesting program gives me a bit more peace of mind.

The power of introspection

Today, after having arrived at work, I talked with my colleague about the past weekend. Obviously I could not mention anything about the university admittance, since my leaving the company will be announced the following week. However, I did mention having written new posts for my blog, but not mentioning the exact subject, and my colleague was surprised to hear I had blog. Although I had mentioned it in a team meeting the previous year, she had not been present at that time and I had probably failed to mention it again.

She took a look at the blog and we talked about how writing, reflecting on your writing and publishing the texts promotes introspection and gives you certain aha moments; when your thoughts are on paper and out in the open, they become much more tangible and also have a stronger impact on you. During the discussion I couldn’t help thinking how my blog has lead me to know myself better and face the truth about my path in life during the past one and a half years. My colleague also mentioned how such personal revelations make one think what to do next, and again I was thinking how I had now chosen to go study physics, already written and sent my letter of resignation last week and would be announcing my decision to our team the next week.

This is a very exciting and invigorating period of time for me; I have been preparing a big change in my life, set the pieces on their places, put the machinery in secret in motion . The wheels are already turning slowly but still silently, and I am waiting for the moment to pull the lever, which will set the wheels in full motion and raise the curtain so that I can show others what I have created.

This post was originally written on June 6th 2017 and was finalized on June 10th 2017.

Me – More thoughts and feelings in the middle of a big change

End of May, as I had already made the decision to resign and start university studies, I asked a colleague of mine whether she would like to do a hike to Säntis, something we had talked about briefly the other day. After having shortly talked about it around mid-May, I proposed her end of May doing the hike mid-June. She happily agreed and was surely as excited as I was, so we set the date on June 18th. The main difference between us obviously was that I was planning the trip with the idea of soon leaving the company and my colleagues, including her, so for me it would be a kind of a farewell trip.

Now, on June 2nd, I am thinking how she will react and what she will think when she hears a few days before our trip, on June 14th in our monthly team meeting, that I will leave the company soon. Knowing her, I am sure it will not change her fundamental attitude towards me, but I am sure that the news will have an impact. Actually I think that the impact might eventually be a positive one, since we will likely end up discussing my decision to leave the company and my motives for doing it. Since I have decided to share my story with anyone who wants to hear it, I am more than happy to discuss it; if my story and example can prevent someone from taking decisions out of wrong reasons, arrogance, fear of being disapproved by others or fear of pursuing one’s own passion, I have achieved my goal.

This blog post was originally written on June 2nd and finalized on June 5th 2017.

Me – The resignation letter

I feel like a hoax, like a traitor, and simultaneously a sense of suspense and a promise of freedom are taking me forward on my chosen path. I am sitting at my desk, on Friday June 2nd 2017. It’s 10:02 am, and I have just signed my resignation letter and closed it in an envelope, assigned to our HR department. An e-mail waiting to be sent is looming on my computer screen, also containing the information on my resignation to HR and my boss and questions on how many holidays I still have and how to post them correctly.

First thing this morning I discussed with a colleague office materials that are printed according to the new brand expression. Our company’s band expression was renewed this year, making some older printed envelopes and letterheads obsolete and no more brand conform. We discussed when the old prints would have to be destroyed, how the costs should be posted in the ERP system and how to make sure that no new products, that will run under the same product codes, get destroyed. This whole discussion I lead while already mentally preparing to write my letter of resignation after that. I feel a bit sheepish, having spent three and a half years with wonderful colleagues and now having been planning my career change under their eyes, yet unbeknownst to them, for the last 10 months. Yet, I do not feel quilt, and of course I shouldn’t. After all, I do not consider it wrong what and how I have done, how I have been looking for a new career elsewhere and how I have come to the decision to go back to university and start studying physics. On occasion, I have discussed with some colleagues how I had better grades in technical mechanics than in industrial management and how I might have ended up majoring in a more technical subject. I have also had many a good discussion with them on pursuing one’s dreams and doing what feels right, even if others disapprove it. Against that context it might not come as a large surprise to some colleagues that I am going back to university to study physics.

The feeling of leaving my warm-hearted colleagues is what makes my stomach twist and gives me the sense of severing body part or being myself torn away from a larger whole. In spite of these feelings I take comfort in the new perspectives opening before me, the world of natural sciences and physics that will be my home in the future and the like-minded people who curiously wonder and awe the world, they all represent what I desire, represent the place where I belong.

A change is often, if not always, exciting. Now I must keep myself from painting too rosy a picture for myself. Studying physics is going to be hard and there will be times when I surely will question my passion for it. But reflecting now on that distant future, the feeling of wanting to understand why and how nature works, what the laws of nature mean, how mathematical formulations describe the world around us, this desire is strong and will certainly help me over the harder times.

I am sitting at my desk writing these lines, the letter of resignation on my table in a sealed envelope and the anticipation of the results of the university admittance selection in the back of my head. My present career condensed in one single letter, hidden in an envelope, my future life and all potential careers still just a dream in my mind’s eye, a dream that gets more real every day, a dream that will soon be reality.

This blog post was originally written on June 2nd and finalized on June 5th 2017.

Me – Feelings and thoughts in the middle of a big change

cousinFor some time now (as I’m writing this on May 22nd 2017), weeks or maybe a month or two, I have felt an increasing pull back to Finland, being each day a bit more certain that I will start my physics studies. Until a few days ago, I was still actively looking for jobs in research and development, the most recent located in Finland. As mentioned in a previous blog post, my lack of technical expertise and education was always mentioned as the reason for not pursuing interviews with me. Thus I have ceased to look for work and have made the physics studies my number one option.

Now, since last week, I am certain that I will move to Finland and start my physics studies, so I am feeling an itch of wanting to inform my friends, relatives and everyone close to me. But until the change is communicated officially at work, I shall postpone my own announcements. Last week, I and the rest of the board of our sports and gymnastics club already announced that I would be stepping down as treasurer by end of July, but the exact reason wasn’t announced. For now, and until it’s communicated at my work in mid-July, only our club’s president of the board knows the exact reason. I already informed him around mid-March of the possibility of my moving back to Finland, and now we had to communicate it since it will take place.

Other than our club’s president, the only people knowing my plans at the moment are a few close relatives and friends. Somehow it’s a nice, thrilling feeling, not sharing wider this huge secret, this tidal wave that will take my life back from a steady corporate job back to the sea of uncertainty. At the same time I already want to inform my friends, my grandparents and other relatives, tell them that I am coming back to Finland. I am not expecting them to stand in line and wait for my return with open arms while leaving their own lives on hold, that would be arrogant and naïve of me, but I am sure that they will welcome me back with warm hearts. I am equally looking forward to living again closer to them and meeting them more often.

Since today, 22.5.2017, I feel like screaming in the middle of the street, from the top of my lungs that “I am moving back to Finland”. Maybe I’ll do it. I have also noticed that since my time here in Switzerland now has a specific end point, I have planned things I still want to do while I easily can: visiting Jungfraujoch, going to see Switzerland’s highest waterfalls at Walensee, maybe still hiking once more the Drei Schwestern route in Liechtenstein with an overnight stay up high in the mountains. A colleague also mentioned visiting Säntis as something she had not done yet, and that inspired me to take that on my list as a fourth thing to do before I go.

The other day I was having lunch with my boss and the two other team members in our team. Over lunch we discussed holiday plans and I mentioned my class-reunion in August, at which time I would already be in Finland permanently. Of course I did not mention moving back to Finland, and I felt at the same time somehow betraying my colleagues, keeping the truth from them, while at the same time I had this pleasant, exciting feeling of being able to really surprise them later on. Still, leaving my job and Switzerland makes me both looking forward but also already missing the future that will not take place. When I talk about my coming vacation in Finland, I talk about a vacation that won’t end up in my returning to Switzerland, but starting on a new path. But just as I believe that my friends and relatives will be happy to see me live in Finland again, I equally believe that it’s possible to keep up the relationships with some of my closer colleagues.

This blog post was originally written on May 22nd and finalized on June 5th 2017.

Me – Being insecure, arrogant and finally honest to myself

This blog post discusses, why it took me ten years to find out that physics is my true passion and the area I want to work in. At least that’s my current understanding, but in all honesty, I think I knew all that already ten years ago. Yet, at that time I was too insecure and too arrogant to acknowledge it.

Why I chose industrial management

In this chapter I try to describe, how my perceptions, thoughts and feelings affected my decisions when I was studying for my first degree, a M.Sc. in industrial management. The views below are meant to illustrate the strong conflict between my personal interests, my perception of others’ opinions and expectations and my fear to be true to myself ten years ago. Therefore, any generalizations below are highly subjective and merely describe how I remember feeling and thinking during the time period concerned.

When I had finished upper secondary school with excellent grades, I was not completely sure where to go. That I would start university studies was a given, but the university, faculty and subject were still unclear. I remember a 1st of May party at my godmother’s when I was still a pupil at upper secondary school and was asked about my further plans. At that time I mentioned technical physics and paper and pulp engineering as interesting areas; I was into mathematics and physics, but also wanted to work on their practical applications instead of purely theoretical work.

During the three years in upper secondary school, however, as I learned more about all the possibilities, I eventually narrowed down on industrial management. As a mix of technical subjects, business studies and strategic management, it sounded like a springboard to success, good money and interesting work, maybe even in that order. It also sounded general enough to keep many possible career paths open, since I still had no clear vision. Gradually, entertaining the thought of studying industrial management turned into the only and best option there was.

After having impregnated my mind with a potential career in strategic management, business consulting or as a plant manager, I found the more technically oriented subjects to be not worthy of my talent. Also, while the subject of industrial management at my later university was one of the most difficult to get into in the whole country, it had to be the right choice. Had I chosen, say paper and pulp engineering, I would have wasted my excellent upper secondary school grades, since you could get in with average grades. And if you could get in with average grades, average people with average intelligence could get in. And if only average people get in and study in the faculty, the quality of the studies and the environment can’t be that good. And if the studies are not of high quality, you can’t have a successful career at a top position. And without a top position you won’t be successful in life.

Reading the above lines, I realize how ridiculous my logic was. First, while the score limits for getting into a school is a proxy for the quality of the student material, it’s also just a barometer for the school’s popularity among applicants relative to yearly intake, not a reliable indicator for the quality of the studies or the faculty. Second, many technical experts have successful careers in their respective fields, and some even study business later. These people might be even more successful leading businesses since they also know and understand in detail the products and technologies in question. Third, university studies often give general readiness for a broad spectrum of work, especially those in the areas of natural sciences or engineering, so dismissing any specific subject right off the bat is just arrogant. Fourth, I was unsure whether a business career really was what I wanted, and it wasn’t as it would turn out later.

The itch

While studying industrial management, I felt that some engineering studies would be beneficial to increase my understanding of technology and technical topics. If I was going to lead a manufacturing company of some sort one day, I ought to have at least a vague understanding of the related technologies and scientific phenomena and applications. I ended up choosing technical mechanics in the faculty of mechanical engineering as my minor subject since it combined a broad range of technical topics with applied mathematics and physics. This seemed to provide a broad yet rigorous enough basis for understanding the world of engineering.

When I took my first courses in technical mechanics, I had doubts whether I had made a good choice after all. The first courses on machine design, statics and dynamics I did like but solid mechanics 101 was a disappointment. I felt that the lecturer was not doing a good job and that made me feel a bit rebellious too, not even wanting to understand the more elusive ideas, their physical basis or applications. Nevertheless, I managed to get through the course, got a decent understanding on solid mechanics, took the next course in the subject, and that changed my view on the subject. The professor lecturing the second course was enthusiastic about the topics, could explain the ideas extremely well and motivated us so that I was hooked. Actually, it wasn’t until this point that I chose technical mechanics to be my minor; initially I had chosen flight technology, but this one course with this great professor changed my mind, and also started opening my eyes.

After the two courses in solid mechanics, I took a course in vibrations of structures, lectured by the same teacher as the solid mechanics 101. This time I liked his course and his teaching; maybe I had matured and was self-motivated, wanting to learn for myself and wanting to understand why and how the studied phenomena happen. After that came also a course in finite element method, one of my favorites: we applied physical principles and calculus to model real-world phenomena that we would also test in the laboratory. All these courses I passed with good grades, and at this time I noticed something. My grades in my minor were better than in my major.

The revelation

I cannot recall it exactly, but I think it was during my third year of studies, when I started to get the feeling of being more into mechanical engineering than industrial management while also getting better grades in my minor than in my major. I also remember finding the applications in technical mechanics, like FEM-calculations, study of vibrations in structures and solid mechanics, much more interesting than optimizing a supply-chain or analyzing a company’s business strategy. To be honest, I found many of the business courses somehow lacking in substance and precision; money as a metric and target of optimization was boring.

Yet, I stuck with my major of industrial management since it was considered by students of our own and other subjects as the place to be if you aspired a high-profile business career. At least that was the stereotypical attitude, as I recall it. If you were studying industrial management, you were a cool guy, you were smart and skilled, you were ambitious and you had a skyrocketing career in business ahead of you.

This view on industrial engineering and its students was a stereotype, at which many would laugh and make jokes about. Even we, students of industrial management made self-demeaning jokes about our superiority, while at least some of us not so secretly believed it to be true but were simultaneously afraid that it might not be true after all.

The arrogance

As it turned out, I wasn’t interested in business, leading a company or earning a very high salary. But I was too proud to admit this, too proud to say: “I don’t want this, I want something else and I don’t care about what any one else thinks. I don’t care about whether it’s prestigious or not, as long as it makes me happy.” But I was still too arrogant and too afraid to believe this maxim, not to mention to act on it.

I started thinking about switching my major and minor around, but never came to do it. I remember thinking: “That’s ridiculous, mechanical engineering is for average people. And what would your friends and any casual acquaintances think! You don’t quit industrial management; many dream of studying it, yet never achieve it. You just keep on going, graduate, get a good job in business, make good money and have a good business career.”

Reading the above lines, it might sound like I was an obnoxious person, but actually I don’t think I was. Quite surely, if you ask my friends, they will describe me as a down-to-earth person who doesn’t brag with his own skills or achievements. All the arrogant thoughts and ideas above were rather my internal discussion which I never expressed to the outside world. I was insecure, too concerned what others might think about me, how I might look if I actually quit industrial management and pursued some un-sexy, not so well paying career.

To new paths

Let’s forward from my university days to the time after my graduation. During the last three and a half years (January 2014 to June 2017) I have made many realizations and have had the good fortune of experiencing many common wisdoms first hand.

For one, when working in a good team, like our team in procurement, even less satisfying work does not seem that dissatisfying since the people around you are so great. Achieving goals together makes the hardships. Another point is that when you are working in a good team you might be reluctant to leave such lovable people behind you, even if you feel and know that the work you are doing with them is not the one you want to be doing.

Personally, I transferred gradually from the first case to the second, realizing that procurement and business in general are not my cup of tea. After that realization I was first afraid to leave my job because I had such great colleagues but decided that I had to in order to pursue my current passion, physics.

Be honest to yourself and quit

During the last years, I have gradually built the courage to do more things my way, no matter what others think, and this finally helped me to decide for the coming physics studies. This kind of a path in life is not a usual one, at least in my culture; rather you study and graduate, go to work, start a family and retire eventually. People taking a side step from the trodden path often hear discouraging comments like:

  • “You are not supposed to do that.”
    • So what are you supposed to do and why?
  • “You are too old to do that.”
    • Maybe you are too old, but I most certainly am not.
  • “That’s just silly.”
    • So what?
  • “And what will you do in five years after…”
    • Does anyone know what they will be doing in five years?

The worse part is that the more open minded people, who are ready to take that side step and change their lives, might let themselves be discouraged by those around them, or they even end up talking themselves out of their dreams. Yet, having the courage to quit what you are doing now and trying something else is essential if you want to find and pursue your passion.

During the last years I have developed and gathered enough strength and willpower, so that I will keep an open mind, not thinking something cannot or shouldn’t be done for some alleged reason; the only way to know for sure is to try. Taking my own path and following my passion, irrespective of what others might think about it, is something I have done too little of. If I do not start studying physics now, I feel that in ten years time I will say to myself: “I wonder what might have been, had I gone back to university ten years ago. I wish I had tried”

I have no regrets that I studied industrial management and worked in procurement, since I cannot tell how the alternative future might have turned out. Maybe, had I started studying physics ten years ago, I might have been discouraged and changed subject eventually. Or maybe I would have become a leading theoretical physicist and would be now working in CERN, who knows. The main point is that the path I have taken this far has helped me find my current passion for natural sciences and physics in particular and that taking a side step on my career path now is the right thing for me to do.

Look for your passion, relentlessly, and when you find it, pursue it no matter where it lies. Don’t be afraid to take a side step. Don’t regret the path taken this far. Don’t be afraid to quit and start a new. Be honest to yourself.

This post was originally written on May 21st and finalized on June 5th 2017.

Me – Preparing for the change

For the past three and a half years, I have worked in procurement for a global company, but in summer 2016, after some serious thinking and introspection, I realized that I wanted to re-direct my career to a more technical path, more towards natural sciences. Although I was procuring research and development services, the exposure to technology and natural sciences was too little for my taste. I discussed this with my boss who appreciated my openness and offered to support me in preparing a horizontal career move inside the company. My idea was to move to research and development, to creating new technologies and products, to fiddling with technical concepts, experimenting using lab equipment and building and testing prototypes.

I applied for positions in research and development, both at my then company and also at others, but to no avail. Although I had minored in technical mechanics at the university, the main concern in all cases was my lacking technical experience and expertise. Seeing the wall come up in all directions, I decided that the most sensible thing to do would be to get the required expertise. After weighing multiple options, I decided to get a university degree in physics, since it would provide a basis for a later career in both academic and the business world. I also felt that physics would be the subject that most interests me, remembering how I liked it in school. Adding to that the fact that I have during the past year or so taken interest in university level mathematics, I thought that physics would be the right combination of rigorous mathematics with tangible applications and real-life context for me. Additionally, I had also played with the thought of combining scientific work with outdoor life, something that for example a career as a climate physicist could offer.

Finally, having come to the decision to start studying physics, I applied to Helsinki University physics department. I sent my application and the admittance will be based on my score of the Finnish matriculation exam, a test I took already ten years ago and passed with excellent notes. At the moment of writing this post I am still waiting for the final results, but knowing the my own grades and judging by the lack of popularity that physics studies is faced with compared to some other subjects, I am nearly certain that I will be admitted. If I won’t be admitted, I am going to take the first year courses in open university, an option that Helsinki University offers. In any case, I will be moving to Finland to start my studies there.

I have yet to decide my major, but the application was done to the faculty of physics without declaring any further preferences at this point. Any specializations will be selected after the first year of studies, so I have time to get a feel for the different focus areas. At the moment theoretical physics and meteorology/climate science, maybe also geophysics, seem to be the most interesting areas to major in. Especially the three latter ones would offer a mix of scientific work combined with field work..

This post was originally written on May 21st and finalized on June 5th 2017.