Starting the new phase

It’s been two and half week snow since I moved from Switzerland back to Finland. During that time I have already revived some old hobbies of mine, like hunting and role playing, and have also enjoyed the Finnish summer by wandering in the woods looking for mushrooms (plenty of chanterelles here) and picking blueberries.

On leaving Switzerland I didn’t feel very wistful, rather I was full of expectation, anticipating the beginning of the studies in physics. Of course I left many wonderful people behind, but leaving Switzerland didn’t feel like giving up something. Maybe that’s because I can keep up with my friends there quite easily using e-mail WhatsApp and other communication channels and because I tend not to become too fond of places. I expect to miss the Swiss Alps sometime in the future, but in Finland I have the forests, the lakes and other wonders of nature to enjoy.

At the moment I am feeling quite tranquil, relaxing before the studies begin and getting the everyday life here on track.

It’s official now

Today (June 28th 2017) I received the official admission to University of Helsinki to study physics. Obviously it was a relief to finally have the official results in my hands, or rather on my computer screen. I immediately registered for the next autumn and spring semester and also applied for a department at the local association that rents apartments to students only. Additionally I now have a long list of things to take care of before or soon after starting my studies: getting a student card, starting to plan my studies on the longer term, register to the first courses, get to know other new students and so on, not forgetting to say goodbye to all the important people here in Switzerland.

Having done all these preparations already ten years ago gives me confidence and a certain calmness, but I still have butterflies in my stomach. Starting studies at a university is very exciting, even the second time around, but this time I am somehow more excited. Reading the course descriptions fills me with enthusiasm: quantum mechanics, basics of the theory of relativity, mathematical tools in physics and so on. These ideas and areas of physics have always fascinated me, and now I am going to dive into them head first. Of course my current layman’s view on these topics is very naive and romanticised. After all, the topics are very math heavy and some of them hardly intuitive. Quoting Richard Feynman, ”I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” But I am going to try, assuming that I wil specialize in quantum mechanics and not in some other interesting field of physics, like meteorology or geophysics.

At the moment I feel, that theoretical physics, with its thought experiments, mathematical intricacies and incomprehensible laws is the field I want to pursue out of intellectual interest.

This post was originally written on June 28th 2017 and finalized on July 2nd 2017.

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.

People are nice

The day before yesterday I had my belongings packed and taken by the moving company. During that morning, when the packing took place, an elderly woman approached me as I and the moving men were outside at the truck packing some furniture in.

The woman greeted me and asked whether I was leaving Switzerland. After my saying yes she explained being the neighbor in the next building, and how she found it a pity that I was moving away. I did not know the woman at all, I still don’t, and had at most said the occasional “good morning” or “hello” to her during the past three and a half years. Yet, she came to greet me and wish me all the best in the future, finally handing me some Swiss chocolate to take home. From my astonishment I could barely thank her and also wish her all the best.

Sometimes there are people observing us, while we have no idea, and sometimes there are also people watching over us without our knowing.

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.

Saying goodbye and packing my bags

The last weeks have been hectic, me preparing to move, saying goodbye to people and Switzerland in general and leaving a clean desk at work.

Two weeks ago, on July 8th 2017, I did one more hike that was still on my list: Säntis. Säntis is a 2500 meters high peak in Appenzell, Switzerland and is accessible by gondola. I chose to take the bus to Wildhaus and climb from there by foot the remaining 1500 meters to the top. Although Säntis is a tourist attraction and might get crowded, climbing to it offers magnificent views over the surrounding valleys and near peaks. It’s a full days trip if you go by foot from Wildhaus and take decent breaks. From Säntis you could continue to many different directions, maybe after an overnight stay at the top, if you feel like it.

A view to the South from the plateau by Säntis.
A view from Säntis to the East.

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from climbing to the Säntis to say farewell to the Swiss Alps, I also visited an ex-colleague and organized two barbecue events to say thank you and goodbye to my friends and colleagues at work. The barbecue with my friends was a warm event in the cool shade of the trees surrounding the public barbecue spots, but the one with my colleagues was less successful, as a thunder storm drove us away. Not letting rob ourselves of a nice evening, we drove to my place, and my 16-square-meter living room was roomy enough for twelve people. Actually spending the evening in such a tight atmosphere and venue was more than appropriate, considering that I am already practically a student.

Now, as I am writing this, almost all of my belongings are already packed in cardboard boxes and plastic bags for the moving company to come pick them up. In about a weeks time I will be back in Finland, settling in to my new life as a future student of physics.

Having had the time to reflect my decision, I am still confident that I have made the right choice. But as always eventually happens, I am having increasingly more butterflies in my stomach as the days go by. After all, I am exchanging a quite secure and good income for student life with little to no income. But that’s just on the medium term; on the long term I am exchanging a career that did not interest me enough to one that might prove out to be my passion. And being exited about it, sometimes with a hint of intimidation or anxiety mixed with keen interest for the future, is a good sign for me.

I’m going home

Today, June 12th 2017, was the first day of the rest of my life. My resignation and coming studies in physics were announced in our team, and the following Wednesday we will announce it to the whole department. On my way home from work I decided to inform my friends, close relatives and people who had helped me during the process of finding my passion in science and physics.

I spent the evening calling my friends and telling them the news of having decided to pursue university physics, starting from the very beginning, and planning to move back to Finland in August. All of the people I called greeted the news joyfully, congratulating me for taking such a step. One friend said he was hardly surprised by my decision to go back studying, but such an extreme move, instead of studying alongside work, was not for him the most expected decision. Anyhow, he was fully supportive and happy for me.

Being able to inform my close friends and relatives was such a great feeling, being able to lift the veil of secrecy and be open, be honest and tell where my passion lies and that I had decided to pursue it. They gave me supportive feedback and encouragement without a hint of doubt or belittling; once again I was shown how great friends I have, friends who don’t judge me and are open-minded.

Unfortunately I didn’t reach everyone this evening so I will continue with the calls tomorrow. Even if I become repetitive here, I must once more say that being open about yourself, your personality, interests and passions is relieving and lets you pursue those things in full without wasting energy on hiding things or trying to play a foreign role.

This blog post was originally written on June 12th 2017.

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.