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.

 

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.

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.

Me – Masks are coming off

With this blog, entry I start a series of blog posts under the topic “me”. How many postings they will be in total and how long this series will last is still unclear to me. These posts serve at the time of their writing mainly three purposes:

  1. Help me in sorting out and reflect on my thoughts and actions related to living my life as I want it
  2. Provide me with a kind of personal “psychotherapy” and letting me get my thoughts and emotions out in the open
  3. Share with others, who might go through similar phases in their lives, my experiences and the lessons I have learned

During the last six months, and even before that, I have prepared, started and am carrying out a big change in my life. As mentioned in a previous blog post, about a year ago I started to plan a career change from procurement into R&D. Now, nearly a year later, what started out as a career change is nearly finished, but with a somewhat unexpected yet good end result.

I have written the first blog posts in this series between May 21st and June 4th 2017, but they won’t be published until later when this personal change of direction has been published officially at my current company. That will take place mid-June 2017, so this and some following posts will be published with significant delay after being written. I will indicate at the end of each post the time window when the post was written.

A final word should be said about the name of this series of posts. Although “Me” might sound self-righteous, even arrogant, I have deemed it be an appropriate heading for reasons that should become obvious in later blog entries. Choosing such a self-centered name for this series was not an obvious decision for me but I saw it necessary to underscore the personal importance and meaning that these texts have for me.

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