Reflections on the blur of the last few months

Apologies for the lack of updates (to my one subscriber, my sister)… The final installment of Hiking Kungsleden and climbing to the top of Kebnekaise will have to wait a little longer still.

The last few months have been a blur: I started my masters in industrial design, in a completely new town, this time in the south of Sweden. I met new people, partied alot, travelled alot (visiting companies around Småland, as well as my Christmas break vacation through Copenhagen and Taiwan), but also worked hard. I might say a little too hard, but I haven’t worked myself to the near breaking point that I did at Umeå – which I vowed not to repeat again this year – yet I can’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t push myself a little harder.

Initially I was elated and grateful to get into my program, and finally could see how far I had come after my first year studying design. But with the first semester of my new program – and therefore, 25% of my masters program complete – coming to a close, I am slightly disappointed at the program and at myself for not having come further. I’m frustrated with the amount of group projects that we have had to do, which take up a lot of time, with very little return. Yes, if a diverse group of people work well together, then the result is much better than what any single person in the group could have done; but the situation I encountered over and over was having to do the majority of the work on my own, with the end result being worse than I would have done on my own without hours wasted attempting to meet and work as a group.

There isn’t so much time left for me to “get good”. Or as good as the level that I wish to see for myself. Passing the courses is easy and has no meaning for me – the standards that I hold myself to are much harsher than any teacher would comment. My insomnia this school year has been even worse than last year. Many nights, I lay in bed, absolutely exhausted from working at school all day, but the pressure and stress I feel keeps my mind awake (and wishing for some sleeping pills). I want to be a skilled and employable designer more than anything I’ve ever wanted before. I’ve never allowed myself to hope for something like this before… Admitting it to myself, and admitting it out loud to others has taken me a lot of courage. I still expect that some will scoff as they did before, but now I feel that my determination will win out, and the slight risk of failing is worth it.

I spent a few days in Copenhagen, checking out the Industrial Design museum, as well as the source of my epiphany from 2 years ago, the Danish Design Center. I jotted down a lot of notes from my days here, thinking about the direction I wanted my career to go in. Just briefly, I would say that I am glad of the trend that progressive design firms seem to be moving away from simply putting a new pretty package on old solutions, and are trying to tackle the next generation of problems. It’s absolutely perfect for me!

Then I spent 3 weeks in Taiwan visiting Per. I had no idea what to expect from Taiwan, and it was a pleasantly surprising mix of China and Japan. Some superficial observations about Taiwan:

– I created a lot of garbage even during my short stay there, by all the disposable cups, bowls, chopsticks, packaging, plastic bags, etc. I did like how they had clearly marked items that could be recycled by a special symbol (and a lot of the packaging was recyclable), but they could do a step better by simply reducing the amount of packaging they use, and by using more reusable items. For example, in a restaurant, it really wasn’t necessary to serve us the meal in disposable tableware! And I didn’t need to have my drink that I purchased – in a plastic cup – placed into another plastic bag, for “ease” of carrying.

– I’ve never heard such polite Chinese spoken! Even teenagers say thank you to the bus driver and clean up after themselves in food courts.

– I’ve never seen such non-aggressive dogs roaming free! Likely it’s due to being so well fed from table scraps. They were pretty cute and friendly and grew on me after awhile.

– I never thought I could feel so cold at +15 C… Sweden and Canada don’t feel as cold, when you can at least escape the cold by going indoors to heated buildings.

– I really would like to learn more Mandarin. But add that to the list of a 100 things I would like to accomplish sometime in the near future now…

We had a chance encounter with a Swedish man at the airport. He was married to a Taiwanese woman, and had his own business in Sweden, in a really fascinating field. What was interesting was that he started out in a very different field! Makes me even more convinced that I need to find my “niche”, to secure demand for my skills… I met up with one of my classmates from Umeå in Taiwan, and she was soon on her way to Copenhagen to start her masters. It makes me really happy to hear of the successes of my former classmates! When I look at my former classmates, I can clearly see their “niche” (or did they already know their niche and already start to market it?). But I’m not so clear on what my own strengths are.

As for travel, I think that the travel bug has lessened somewhat in me. I’m still interested in going to other countries. But I want to experience it deeper than just a few days or weeks. I want to communicate with the people and get a deeper sense of the place and its people. Learning another language is so time intensive, but so rewarding I think. (Yes, I need to learn more Swedish, though I’m trying.) I am so envious of people who really get to experience a place. I wonder if I’m able to do the same, or whether I let my shyness hold me back too much of the time.

Sleep is beckoning me, so I shall have to ponder all this some more later.

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7 thoughts on “Reflections on the blur of the last few months

      • Don’t know! But google reader says you have 3. And I am 1. And I’m not your sister.

        (Honestly I have no idea how I happened upon your blog though, or I’d tell you.)

  1. even if i’m not a subscriber, I am waiting for the the final installment of Hiking Kungsleden !!!
    I am in sweden now and I am thinking about doing it during Easter, probably it’s too early for hiking?

    • Ooops, didn’t realize that people were waiting! 🙂 I’ll get it up later this month.

      During Easter, Kungsleden would be nice on cross country skis!… Otherwise it’s impossible to hike, unless you enjoy walking waist deep in snow 😉 Hiking season is mid-June until mid-September.

  2. We’re planning a trip to Kungsleden this summer. Found your blog through a google search and have really enjoyed it! Great pix! My daughter is studying in Sweden now so the rest of the family will meet up with her in July and we’ll do the hike from Abisko to Nikkaluokta…. so I’d love to see the final installment of your blog as well!! Best of luck with your studies!

  3. Thank you for the information about Kungsleden, we have found it very useful for our planned trip. Darren & Aska.

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