… despite making another firm resolution not to let that happen, I did. And once again, my desk is a total mess. Oops!
I have sent my family and friends a ridiculous amount of handmade cards over the years: they patiently followed my experiments with various styles and materials. There were scrapbooking-like cards, cut paper cards, painted cards, minimalist cards, maximalist cards. Cardboard, magazine cuttings, egg cartons, whatever. You name it!
They often joked that if I didn’t pursue physics as a carrier, I could always make cards instead. Well, here we go! Of course, one cannot leave academia without after-effects: so, these are academic greetings!
I started with a quick hand-lettered sketch, and used it as a guide to draw all the letters digitally in Inkscape.
Something that smells wonderful, picked in the garden and put to dry to make some good tea this winter.
Something to start the jam making season.
Something not pictured: a fire lighted on the beach and hotdogs grilling. When North Sweden gives you a nice summer evening, go to the beach: checked.
Something that was actually easier than I thought. I had saved the zippers from a worm-out raincoat, and when I came across this post by Carmella, I decided to sew a zippered pouch, too. I had never sewn a zipper before, but the tutorial she links to was very clear and helpful. I recycled fabric from an old pant and an old shirt — some of which I also used a while ago to make pillow covers.
And something I’m happy about: one of my greeting card designs made it to the top 100 of the UNICEF greeting cards design contest at jovoto. Here is a watercolor version, and here are some pics behind the scenes.
Have a good weekend!
There was a sunny day last week, and then it started snowing. It didn’t stop until yesterday. Now the pile has reached the bottom of the living room windows.
I haven’t drawn in a while. Soon I’ll start making new bookworms to keep this one company. But these days, I’m shovelling snow and making pillows.
What’s better that turning old checked shirts into pillowcases on a snowy day? Often I think: I could do that for a living. I want to practice a little more, but now I’m running out of old shirts. How about a swap: you send me a bunch of old shirts, I send you a pillowcase back, and we’re quits. Yes?
And now? More snow shovelling.
One of the hardest barriers I had to overcome to leave academia and make a big life change was the incomprehension of some of the people I have always trusted and whose opinion I value.
Around this time last year, the news spread out in the family that “Marion was living her job.” Some said I was right to follow my heart. Some disapproved. And although I had been announcing my intentions for at least a year, others clung desperately to the idea that it came as a surprise.
For the record, I technically didn’t leave my job. Believe me, I would have loved to quit with great fanfare, shouting loud and clear what I couldn’t take anymore about scientific research, but I didn’t have the guts for this. The truth is that like most young academics, I was on a fixed term contract, which eventually expired. There was no possibility for an extension, which saved me from another hesitation, and I didn’t look for another academic position either because I wanted to do something else with my life.
I have never regretted this decision, not for a second. In fact, honestly, I’ve been congratulating myself every single day for taking it. I have spent a year learning and growing and along the way I have come to understand things I wish I had been aware of when I was still considering whether to stay or to leave.
I had never measured how spectacularly people filter what you say to remove anything they don’t want to hear. When I said I was unhappy, I was answered it wasn’t that bad. When I said I was suffering from contradictions between what I thought my job should be and what it actually was, I was told to be philosophical about it. When I said I only had a temporary position, people convinced themselves that there would always be another extension. When it became clear that there wouldn’t, they insisted that surely I could find another position. For one thing, it’s not that easy, but anyway, I didn’t want one. I didn’t want one. “Thank you for forwarding me this offer,” I wrote to my advisors “but at the moment I’m not looking for another postdoc”. Still, the same emails kept pouring in. “No,” I told people “I don’t want to look for a job in the oil industry”. “Yes, I understand” they said, “but then what? What? WHAT?”
Even though people had the best of intentions, these reactions had a devastating effect on me. Being faced with the involuntary but systematic denial of my problems or tentative choices made me doubt. I trusted these persons. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was wrong. But then I knew I wasn’t wrong. I knew I how felt. This perpetual contradiction was painful and paralyzing. I was unhappy and wanted a change but I was unable to think serenely about what else I could do.
I did have a bunch of ideas, but none of them seemed to be taken seriously. I remember mentioning sewing during a family meal.
“You have a PhD and you want to sew?” one of my uncles said affectionately.
“What’s wrong with sewing” I asked “it’s not a shameful activity, is it?”
He readily agreed.
Indeed, I’m sure, his question didn’t conceal any disdain for manual activities. But he meant, like others, that there are career paths to follow and that every new step must be the logical continuation from the previous one. I thought it was astonishing to see this generation think in terms of hierarchies between careers and standards for success that are set by social conventions they were once so prone to reject as outdated.
Career rules were even more overwhelming in the academic world I belonged to. Despite the well-known fact that the number of tenured academic positions is decreasing alarmingly, getting one remains the standard of success. Timing is crucial. Are you applying this year? No? No? Getting a job in industry is a very acceptable way out provided that it comes with a salary that ridicules academic standards. As a last resort, teaching is perhaps ok. But it’s the very last limit before decline.
I felt that unless one already had a lifelong calling for classical singing or something equally noble to go back to — or for women, the “excuse of motherhood” (!) — any move out of this world was seen as an unfortunate affair of nervous breakdown. I have been trapped by this kind of conception myself for quite some time. At some point, though, I had to admit that the accumulation of disillusions simply smashed these ideas to pieces. I had enough disagreements with this system to swallow my pride without to much difficulty.
What I’ve learned from this past year was hard to accept, but liberating: often, when people ask you what you’re doing, what your plans are, or if you’re happy, they don’t really want to hear what you have to say. They already have their own very precise idea of what your happiness should be made of. They have a whole theory about what you were made for. Fundamentally, they want to hear the confirmation that you are indeed on a track, this track you’re meant to follow, working your way up.
I’m the only one in the family to have a PhD, and I will always be infinitely grateful to have been encouraged and supported all the way there. I understand that people perhaps expected me to do something that provided secure employment and decent money. But I can’t believe they ever wanted me to resign myself to doing something I don’t like or want. I’ll admit that it would save them from worrying and wondering if I will end up starving if I had a well-paid job making atom bombs or destroying rain forests to pump more oil. But it wouldn’t make me happy. And I know that all they’ve ever wanted for me was happiness.
Sometimes, people who care for you worry so much that they urge you to give way to the very social conventions they’ve taught you to criticize. It’s perfectly understandable. But I’m glad to see that I’m learning to recognize these situations, and disregard expectations that aren’t mine. Making life choices that make me happy is up to me.
This weekend, I sewed another pillow case from an old shirt. Perhaps one day I will make a batch of them to sell. I don’t know. Who knows? But it made me happy. I am happy.
It snowed a lot these days. The front door gets stuck by ice. We bought a snow sledge and a shovel on my birthday, and made a path down the garden to the compost bin. As our neighbors recommended, we piled up some snow along the walls around the house. It’ll help keep it warm, they said.
Mornings are calm and slow. I’ve finished the book my parents gave me for Christmas, gladly putting my new year’s resolution into practice. Read every morning before switching on the computer. Best one ever.
I sewed another tote. Haven’t decided yet what I’ll use it for. Laundry, perhaps? Yarn? I’ll make some more.
We sit and work. Reading, writing, editing, illustrating. Depending on inspiration. We warm up bowlfuls of soup on the stove for lunch, then a pot of coffee. We linger by the stove a little while longer.
When the sun comes out, we step outside, snap some photos, shovel some snow, marveling at the beautiful, silent whiteness. This is our place. I still can’t believe this is our place.
This thoughtful little guy needed a friend, and I needed a model. So I made one.
and this bloody unstable internet connection – you know, that kind of mood.
But there’s tea, fire in the wood stove, and only three stitches left to complete my little sewing project.