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While I tend to be an Optimist regarding most things when it Comes to other People, I am a Doom-predictor when it Comes to myself.

Every Little sign that People might dislike me, that things will not go well, that the WORLD IS ENDING… Now, of course there are plenty of psychologically fascinating explanations for this behavior, but suffice to say that I KNOW I am a worrier and an overthinker, and I am unlikely to Change.

 

That doesn’t mean I  can’t laugh about it.

My Office here in Germany is fairly small, around 12 People, and I work in a small Team with 3 men and 1 woman. All the other People are women.

For obvious reasons, I spend most time with my Team, including having lunch with them. Which I did today as well.
Just as I finished lunch, I noticed that all the other women in the Office were Standing by the door ready to go somewhere.

Off they went, and my immediate assumption was that they were going out to lunch. Together. And no one had asked me.

 

Cue teary eyes and bitter thoughts. I stewed for a Little while, then decided “Screw them!”.
Just as I came to that realization, People started dropping back in.

Two People went to the kitchen to eat a salad they had bought.
One had bought a new shampoo and showed it off.
Another one had gone to the pharamcy.

And so on und so weiter.

Leaving me Feeling plenty of righteous Indignation all for nothing.

 

Ah well.

 

(pardon the hideous writing, writing this from the German Office Keyboard.)

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I just found out a friend of mine from high school is pregnant.

She’s having a baby.

[pause for stunned silence] 

This is someone I’m not in contact with that much any more, but there is still something special about someone you spent so much time with (and who is your age) having a baby. This is the first of my friends to take that step and it feels so strange (and if it feels strange for me, I can’t imagine how it must feel for her!)

I won’t lie and say it doesn’t feel a bit melancholy for me. I’m a firm believer in “women don’t need a partner to have a complete life” but I do want children, quite badly.
A dear friend of mine and I always joke about the fact that we can’t spend any time working in cafés because we just look at the babies instead.

At the same time, I’m a logical person. I realize I won’t have children for at least five or ten years, least of all because I don’t have a partner to have these children with.

And what would I do with a child now, anyway? I’m still in school, I don’t have a job…

As things are now, my friend’s life is very far from my own.
And damn it all to hell, if that doesn’t make me a bit jealous.

Even though it’s been more than 6 years since I lived in Michigan, USA, it still affects me very much.

I had reason to think about it today, when I read a blog post by Emma Stenström, former Dean of Undergraduate Studies at my university, and also a fabulous teacher in management. During her time as Dean, she has been the staunch supporter for student rights, the natural person to turn to when something was not right with the education, and it is a great pity to see her leave that post.

Coming back to the topic at hand, she blogs about her son’s high school exchange in a very conservative part of Kansas. About being forced to attend church, about how all democrats should be shot, about guns and heaps of other things unthinkable to me as a liberal.

I was very lucky in that while I certainly met very many conservatives like that during my stay in the US, my community was not that way to the core. While my host family certainly are much more conservative and “tradition-minded” than my family at home, they did (and do) love me. I love them. Even when we disagreed on a great many subjects, I never felt repressed or forced to change my views.
I also had many friends who were very religious, pro-life and several who didn’t believe in the evolution.

While it is difficult for me to understand how they think that, we had no problem being friends. They respected my views (that I didn’t agree with them!) and I respect theirs.

A great help in keeping me anchored was my AP US History teacher, Mr. Lopo. While any conservative American would find him a liberal nutjob, (and truth be told, he WAS a bit weird) he was also someone who forced his students to think and defend their opinions. Who wasn’t afraid to speak of worrying movements in the US then and now. Someone who didn’t put up with bullshit. Someone who wouldn’t keep silent. I think if I hadn’t gotten his perspective on the US to balance the other ones out, I would’ve gone crazy. He kept me rooted in the fact that my beliefs weren’t crazy, they were rational and good.

And he also convinced me about the madness of Americans, but in a way that makes it possible for me to understand American politics much better. He reminded me that even though there are so many nutters in the US, there are some fantastic thinkers too.

That means I can look back on my stay in the US and say it was only benefical for me. I learned about other people’s views and in turn, refined and honed my own.

I had a talk with my friend Sara today, a fellow student at SSE, and we talked a bit about being teenagers.

I’m sure all of you remember it. And i’m sure most of you aren’t eager to repeat the experience.

I don’t remember life as being terribly hard when I was 12-18, but I know there were so many things that upset me, so many hours spent discussing trivial things that don’t matter know. Even when I was slightly older and living in the US, almost all of our time was spent with drama. Who’s friends with who, I’ve got a crush on him, he doesn’t like me…

And I can objectively say, my life is much harder today. I work much more, I have so much more complicated things to think about… My future, my family, my friends… And yet, life is so much easier now, at 23 than it was at 17.

Things like going on holiday somewhere new was daunting at 17. At 23, I’m nervous but I know I can handle pretty much anything that may happen. I’m so much better equipped to handle whatever life throws at me.

No matter that SSE is so much harder than high school, that it matters much more and that it’s so intense compared to everything else. I can handle it all in a different way. Even though an outsider would say there’s so much more against me today, it doesn’t feel that way.

I guess that’sn why they tell you life gets better when you grow up. And why I, no matter how much “easier” being 17 was, never want to have to do it again.

As I come closer to the end of my studies and the start of my career, I have plently of opportunities to consider who I want to be.

What do I want from my future job?

Well, I can’t say that I know that right now, in fact I’m pretty sure I’d like pretty much any job, since I’m pretty flexible. But I’ve seen some things already:

It’s important to show yourself off, from your best side.

Never show any weakness.

Take every opportunity to get ahead and sell yourself.

And I’ve realized that while I want a great career, I want to be able to look back and say I’ve acted honorably all my life. That I’ve been kind. That I’ve helped people. If that means I won’t earn that extra promotion, well, I’ll just be happy with less money.

I know some people will say that you should put yourself first, because others will do the same, but alright then.

Basically, just because you’re ambitious, does that have to mean you don’t care about people?

I read this interesting article by Anna Latimer at XoJane today.

What stuck with me was this paragraph:

You will not be proud of every single essay you submit in college. Whether you’re overworked and panicked, you procrastinated way too much, or you just don’t care about the topic, some of your essays are just not going to be that inspiring.

Don’t admit it to your professor. Don’t wince and say, “Sorry about this,” as you turn it in. No matter how well your professor knows you, he or she will not give you extra credit for self-awareness.

Part of me totally agrees, sometimes you need to fake it until you make it. The other part of me rebels and means that self-awareness and self-deprecation are two different things. To be aware of your efforts and how you present yourself is in my opinion never bad. Perhaps it’s my Swedishness bleeding though, but without self-awareness you become arrogant very fast.

Self-deprecation, however. It’s one of the things I struggle with most, actually. That pity really isn’t something that you want from other people, no matter what it may feel like. It’s so easy to deflect a compliment or to excuse something that you’ve done. Perhaps it is a female thing, as Latimer suggests, but I think it’s more than that. Not all women are self-deprecating and not all men put themselves in the spotlight.

Self-pity and deprecation are not the same as being modest or to ask for help. I feel many mix these concepts and that’s part of the problem. Going for modest but overshooting.

I go to a great school.

The Stockholm School of Economics.

It’s really good. And I mean that in every sense of the word.

It’s not quite the Swedish equivalent of Harvard or Yale, but the closest we get over here. It means that most of the day, I’m surrounded by highly intelligent, utterly brilliant and ambitious people. I go to class, and listen to top researchers. I do projects that are presented to attractive future employers and that challenge me and my fellow students. I haven’t bought hairspray in four years because we always get some in a goodie bag or other.

And sometimes it’s utterly miserable. Because everyone else feels smarter than you. Because you never, ever get to take a break. Because no matter what, you feel like you never catch up. And believe me, sometimes it feels unbearable.

There are tales (urban legends, I’m sure) about the law school students in Sweden. That because they need top grades for certain jobs, they’re ultra-competetive. They are said to rip out pages from important books or hide them so others students can’t find them.

I don’t know if it’s actually true or not, but you’d expect that sort of culture at SSE as well.

That’s the one thing that makes it all worthwhile, sometimes. That it isn’t like at the law schools.

Because I’ve met some of the most caring, most helpful people at my school.

Need to retake an exam? Someone will have their old notes for you.
Missed a few lectures? There is probably a summary of the course someone can send you.
Stuck on an assignment? Just ask someone in the computer room.

A month or so ago, I was working with some others on a group project, and we were well and truly stuck. We were in the computer rooms, discussing how to proceed when the girl sitting next to me turns around and says:
“Oh, is that the management case? I did that last year, do you wanna look at our presentation?”

She had no idea who we were, but she recognized the situation we were in and wanted to help. And next year, I’m sure we’ll do the same.

Pay it forward, as they say.

And that makes everything bearable.