Life Come Full Circle?

The Author and friends enjoying some watermelon on Taquile Island

Beginnings

That’s me, there on the left. Back in 2009 I was interning with a danish NGO in the Peruvian Andean mountains.  This photo was taken on Taquile Island in lake Titicaca with the kids of our host family as well as with Tara Miller of Paonia Pottery.

At the time this blog was in its heyday, but I never really got to tell the wonderful story of the Taquileans, or that of Tara and her husband Sam who I met on the island. While my frail memory does not serve justice to the many wonderful things that happened during my year in Peru, I luckily still have many of the notes and photos I took.

Back then I was a practicing ethnographer, that is I was studying to become one and my time in Peru was part of my planning to do my master thesis, which eventually became a defense of tourism’s impact on the island community of Taquile. There are many sides to this story, and of course, like most stories, this is not a black and white one. Its something I will get back to over and again on this blog.

I finally graduated from Aarhus University in the summer of 2011, knowing much about how to study the world, but very little on how to be an active participant in it. I  was frightened about having to enter the job market, to say the least. My plan was always to get a PhD and probably end up as a professor somewhere, but I now know that I wanted to pursue this road only because it would be the easiest one to take for me, seeing that it would allow me to stay in my bubble.

Around the time of my graduation, however a lot of things happened in my life, that would eventually lead me down another road. All though, as I will get to later, a road that I think is about to come full circle, at least in part.

So lets turn the time back to the summer of 2011. I had just graduated, but the financial crisis of 2008 was still making it hard for recent graduates, especially those in the humanities, to find proper employment. Because of that and because of other things, among them my then girlfriend breaking up with me (doesn’t love always get the fault for these things though?) I decided to move back to my home town of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.

Back in Copenhagen, I had been lucky to find an apartment I could sublet for two years, but I needed someone to share the expenses with. This was still in the fairly early days of Facebook (well, I think I first got on in 2007), but I did eventually put a post up about needing a roommate there. And doing just  that turned out to be one of the best things I had ever done, and it has since been a testament to me how much positive power social media can have on your life!

Among others, I got a reply from Kristina, a girl who I incidentally (hmmm…I think not!) had interned with in Peru.

On the plow

So in December of 2011 we moved in together in this tiny 50 square meter (well, tiny for a guy and a girl who aren’t in a  relationship) apartment in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. In many ways Kristina has since then been my guardian angel and I hope that I’ll some day be able to repay her for everything that she has done for me.

I can thank Kristina forthe fact that I work in project management today (she got me the interview). I can also thank her for understanding women better (I used to have no clue whatsoever!) although alll you fine women out  there are still quite an enigma to me! That’s what makes it interesting in suppose.

I couldn’t begin to count the hours she must have been listening to me yapping on about my failed attempts at love without asking of much in return. And I don’t know how much I ever really gave her in return, to be honest.

A huge part of my problems in life has indeed started with how self-centered of a person I have been. I guess even my ethnographic endeavours have been, for a large part, due to this self-centeredness. Even as I write this, it gets to me that what do you really care. There is no context for you to put this information in.

This is somehow where we really get back to square one of this story. I had a pretty difficult start in the job market, and so was very thankful to even have a job, and this month I can celebrate three years anniversary at a great job with great colleagues, one of them being aforementioned Kristina.

But over those years out of university I also slowly settled into an inertia of sorts. Like I think many of us do. A full time job takes a lot of your mental energy and the more responsibility you have at your job the harder it can become to pursue hobbies like writing this blog in your free time, when all you have energy to do after an 8 hour workday is to be a couch potato and watch reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series.

That’s what I told myself anyway!

In fact, I no longer believe in this whole thing about work-life balance. Your work doesn’t end when you clock out and your life does’t magically begin at that same time.

I now aim for my work to inspire what I do in my free time and what I do in my free time to inspire what I do for work. Ultimately, I think you have a great thing going when you both look forward to getting back to work when you are off, and look forward to getting home to your family or whatever it is at the end of the work day. The feeling has to go both ways. What I think most people do is solely looking forward to getting off of work while not thinking about how they can make their work meaningful.

I will not deceive anyone into believing that the job I have is my dream job. Its not. I am lucky to have a boss, though who understands this. He even said at one point that he totally understood if I was to pursue something else.

At the time I didn’t get the true significance of that, but now I see that I am one hell of a lucky guy to have a boss who sees things in  such a way. When a colleague of mine parted ways with our department it was very amicable, and I am happy to know that when the day comes when I too will do so, it will be in the same manner.

Coming full circle

My boss’ attitude is the kind I think you should be looking for in an employer. Its also the attitude I think you should be implementing in your job as the CEO of your own life. That is, you should pursue more of what thrills you in life, and spend less time on things that don’t.

I truly understood this when I recently began taking up photography as a serious hobby. I love the process of selecting the right equipment, composing a good photo, and post-processing for a stunning, authentic final result.

I love the fact that the images I have taken so far has brought genuine smiles on many peoples faces. It has facilitated conversations, both online and offline, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Generally, it is making me a happier, more confident person day by day.

What I don’t like, for example, is the way people behave on apps like Instagram, in general how social media today encourage you to ‘market’ yourself as I describe in length in my previous post. I think this way of socializing does not bring many good things with it, and its something I will talk more about on this blog in the future. Do tings because you simply HAVE to, not because it is something  society tells you to do.

Living authentically, and to be truly happy, in today’s world is becoming increasingly difficult even though it should be the opposite, and its therefore something that needs to be debated more from an ethnographic viewpoint than I see it being done. The above was the original intention with this blog and it is where I see it going forward from here on.

It is a funny thing how you on one hand think that you have come a long way over the years, yet when you sit down and think about it, you seem to be right back where you started.

Yours truly,

Jacob

 

Jakob Scheel

Copenhagen-based Anthropologist + Project Manager + photographer.

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