First weekend back

Westchester County, NY

It’s been a week now since I came back from my trip to Sweden, and I already feel like I miss it. It went by way too quickly, partly because it was actually only a short amount of time (6 full days), but mostly because the week was absolutely packed and filled to the brim with seeing people, doing fun things, and just enjoying being home. (I will write a post about the trip soon, as well as one about my friends’ visit earlier in June!) But being able to spend the weekend in New York at my grandparents’ place definitely alleviated some of that back-to-work-after-vacation dread.

On Friday, after spending a few hours in the morning at work, I drove up to New York and stopped to have lunch with my boyfriend on the way. As always when I visit my grandparents’, the weekend was wonderful and spent relaxing, cooking and eating great food, and having a fun time with family and friends.

One of my absolute favorite things is going for a run or brisk walk around the lake in the morning, when the heat isn’t yet too overwhelming, and the community is just starting to wake up. It’s something I do very rarely as I usually only have time to work out in the afternoons after work, but starting the day off with some alone time and exercise really puts me in a balanced state of mind for the rest of the day. Maybe “balanced” is the wrong word, but more at peace? Grounded? Even listening to music or a podcast (love listening to Swedish podcasts, it makes me feel like I’m at home!) and getting some exercise makes me so relaxed for the rest of the day.

I’m starting to feel a little anxious about my research project for the summer. It’s baffling that it’s July already (where did the first third of summer go?!), and I know my to-do list is still heavy and filled with stuff that I really should get done before school starts again in September — even things that are unrelated to my research.

How did I think I would have so much time to work over the summer, when I now find myself struggling to find time to even feel fully relaxed or do the social/fun things I want to do? Shouldn’t there be enough time in a normal week to go to work, exercise, rest, be social, AND work on my academic projects? Or did I just entirely overestimate how much time I would have (time during which I feel enough energy to work, at least) over the summer, not taking into account the fact that I almost have a full time job? I’m pretty sure I tend to overestimate those kinds of things, to be fair.

I think I just need to sit down and make an actual plan for the remaining weeks of the summer, and most of all start making use of the time I have at home after work on weekdays. And I need to be honest with myself; no expectations, routines, or due dates that I know I won’t keep. Although coming home from work at about 5PM and doing nothing for the rest of the night besides watch TV shows isn’t really the key to productivity, that’s still an important part of relaxing, too. I think I probably need at least some of that to have enough energy come fall.

I worry that this is going to be what the rest of my life will look like if I do decide to have an academic career; always feeling like there’s work I could be (and SHOULD be) doing outside of my scheduled hours, and never feeling like anything is enough. After all, if your work is basically doing research and writing, it’s not something you can leave at the office door at the end of the day. It comes home with you. Particularly over the summer, when there’s hardly any structure at all and you’re constantly feeling like you could be writing, instead of doing whatever else you might be doing. How do you even begin to balance that?

As far as I can tell, most accomplished academics are still trying to figure that out. So maybe it’s ok if I haven’t yet, either.

Thursday

Hi there!

Today was my last day of work before the week-long vacation I’m taking for my friends’ visit. And I’m so excited!!!

It was a pretty stressful day at the office, with lots to get done before I left and just overall a busy time for HR. I must say — it’s a weird feeling to leave work before time off and feel like I’m worried about how certain things will go when I’m not there. Is this a sign of caring, maybe too much? Feeling this way is a little confusing, especially since the reason I took the job in the first place was just to have a side-gig to make more money while I’m in school (not to have another thing to care and worry about). It’s a strange place to be; somewhere in between being a full-time student and a full-time employee. But as far as I can tell, a pretty good place nonetheless. And I’m happy with the setup, at least for now.

In spite of being a busy day, I managed to leave at 4:45PM sharp and drive home. It’s kind of a great feeling to get home around 5-ish and have an evening to just relax and get things done around the house. And tonight, this was exactly what I needed, since I got a very important package delivered yesterday that needed installing.

A bar cart.

I need to be honest and say that my level of obsession with getting a bar cart for my apartment has been a little over the top. And it’s been going on for the past year, or so. But also, now that it’s here, I’ve built it, and I’ve decorated it, I can see why I was obsessing over it — I am SO happy with it. Most importantly, I am excited to finally have a way to display all the pretty glassware I’ve collected over the past few years; most of it from Sweden, which makes seeing it displayed every time I walk into my apartment kind of sentimental, too.

So long story short, this bar cart made my week. Other than that, I just finished a lovely dinner with my boyfriend who came over after work. Tomorrow, I’m going to start deep cleaning the apartment and then I’m headed into NYC for dinner!

Have a good night!

Finding Farmers’ Markets

Bonita Springs, FL

Travelling to Florida over my Spring Break was perfect. In so many ways. A well-needed break in the middle of the stressful school semester, well-needed time spent with family, and some well-needed sun. It was such a wonderful trip overall, so is it strange to say that one of the highlights was definitely visiting the farmers’ market?

Maybe visiting farmers’ markets is a pretty mundane, every-day thing for some people. But I’m not one of those lucky few. And maybe some people just don’t give a sh*t; but that’s not me either. So when my grandma mentioned a U-Pick farmers’ market only a short drive away from their house, I was immediately on board. The day was warm and a little overcast, but knowing my skin I still slathered on lots of sunscreen anyway, and we got in the car to drive over.

And I was in heaven.

What is it about picking your own strawberries straight off the plant, seeing fields of flowers grow, and feeling fresh, sunwarm vegetables? Is it the absence of the grocery store’s fluorescent lights that makes everything look better? Or is there something else to it?

I think the reason why I love farmers’ markets (to what is perhaps a ridiculous degree) is that it all just feels right, in a strange way. It feels right to support local farms and farmers. It feels right to engage with all these products we buy in a natural way — seeing how they grow, appreciating that they require work and patience to be harvested, and seeing the soil they grow out of. It’s just so different from the mass-produced, heaps of vegetables and fruits we’re used to seeing in the store, where we are so far removed from the process… I guess it’s kind of a grounding experience, in a way.

I left the farm ecstatic, and my sister and I had almost eaten all the strawberries we’d picked by the time we got home. Whoops.

But besides this short excursion, the entire trip was wonderful. Which is always the case when I travel to see family. So much laughter, good food, sunscreen, smiles, drinks — exactly what vacation should be like. I already can’t wait to go back; hopefully this winter/early spring next year!

Monday

Talk about a long hiatus!

A few days ago, I sat down to go over things I wanted to accomplish this summer. I wrote down anything I could think of — from deadlines for my research projects, trips, and cleaning my apartment to getting into a solid exercise routine. And I wrote “start actively updating the blog again.” It’s honestly been incredibly hard to remind myself to keep writing, especially those times that I just don’t feel like I have anything interesting to say. Which has turned out to be most of the time… haha. But I’m going to overcome that and make a legitimate attempt at doing this, for real!

Picking up writing again is convenient for me now that summer has started, and mine is looking pretty dull. Quiet, at least. Besides some really exciting happenings in June (my friends from Sweden visiting and then travelling home to Sweden for a week!), my summer will be spent not doing much besides working my part-time job and doing research for my master’s thesis project. So I expect July and August to be filled with much time to do things for myself, which actually feels quite nice.

So much has happened since I started “forgetting” to blog about 8 months ago — innumerous papers written, several great trips taken, lots of delicious food cooked, and some exciting edits made to my apartment decor. I can’t wait to write more about it all in the next posts!


Update

Long time no see!

It’s definitely been a while since I updated the blog and posted anything. Truth is I’ve been exhausted. After coming back from L.A. two weeks ago, I didn’t really get any solid amount of rest for a long time; I was thrown right back into school and work, had my first big assignment coming up that I needed to work on, and the days felt like they weren’t long enough for me to keep up with everything (let alone have time to unpack my bag from the California trip…).

That Friday, I decided to visit my grandparents for the weekend and drove up to South Salem right after I finished work. It wasn’t too bad of a drive, but my poor baby blue car was almost mauled to death several times by big trucks on the way there. Typical New Jersey traffic. Once my grandma and I had finished dinner that evening, I was so incredibly tired but SO happy I was there and got to spend time with them for the weekend.

It turned out to be a more eventful weekend than I was expecting: the day on Saturday was spent on a long tour of historic mansions along the Hudson River, followed by a nice dinner gathering, and then we went out shopping and had brunch on Sunday before I headed back to NJ. All in all, it was absolutely lovely! But I definitely returned even more tired when I came back to New Brunswick on Sunday night.

This past weekend, however, I had no plans at all. I finally got to sleep in!!! It felt so nice to just relax, get some exercise and studying done, and watch a whole bunch of trashy TV (like, a lot). Coming into this week, I definitely feel more relaxed and energized and back on track. Can’t wait to see what the coming week will hold!

 

Is mindset really everything?

THOUGHTS — What really is a Sunday without stressing out about the week ahead? After not doing absolutely any work the whole weekend, I spent a good part of Sunday night frantically doing some reading for class and trying not to be overwhelmed by the upcoming busy week. Since I’m leaving for LA on Thursday night and won’t be able to go to work on Friday, I somehow have to find time to not only make up those hours at some other point this week but also to pack and start working on my first important assignment that is due October 5th. And yes, I am aware that I am complaining about “first-world” problems. But that awareness doesn’t make anything much less stressful, unfortunately.

I spent some time at work today listening to a podcast while typing numbers into an Excel spreadsheet (riveting, right?). I haven’t ever been particularly interested in podcasts, but more and more I’ve started enjoying listening to Swedish podcasts; in a way, it’s just nice and comforting for me to listen to people speaking in my native language when all I hear is English all the time. Also, I think listening to the language could help me keep up my conversational Swedish, which my mom always tells me is “so terrible!” whenever I visit home. The podcast I listened to today happened to be about “being grateful”, “mindfulness” and all that other stuff that I would normally dismiss as silly fantasy ideas for people who actually don’t have anything to be stressed about. However, in an attempt to embody a more mature and open-minded version of myself, I actually took the time to listen to what these two Swedish women had to say.

The main point they were making was basically that stress is manageable and that happiness is achievable as long as you just have a positive mindset. An important aspect of a positive mindset, according to these two happy and stress-free women, is about spending more energy on being grateful rather than seeing the negative in the situation and complaining about it. But is mindset really everything? What about the material reality of everything that is causing you to be stressed in the first place? Can thoughts really make all of that go away?

I like to think that I’m a pretty negative person. Just kidding, obviously no one likes to think that about themselves. But I do think that I’m usually rather cynical, prone to complaining, and generally avoid having a positive outlook on things. Rather than seeing these aspects of my thinking as inherent personality traits, however, it might be more productive for me to think of them as a mindset, which I can change and control at my will. Why should I be complaining about my situation and allowing the stress to overwhelm me when I can instead focus on the good things? The fact that I’m going to LA (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), that I’m in a PhD program and I worked so hard to get here (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!); these are all fantastic things that I should be happy about.

I am rather ashamed to admit that I clearly took this podcast episode to heart. But when I sat down to make a to-do list for myself for the week, with specific things to do on specific days, I ended up feeling positive about my situation rather than overwhelmed precisely because I thought to myself: I can do this, and I can get everything done.

The women also spoke about how your happiness can be dramatically increased if you sit down every day and write down three things that you are grateful for in that moment, as a way of teaching your brain to focus on the positives and practicing gratefulness. I think I might actually try this out and see how it works; after all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? That I don’t have anything to be grateful for? And there I go again being cynical, whoops. But all joking aside, I’m going to try to do this every night and see if it works.

Three things I am grateful for today:

  1. Fall weather.
  2. The people I love.
  3. Post-it notes.

flat lay photography of calendar
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Football game & tailgating

WEEKEND — Knowing that my days of being able to enjoy my weekends without much pressure to do school work are counted, I had another relaxing weekend of prioritizing pleasure over business. I also did a great job procrastinating during the short amount of time that I had actually allotted to studying. Yay me!

On Saturday, I decided to make use of my two season tickets to Rutgers Football and went to the Rutgers vs. Buffalo game with a friend from Gettysburg. Kickoff being at noon, we met up somewhat early in the morning, put some assorted adult beverages in my car, and headed off to the stadium. This was my very first time bringing my own car to a tailgate, let alone one of my first times ever tailgating at all, which all felt really exciting.

Now, there’s a lot to be said about the fun of actually watching a football game and being inside the stadium with all the fans (or in Rutgers’ case, a lack thereof, since most fans usually walk out by the second quarter). But I must say, I honestly think I enjoy tailgating more than I do watching the game afterwards. For any fellow Swedes who might be reading this and who are confused, I would describe tailgating as an intensely American social phenomenon that involves standing around (or sitting in beach chairs) in a parking lot next to one’s car for several hours prior to any sports event. In addition to simply standing or sitting around, there are high levels of consumption of alcohol (a level which is increased dramatically if the stadium doesn’t serve alcohol to patrons, which one can often hear loud complaints about), usually beer (only American brands allowed!) or drinks such as Bloody Marys if it’s early in the morning, and there is also usually grilling of an assortment of classic American foods such as hot dogs, burgers, and anything else unhealthy you can think of. Country music often plays loudly in the background, the source of which is probably someone’s car stereo (which makes you uneasy since either 1) their battery is probably going to die soon or 2) they are severely contributing to pollution if their engine is actually running). Socially, this is a fascinating phenomenon in which Americans are found in their most natural habitat. They can be spotted randomly socializing with any stranger who is wearing a t-shirt or hat with the same (often offensive) sports team logo as they are, forming temporary relationships that are synthesized just from a combination of the influence of alcohol and a shared interest in a sports team. In the same vein, the mere sight of someone who is wearing the opposing team’s logo anywhere on their body, or even a color that could be slightly associated with the opposing team, is widely accepted as legitimate justification for shouting profanity and making foul gestures at that person.

Absolutely amazing, right? I personally love it. Partly because of the generally positive, happy vibe and the beauty of day-drinking without shame, but also because it is so sociologically interesting.

Especially when going to see a team like Rutgers, you’re basically going 95% for the tailgating and only 5% for the actual football. I think knowing that you will be disappointed during the game (which is the case, again, if you’re rooting for a team like Rutgers) makes the tailgating all the more fun and rowdy, because no-one feels as though they have to stay sober in order to be able to pay attention to the game.

All in all, it’s great fun, and I’m happy I got to spend one day this weekend completely immersed in tailgating season!

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