Happy 29th birthday to me

Time flies, as they say. Another year has just gone by. As usual, I will take the opportunity to step back a little bit further than usual and look back at the twenty ninth year of my life. I do this partly because I think it’s rewarding to look at what I’m doing (or perhaps more importantly, what I’m not doing), but also because it offers a concise summary of what I’ve been up to for anyone who is interested.

If you have no idea who I am, but still want to figure out what I have been doing since 2007, reading my annual birthday articles is without doubt the quickest way, perhaps in combination with the very short biography on the about page (updated earlier this week).

Therefore, I will mostly follow the pattern from previous  years, but I will of course only focus on the important things; this isn’t reporting for the sake of reporting, after all. I want to point out that the topics below aren’t sorted according to relative importance, but are instead rather arbitrarily arranged.

Education

This is the area where things have changed the most since last year. First and foremost, I have graduated. I now have a degree for teaching English and Chinese in Swedish upper-secondary school (high school). For some reason, I actually haven’t written anything about this on this website, but I don’t consider the details very important. I have graduated and that’s enough.

Secondly, I have moved back to Taiwan, starting a master’s degree in teaching Chinese as a second language. I’m doing this supported by the Taiwan Scholarship, which roughly covers all my expenses here in Taiwan for two years. This is a program mainly designed for native speakers, but which also accepts international students. I plan to finish in 2014, possibly not including thesis submission and defence. I have done pretty well so far.

Hacking Chinese

The main reason I have only written fifteen articles on this website since last year is because I have invested hundreds of hours in Hacking Chinese. This has paid off to the extent that the website is growing quite popular, but it’s still more a hobby than a job, even though this is something I hope to change in the future. I’m very happy with how Hacking Chinese has developed recently.

Hacking Chinese takes up more time than I spend on the website itself. For instance. I have written a book which I hope will be published fairly soon. I have not decided exactly how to continue, but the likelihood is that I will split what I have written into several smaller volumes and publish them one by one over the coming year, editing and polishing as I go along.

Social life

Leaving Sweden again is complicated in many senses and I’m sure those of you who have lived abroad realise this. However, there is a huge difference between leaving this time and when I left for Taiwan the first time in 2008. It might seem like four years time isn’t much, but I have changed a lot (aged, if you will). I was never quite adventurous in the first place and I have grown even less so. I’m still very interested in discovering new things, but not in the physical sense of the word.

This means that leaving Sweden is more difficult this time. Last winter, I met Zoe, who has become more and more important in my life ever since. This change is somewhat peculiar, because it hasn’t been a gradual thing. Instead, our relationship has deepened in quantum leaps, each propelled by some kind of crisis. A major one, but neither the first nor the last, was my leaving for Taiwan. I didn’t expect our relationship to survive that, but it did. And if I didn’t think it would survive in the future, I wouldn’t write about it here.

I also leave behind a group of friends that have grown more and more important, partly because I realise how difficult it is to find friends of the same calibre anywhere else. This doesn’t mean that I can’t find friends or that I don’t value the friendship with people here in Taiwan, it just means that few people can fulfil as many roles simultaneously as those I have in Sweden. That includes social, creative, intellectual and many other aspects I consider important in life.

Creativity output/input

My creativity has been fairly stagnant since I (almost) finished the draft of my novel a year ago, which followed the publication of Magneter och mirakel in 2011. This is largely because I have been to busy with learning Chinese. I have switched most input (reading and listening) to Chinese-related content and most output towards either writing in Chinese writing about learning Chinese in English.

Thus, I feel a bit undernourished when it comes to creativity, something I have already started to change. I just received a pile of books I want to read for their content and not their language (although they are all in Chinese). I also feel a strong urge to start writing creatively again, although that might have to wait until the summer. Creativity levels are on the rise, but from a very low level. This is partly the effect of not being surrounded by people for whom creative output is a normal part of life.

Physical activity/status

One thing I didn’t expect when leaving was that I would spend more time practising than I have done ever before. Sure, I’ve been through some fairly rigorous periods of practising swimming, diving and other sports, but I don’t think any of that can match the time I currently spend on practising gymnastics. I have joined the university team and practice 15-20 hours a week. I have lots of movie clips, but I will write a separate post about this soon and will link to it from this article once it’s ready.

Apart from this, I’m also close to reaching a long-term goal related to body weight. My weight has been fairly stable at around 78-80 kg for the past six or seven years, but since I practice only body-weight sports (gymnastics in particular), weight matters a lot. My goal has been to weigh around 75 kg while retaining the muscle mass I had when weighing 80 kg.

Needless to say, this is very hard to achieve if I practice 20 hours a week. Losing weight and gaining strength at the same time requires some serious discipline. I have failed this time and time again over the past three or four years, but now I have almost succeeded. My average for the past ten days was 75.6 kg. Why have I succeeded this time, while failing my previous dozen or so attempts? I don’t know, to be honest, but I will probably write more about it once I actually stabilise at 75.

Towards a brighter future

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony (Gandhi). I am happy because I feel that what I’m doing now is very close to what I really want to do. I study the subjects I want to study in a language I want to learn and I can handle it. I am on my way to acquiring the degree I want and need to continue doing what I love doing in the future. Even though I’m physically separated from people who matter to me, they are still there.

The only area I’m not happy about is creativity, but as it’s said in Chinese, 月有陰晴圓缺, the moon waxes and wanes. This is perhaps a basic property of life itself and might be only for the good. I do need creativity to be happy, but focusing more on some things automatically entail focusing less on other things. Everything has its time and place.

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  1. Maciej’s avatar

    Dear Olle,

    Grattis på födelsedagen! Wszystkiego najlepszego w dniu urodzin!

    You are exactly two month older, if your birthday is today (but at the same 27 years younger) than me. As the number 27 seems to be important in my life (and I can that find in yours, too) I decided to write this to you.
    I want to tell you that like your Hacking Chinese most of all blogs related to learning Chinese! You have a Polish fan in me.
    I hope to see you some day in the future. As I have just finished my Chinese classes at Shida and it is unlikely I will take new ones there in the next period, maybe we could meet on another occasion.

    Alla de bästa! Ha en bra tid!

    Maciej

    Reply

  2. Warp2243’s avatar

    Happy Birthday Olle !

    It was a much pleasing article to read, especially the last part about you being happy with your life. Surprisingly I can relate to this and many more elements. In particular : much progress in Japanese and Chinese in 2012, living in a place I like, surrounded with few but precious friends, and finally spending all my time on my passions (mathematics, JP/ZH, and I also started boxing and grew very fond of the discipline). Just like you, I am striving for an enlightening intellectual journey while exploring physical effort and enjoyment. Just as Confucius put it a long, long time ago : ???????????

    By the way, I don’t really understand this : “Needless to say, this is very hard to achieve if I practice 20 hours a week. Losing weight and gaining strength at the same time requires some serious discipline.”
    I’m not so much preoccupied by it now (and I’m not exactly in the same weight class as you with my super-stable 58kg ahah), but I’d like to do the same thing in a not so far future : gain muscle and go under 57kg (56?). My naive thinking to achieve this was, 2+ hours of intense effort everyday (in particular running/interval training, swimming), eating a lot throughout the day (but never too much at once) and obviously healthy food only (lean meat, lots of vegetables, fruits, milk). But why is this goal of yours so hard?

    Reply

    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      Hi!

      Hanzi are screwed up anywhere but in the actual posts. That’s because something is wrong with the character set for the database, but since it would probably require some time to fix, I haven’t done it. I should. I know. About the weight, there are two things which are hard, one which is universal and one which is more personal:

      1) I like cookies. That makes losing weight very hard.
      2) If you want to gain muscle mass but lose fat at the same time, you need to be very, very careful. I you don’t eat enough, your workouts are basically wasted effort because your body hasn’t got enough energy to recover. If you eat too much, well, then you don’t lose weight.

      /Olle

      Reply

      1. Warp2243’s avatar

        Oh, that makes sense :P Thanks, I’ll keep this in mind !

        Reply

      2. Warp2243’s avatar

        Oh, surprisingly hanzi aren’t displayed in comments… Well that was just the very first line of the Analects :

        The Master said, “Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application?”

        Reply