Happy 31st birthday to me!

blackhedge-cropThe 31st year of my life was an eventful one, even though it certainly doesn’t seem like that if you just look at the paltry output on this website; I only published five articles since my last yearly summary. Among other things, I have left Taiwan and returned to Sweden, which includes finding a new home and settling in. I have also finished all the courses of my master’s degree program and now “only” have my thesis left. I’m also trying to convert Chinese from a very time-consuming hobby into something I can live off.

Apart from this, there have also been other changes in my life, big and small, and in this post I’m going to discuss them briefly, as well as the general state of things. To make it more accessible, I have divided the content into several parts. If you want to see what I wrote last year, you can find that year’s birthday report here.

Social life

The most significant change was my moving back to Sweden from Taiwan. Zoe and I have bought an apartment in Stockholm, and we both like it and the surroundings quite a lot. It also feels great to have put the long-distance part of our relationship behind us and to be able to look forward. Returning to Sweden wasn’t easy since we were only renting a small room for the first couple of months and, added to that, ran into some other problems, but since we moved into our new apartment, things have gone swimmingly.

I will miss my friends in Taiwan, I enjoyed all aspects of my life there immensely, but this is still where I belong. I haven’t fully grown used to living in Stockholm, bu in general, all is well on the social front.

Education

My final semester in Taiwan was as interesting as the ones that came before it (I have already written about this elsewhere), but during this time, I also started doing my own research. Or, to be more accurate, I started trying to figure out what I wanted to research, and once I had decided, to read up on the relevant books and articles. My area of research is tone perception and how it can be trained in adult learners of Mandarin Chinese. After returning to Sweden, things have been going slowly, but at least they haven’t been standing still. I should be able to do start doing actual research fairly soon!

Apart from this, I don’t study much. I use Chinese on a daily basis, write about it and most other things I do are related to Chinese in some way, so I still learn, but without focused studying. Since I launched Hacking Chinese Challenges, however, I have been able to spend more time on my own studying and that feels great. I hope I will be able to keep enjoying Chinese even if I work with the language full time.

Work

Even though I haven’t finished my degree yet, I still focus much more on work than studying at the moment. All work I’m doing is related to Chinese in some way or another. Apart from Hacking Chinese, where I spend most my time, I also do some private tutoring, translation work and freelance writing for About.com and Skritter. For Skritter, I also do Chinese language support and some other things.

On the whole, the mix is quite good, but I wish I could spend more time on my own projects. The reason I don’t is not for a lack of ability or opportunity, I’m simply too slow and avoid taking risks, preferring to stick to what I’m doing and know works already. This is something I will have to work on if I want to focus more on what I really like doing!

Creative input/output

Both creative input and output have been dismal most of the year, with a few brighter periods when I read and listened to a lot of books (I finished six in January and almost as many in February) and where I worked a little bit on my novel. Still, I haven’t produced much and I still don’t have a draft of the novel ready. Creativity is something that has been put on the back burner for too long. My recent frenzy of book reading is one sign of this, but I hope to be able to find the time and energy to actually create things, too.

Physical activity/status

While living in Taiwan, I was able to practise as much gymnastics as I wanted, which was a lot. Apart from studying, I had few other obligations and enjoyed this immensely. I competed in gymnastics for the second time in May and it went slightly better than last time. It’s still on an amateur level, of course, I started just a few years ago, but it’s still fun. If someone asks if I’m an old gymnast, I usually reply that I’m old and a gymnast, which is quite different. Since returning to Sweden, I have mostly gone to the gym, along with some jogging. Not much, in other words. Until recently, that is.

Since the beginning of February, I have been able to practise gymnastics again, which is great fun. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy it. It’s only two days a week, about two hours each time, but the facility is excellent and so are the instructors. I have also started helping out with classes for some of the youngest gymnasts. All this, combined with some strength training at home, adds up to a decent routine. I need to do this for a few more weeks to really settle in, but I’m optimistic.

Towards a brighter future

Things are going well and I’m happy with my life. I need to make sure to not let my education slip (make too slow progress on my thesis and fail to study Chinese for my own sake) and see if I can’t allocate some time to creative output. Writing this post made these two things very clear, so now it’s just a matter of doing it. Let’s see what i have to say a year from now!

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