One of the biggest reasons we moved to Norway in July 2020, was to have more peace and quiet. That is why, next to the colossal task of learning a new language, struggling our way through the administrative mess that is immigration and getting familiar with the ways of living in Norway, we also bought a mess of a house in dire need of renovation, and I decided to become self-employed while I don’t even know how taxes work in Norway. All at the same time. Chit.
Maybe I can contribute it to the law of ‘an object in motion, stays in motion’, but I do hope that the friction of Norwegian country live will slow me down eventually.
Back in October 2020, my husband Koen and I were offered to take over the management of a hotel, here in Norway. To me this seemed like the next best step, after working as a guide in the summer. However, after some serious thought, several opinion-asking phone calls to various people and many, many discussions until the middle of the night, we decided not to take this opportunity.
Going through life changes is the perfect platform for self-exploration. If you turn the mirror around, self-exploration is the perfect platform for making life changes. Seeking out opportunities and possibilities, while still allowing yourself choice, is a path, a difficult one yes, to understanding yourself and what it is you want.
Our whole emigration story is only one of the keystones in finding the answer to the question: What do we want in life? What do we not want? As important as choosing the ‘setting’ was, as important is choosing what to do with that setting.
I mentioned this before, I did not expect moving to Norway to magically solve all my problems. Nor the societal ones, nor the internal ones. Figuring out what to, literally, DO, with my life, has been a much more important question to me, than where to live. And I still haven’t completely figured it out.
What I thought were nice things to do as a child, did not really match with what I saw adults doing around me, when I was growing up. Things like singing, drawing and making up stories, where only seen as ‘play’ and ‘hobbies’, nothing to actually take seriously. I was allowed to do all these things as a child, but they never really yielded the same reactions as my results in school. Because school was what life was really about. Equally important as being smart, was being able to behave, be calm and quiet, do what I was told immediately and without question and respect the adults because they were always right.
As a mirror to school, I saw the adults in my life, living their lives away at a job. And being really unhappy about it! This utterly confused me as a child. Why was everyone so persistent in being unhappy? There was not one adult around me who absolutely adored living live. Not one who lived their passions.
I hated to be told what to do. Having the perspective of being told what to do until old age was horrifying. But they told me that life is unfair and that we need money to survive. So, I took some pills to fit in and tried my hardest.
However, I’m not a strong person. Exhaustion comes easily to me when I’m not following my own rhythm. I’m overly sensitive, easily distracted and even though I’m kind of extroverted, social interaction drains me. I need way too much relaxation and recharging time than is considered appropriate in our current labour society.
Bulldozing myself to be a full-time working, independent woman in a fast paste society has proven to be a train-wreck. I cannot do it and I simply refuse to disown myself any longer. There is nothing wrong with me and I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
The last thing I want to do here in Norway, is to live the exact same life as I did in Belgium, but with some mountains in the background.
Around the Christmas holidays, I enrolled in a self-guided writing course by DailyOm: A Year of Writing to Uncover the Authentic Self. After all, inner-child work has already brought me that far in my spiritual journey, especially in the last 2 years. So, I thought it would give me some interesting topics to write about. This type of writing is exceptionally healing for me.
But I have been extremely busy since then; so, I discovered a few days ago that the first lesson is about the very same topic as I already had started to write about in this blogpost: Work. The lesson invites to think about what works means to you through a series of questions. It makes you think about your best and worst work experiences. About what suits you best in terms of workload. About what you want to put in and what you want to get out of it.
The most important thing for me, is that I can’t separate my work from the rest of my life. The things I do in this life, my work, is part of me. Work is not something I do in order to be able to life my life. I have no desire to split my life up and put it in boxes. My work should be a natural extension of me, of my abilities, of my creativity, of my life flow. I don’t want to see my work as ‘a necessary evil’.
The second most important thing, is freedom. I want to do what I want, when I want it and in the order that I want it. Sounds egocentric right? Well, I decided to own that. Because taking care of yourself and quality of life, should not be a reason for shame. And It does make a very big difference for my quality of life, when I’m not submitted to a schedule, but when I’m instead allowed to follow my own rhythm.
It is a cause for stress and rapid exhaustion, when I have to follow the same daily schedule of working from this hour until that hour, with only this amount of vacation days in a year. Turn this around, and I’m also stressed because I know I will get exhausted, having to take another sick day and having to justify myself for that. I have a big fear of displeasing people, of people being angry at me for not doing as told, in the way that they told me. Another reason for me to feel stressed when I can’t keep up with an acceptable working schedule.
Some days I feel very creative and I get a lot done, but other days I have to take it slow. Some parts of the year I have less energy and enjoy a lot of slow work, other parts of the year I feel very energetic and motived, enjoying long interactive days. And you know what? I love that. I love when not every day is the same, I love to have some really active and social weeks in my year, and I love to have some slow weeks where I don’t see anyone too.
It brings me an enormous peace of mind, to know that, should I feel tired and less creative, I’m allowed to take a slower day. Knowing this will also increase my general productivity. Being able to decide this for myself, eliminates the stress of displeasing others. It brings me peace of mind, but excitement too, that I’m able to choose how different every week of the year looks like. It brings me joy to give myself permission to take a free day whenever I want it, without having to justify myself.
I like seasons, I like change, I like cycles. I like it up and down and up and down. But most of all, I like choice. Even though I might not work a total of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, year-round, my productivity is just where I want it to be.
The need to have freedom, is exactly the reason we decided not to go and manage that amazing hotel here in Norway, back in October 2020, when we had the opportunity. Even though we would have been our own boss, we still would have to work almost 16 hours a day, leaving no time for all the other activities I need in my day to feel my best. I would have loved running that hotel, I would also have run myself into the ground. Instead, I decided to register myself as self-employed. With the goal of taking really good care of myself.
My daily self-care routine needs 9 hours of sleep, daily contact with nature and physical exercise. I need time in my week to learn new things, to have a hobby, to follow a course. I repeat, I’m not a very strong person, I need to take more care for myself than the average person. I’ve accepted that. Even though society might tell me to toughen up, because other people had to do it too, whether they wanted it or not.
Should I work in employment again, it will never again be fulltime. I need more breathing space and freedom. The reason I would choose to work for a company, would be my interest in science and the need for some human interaction. But it should never restrict all my other life passions.
I dislike being told what to do, but at the same time I’m always in a hurry to please everyone. Making sure I do things exactly as they have in mind, very afraid to do something wrong. This duality within me is a cause for some serious stress. It is something that is in need of some serious internal work, trying to integrate these two sides with each other.
The third important thing I need to puzzle together my dream job, is variety. As much as I like a chaotic schedule, I like a chaotic job description. I have too many ideas and interests in life to choose one thing. That I will never master one skill, is a sad side effect. But I much rather know a little bit about a lot of things. I love to create and I love a lot of mediums to create with. Whether it is through writing, photography, videography, drawing or painting. I love to express myself.
Expression is by far not the only thing I want to be doing. I have a very big interest in the natural world, in the ocean (hence my education in geology and marine science). But I have also a big interest in healthy living, as an integration of human life and the health of our planet. I took courses in nutrition and herbology and I hope to keep learning. As being my own teacher, I have a great passion for self-care.
And I love to guide people to a healthier way of living, both for the mind, the body and the planet. I hope to work as a guide, a couple of weeks every year. Whether it may be as a travel guide, whale watching guide, museum guide or any other form that I have yet to foresee. Educating brings me great joy.
It brings me great joy and gratefulness, to be able to explore all these branches of work, under the umbrella of self-employment. Even though I have to deal with accountancy and yet more administrative discoveries in a still very new country.
However, this great joy is accompanied by an as big feeling of insecurity and self-doubt.
My self-doubt expresses itself mostly as feeling silly. As if I’m a child, trying to play along in an adult world. I keep feeling like I’m not allowed to do the things that I do. As if I’m a direct insult to all artists out there. I don’t have an arts-degree, I never took a photography course and my English is far from perfect, so why is it even my first writing-language? I’m afraid to not been taking seriously, but at the same time, I don’t take myself seriously. Not until I have locked myself up for 10 years, perfectionating each thing I do and getting a serious degree in it.
I might just be a disgrace to all real artists and expressionists out there, but I also feel that if you want to be a creator, you have to create. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. If I have to wait until I feel ready to do something, I will never do it. I will never be ready. It is a very scary thing, to put yourself out there.
Another big struggle is my relationship with money. I don’t care for it. I don’t want to care for it. But I was taught that it is the most important thing in an adult’s life. When I was a child, it was often stressed to me, how expensive everything is. Money is very difficult to earn and there is never enough for everything you want. The immediate reaction of my unconscious mind, was to resist this very unpleasing perceived reality and swing the pendulum in completely the other direction. So, creating the illusion that I don’t think money is important at all and there are so many more important things in life. So many more important things you can get out of your work, so many more important rewards, so many more needs that can be met.
Alas, beneath this self-created illusion in my mind, the micro-childhood trauma of the scarcity and all-determining nature of money is still ever so present. I have a great fear of the possible reality that the only measure of success, is money. That the only way I could be objectively rewarded for what I do, is the amount of money I can earn with it. That my value in, and contribution to, society is solely determined by the money that I make.
But I feel, that the reality should lie somewhere in between. That earning money can have a healthy place between feeling fulfilled, giving emotional value to your community, having a role in society, doing unpaid housework, creating physical and non-physical things of value. That all these things bring an equal contribution to your personal role and value in your community and society.
Money should not be the sole determining factor of power within a community, and certainly not within a relationship. Is the partner who earns the most money, the most valuable one in the relationship? The answer should be no, because a relationship needs so much more to thrive than an adequate amount of money.
Then how is it that I feel inferior? Why is there a very persistent gnawing at the back of my mind, that I don’t have as much right of decision, right to appreciation? I have never earned as much as my husband, and after becoming self-employed, I’m at an all-time low. What is the answer to feeling appreciated and valued? How do I feel equal in my relationship and in society? I have yet to find out.
My biggest concern right now, is to be included in the Norwegian social security system. You see, Norway has an amazing social security system and takes real good care of its citizens. The national welfare system is in all its ways superior, and fairer towards all its subjects, than the Belgian one. But it is not a system you can take advantage of. If you are not born in Norway, you first have to earn right to be included in this national welfare system. Which is actually quite good, but makes it difficult for me.
You see, only when you pay tax money, you have the right to sickness benefits, parental benefits and pension money. To pay tax money, you have to earn a basic amount in a year. You have to have a minimum yearly income (50 000 NOK/year). As a self-employed person (Enkeltpersonforetak), this income is considered my profit. This means I have to make this minimum amount of profit in a year, to be taxable. Should I now become pregnant (which I something I’m still not sure I will ever want), I won’t receive parental benefits. If I don’t manage to have this minimum income in all the years to come, I won’t receive pension money when I’m old. To be honest, this does cause me stress. I will have to work on my relationship with money, without bulldozing myself again into a lifestyle that doesn’t suit me.
I have an immense urge to proof it can be different. Not only to myself, but for all the others that feel exhausted and crushed under the current social expectation regarding work-life balance. We don’t have to run ourselves into the ground, we can be fulfilled with our work, we can have the quality of life we need. We can make it work.
Let me tell you something I have learned and know in my heart to be true: The ultimate reality of life is love. The ultimate expression of love is acceptance. If you do not accept yourself, completely as you are, without judgment, you are in direct resistance to life itself.
You own it to yourself to let your happiness guide you into your heart space. Use happiness as a tool to find yourself. Use happiness as a tool to complete self-love and then radiate that love around you as your most beautiful expression.
But I warn you, to understand what truly makes you happy, you will have to peel yourself like an onion. There will be tears. You will have to painfully dig all the way through yourself, face deep in your own chit. And with this beautiful metaphor, I leave you. My pen will meet you again soon.
One of the branches under my self-employment umbrella is BLUE SELKIE. A webshop in which I combine my love for the ocean, human and planet health, self-care and the nordic countries.
If you are interested in a more light-hearted version of this blogpost, I made a video about the very same topic: