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My first diving trip in almost a year, a short plunge into the Kisko quarry lake - without insurance and with the gear not overhauled this year. Not smart...

2012 – The Year of Art and Change

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This was a year of big changes for me in almost every front. It has been in equal shares pretty damn hard but also restorative and an endpoint of manly long-time projects, and maybe an end to a certain phase of life. A part of this has been a burst of artistic expression that finally made its way out of my brain, which feels damn good.

The mallards started getting rather familiar after a hour or two of hanging around on the same patch of shoreline.

Reading back to what I wrote about last year, 2012 was a surprisingly logical progression from 2011. The things that existed then didn’t go magically away as the year in the calendar ticked up by one, but most of them played out to their conclusion, both in good and in bad. To put it in a nutshell: this year I’ve been single for the first time since the 90′s and living alone, I’ve found a publisher for my novel, banged out an award winning game, met and learned to know a bunch of great people, gone to a school that’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my adult life, and almost flipped out due to overworking massively and problematic finances, both of which I seem to have finally turned around in the last couple of weeks.

But yes, the most obvious big change in my life is that starting from last spring I’ve been single for the first time in 14 years – and that’s enough detail on that for obvious reasons. A hard choice and a hard thing to do, no matter how easy one does try to make it. This certainly is a major backdrop for the year and for many of the other things that have happened.

Drifting Towards The Spring

The year started in easy enough a mood – or rather a massively relieved mood after the chaos of 2011. I had a reasonably secure job for the year, and I even managed to drop the freelance work for a long time, which left the weird prospect of actual free time after work. Of course the piano mentioned in the linked blog post dropped, but at least there was a couple months of peace and quiet to enjoy. I was also invited to be a speaker in TEDxAaltoUniversity, but it coincided with the break up, and I really wasn’t in the shape for being all enthusiastic and inspirational in front of the audience. Having to cancel that really pissed me off, but what’cha gonna do?

I did some electronics courses in Helsinki Hacklab.

I did some electronics courses in Helsinki Hacklab.

Älymystö had a gig in January – a celebration of the tenth year of the band, to be precise. I also attended a few of the Helsinki Hacklab events, like an electronics course where I got to renew my knowledge of the basics of analog electronics. I would’ve liked to become a card carrying member, but couldn’t yet spare the money for the monthly fee, plus there were other projects eating up my free time, namely a certain interactive fiction game.

The Rocket Man From the Sea

One of the huge bugs up my ass in the last few years has been the fact that I hadn’t managed to finish an interactive fiction game project. There have been ideas, but too little energy to push them through to the finish, or just having too fragmented a life with too many things to worry about to be able to concentrate on the project enough.

This spring I decided to finally go through with it, tasting blood if need be, but I just had to get it done. I chose one of the ideas from my “a good idea but too hard to implement” bin and started hammering away. I had a nice clear deadline, the Spring Thing 2012 competition. I went for it, met it, submitted the game – and won the fucker. The 1st place in the competition and the resulting award money were both sorely needed and much appreciated. So, that’s one major thing done from the bucket list.

The New Digs

I moved to live on my own in June. I had just managed to get the financial situation in some kind of shape again with the steady salary of the new job, but having to come up with the rent deposit, one month’s worth of extra rent and other assorted costs shot the finances straight back to hell. There was no money for a moving service, so basically I took a large suitcase with me every day on my way to work, left it at our old place, and on my way back to the new flat I stopped to fill it up with stuff to take with me. I rented a van for one day for the bigger stuff like bookshelves, and a friend’s car for transporting beds and such big stuff. All in all, I prefer moving and handling stuff like this quickly and efficiently, and carrying a daily suitcase of stuff in a chock full hot bus is pretty much the opposite of that. I also managed to meet some of the new neighbors by taking a rather bad tumble down the stairs. After a hard day of hauling stuff I was taking a dolly full of moving boxes downstairs, when I realized in middle of a staircase that I don’t have the strength anymore to move the dolly up or down, the pile of boxes is starting to tilt and the only thing to do is to try and fall without catching too much of them with my face. Got away with a nice set of scrapes and bruises, and had the chance to meet the downstairs neighbors, sprawled in front of the entrance covered with boxes.

Got away with my tumble with some small scrapes and bruises.

Got away with my tumble with some small scrapes and bruises.

The new apartment is in a bit more upscale area, and although its rent is rather cheap considering the location, in the absolute sense it really isn’t easy for one person to pay. During the summer and the autumn whenever the rent has started to piss me off, I’ve taken a stroll around the surrounding area – and all has been forgiven. I love these new surroundings and I love the fact that I have a balcony, which was the one semi-irrational criteria I set for my new apartment.

The sea on the other side of my home island.

The sea on the other side of my home island.

A water tower close to my new place.

A water tower close to my new place.

I live on an island, which is connected to the mainland by a couple of highway bridges. I had always thought that the shores of the island are filled with McMansions and inaccessible to mere proletariat, but this turned out not to be the case. In the day after the move I went out for groceries, which turned into a stroll in the surrounding nature. 20 minutes after I left I found myself standing on a rock on the shoreline looking at a rocky shore and a beautiful seascape. There was a great crested crebe with its young diving for fish one meter away from my feet, and barnacle geese flying past me and honking on the shoreline a couple of meters away. That’s when I realized what I was paying for in the apartment.

Dusk on a summer night bike ride.

Dusk on a summer night bike ride.

Whenever I’ve been pissed off or tired in the summer and in the autumn, I’ve taken a stroll in the surrounding island, exploring it almost from end to end. In October there was a sunny, stormy but weirdly warm day. I spent it admiring the golden sunshine and napping on a slab of stone in the end of a wave break, on the warm sun, with the sea sounding all around me. Hadn’t had a nap as good in weeks.

A walk on the shore in October.

A walk on the shore in October.

Shard

A shard of glass, honed smooth by the sea

The Idle, Creative & Weird Summer

I didn’t have money to do much of anything through the summer, so that’s what I did – nothing, just feeling adrift, unmoored and a little bit bewildered. I usually started the days by taking some coffee and my Kindle or my laptop to the balcony, and either read or wrote the morning away until it got too hot in the sun. Some sort of a plug popped open in my head in July and I spent many of those mornings just typing away at short stories or working on my novel, which I got to flow again in August. I came up with a handful of stories, all of which apart from one I got accepted to an anthology or a magazine. Ironically the only one I have some difficulties hawking is the one I’m the the most happy with myself.

12-08-11 - Camping Trip in Nuuksio (1)

A camping trip to Nuuksio in the end of the summer kickstarted my novel project.

And the novel – yes, I finally got the text by the short and the curlies, and did the second draft. The third draft got postponed through the insanity that was this autumn, but it’s going to be finished in the beginning of the year. And, here’s hoping, the book will be out by next June. I’m one of the founding member of a publishing co-op called Osuuskumma. It’s not a traditional kind of self-publishing in the sense that just the membership and money won’t guarantee getting published, but the text has to stand out on its own and go through the usual rounds of copy-editing.

I also had the pretty much perfect Midsummer party for this year. It was just me, two of my oldest friends, and three kids – altogether five people who saw the awesome in dashing around and turning over rocks, seeing what lives under them.

Angling on the lake. It was a bit windy, which made it exciting and maybe a little bit scary for the boys.

Angling on the lake. It was a bit windy, which made it exciting and maybe a little bit scary for the boys.

All in all, the summer was a weird mix of creativity, idleness and socializing. There were some urban exploration adventures and other such interesting fun, plus I spent a few days helping in an archaeological dig in Turku, which was massively interesting. During the summer I got to know a bunch of new people, and got reacquainted and bonded with some old pals, some of whom I had known since the 90′s, but with whom I hadn’t really spent too much time. This is something that continued right through the autumn.

Still sharp enough to precision cut paper after 2000-4000 years.

Still sharp enough to precision cut paper after 2000-4000 years.

The Intense Autumn

The autumn of 2012 was simply insane. It had the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my adult life, the AESD diving school, but at the same time I was massively overworked and still managed to be poorer than I was in mid-90′s when I was unemployed. I had to juggle a school that took big chunks out of every given month, a full day job, plus five or six side-jobs, some of which were in truly frustrating limbo of almost, maybe, perhaps happening. That was one of the biggest themes and stressors of the year and especially autumn: things in limbo, the goalposts creeping back, things almost happening but not quite.

Using a lift bag to transport the pneumatic drill and the concrete slabs that were used as an algae substrate.

Using a lift bag to transport the pneumatic drill and the concrete slabs that were used as an algae substrate.

A big part of being broke was actually because of rather sensible stopgaps and preparations I did for the eventuality that I won’t be employed come January, which looked worryingly probable right up to my second last work day in the current job. These preparations included things like paying the rent and loan installments in advance, figuring out how to pay for the dive school, and generally cushioning the possible fall. The rest of it was my own stupidity and the necessary or surprising costs of living alone.

This is how it felt like looking at the last quarter of the year.

This is how it felt like looking at the schedules of the last quarter of the year.

In the beginning of September I just looked at my calendar and although I consider myself to be quite a capable person, I had serious doubts if I could hack the next three months. Honestly, at a couple of points I came close to giving up. I kept snapping awake fully alert and heart racing half an hour before the alarm went off, going through the days like a high-functioning narcoleptic, dozing off at busses and trams and snapping awake on my stop, getting home late and falling asleep when my head hit the pillow, and generally being so overloaded I couldn’t remember anything I didn’t write down. Because all of the writing I had to do for work my tendonitis made a comeback, which certainly didn’t make things easier. Well, at least it wasn’t decompression sickness, as I originally started to suspect after the first dives of the AESD school – a sudden dull pain in the joints after a year of not really diving and then starting a pretty tough regimen, dum-dee-dum.

My first diving trip in almost a year, a short plunge into the Kisko quarry lake - without insurance and with the gear not overhauled this year. Not smart...

My first diving trip in almost a year, a short plunge into the Kisko quarry lake – without insurance and with the gear not overhauled this year. Not smart…

The fast paced events combined with the sleep deprivation and general chaos made for some deliciously surreal moments. I managed to do two actual work days in marine biology, going to get some sea bed samples in a stormy and gray Baltic Sea for a study, which will net me a name in a publication in a year. Digging up the samples with a tube sampler was proper physical work, and very interesting and illuminating. A week later I was deep in sleep-deprived thoughts about this, and snapped to in the top floor of an European Commission building. People around me were eating cocktail bites and I was looking over a hazy Brussels cityscape with Mordor-like towers in the horizon and the sunlight all weird through the clouds and the misty air. All the clocks in the building were stuck at 12:00, and there was a constant sound of a cat meowing. It took me quite a while to realize it was the hinge of the door the catering staff kept opening. Transported in the blink of an eye from gray Nordic seas into a cocktail lunch into the bureaucracy capital of the world, and into a scene that could be from some weird Kult game.

The sky over Brussels was seriously weird that day.

The sky over Brussels was seriously weird that day.

The other rather pleasantly surreal thing was the Iron Sky exhibition in Helsinki Art Museum, one of the premier galleries in the country. It was weird to see my mug on screens that showed the old Star Wrecks. I also stayed and watched the making-of feature running in one of the rooms. I dedicated a couple of years of my life to making them, but never really saw them finished, and I didn’t even make it to the premiere gala because of high fever and a whole lot of coughing. I walked out with a strange and intense sense of closure.

Science!

The research diver school is hands down the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my adult life.

All in all, the autumn was really weird and intense time, and somehow bipolar in the sense that there were even even objectively speaking mostly rather awesome things, or rather sucky things happening in parallel, with very little ordinary gray routine in the middle. At the worst it felt like balancing on the knife edge, and every shove was a gut punch. The awesomeness of the dive school, the old and new great friends, and succeeding in certain artistic and other projects kept me pushing through. And damn, all that effort has paid off in the end.

 …Everything Went Better Than Expected

I spent the Christmas alone at home, letting my mind unspool and getting to grips with the new situation. Then… well, the holidays have been all shades of awesome. I did my FRC first aid course, for starters, which was very fun and resulted in a gig as a member of the medical team of a roller derby bout. On the day more or less everything I had been stressed over I also received a nice surprise message, which resulted in geocaching trips, a great gospel concert in Helsinki Music Centre, exploring hidden tunnels under Helsinki, a great movie evening and other sorts of fun. I’m feeling happy, elated, slightly bewildered and very uncharacteristically eep! about the whole thing – in a positive way.

The first snows in the shoreline.

The first snows in the shoreline.

Now that the year is at end, major catastrophes have been avoided, and a bunch of personal and external plans and projects that have been under works for years are either starting to pay off or completely resolved, I’m feeling massively relieved and cautiously optimistic. All in all I feel that a certain phase of life is drawing to close with me, a bit overdue perhaps, and that it’s the time to look at the world from a different perspective from here on. A great big thank you for all the people who have been bright and wonderful spots this year, I’m grateful and really appreciate you.

A December snowstorm.

A December snowstorm.

I still need some time to recuperate, but there seems to be plenty of chance for that. The only things I have in my calendar for the near future are writing the novel, fun events and meeting people. Then there’s two weeks of the dive school with awesome courses like using hard helmets when diving and operating a pressure chamber, followed by the new job that sounds very promising, not the least because this might be the second job contract in my life that’s not fixed-term.

Here’s hoping 2013 will kick 2012′s and 2011′s ass for everybody out there.

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