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When i was younger, i used to get respiratory tract infections very often which usually resulted in long periods of unpleasant symptoms, medicines and doctor visits. Then my mom and aunt started to go almost every summer at the seaside and they took me along with them. I remember being so excited, not sleeping the whole night on the train journey from our town to the Black Sea and the next day going immediately to the beach although mom and aunt were so tired. I loved the evening walks by the sea and that typical sea smell.

But it was not only the enjoyment of being there that helped. I noticed, and my parents noticed that respiratory infections became a thing of the past. I wasn’t plagued by them anymore and from then on we continued to go to the seaside for about 2 weeks per year. I enjoyed it so much, i wanted to move there. I was so jealous on the people who were living near the sea.

Years have gone and i moved to a city from Central Finland – Jyväskylä. I lived there for 8 years and i gathered the best memories and met the best people. Until circumstances forced me to move away. You imagine that it’s not easy to move from a place where you have lived for 8 years. I got very attached to the city and i had friends there, too. At least what was left of them as most of my friends moved around the world after their studies were completed. But little did i know that in a very short time i would accommodate myself in the new town, so fast it seemed unreal.

After losing my job due to budget cuts, i started looking for another one all over the country with very few hopes. Given my circumstances, i wasn’t so optimistic about it but the best of luck made it to find a new job (and a great one!) on the seaside coast of Western Finland in Central Ostrobothnia. In Jakobstad or Pietarsaari. It’s a two language city which from the first i thought it was amazing because i found it very frustrating to forget my Swedish. But among the best things…it was near the sea! After all these years, i was moving near the sea!

The transition was made easier by my ability to adapt to a new place, not being bothered by the fact that the town was much smaller than Jyväskylä, the great work colleagues who were and are very helpful whenever i ask something, my will to learn as much as i can about the place’s history (afterall i work in a museum!), i genuinely wanted this workplace, no unemployment office forced me to apply for it, i did it because i really wanted it. The town has a really interesting history and…it’s placed by the sea. I could not have asked for more.

At first it was not easy to move away mostly because of getting used to a place, building a life there and being scared for the new. I didn’t know how it will be, the atmosphere, the people and the whole process of moving is itself really stressful, at least for me but in the end i don’t regret it a bit because as i can see it now it was for the best. At point we are so stuck in that old, safe routine that we don’t realize it is harmful for us because we don’t keep going forward. We are just kept into that same place. I would really love to remain here if it is possible as my contract is limited but that will be for the future to see. For the moment, i am enjoying the time here, do my work as best as i can and learn a lot.

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Do you know when you just take your trash out, throw it into the bin and forget about it? Yes, i know because most of my life i did exactly that. I never had to take care of my own trash, i just sorted it and threw it away. Out of sight out of mind. But for me,  it was not out of mind because i thought many times where does my trash go, how is it processed, is it totally recycled, then how it is recycled?

Well, this last weekend i found out, at least a part of it. Since my other home is in the countryside, we needed to buy a compostor because the place where we took the organic trash was full. Another option was to order a trash bin from the city but i think the costs would have gotten higher since you have to pay monthly for the trash bin and trash delivery services.

So, before i had to do research what kind of compostors are on the market, how do they work and how one uses them. Then we headed to the grocery store, at the department where they sold compostors and ordered one as they didn’t have them in stock at that very moment. In one week the compostor was delivered at the local shop and we had to pick it up together with  three sacks of woodchips to throw over the organic leftovers so they can turn into soil. It took a while to arrange the spot where the compostor would be placed and then another while to assemble it. I started reading the instructions including what you can and cannot throw, possible problems, compost temperature and maintenance.

It took almost a whole day working on assembling and informing myself about how to use a compostor. And things are not ending here. You do have to maintain the compostor and when it is filled, you need to take the soil out and assure that it functions properly.

If somebody is curious and interested, the compostor we bought it from Biolan, 220eco model suitable for a household of 1-6 persons and it costed 469 euros. The composter was also registered and there are some more accessories that are needed especially for winter and for mixing the compost. I would have loved to write my own experience with composting but for the moment i just threw organic trash only two times. Let’s see what happens in about 5 months.

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If there would be just one department for the whole country, 40 places, entrance exam once in four years, would you have the courage to give it a try? I did and it was not just “give it a try”. It was: i studied very thoroughly for the entrance exams and familiarized myself with the profession years in advance.

I’m talking now about the conservation studies, an area i set my mind to go into six years before i attended the entrance exams in 2016. I didn’t write about it until now because as probably you might have guessed, i didn’t make it and i really didn’t need any judgement. The heartbreak after this very long process and the blame i took from myself were more than enough. And the feeling of failure made it even worse.

I fell in love with conservation after attending basic studies in museology while studying for my first masters’. We had a course in Museums and Collections which lasted a whole semester and we had lecturers who worked in conservation, one of them being the chief of the conservation center i volunteer at now. The field fascinated me because it is so complex and unique in the sense that it combines humanities and science in a very innovative way. Since i am a person interested in both but chose humanities because of reasons stated in an earlier post, i said to myself “this is it, i want to study this. How can i do that?”

The only place one can study conservation in Finland is at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki. There was a department for building conservation in Western Finland but it was shut down few years ago. There were only ten places for each specialization and the entrance exam once at four years, basically when one study program finished, new students were taken in. My main interest were artifacts, textile, paper or art conservation. The only problem was that the study program was only in Finnish and my language skills were not at all very good back then.

But in 2016, the university took in new students and i decided to go. That’s when the fun started with chemistry studies, as chemistry was on the exam list. Luckily, just basic chemistry was required and i was able to study that by myself while practicing color tests, drawing and folding paper. There was a color test, handicraft test, chemistry exam, interview and depending on the specialization, another exam testing your skills.

I sent my application papers in March and in May i was invited to the entrance exams which lasted for two days. I was very nervous about the chemistry exam but in the end that proved to be the easiest part. I found the handicraft exams to be so much more difficult especially the one we had in the first day where we were asked to make a coffee mug out of cardboard and paper. That was a complete disaster and i’m very sure that it was the main reason i failed. I still hate paper mugs to this very day. After the first day, we were informed who made it to the next day. My first choice was artifact conservation and failing to see my name on the list i just turned to leave barely keeping my tears. When i remembered that i put all the choices on my application list! And there i was admitted for textile conservation! Not bad but how could i manage? I mean i don’t know much about working with textiles and i was sure there were applicants who had seamstress studies behind. I was disappointed and angry but i decided to go to the final exam and interview. The exam wasn’t bad, we had to sew a small purse and we had one as a model so i did quite ok given the fact that i rarely practiced textile handicrafts.

The interview went fine until the last part when i couldn’t keep my mouth shut and i asked if one could actually transfer from textile to artifact conservation. Maybe you kind of grasped why this question might have proven to be fatal for my chances of getting in. I realized what i just done on my way back from the university and i thought i am the most stupid person on this planet. The whole experience left me with a bitter taste because i knew i could have done much better. The fact that i waited so much to attend this exam and study there, left me frozen; i got so stressed and excited that i couldn’t even focus properly on the exam. Another factor was the amount of applicants, i guess there were hundreds, which really intimidated me.

But to my surprise, i found out that i was the first on the reserve places at textile conservation. Unfortunately, nobody gave up their place so i didn’t make it. This kind of result brought two feelings: i was very glad to make it that far with so few places, with so many applicants and barely any experience in textiles (and studying chemistry on my own!) and second, it brought the huge disappointment of being so close but yet so far.

I tried not to take it as a complete failure but as an experience, learn from it and give it another try. I know that this field is very specialized, job are quite scarce and studies last for about four years full-time but i guess when you like something, you have to go after it. And be committed to it.

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This august I finally received my diploma for the basic studies in chemistry I undertook for the past year. I came from work and upon checking my mail box it was there, together with a course offer leaflet from the university. I couldn’t believe my eyes and myself because as I mentioned earlier, chemistry was not at all among my favorite subjects. But how did I get to this point anyway? Looking back it seems so absurd and if somebody told me about two years ago that now I would be standing with a chemistry diploma in my hands, I would have laughed in their face. But here I am and the journey started quite long ago.

In 2010, while doing my master’s in Digital Culture, I saw museum studies offered as a side subject so I enrolled myself for the basic courses. The courses were in Finnish and I was a beginner with the language but I could manage to submit my work in English. The lectures weren’t though hard to understand. Museum studies courses and some of my own MA’s courses offered some lectures in preventive conservation and paper conservation. Chemistry was part of them but only at a very basic notion-like level, nothing in depth. I never had a good relation with chemistry because of my teachers who, I think, hated the subject more than I did.

But something in those lectures created a spark. That was not the dry, theoretical chemistry we did in school. It was applied, and it was applied in a field that has always fascinated me, cultural heritage. Chemistry was the key in understanding materials’ properties, deterioration processes and how to prevent or to stop them by relating the properties with outer and inner destructive factors. I understood that paper is of different types, I understood their properties and for example, why light can be so damaging for it. I learned about different pigments used in paintings, their chemical properties and ways to analyze them. I learned about various cases of deterioration of underwater archaeological materials. We also had primary notions of microbiology dealing with bacteria and fungus on historical materials. That was the time I learned the fascinating relation between a field I always loved and a science I never liked. And I started being more interested in it to the point that I decided to study conservation and major in chemistry conservation.

But life has stirred me in a bit of different direction and although completing my studies in museology and working in my field, I never gave up the idea of studying conservation one day. Until last year, when I had an attempt at the only conservation school in Finland. I remained the first on reserve places at textile conservation, a thing that disappointed me a lot. But since the exams are mostly focused on handicrafts and I come from a purely theoretical background this was to be expected. One thing though I was happy about was my chemistry exam grade which was very good despite the fact that I studied chemistry on my own only four months before the exam.

Then while browsing through the list of subjects that our university offered, I got the idea that basic chemistry courses would be perfect for me to get at least a basic education in the field. So, without taking into consideration that the courses were university level and I barely had some high school chemistry knowledge, I signed up for them. And the fun started.

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This is a conversation from a page on Facebook, the initial post was about salary, respect and difficulty for different jobs. I usually do not read comments but scrolling down through them i didn’t help not noticing these two. They are talking about cleaning jobs or blue collar jobs and they assume that if you work these types of jobs, you are automatically stupid.

The first person says that if she (cleaning lady) was smart, she wouldn’t have to clean. She would have more money then and be able to educate herself. He is polite with cleaning ladies but avoids talking to them on complex subjects because they would look at them in a strange way. The second person says that not everybody is smart and must be jobs for stupid people also. But they should be paid decently. (I agree with the last sentence).

This comments left me a bitter taste because as many people do, these two also see things in black and white and tend to simplify life situations a lot. Life isn’t that simple. And to put it straight, working in a blue collar job does not make you automatically stupid. I won’t get into discussions about the present job market and the number of highly educated people who work below their qualifications because they can’t find suitable jobs but they need to make a living. And working in a blue collar job is nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us did it and are doing it in order to earn a living or to pay our studies in hope for a better future. Not all of us are born in rich families or some of us might have the misfortune not to have a family to support us.

By writing this i would like to open the eyes of people who think exactly like the above persons, a mentality which unfortunately, is quite spread in my country of origin. I did deal with similar comments from different individuals because i worked blue collar jobs during college in order to pay my rent. Luckily i didn’t have to pay a tuition fee but life in Finland is expensive and besides it felt very good to earn my own money. Besides that i also learned new skills and a totally new perspective on some jobs that are looked down to. I never looked down and still don’t on blue collar jobs and i can honestly say i met several people with bachelor and even master degrees who cleaned, worked at the grocery store or laundry services in order to earn some money.

Or the situation might be that you move to another country, you barely know the language and that’s quite sure they won’t give you a job as a manager. That is also depending on the field you are working in. In my case, it wasn’t that easy, when most of employers regarded my bachelor studies as useless just because they were done in another country and i did not even get the opportunity to prove my knowledge.

And my last point is that in Finland being a cleaning person requires special training which usually lasts for a year and you learn quite lots of stuff from different cleaning equipment, products, materials to basic chemistry. You can also specialize yourself in different kind of areas like for example hospital or office cleaning. I can talk from my own experience but cleaning in a hospital is very challenging and requires lots of skills and attention. You work in a highly sterile environment and you get in contact with all kinds of sick people and bodily fluids.

I did have a week pre-training before starting and i do admit that sometimes i was amazed at the things i learned that never crossed my mind they existed. I am ashamed to say that i came there with the prejudice that i know everything, this is an easy job, just swipe the floors just to leave with a tone of new knowledge about bacteria, infections, prevention, chemicals, how to dispose of hazard waste, sustainable cleaning or customer service.

Never judge the difficulty of a job by its salary or by the skills you think a person should posses for it. Especially if you never worked a day in your life in that job. Yes, some jobs are easier than others. Does that mean the people who are doing them are stupid? No.

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I thought of writing this article after I got fed up with the endless articles about birth rates declining and the constant blame put on women because they choose to pursue higher education. I thought that we left this behind many decades ago but as I can see this is the number one scapegoat most people around here prefer to point at. I won’t get into the importance of education nowadays because when it comes to pursue one, it’s each to its own, I would say it better to have one than none at all.

The ones who are usually barking so much on the subject are men who complain about their poor peers who remain in the countryside, choose to stay out of school or pursue a professional school and then remain single because those “damn harpies” choose careers and move to the big cities. They usually come up with apocalyptic future scenarios of old spinsters, damnation, cats and loneliness. In addition to that they are also complaining that these women are too picky, too stuck up and that nothing is good for them.

My first thought is, then why don’t you go and get an education yourself? Why are you jealous on a person who wants to build a future for themselves and their world doesn’t revolve around yours? Because believe it or not, you are not the center of the universe and no person owes you anything.  You miss the good old days when women were barefoot, knocked-up in the kitchen? Then be prepared to have a super income because nowadays you can rarely manage on one salary. The biggest problem with these people is that they live in the past, in a world of fantasy.

Being dependent and relying on a guy (of one’s free will) is perhaps the most stupid thing you can do. But again, I also guide myself on “the best person to rely on is yourself” philosophy. You never know when the other one will kick you in the curb or you know, misfortunes happen. I was also taught wisely by my parents that it’s better to have your own finances and never rely on anybody.

Nobody stops you from studying and earning a degree if you want. Not in Finland where (for the moment) there are no tuition fees. But some people don’t want higher education and others are not meant for it. Which is fine. But stop complaining and blaming other people for your incapacities or laziness. And stop blaming the system that it favors girls. If you really want to achieve something, no system will stay in your way. I saw proof with my own eyes and of both genders.

Blaming women that they are too picky is rather shallow I would say. As mentioned before, nobody is entitled to like you. These women have their own preferences, own personalities and own minds and they’d better be picky if it is about something so important as sharing life with somebody. It’s better being alone that be with somebody just for the sake of being and then realize you share nothing in common or even hate each other.

As for the profession part, these “critics” must live underground because lots of us are not hunting for a profession. For me it is a deep insult to hear that I’m a stuck up academic bitch who doesn’t even look at blue collar workers. Profession has never been an issue when I connect with another person because I look at that person as a human being not at a profession. One of my top priorities is mutual respect. If that is missing, I’m sorry to say but it won’t work. I never looked down on any person because of their profession (sadly I can’t say that was mutual, I’ve been humiliated many times while working blue collar jobs). Professions can change but the dynamics between two persons is much more complicated and I doubt that a profession or education has so much to do with it. My partner didn’t even attend high school and I have two MA’s and I must say that it would be quite a shock for these people who can do nothing more but judge. It’s true, I did hear nasty remarks from some that how can I be in a relationship with such a person, pointing out the fact that I’m superior because of my education. Needless to say I cut any ties with these people. If you can’t respect people I care about, I don’t have any obligation to respect you. An MA diploma doesn’t make me superior in any way but the fact that I respect people the way they are and not judge them like you do, yes, that makes me superior to your judgmental ass.

And before blaming women that they are like this and like that and don’t pay attention to you, take a look at yourself first. Do you think somebody would like to be with a person who does nothing but blame others and likes to dictate how others should live? Because I wouldn’t. Before demanding things from others take a look at yourself. Are you worth it?

 

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