Borders

Allow me to get a little political here. On Sunday I’m moving countries for the 2nd time in my life. The first time was as a student from Sweden to the UK. It was a fairly smooth move. It took about a year to get familiar with the local authority stuff. But generally as I had a lot of guidance and information from the university (and 2 British flatmates), I didn’t need to do much more than pack a bag, buy a ticket and find the place I was staying.

This time around I’m moving from the UK to Holland (another EU country, freedom of movement and all that!), and it’s proving a little bit more difficult. Legal documents need to get validated, tax systems have to be transferred over and different rules in different countries mean I need to figure out which UK laws will still apply to me (what with my employment contract still being here in the UK), and which Dutch laws I now have to abide by (health insurance, social security etc.). On top of that the matter is make more complex by the fact that I’m actually a citizen of a third EU country, Sweden. So most of my legal stuff is based there…

And here I was thinking that the point of the EU is that you could just pack up and move around! Whatever happened to the idea of open borders? I know a lot of people in this country are skeptical towards the EU, but just think how much more difficult things would be without it! In a world like the one we live in today, where people want to move around and work in different places, why would you want to isolate yourself more? Why would you want to set up more barriers and rules to “protect yourself” when that also means locking out the rest of the world? I know all the arguments people make about immigration and what not, but come on! More than 75% of the people in my office are from another country than the UK. More than half my friends here, aren’t from the UK. A rich country like this has a responsibility to accept people from all over the world, and the fact that a vast majority of immigrants in the country work and contribute to the economy is almost always overlooked.

Open borders benefits all cultures, flow of skills and the economy. What’s not to like?

To freeze or not to freeze

Repost from original on The CataLyst

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic since long before the news broke that Apple and Facebook are offering to pay for their female employees to have their eggs frozen. After all, the issue of maintaining a good work / life balance is one of the larger ones when it comes to women in STEM. And the ever leaking pipeline, certainly gets extra leaky around the time when women hit 30+. It’s been heavily debated what these companies’ “true” intentions really are, and many articles have been written both in favor and against.

Before I go onto my little rant about this I would like to point out that I respect any woman’s choice concerning what to do with her own body, and there isn’t a right or wrong choice that fits every person.

I have recently accepted a job offer which will (hopefully) advance my career. This opportunity though, means moving countries, and asking my fiancé to leave his current job and find a new one in order to come with me. I’ve done this now because I feel I need to get as far ahead in my career as possible before starting a family, so that when I eventually do want to get back to work, I’ll be in the best possible situation to do so. If only life was that simple… For me, whether you’re positive or negative toward the idea of this new ‘job perk’, Apple and Facebook’s plan has highlighted just how different the world is for men and women, no matter how much we try and pretend it isn’t.

I’m not going to take this to any extremes here (and those examples always exist) and I don’t see the evil Big Brother plot to control women’s lives which some have hinted at. I don’t think that the perk on face value is a bad thing. Giving benefits that include paying for infertility treatments or adoption costs is a way to show that families are important and as far as I’m concerned, the more options the better. BUT… the underlying message that this perk sends out is that motherhood is viewed as a liability.

The age at which most men and women start progressing their careers happens to be the same age most women begin to have children, and in a majority of cases, childcare responsibilities mainly falls on the mother. The consequence of this is that many mid-career women who want to get ahead (such as myself) are faced with the choice to either advance in their careers, or start a family. Facebook and Apple claim to be addressing this issue with their new offer, saying that it’s enabling women to delay pregnancy, while focusing on their career goals at the same time as their male counterparts. But I see this as a problem rather than a solution.

It seems a bit of a slippery slope, offering to pay women to freeze their eggs for career purposes. Firstly, I think it tells women that the only way they can succeed in the career is by not having a family. Secondly, I think it might scare women into believing that if they do choose to start a family in their early 30’s, they will have very little opportunity to re-enter, let alone move up in their careers. I would even go as far as saying that this perk is in fact perpetuating gender inequality and only contributing to the problem.

The fact that starting a family is a liability to a woman’s career but not a man’s is what the problem here is. Women should have an equal shot at success regardless of how they spend their personal lives. Companies need to allow flexible working environments, better maternity and paternity leave (after all, a problem shared is a problem halved right?) and childcare benefits. If we allow working moms and dads(!) to integrate their family and work lives, and sharing the load, women will have a much greater chance to succeed.

The money that is supposed to be spent on freezing eggs ($20,000 per woman) could pay for full-time childcare for up to a year (even in London!). Or companies could use the money and to build nurseries in their offices and staff them with day-care workers. The message that a company sends a woman when egg freezing is a benefit, and the fact they don’t see that message, is an example of how far we still have to go.

Moving on

The trip to Rome that me and Dave had last week was so needed. Five days of just eating, drinking and topping up the vitamin D supplies. And of course I came back to the news that the job I applied for with Shell in Amsterdam is mine! I move over there in 10 days!

This is technically the second time I move to Holland. The first one being to Leiden a couple of years ago, although that didn’t last very long for various reasons, that move was only ever meant to be for 6 months. This time around it’s a different company, it’s in Amsterdam and Dave will eventually join me out there!

There’s a lot to be sorted out in the next coming weeks. Not only with the move over and all that that entails (most of which the company will sort out), but the flat here too! The old windows are going next week and new double glazed ones are getting put in! Yay for more energy efficient flats! As I’m leaving next weekend we’ll also be celebrating our 1 year anniversary since we completed the flat purchase! This year has gone by so fast. In fact the last 9 years that I’ve been here in London seem to have just passed by.

When I first moved here I never envisaged that I’d stay this long. Let alone buy a flat and settle down. Now that I have this job it actually feels like an ideal time to move on from London, although I’m sure I’ll return at some point. I can’t see life ever being this flexible in the future (except for in retirement maybe) so why not take the opportunities now. A lot of people have asked about the flat and relationships, but I really don’t see it as an issue. I have a house-mate who is great enough to understand what I want to do, and flexible and wonderful enough to work up solutions with me, so that it’s a win-win for everyone. I have a fiance who is willing to come with me, and change his job because of the chances that I’ve been given. A sacrifice (or not) that I would happily do for him as well.

I always wanted to move around different countries, experience different cultures, and one of my fears is still that I’ll look back in 30 or 40 years time and think that I had the chances to do all that and I didn’t take them. So here’s to 9 great years in London! It’s been a blast, and it’s probably shaped who I am as a person today more than anything else. But also, here’s to welcoming new chapters in life, and new beginnings!

I hate uncertainty

Last week I was prompted by a new piece of information to think deeply about the ever changing life question “what do I want?“. What prompted it will remain undisclosed for now, as I’m sat here five days later, with several feasible answers to the question, and still no actual idea of what will happen. Up until last Wednesday, when this curve ball entered my life, I had planned life as far as going to Thailand in January. I possibly had some vague plan of getting married in spring 2016, and possibly even going on a honeymoon afterwards. But as far as wedding goes, it’s still abstract enough to draw the life plan cut off at February next year.

So two very intense days of emotion and (trying) logic reasoning came and went. I discussed with my parents, and I discussed with the two sets of people who would be immediately impacted by my choices; Dave and Orsi & Sam. I weighed up what felt right in my gut, what I wanted to do, what was logical. I compared what impacts different choices would have on my life one year down the line, two, three and even four years down the line.

My general view on life is that when an opportunity presents itself, you should take it, firmly believing in that it’s the chances you miss that you will end up regretting. And after much reasoning, and logical conclusion, I (we) came to the point where what felt like the right choice probably also is the right choice. And so I made my intentions clear… and here I am almost a week on, none the wiser. Here I am, having now pictured what life might be, and I don’t know if it will be… I HATE uncertainty.

A cryptic post, I know. Maybe I’ll find out “early this week”, maybe later… maybe the chance will pass, and this “could be” scenario will be filed away with the other things that never happened.

Two bad weeks does not a failure make

Oh how well I know myself. A new challenge, a new training plan, a new food plan and most importantly being back in the gym with my work-out buddy and I feel back on track. I got into the office after the gym this morning and felt re-energised, re-vitalised and re-motivated! So what are all these changes? Well…

- I’m taking on one of those 30 day work out challenges, similar to the “always on IG” Squat Challenge, but a full body workout one. This takes no more than 5 minutes a day, and has mixed up my routine a little bit.

- We started a new training plan today which we’re trialing until the end of October when Orsi’s off to Jamaica. This basically consists of the same exercises we’ve been doing up until now, but with a couple of new ones added in and with 3 different days, rather than the two we had.

- For the duration of the 30 day challenge I’m trying to cut down on all the cake I’ve been (secretly) eating. It started off with me contemplating the Whole30 challenge, but on further consideration and advice, I prefer things that are actually doable, and cutting out dairy (cheese!!) was never going to last. No cake is a far more reasonable target and each time that I turn down cake in work (totes still doing treats generally) I will reward myself with £1. So far i have £1, but that’s only because this is day 3, and there’s only been one opportunity to decline cake so far.

A tale of two contrasting months

If July was a good and junk free month with clean living and lots of gymming, then I can assure you that August has seen me undo all those things. I’m slumped and plummeted back into my old habits and the gym progression has plateaued. I’ve still been going, even on holiday, but I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Maybe it’s because Orsi (my training partner) and me have been in different cities or countries for a lot of the month, and going at it alone is just not fun, inspiring or anything that I look forward to. Or maybe it’s because after quite successfully lowering my carb intake in July, I felt that I was entitled to binge a bit at the start of August, and that binge just kept on going…

I’ve been thinking about challenges and things I can do to pick myself back up all week, as I know that working towards a goal normally motivates me. But the logical side of my brain knows that whatever 30 day fad I might try, it’s not going to be sustained for long. So instead, let try the old get back in the saddle strategy. Re-jig the gym plan a bit, structure the meals again and try not to eat cake every day…