The wave

When I was younger, I anticipated and hoped for something more. I wasn’t sure what that something would be, but I could sense it somehow. It was there, right behind the horizon, and I had to find it. Then, like an ocean wave that has travelled the ocean to reach me, it would hit me and shake me and immerse me, and everything would be different. The ugliness and the pain that had been so heavy to carry would suddenly become light, so light that it would fly away at the first gust of wind.

Whatever it was, the notion would become more tangible during the sleepless, ever-bright summer nights we get here in Sweden. When drunk. When thinking of whoever I was in love with.

At some point the idea faded. It started to wither away when I had lived long enough to realize that everything wouldn’t be different the next year, the next country, the next job. But now, when I look back, I realize things really are different. There just wasn’t ever a powerful wave. It was a slow tide coming in through the fog.

The magic of the unknown

After some months of abstinence I’ve gone back to Skyrim. The extra content in Hearthfire and Dragonborn pulled me back, and I realized there are still quite a few things for me to discover amidst the original game’s snow, ice and dragons. The world threatening conflict of Dragonborn adds a bit of much needed energy to the old world, so I’ll probably not finish that quest line quite just yet. You see, once I finished Skyrim’s main quest the last of the tension, the life, the sense that anything could happen, poured out of the setting and it became a less interesting space to be in. Dragonborn mends that a little bit, but only a little.

It wasn’t just finishing the main quest – it was the 90+ hours I had sunk into Skyrim. After so many hours I knew that everything I would do, everything I would encounter, would be variations on a theme. I’ve realized that if I’m to be immersed in Bethesda’s game there needs to be something unknown waiting on the other side of the next mountain. If the world is to feel alive, there needs to be systems I still don’t know, like hidden treasures of potential that could allow me to interact with the world and its inhabitants in new, deeper ways. If that potential would ever deliver was of less importance than the potential itself.

I can’t help but to do draw parallels to life itself. When I was younger life used to feel like an ocean full of unturned stones. But then I grew up and realized that while there were still plenty of stones to turn, I had already seen all kinds of rock – and every stone I’d flip in the future would end up being one of those. I know the mechanics of a life now. Life, death, work, love, family, promotions, redundancies, achievement, failure, disappointment, pride, oceans, mountains, cities, stars and empty space. Tomorrow won’t surprise me, and neither will the next decade.

Perhaps the dreariness this results in is a big reason for why people believe in not only gods, but UFO landings, life after death, magic, conspiracy theories and everything else that spells “faith”. Anything at all that promise an unknown country hiding somewhere beyond the horizon. Something that whispers “there is more” into your ear when the earth beneath your feet is about to give way.

Hope. I used to dislike the concept, but I get it now. We all thirst for it. A vague, shimmering shape in the distance. The magic of the unknown. Some people pursuit it in religion. Perhaps a group of us faithless seek it in game worlds, as some sort of substitute. Did Skyrim show me some of the magic I no longer see in the real world?

Adventures in Asunderland

I was at a crossroads. The path ahead split into three, two leading into unexplored terrain and one returning to where I came from. Without an idea where to go, all I knew was that I desired change. None of the unwalked paths seemed worthy traversing, but my lust for something new pushed me ahead nonetheless.

After almost 8 years, it was time to leave Norway.

There were more reasons than just an urge for new horizons. I had considered moving on from Norway for years, and suddenly there were several factors in life suggesting that now was the time to make the big leap.

The options?

France, in a small but beautiful city with a international studio. A good project, but not the role or the place for me.

Bulgaria, in the capital (Sofia) with another international studio. An interesting project, but this time the role was also appealing. But the city proved, after an onsite interview, to be terrible.

Neither option was the life I wanted. Far from it. Still, they were opportunities, and a change was necessary. Or so I thought.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, my intuition screamed “no”. But I would have none of that. I tried to analyze the different offers, engaging my intellect to find the optimal decision, in a constant dialog with myself. But I was still at a loss.

Alice, lost in adventures much more wonderous than the ones I ultimately had, sought guidance from the grinning Cheshire Cat.

`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
`–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.’

And so I simply chose one of the paths, ending up in Sofia.

Sofia. The forgotten capital of Europe. Poor, ugly, broken and corrupt – and here I intended to live.

The city is Eastern Europe at its worst. The communist era apartment complexes litter the city as tombs of crumbling concrete, polluting even otherwise nice areas with their towering desperation. The retired begs for your “leva”, much to poor to survive on their tiny pensions. Packs of wild dogs, with or without rabies, scavenges the dirty streets for food and shelter.

I stayed just short of a month. It would have been difficult for me to be happy there, despite the kind nature of the Bulgarian people and the good food. The wealth a western salary provides in Bulgaria doesn’t matter – in Sofia everyone is poor, because whenever you step outside your luxurius home you’re still in Sofia. Returning to Oslo became the only sane option, and this time my choice felt right.

Steve Jobs, in an inspiring speech given to graduate students at Standford University, delivered the following memorable quote:

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

A simple idea, yet so difficult to internalize. But it’s true, it’s powerful and it’s important to understand. Sheath your intellect, if only for a moment, and listen to your instinct. Then you will know what path is yours, even if the destination still eludes you.

Perhaps my little adventure in Sofia will become meaningful when observed in the mirror years from now. By then I have hopefully learned to trust my intuition.