According to Julie


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Moselle: A backpack that fits my life

Moselle backpack from Côte et CielI do not travel light. Leaving the house without water, an umbrella, sunglasses and an extra sweater makes me feel unprepared and vulnerable. My wallet is usually stuffed with receipts, coffee shop loyalty cards and really random mementos (never cash though). I never know when I might need dance shoes. And although I chose my own laptop because it was lightweight, Burson-Marsteller did not take this into consideration when they chose my work computer.

So I tend to lug a lot of stuff around back and forth between the office, dance class and home. Several well-meaning adults have told me I should trade my shoulder-bags and briefcases for a backpack. But backpacks make me feel like a tourist, or a little girl on her way to school or someone who thinks they’re going hiking when really they’re just taking the tram to the office. I see those people every day, with their water-proof jackets and sensible shoes, dressing like their children. We call them “allværsjakker” in Norwegian, those unnaturally colorful, weatherproof tents that some people just wear with everything – and wearing a big backpack feels like a few steps away from joining the allværsjakke-enthusiasts.

I’ve blogged in Norwegian about the allværsjakke style rules

Call me a vain, superficial person, and I will respond that I actually need to look like an adult when I’m so often the youngest person in a meeting. And feeling like an adult on my way to the meeting helps.

Enter Moselle, the backpack my dad got me for Christmas last year, and which I still take to work every day. It is to a standard backpack what my white trench coat is to other people’s “allværsjakker” – the fancy, professional, feminine, French version.

Côte&Ciel / Moselle Backpack / Paris from Côte&Ciel on Vimeo.

This is what I love about it:

– It has room for a laptop (in an inner pocket designed for 11” to 13” computers), my dance shoes, and all the other things I think I might need during the day

– It doesn’t make me look like a hiker or a tourist – although the jury is still out on whether I look like a little girl going to school

– It’s lightweight, small and fits close to my back, so I can turn around on public transportation without hitting someone in the face. Just look at how flat it is when it’s empty:

backpack_moselle_grid_side_final2

– The color goes with everything I own

– The zipper is positioned to be slightly more of a challenge for pick-pockets, compared to most backpacks

– After spraying it with the same protection spray I use on my shoes, it has stayed water-proof for the past seven months – although I plan on respraying after this week’s downpour.

– My dad was really excited about giving it to me, so I think he put a lot of thought into it, and it’s feels good to really, really appreciate a gift

One drawback so far: the zipper is a bit weak.

Moselle is from the French company Côte et Ciel. They make other backpacks and bags that look nice too. They didn’t pay me to write this, and they have no idea I am doing so. I just want to spread the word about something I like – and answer the “Where did you get that?” question once and for all.

I won’t be offended if we match, but you could always get the black version.

Related post: Dressed for anything

Update: Well Dressed Dad appreciates stylish backpacks as well and has plenty of recommendations on his blog. One post mentions Côte et Ciel and includes a photo of the boring backpack look.

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We should all just go to sleep

Around 3:30 AM on a Sman sleeping at desk with giant cup of black coffeeunday night, I was sitting in a hotel room in Poland, winding down after dancing, reading an article that was telling me I should have left the dance floor hours ago. In the Danish newspaper Berlingske, Chris Macdonald’s article Den store løgn om søvn (The great lie about sleep) listed the effects of sleep deprivation: weak immune system, over-dependence on caffeine, high blood pressure, weight gain, and unhappiness. “The brain and pretty much all of the body’s biological processes suffer when you are sleep-deprived.”*

I was reading this at the worst possible time, towards the end of a long weekend of dancing all night and then dancing all day. But it was the conclusion that really stuck with me:

It took us a long time to start taking the dangers of cigarettes seriously. The same thing is happening with sleep today.*

I’m not the only one who is tired all the time. No one sleeps enough, and no one is taking it seriously.

Some of my co-workers seem to work around the clock. My parents don’t have any pattern to their sleep habits at all, as far as I can tell. And then there are my dance friends. Our lifestyle just doesn’t allow for sleep.

One of the big threats to my sleep is West Coast Swing. At West Coast Swing weekend events, people complain if the evening dance parties end before breakfast is served. You’re supposed to attend workshops during the day, compete in the afternoon, dance and party from evening until breakfast, then take a nap before your next workshop.  If I want to leave the dance floor “early” (like I had left at 3 that Sunday night), or nap instead of taking a dance class, I hear “You can sleep when you’re dead.” or “You’re here to dance, not sleep.” But I can’t enter a voluntary coma when I return from dance weekends, so I have to sleep at some point during the weekend.

Back in Oslo, it’s hard to consistently go to bed early when I’m teaching or practicing until ten pm three times a week. And I tend to feel more alert in the evening, which makes my sleep schedule look a lot like this:

Sleep schedule - tired all day, waking up at night

My combination of consulting work and late night dancing is pretty much a recipe for sleep deprivation. But I’ve certainly experienced worse – when I combined late-night dancing and starting work at 6AM.

The thing is, it’s not just me. There is this widespread idea that rest is for the weak. Rich people now have less leisure time than poor people. Although that statistic is made up of a lot of different factors (including involuntary under-employment), one important reason is that the most high-status, highly paid jobs are considered more interesting than free time. Even when we are not paid overtime, we would rather work too much than not work enough. Leisure is associated with boredom and uselessness.

But we need to appear boring and useless from the outside in order to let our bodies be productive on the inside.

So last week, when I found myself sitting in a circle of teenagers,talking about our current life goals (long story), I listed one of my own goals as “getting more sleep”. And although the teenagers probably thought I was joking, I consider that casual statement – and this post – as my official commitment to getting more sleep. Just because I can function on six hours a night, doesn’t mean I should. I  deserve to be more alert, creative and happy, and less dark under my eyes.

I am going to follow the advice of this t-shirt:

T-shirt with writing "I have so much to do that I'm going to bed"

In case I need any more motivation to just go to bed, I will reread this horrifying Huffington Post story.

*My translation from the original Danish.

Image sources: Gadgetsin.com (apparently you can buy that giant coffee mug), The Meta Picture, Skreened (you can buy the t-shirt too).


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Why I stopped competing in dance competitions

practice performThis winter, I went to an international West Coast Swing event and sat out the dance competitions instead of joining in. This probably doesn’t sound shocking to my non-dancing readers, but pretty much everyone I talked to that weekend wanted to know why I wasn’t competing.

I struggled to put it into words at the time, but I know that weekend was one of the most fun, relaxing and educational weekends I have spent dancing so far. I watched my friends on the competition floor, and felt that choosing to opt out of this one part of West Coast Swing – at least for a while – was a good choice for me.

I’ve never been motivated by competition. (So gamification doesn’t work on me, but that’s a subject for a different blog post). I had no intention of competing in West Coast Swing until one of my dance teachers gave me a good argument for doing so: You should start competing early, so that by the time you stand a chance of winning, you’ll be used to competing.

So I entered some competitions, won nothing obviously, and focused most of my attention on workshops, social dancing and rooting for my more advanced dance friends in the finals. My weekly classes and social dances were relaxing highlights of my otherwise fairly stress-filled grad student life, and I was in awe of many of my more experienced fellow dancers in London.

Then I moved to Norway, which automatically bumped me up from beginner+ to one of the more experienced West Coast Swing dancers in a country where the WCS scene was just getting started.

shut up and danceAnd at some point I started dancing like it was my job. Not just because teaching dance literally was my part-time job, but because West Coast Swing became the activity I spent the majority of my energy on, physically and emotionally. West Coast Swing had more control over my emotions than my actual full-time career did. Dancing could make me feel elated or dismal, and sometimes both within 24 hours.

I knew that dancing was becoming a source of increasing stress, but taking a break didn’t feel like an option. Constantly improving was one of the best things about dancing, and besides, it was still fun. But sometimes it was also exhausting, distressing and discouraging.

I competed a few more times, and counted it as a personal victory that I felt less nervous every time. But I also felt that my competition dances were my worst dances, my most inhibited, hyper-aware moments. I started thinking “To do well, I need to dance well when I am at my worst: when I am sleep-deprived, jumpy and anxious.”

Then I realized that was kind of an insane approach to a supposedly fun activity.

So I have made a conscious choice to only dance for fun. If it is ever not fun, I just don’t dance. If I feel tired and not into it when I arrive at a social dance, I just go home. I keep teaching because it is fun and inspiring – more so now that I am more relaxed overall. I keep attending so-called “competition training”, but I consistently call these gatherings “Thursday practice” and if I’m not in the mood, I don’t show up.

Now I’m not saying that trying hard is a bad thing –  “fun” doesn’t mean “easy”. Proper technique gives you the tools for having fun, so I do not want to encourage anyone – especially not my students – to have a “whatever” approach to technique and practice. I am also personally motivated by learning and improving (I’m a nerd, remember?), so practicing in itself is fun to me. But I practice to have more magical moments on the social dance floor, not to win anything. I try to always remember that I started dancing to have fun.

And unlike some dancers who always push themselves through the hard, stressful, painful parts of dancing, dancing is not my main goal in life. Dancing is my wonderful escape from the stressful side effects of what my main goals in life actually are. And I need to keep it that way.

Now enjoy some crazy social West Coast Swing:

Related post: Think about why you started

Image sources are unknown, but I found them through Pinterest, where I have a dance-themed board.


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How to REALLY live in a small space

Tips for “living in small spaces” and “furnishing tiny apartments” are all over my Pinterest. Sometimes these articles give you legitimately good tips for living in cramped quarters, like this one about a couple living in a 240 square foot apartment (that’s 22 square meters!) But I’ve found a lot of bloggers and journalists whose definition of small is very different from mine. Case in point: Apartment Therapy’s small spaces can be 850 square feet! That is not small.

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I lived behind these bushes, in a 107 square foot (10 square meters) apartment in a basement in Paris back in 2008, and it was fine. Here’s advice for how to make it work:

Paris 2008 0461. Your space is three-dimensional.
Ceiling height matters, especially when square footage is low. Of course, this is kind of hard to change in your current small space, but it’s worth taking into account when you’re looking for a place to rent or buy. My Paris place had a high ceiling, which gave me more opportunity for storage, more light coming in through my window and more air. Use your vertical space.

2. Hang mirrors
Most of one wall of my tiny space was covered in mirrors, reflecting light and making the space feel bigger.

3. Make your furniture multi-task
I had a chest of drawers under the window, where the bottom drawers had clothing, and the upper drawers had kitchen supplies. I used the top as a kitchen counter. My table was also my nightstand. And of course, my bed was a sofa during the day.

4. There should be space under your bed.
If you can’t put anything under your bed, that bed is a stupid furniture choice for a small apartment. Under my bed, I stored a vacuum cleaner and two suitcases – one filled with the off-season clothes I wasn’t currently using, one filled with dirty clothes waiting to be taken to the laundromat.

5. Make conscious choices about what you need.
My partially furnished basement came with a television, but I gave it back to my landlady in exchange for a microwave. There is no room for excess stuff if you live in a closet.

6. Stick to a color scheme.
In one-room apartments, you will see all your stuff at once. An eclectic, artfully mismatched style will just look like clutter. So I took down the orange and green striped curtains that came with the place, chose one color – a denim-like blue – and made sure everything else I could see was neutral.

Paris 2008 047

7. Keep your space clean and tidy.
Drop one sweater on the floor and the entire place looks like a mess. Everything has a place and everything should be in it’s place. That means making storage options a priority.

8. Location matters.
The smaller the home, the more important the location. I made good use of the park across the street (Les Invalides) and all my local cafés. Living in a smaller space means you might end up spending more money on socializing at bars and restaurants rather than entertaining at home. But it also makes it easier to get up and do stuff on days off – like taking long walks. Spending a lazy Sunday in ten square meters just isn’t that appealing.

Paris 2008 049My first two weeks in Paris, I bought the following truly useful things:

Pretty storage boxes –I filled these with underwear and displayed them on shelves high up on my high ceiling, so that I could free up drawers for kitchen supplies

A big, sturdy, fairly dark-colored blanket that covered my bed – tossing this onto my bed every morning made me feel ok with people sitting on it in jeans while eating pastries.

Coffee cups and a big plate that matched the color of this blanket – making open shelving in the kitchen look less cluttered and more like a deliberate style choice.

I desperately missed having a full-sized kitchen, but other than that, I am surprised at how easily I adjusted to living in a walk-in closet. When I eventually moved back to 46 square meters in Oslo, it felt like living in a palace.

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Check out my interior design board on Pinterest


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The real status update about millennials

Matt Bors’ reaction to trend pieces about my generation is funny and true: We’re not lazy. We don’t mean to delay adulthood – it’s just that adulthood has changed. Post-college life is less stable – financially and socially. And our moms are at least as distracted by social media as we are.

I especially liked the part of the comic I’ve copied in below, but please check out the full comic here.

Milennials

Related posts about being a millennial:


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I guess I’m a social media expert

vintage social media

I am reluctantly accepting my fate as a social media expert.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to call myself a guru in my Twitter bio or anything, but I’ve stopped rolling my eyes when people introduce me as their expert source on Facebook or Instagram (“Have you seen my Instagram?” I shudder, but I keep it to myself). At first, being introduced as a social media expert made me feel like my boss had just said:

“This is Julie. She likes wearing clothes in her spare time, so we made her our stylist.”

Then I realized that I have actually gained some experience over the past decade or so, even if my Masters degree is in Economic History, not Digital Future.

Or to continue the metaphor, most people are more naked than I thought.

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Come back soon! I’m writing.

I’ve been spending some time drinking from this cup lately. My job sometimes involves writing about how I think other people should use the internet. And since that’s also what I do on this blog, I often find myself coming home from work and wanting to dance, watch television or even jog (!) rather than write anything.

But things will calm down soon, and then I can tell you how simultaneously ridiculous and perfect it is that I work as a “social media expert”. And also how I did in fact learn to enjoy jogging. 

In the meantime, enjoy one of these blasts from the past:

Or just read Middlesex, because it’s a great book.