While on this trip, it took me some time before I felt comfortable interviewing people about their own lives rather than about abstract subjects. I must say I enjoy I have come to enjoy doing these interviews, not in the least because it takes less effort to understand one person than to understand an entire society. Today`s one-(wo)man interview is about the life of Danish Camilla who is 30 years old and works in an afterschool institution that takes care of children with brain damage. This is a short synopsis of her life so far:
`I was born in Denmark`s biggest hospital, two months ahead of schedule. My mum still jokes that I was very eager to get out. I have one brother, two years older, and one sister, 9 years younger. We all grew up in a small city outside Copenhagen. Life was simple at the time: no mobile phones, no internet, one TV channel and no hassle.
`I have a talent for collecting things`
If I think back of my childhood, I remember that everything was covered in snow during winter, and it was always warm in summer. I remember the strawberries in the garden and lots of other pretty things. Inside the house, I played with Barbies, Lego and Playmobil. Outside the house, we had a lot of different games involving tennis balls. We lived closed to a small forest, where my friends and I used to build huts in trees. My brother and I played Indians and we pretended that my leg was broken.
It can`t all have been as perfect as I see it now, but that doesn`t keep me from remembering my childhood as a very happy time. The main annoyance was the fact that my younger sister was allowed to do everything that me and my brother could not get away with when we were her age.`
School and studies
`I enjoyed going to school and up until I got halfway my teenage years, I think I was quite a bright pupil. I was eager to learn, I drew a lot and liked painting. I was also good friends with the teachers. Then in the second half of my teenage years, things got a bit turbulent. I don`t exactly know why. I was shy and I didn`t like my teachers anymore. My mum says I was crying a lot in that time. I think I couldn`t keep up with so much pressure and so many new expressions. I was said to change my hair colour at the same speed other people changed underwear, which for a while was actually true. Then after the end of high school, things settled down again.`
`Denmark has compulsory army service for boys, but there are many more candidates than there are placemements. Only the unfortunate ones end up being conscripted. Everybody else is quite free to decide what to do after high school. Those who plan to go to university usually take a year off to get some life experience: getting a job, doing some travelling, taking some courses... It`s not compulsory, but it`s good to do something practical before taking in a lot of theoretical material. I think that many people who do not take the gap year turn into more na?ve students, who find it more difficult to apply abstract learning material to practical situations. They finish earlier, but they often have less `luggage` when it comes to dealing with the challenges of life. Or in dealing with others.`
`My choice for the gap year was to work as a housekeeper for people who had subscribed with a centralized housekeeping service. I worked for six months and used the money to pay for the next half year which I spent in boarding school. Then I spent half a year working in a kindergarten to save up for half a year of studying at an art school in London. When I came back from the UK, I took up studies in textile design, followed by a bachelor that prepared me to become a `social educator`.
`During the years of studying-working-studying, I lived with my parents every now and then, but I eventually ended up finding a place for myself. Like most Danish people do, because neither children nor parents are too eager to share their living space with each other for much longer than functionally necessary. Me too, I wanted to live on my own and make my own decisions. It`s not like Danes don`t care about their family members, but relations are not as close as they are in other countries. I have close connections with my parents, brother and sister, but there are also people in my family to whom I hardly ever speak. I felt bad about that when I was younger. Now, I`m fine with it. I don`t even talk that much to my parents. Once a week is enough. The last time I saw them was a month ago. They live about an hour away from here. Not really far, but we all have our own lives and things to take care of.`
`Me, and many Danes like me, take the same kind of distance in social life. I don`t like people who come too close, are too friendly, interfere with my personal space or somehow make me feel like I owe them something. I get particularly irritated when people are full of themselves, especially when they think they are funny. Also when they lack the knowledge or vision to do whatever they`re supposed to do because of the job they have. Danish systems work on the base of merit. You get a certain job because you qualify for it and you are expected to be able to fulfill that job in a proper way. Friendships are valued, but they don`t make you qualify for jobs. Once again, independence is required.`
`Living independently also means making your own money. Many Danish students combine work and studies. During my second studies, I worked at an institution for handicapped people, which I found quite demanding. After this job, I switched to the one I have now, the afterschool care for children with brain damage. I find working with children much more rewarding. Children are easier to handle than adults, and instead of mostly absorbing energy, they also give a lot in return. It can be frustrating to see their limitations, but they are usually more positive about them than adults would be in the same position.`
`Even though I enjoy complaining, I do take a lot of satisfaction from my job. I sometimes wish I could spend more time on my creative side, but I think I integrated that quite well in the job I have now. I don`t think that a job should be something purely professional. I try to combine it with my personal ambitions and fit it in with my character. I am good at coming up with ideas. I am creative and can enchant people with my ideas. Unfortunately, I usually need something or somebody else to really make me execute my ideas. My talent mostly relates to collecting ideas. Or collecting any kind of stuff, for that matter. I have this concept for a children`s book for example. It`s pretty complete: with a storyline, characters and all that. I just haven`t made the book yet, but I am convinced that it will happen one day.`
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