Flowing with the Past 4 Seasons of Life

Sunset over a Scottish Lake with Bridge Silhouette

It’s October and the weather is definitely changing here in Scotland. Not that the summer was roasting hot and I’m having to put away my tank tops and shorts (in reality they really didn’t leave my closet more than once or twice), but the darkness is creeping further into the morning and evening. There is that distinct fall chill in the breeze that always is the first inclination of the coloring of leaves, comfy big scarves and of course, the return of my down jacket.

I thought with the cooler summer, I wouldn’t be as excited for autumn as normal. But, as always, that bubble of excitement filled my chest as I thought of the chilly nights, warm soups and crisp bike rides.

I love the seasons. And can’t imagine thriving in a climate where they are missing.

Change is hard and difficult. It’s uncomfortable and scary. Reflecting on this past year in my life reveals one of the most ‘change-filled,’ uncertain ones yet.

I. Argentina – The “Study Abroad”

At the beginning of last year I finished up my biochemistry classes at university in Oregon, packed up a big bag and embarked on one of the most challenging adventures to date – moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I went for a ‘study abroad;’ the reason for quotes being I really only needed one class worth of credits and just wanted to make a home in a new place, try my best to become fluent in a new language and to see what I was capable of. When I arrived to the city I was overwhelmed (check out my initial reaction here!) and unlike many of my fellow study abroad students, I spent my first evening in my host family’s house hiding in my bedroom, crying and calling my mom asking her why the heck I had put myself into this situation. Fast forward 6 months and I could easily converse in Spanish, felt like I could survive in a massive city where I was the minority, had created a loving, close relationship with my host family, made wonderful Argentine girlfriends on the university soccer team and had the wonderful memories, photos and experiences of getting to visit a range of South American countries. However as the time came to leave the city, I was ready. Ready to return to the United States to some real comfort.

II. Colorado & Oregon – The Frantic Search

That brings us to exactly a year ago, living at my parent’s house with Dalton – soaking up every ounce of comfort, speaking english and as much home cooked food as I could. Six months earlier Dalton began the search for his next life adventure – where to go to graduate school for physical therapy. Both of us wanting to keep experiencing new places in the world, a 2 year PT program in Scotland seemed almost too good to be true; especially when we learned that he wouldn’t have to take the GRE, it was a shorter program and cheaper than any in the states. After flying out to Georgia for an interview he found out within hours that he had been accepted the program. Cue the popping of champagne, ecstatic celebrations and then the start of a 6 month long frantic search of how the heck I would be joining him in Scotland.

Those six months were probably some of the most uncertain, stressful and frustrating months of my life. We moved up to Oregon to be with his family for a few months where I worked at a local tap house and as an assistant for a video production office. When I wasn’t working I was frantically searching online for some sort of solution and kept running into dead end after dead end. It was the type of situation where you want to pull your hair out and scream because nobody seems to be listening to you, nobody cares about your situation and unless you can fit into a very specific legal box, then tough luck. Our time spent between Colorado and Oregon was a wonderful time of exploring our home states, spending quality time with family and enjoying the holidays, but there was always this underlying pit in my stomach that wouldn’t go away.

Eventually we booked flights, I submitted a visa application and on the day that Dalton and I were parting to spend Christmas with our own families I found out that I my application had been denied.

When I returned home I searched everything from getting visa into Ireland and then sneakily making my way North to Scotland to attempting to enter with a visitors visa and then just go from there (where I surely would have been denied – google this and read the horror stories). We finally decided on resubmitting our application, making a rebuttal and crossing our fingers. Dalton had come back out to Colorado for a week before our flight to Scotland, knowing that if my visa wasn’t approved 3 days before the flight then I was going have change them and for now, get left behind. Of course, the last possible day I could have gotten approved I received my email – I could go to Scotland.

III. Scotland – Part 1: Settling In

That brings us to Scotland. The first month we spent in an Airbnb, apartment hunting, setting up bank accounts and exploring our new city – Aberdeen. We loved (and still love) the cobbled streets, old granite buildings and the chance to get to live somewhere surrounding by buildings older than our home country. Things slowly fell into place – found a flat we both adore, made great friends in Dalton’s program and started to feel like Scotland was becoming more of our home.

I then began my job search. In my research back in Colorado while looking for a way to Scotland I had stumbled across BrewDog, the biggest craft brewery in the UK. Their company culture seemed fantastic, I love craft beer and they had some job openings in their quality labs. Right when we arrived I submitted an application for an analytical lab tech and then while scrolling through the rest of the job openings I found one for a “Brewery Tour Guide.” Clicking to read the description I was surprised by how much more than a ‘brewery tour guide’ this job was. It included building a brand new tour, running the tour, marketing the tour and essentially turning it into another business for BrewDog. Even though I had already submitted my analytical lab tech position I put in an application for this as well – it seemed to line up with my drive and personality so much more than working in a quality lab.

For months I didn’t hear anything back from BrewDog and eventually got a job at a cafe about a 30 second walk from our flat. A cute, tiny independent cafe with amazing owners and wonderful staff. They were such great people and helped me to create a schedule to where I worked almost 40 hours a week and was able to be off when Dalton was off. We purchased a car and began to explore Scotland on the weekends, folding down the back seats in our VW Polo and car camping. It was wonderful. However as the theme of this past year has been – this comfortable routine only lasted for so long.

IV. Scotland – Part 2: Cafe Contour & BrewDog Interview(s)

Soon after I heard back from BrewDog and began my interview process as an Analytical Lab Tech. The interview went amazing and I was asked to come back for a trial shift. I came in and felt like it went well – although on my way home all I could really focus on was that I was pretty tired and not at all buzzing about how the day had went. It felt as though the routine they did was somewhat monotonous – taking samples of the beer, bringing them up to the lab, testing them with the instrument and putting those numbers into spreadsheets. Exciting because I would be working with delicious beer and helping to ensure the quality of that beer – but at the end of the day something kind of similar to working in the lab at university. However obviously I would take the job if offered. How could I ask for a better position where I could actually utilize skills, hard work and time I had put into university. All of my friends from college were starting medical school, graduate school or working in labs while I was off in Argentina. At this point my ego was starting to get a little bruised every time I had to tell someone that I had went to school for biochemistry, but was working in coffee shop.

A week later they called and as soon as I answered the phone I knew something wasn’t quite right – I didn’t get the job. They said I was under qualified. My head started spinning and thoughts were rushing through at a million miles an hour – if I was under qualified why did you take me in for a trial shift? What did I do on the trial shift that made you not want me? What skills do I not have, that you couldn’t easily teach me, that would make me a bad fit for this job? I felt as though the excuse was a cop-out and the real reason must have had something to do with me, personally.

It was the sinking feeling of not even being sure if this job would be personally fulfilling enough for me and then to find out that I wasn’t big enough to fulfill the job for them. My ego was absolutely crushed.

While I was sinking into a small state of depression they said that they did see my application for the Brewery Tour Guide job and were interested and wondering if I could start interviewing for that next week. I meekly agreed and hung up the phone.

The next few days I was in and out of major self-doubt and really the last thing I wanted to do was get back on the horse and start interviewing with the same company that had just bluntly rejected me at something I felt competent and qualified for.

My phone interview for the brewery tour guide position went well and it finished with the next step being an interview with another person the following week. It’s too many steps to go into much detail but essentially over the next 3 months I had two phone interviews, created a presentation about my goals for the tour and eventually came up to the brewery to give some of the higher-ups my actual tour. It was so bizarre. How could I be excelling and moving forward in this position (where I have no prior experience in tour guiding, managing, building a business or marketing) and be under qualified for working as an analytical lab tech. However every time I moved an inch forward I would just try my best so when I looked back I could at least say I gave it my all.

By the time I had given my in person tour of the facility I was pretty much over giving much of a care as to whether or not I got the position – mind you I had applied for the job 6 months earlier and had already received a pretty devastating rejection from them 4 months earlier. My cafe job was content, comfortable and I did feel like I was appreciated and making some small differences there. I then found out I was offered the position. After quite a bit of negotiation and the request for at least a few weeks of notice to the cafe I began the next (and current) transition of life.

V. Scotland – Part 3: Working Girl

And this brings us to date. I’ve now been running and managing tours at BrewDog for 3 months. I’ve officially finished my probationary period (woo!) and am happy at the progress I’ve made thus far. However something that nobody prepares you for in university is working life. As young adults we make this transition from university where we are paying to be there and the expectations set on us are to learn and to showcase our knowledge through exams. You get weekends, spring and summer breaks and outside of class you are entirely responsible for managing your own workload. I may be a bit of a nerd, but I’m all too happy to admit that I thrived in this environment. I loved learning and the fulfillment I felt when crushing an exam. I loved having my professors as my built in mentors and riding on the collective struggle that my small group of classmates and I faced every day. However this work thing is different. And I’m still trying to figure it out. Something I am definitely going to dive deep into exploring with words in the near future.

However this post is quite lengthy and somehow my idea of a short reminisce about seasons and change evolved into over 2000 words about how much change my life has encompassed in the past year. I’ve already written and recorded the different pieces in detail, however for some reason recapping over everything just seemed to call to me this morning. I think sometimes it’s good to look back on some of the biggest struggles, biggest blows to our ego to remember how hard we’ve worked to get to where we are today. Yes, my job is hard. Yes, my current struggle is figuring out this whole working life. But I look back on how much I’ve accomplished, learned and awkwardly struggled through during this past year and a half and can’t help but to be proud. I’ve worked so hard to be sitting at the desk, typing these words, living as a (legal) citizen in Scotland and working at a pretty incredible company like BrewDog, doing something that (although is sometimes exhausting and monotonous) is overall quite interesting and helping me to learn so much.

So I guess this is my ‘quick’ recap of the change, struggle and excitement that comes with the reminiscing of the change of the seasons. However I am so eager and excited to see what big changes are coming up and how much I’ll learn and grow from them as well.

Here’s to another change and embrace of the new fall season.


p.s. If you happen to be wrestling with any of the topics that I talked about above – visa processes (specifically between the US & UK), living in a foreign country where you are somewhat an outsider and aren’t speaking your native language, going through interview processes as new graduate or are trying to understand and find fulfillment in this transition from university to work – please reach out to me. I would love to trade advice or share empathy. It’s always wonderful finding people who can relate to the trials on your current path.

2017-01-05T12:56:38+00:00 October 6th, 2016|Advice, Life, Travel|4 Comments

About the Author:


  1. Lou Kimball October 6, 2016 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Fun read Syd. Love you G.

    • sydpaulsen October 12, 2016 at 7:12 am - Reply

      Thanks for reading! Love you G! Can’t wait to see you in December 🙂

  2. Eric Paulsen October 7, 2016 at 4:20 am - Reply

    I love it Syd! Really interesting and cool. U really opened yourself up! Love U Dad

  3. Kim October 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Really a great adventure with such honest and not always easy experiences…we all go through these types of things (maybe not so far from home 😳) as we navigate this thing called life. You are a wonderful writer and open up your life for others to see and learn from so beautifully. Love this post!

Leave A Comment