Meet the HR specialist who found a way back to her creative passions at The Park.
2021 was a year of big decisions and even bigger changes for Garance Coggins. The pandemic had brought new possibilities for flexibility in the workplace and remote working became the norm for many. At the french start-up OCUS, where Garance works as an HR and internal communications specialist, her coworkers started moving out to the countryside to find a new balance between their work and homelife. For Garance, it meant that her dream of moving abroad was suddenly, and finally, within reach.
She describes making the decision to move quickly. Something had just slotted into place in her mind– this was the time. So less than a year ago, she packed up her things and moved to Stockholm to start a new, exciting chapter in her life. But as with any journey, it’s had its ups and downs. Being the kind of person who’s very invested in office life and who really enjoys seeing her coworkers every day, jumping to only seeing them during zoom meetings, while alone in a foreign city, was a big adjustment.
“Bad days are real,” Garance says, “The transition between basically very close relationships with colleagues and friends to the time when you start building your network here… In that transition time, you have days where you feel ‘Hmm, is this gonna work out?’ because you do feel a bit on your own.”
But then, last summer, Garance found a place where she could have those connections she’d been missing again.
“The Park has been really, really key,” she says. “There is this community feeling, if you invest in being here regularly, and I’ve met with so many super nice entrepreneurial spirits, creative spirits– I’m really grateful for the people I’ve met here. The Park was one of the first main blocks I found in crafting my new life in Stockholm.”
Coworking has helped her find a new structure to her days in a way that suits her much better than she could at a standard corporate office, giving her time to focus on life outside of work. It has also had an impact on how she works. Spending most of her time around people who are coworkers, but not colleagues, has changed how the day flows. Coffee breaks are no longer an extension of meetings, and when the topic of conversation during lunch does become work related, they come with the fresh perspective and problem solving of an outsider.
The Park was one of the first main blocks I found in crafting my new life in Stockholm.
However, one of the greatest effects of this newfound balance is that it has enabled Garance to return to a lifelong passion.
“I’ve always felt there was something absolutely magic about having a white sheet of paper at the beginning of a drawing session. And at the end you have something new.”
Drawing was something she fell in love with as a child, having done it daily growing up. Though as she grew up, life got in the way, and she found herself finding less and less time and motivation to pull her sketchbook. Moving to Stockholm, however, became something of a reboot. She started going to casual ‘Drink and Draw’ meetups and ‘Sketch and Fika’ events, low pressure environments where she could connect with other artists on her own terms.
“I remember vividly going to the first one. It was in the basement of an Espresso House and I remember arriving there and feeling immediately comfortable. It’s this mix of just– get your sketchbook out, sketch and be in your own bubble if you want, or you can yourself be social and have a discussion with everyone and get interested in what everyone else is doing.”
By New Year’s Eve, Garance decided to make herself a promise to make sure she stayed reconnected to this creative part of her– Not a day without a line. Every day from January 1st, she’d take out her sketchbook and a pen, and draw at least one line. A low threshold goal that turned out golden, because once she’d gone through the effort of getting the sketchbook out, she always thought, “Seriously, you can do more.” And more she did.
Since then, she’s been drawing every day, something she hasn’t done since childhood. Soon, she had more drawings than she knew what to do with. Luckily, during lunch with a fellow The Park member, Susanne, while discussing what Garance should put her energy into in the coming months, an idea came to them.
“At some point [Susanne] exclaimed– ‘But you should do a drawing exhibition here at The Park!’ And I was like, ‘Huh. Yeah, that’s– that’s an idea… That’s a cool idea. Maybe you’re right.’ And she went ‘Let’s do it now!’”
A short conversation with one of The Park’s mood managers, Tilda, later, and the ball was rolling. That was only a couple of weeks ago. Now, the exhibition Not A Day Without A Line hangs in Walk In The Park on the 4th floor at The Park Södra, where it will stay until June 20th. It’s the first time that Garance shows her work like this in 11 years, and she’s happy that she can do it somewhere where she’s found so much support.
“I’m happy to share it, basically, with the people with whom I feel comfortable sharing that with, in a way.”
Looking back at her move to Stockholm and how things have changed since, Garance reflects on how she found the courage to finally do it. “I remember thinking ‘better to make a decision and move, and then adjust paths, than staying stuck in some circumstance that you’re not completely comfortable with. That is not fulfilling you in some ways. And even if it turns out it’s not everything you hope it will be– well, at least you’ll be in the movement. It’s easier to adjust your path when you’re moving, and better to make decisions and own them. Really know that they’re your decisions and then learn from them, or move and make a new one.’”
Her main blocking point before then had been fear. Fear of moving all the aspects of her life somewhere new and unfamiliar. But after coming to the conclusion that growth was more important than the security of the familiar, she took a leap of faith. “It turned out to be an approach that helped me, you know, realize that you’re not powerless in your life’s circumstances. It’s just scary. And you can feel the discomfort and still do it.”
And how does she feel about her decision now?
“When all of it starts flowing into place and you’re looking back like… Wow, that was worth it.”
The drawing exhibition Not A Day Without A Line at The Park Södra is available to view during the Service Desk opening hours 2-20 June. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Garance Coggins directly for more information.