Friday, July 30, 2010

Three Swedish Years and Lessons Learned

I struggled to write this post. Usually when I can’t think of anything to write, I just don’t. It’s easier that way. But I feel like this one needed to be written. It should be reflective and thoughtful. Maybe it should bring a tear to your eye. Or to mine. But mostly it was hastily written and became more of a stream of consciousness post. Which is funny, because I hate that style of writing, once mocking it in an essay in high school after having read As I Lay Dying. But so it goes.

I’m back in the US now. And I’m scared shitless. There isn’t a part of me that isn’t scared. I’m horribly nervous. All of me. And those two feelings are pretty overpowering right about now.

I was in Sweden for over three years. My first year was pretty miserable mixed with a whole lot of good. But hardly a day went by that I didn’t want to leave. Couldn’t figure out why I was there. Couldn’t figure out why I was putting so many relationships into that situation. Then it got worse. For a lot of reasons. Many of them my own doing. Many of them still my own doing.

I ran home to my mamma and pappa. That’s what they are there for I think. And I moped around Greeley for six weeks. Miserably moped. And they put up with me because somewhere in my birth certificate it says that they have to. And when it came time to leave, I damn near lost it when my ticket said I had to fly back to an empty apartment in a crappy part of the Stockholm suburbs with no job and few friends. It wouldn’t have been the first time I lost it in that first year. Life was not good. In my own privileged world. Which is unfortunate, because despite bitching and moaning quite a bit, despite being a grass is always greener kind of person, it is very seldom that life isn’t good for me.

But then I managed to scrape together a life in Stockholm. It took a while, but it happened. I made friends. Suddenly, I didn’t spend entire weekends at home watching Friday Night Lights. I found a job I enjoyed. And that paid me when I was supposed to be paid. I found that I was more than capable of being an adult. Except for trying to cook for myself. It was a strange revelation. But one that I suppose was necessary. I have moments when I still struggle being an adult. It’s an exhausting process.

Stranger still was that once I made the realization that I had a life in Sweden. That I had friends. That I had a responsible, good paying job. That I was half an adult. Well, I decided to run away and move back to the US. I decided that the job I liked wasn’t something that I was going to like years from now. I decided that despite having a life in Sweden, I didn’t want to spend my life in Sweden. I decided I had people I cared about more than I sometimes admit here in the US.

All those questions I had that first year, were answered really by the third. I moved to test myself. To be horribly selfish and do things on my own. But I couldn’t quite let go of home, in more ways than one. And that’s what I learned by year three. That I didn’t need to. That I didn’t want to. That I shouldn’t have to. I learned what I might want to do for the rest of my life, and I learned what I definitely don’t want to do for the rest of my life. I learned enough to know that it was time to leave. And some things are worth moving for. And so I did.

And now I’m struggling again with trying to acclimate. Trying to realize that this isn’t just a run home to mamma and pappa. That this is more permanent. That I have chosen a new career path that has so very little to do with what I have done in the past. That I may end up being in my 30s with experience and education that no one cares about and find myself horribly unemployed. This has resulted in me walking around with a knot in my stomach and eating and drinking enough yogurt to have cultivated a burgeoning civilization in my gut.

So in just a few weeks, I’ll be migrating east. East of Greeley, Colorado to the great Midwest. And by great I mean expansive, not necessarily better than good. And so I will find myself in what can best be described as Scandinavian America. But that doesn’t have much of a ring to it, so instead in an ethnocentric sort of way I will be a Swedish American in Swedish-America.

Welcome to the US. And a Swedish American moving to Swedish-America.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Adventures in Middle America

I have a blister on my hand from the steering wheel. My right ass cheek is still numb. My elbow is angry and my back is screaming. This is the result of driving about 2500 miles over the course of four days. That’s over 4000 kilometers.

I had never driven east of McCook, Nebraska until Sunday. In fact, I’ve been to more countries than I have states. I don’t really spend much time east of the Rocky Mountain states. It’s safer that way. The mountains make me happy and for some reason calm me down. Which I’ve needed a lot of lately. So driving east into a bunch of flat nothingness kind of stressed me out.

But away I went. I had things to do and people to see. 2500 miles later I have realized just how Scandinavian Middle America is. I passed signs for a Danish windmill and Danish museum. I passed signs for Little Norway. I passed signs for Gothenburg, Nebraska. I drove on Sorensen Parkway and Kronshage Drive. I saw enough Scandinavian names as dentists, doctors, and real estate agents to make me forget where I was. Despite all of this, it had a distinctive Americanness to it all. And not the good kind of Americanness like a root beer float, but the bad kind of stereotypical Americanness.

A woman told me she thought Swedish was just English with a Swedish accent. I cracked a bad joke about that only being the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. She didn’t laugh. Not because the joke was so bad, but because she was serious. She actually didn’t know Swedish was a different language. First I felt bad because it seemed like I was making fun of her when I cracked my joke, then I realized that she probably deserved it.

Welcome to the US. And Scandinavian-America.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Weather Never Changes in Hell…

…This Church is Prayer Conditioned.

Let that one sink in for a little bit. This is my new life.

Despite the heat in Greeley lately, and despite some people probably describing Greeley as hell, I cannot make a claim to this tag line. Instead, a local Baptist church is to blame. I pass this sign on the way to my old man’s office and I think it is making me angrier every time I pass it. The first time, my brother pointed it out and I laughed. Now, when I drive by, I shake my head in disgust.

On a good day, I might be described as agnostic. But that’s when I’m feeling generous, because when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in God. Or god. Obviously, that clouds my judgment. Part of my disgust with the sign is the pretentious all-knowing undertones. You know, basically the same style I use in my writing. But who are we kidding, the pretentiousness is nothing compared to the ridiculous of the statement itself. Not the weather never changing in hell, but the prayer conditioned.

My brother claims that puns are the lowest form of comedy. My brother makes this claim when I utter a pun of my own. My brother is right. I’m not sure what the church is trying to accomplish. I’d like to think there aren’t actually people who go around worrying that hell will be too hot. I’d like to think there aren’t actually people who go around thinking that prayer conditioned is funny. I’d also like to think that churches not need to stoop to the lowest form of comedy to get people through their doors.

I think I’m wrong. I guess I forgot just what an influence religion has on everyday life here. Especially in Greeley. I could care less if you believe in God. That’s your prerogative. Your belief. Your faith. But don’t be an ass about it. And don’t make bad jokes about it.

Welcome to the US. And bad church signs.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sweden and the US Make an Eye Exchange

A few days ago I managed to rip my left contact. Which wouldn’t be a big deal if I had some extras lying around. I don’t. Or if it hadn’t been in my eye at the time. It was. Or if I had been able to get the other half out. I wasn’t. Unfortunately, it was a big deal.

After over ten years of wearing contacts, I have trained myself to shove my finger in my eye and not flinch. Evolutionarily speaking, probably not a good idea for the future protection of my eyes. For my eye sight though? Spectacular. That skill allowed me to root around in my eye ball trying to find the other half of my contact. I did not find it though. So I moved to plan B. My mother.

She washed her hand. I sat down, threw my eye open, and she began rooting around in my eyeball. To no avail. Finally, still hurting from jet lag and at this point just really grumpy, having a floating piece of contact lens in your eyeball will do that to you, I went to bed. With the contact lens still in place. Awesome.

I had no problem falling asleep. I did have a problem staying asleep though. And so, I woke up early and decided that instead of getting up I would pop open my computer and try to catch up on e-mails. Which I did. But my grumpiness returned as I realized that I still had a piece of contact in my eye. About an hour later I’d had enough of e-mails and headed to the shower. And then, sweet release. The contact popped out. It looked like a small puss filled larva. It was disgusting. And amazing. And my eye hurt like hell. So glasses it was. Well glasses it was because I didn’t have any other contacts.

Which has proven to be a bit of a problem for me. I don’t have the actual prescription for my contacts. Instead I have the packaging from the contacts I have been using. You know, the one with the prescription written directly on it. I went to my eye doctor, I went to an online distributor, I went to a retailer. All said I had to have the actual prescription. No one explained why. I just thought they wanted me to pay for a new eye exam. Finally, several days after the search began, I was informed that it was required by law. That means that contact lenses are considered to be some sort of controlled substance. Which is ridiculous.

I wasn’t planning on ingesting my contacts. I wasn’t planning on injecting them. Or snorting them. Or smoking them. Glad to see the American public is being protected from those evil substances. Like contact lenses.

But fine, I e-mailed my eye doctor in Sweden because of the time difference. And received no response for two days. So I called on the third. They actually don’t check their e-mail. Which is an excellent service to have then. But they were happy to help and would fax me the prescription. But it didn’t show up. An e-mail did though last night (apparently they have learned how to use that newfangled electronic mail). They can’t fax it. Instead, snail mail it is. And so, my contact prescription is crossing the Atlantic. Still days away.

Welcome to the US. And Swedish-American eye exchange.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Welcome to America

I’m writing this at an airport in Newark, New Jersey right now. And I am overwhelmed. I don’t know what I was expecting when I finally moved, but I don’t know if it was this.

I’m tired, my eyes burn, and I just ate the last of my lösgodis. Followed by my shoving down half a bag of Cheez-Its. It seemed like a fitting way to enter the United States.

But I am not overwhelmed by the travel. I’ve done enough of that to know the feeling. And just so everyone knows, I made it through Arlanda and flew with SAS without incident. Well played. It only took three years.

It’s everything that is going on around me. It’s the conversations that I keep picking up on. Throughout my time in Sweden, I developed an uncanny ability to pick out English speakers. So much so that I could hear them over the din of my iPod on the subway. Unfortunately, this ability is now akin to being schizophrenic. I keep hearing voices, and they are all talking to me.

It’s the friendliness of the people. Within ten minutes, my boyish charm and awesome laptop with the Colorado sticker on it attracted two different people to me. One older man, and one not older woman both of whom felt I was a good source of information. And I was.

It’s the stereotypes. Like the girl behind me on her cellphone for the last 45 minutes being the reason that people hate America. Or the girl lying on the floor laughing at the announcement being made in German for a Lufthansa flight. Or the woman across the terminal who just happened to be overweight and a good candidate to be a participant in the World Championship Porcupine Race explain she would be out of town because she was going on vacation. In Nebraska.

But most of all, it’s this strange desire to explain to everyone what I’ve done. Why I’m here. That I’m not just traveling, but moving. It’s horribly egocentric. And annoying. And pompous. And pretentious. And all things I have been accused of before. It’s also something I was expecting. Turns out this desire is fairly common for people returning home after an extended experience abroad. For that very reason, it was an experience. For the person involved. Unfortunately, it was not an experience for the people involved. And unless you are capable of telling a good story, which I am not, explaining that you once saw a girls boob in the elevator in Sweden while chuckling and constantly retracing your steps so you don’t leave anything out, kind of loses its appeal. And I think that’s it. Retelling all those old stories means I’m just retracing my steps.

Welcome to America. And overwhelmtion. And making up words.

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