Familiarity and New Jobs

Okay so I decided that instead of trying to make these perfect blog posts complete with photos, caption, great narrative, etc etc I’m just going back to my stream of consciousness-style.  Minimal editing, minimal effort, just getting it out there.  One really great thing I learned about NanoWrimo was that sometimes the most important part of the creative process is to just get it out there, no matter how good or bad it is.

So after over a year of unemployment I started working.  Well, it doesn’t really FEEL like work because I’m working from home.  I now teach English to kids in China from the comfort of my own home, over webcam.  This is truly the dream because I am basically living my most authentic life:  wearing sweatpants and makup at the same time.  I also HATE HATE HATE a long commute, and it doesn’t get much shorter than from my kitchen to the office.   The kids are interesting, the job is interesting, and it’s finally made my love of languages in college make sense.  I spent the better part of 5 years of my college career trying to make sense of what exactly is it about language that I was so drawn to.

I mean, I didn’t want to really LEARN a bunch of languages.  I didn’t particularly want to analyze language to the point of using complete equations and other math based frameworks.  I was interested in Speech Pathology, that much I knew.  I was interested in when things fucked up, and how people learned to cope or the therapies that helped them.  I didn’t have the grades for Speech path, so I just let that dream slide.  It only took about 10 years of combined school and life experience to realize that I just like teaching English.  So yeah… I take a while to learn shit about myself.

Okay, so with my new job came a new sense of self esteem.  I know I don’t NEED to work to feel good about myself, but helping kids and making some money all helped give me a bit more purpose to my days.  I’m also finding that Stockholm is starting to take on a familiarity that I haven’t experienced in a city besides Edmonton or St. Albert.  Feeling that intangible notion of familiarity only took a year, and just in time to start the wind down to leaving.  I thought that 2 years was going to be FOREVER, but I know now that 2 years is just enough time to get used to, and then get prepared to leave a city.

I don’t know if we’re going to stay an extra year, I don’t know if we’re going to go home in July, I really don’t know anything.  Having kids and where we are going to live are both very tied to each other and I know if we were a lot younger than we are now the choice to stay or leave would be a lot eaiser.  The truth is, I don’t know if my love of Stockholm will be the same with a new baby.  I can’t even imagine being a parent so in the face of unfamiliarity I long for home.

If it was possible to just bring everyone I love here to Stockholm I would, but after a year living here the decision on whether to live somewhere I love or to live near those I love hasn’t gotten any easier.

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“Just slightly better”

My day started out like a lot of my days here in Stockholm:  Waking up way too late than I’m willing to admit, drinking coffee using a refillable pod in my Canadian Kurig, knitting while watching youtube.  You know, regular unemployed things.

I found myself staring out the window at my back patio, realizing that it was already May and I STILL hadn’t cleaned out all the leaves, dirt, and other accumulated bullshit from the previous season.  So I got my work gloves on, and got to sweeping, scooping, and trying to wash away all the dirt.  ‘Cause I don’t have a job, so the excuses of having a dirty apartment and back porch kind of sound weak when your reason is “I was busy watching downton abbey and knitting, I don’t have TIME to sweep!”

And you know what? After about an hour and change, my patio looks slightly better.

This back patio would have been cleaned in about 20 minutes of work if I had a water hose at my disposal, a proper rake, and maybe one of those foam pads you can kneel on to make things more comfortable.  Like a lot of things I do here, I find myself comparing my life back in Canada to my life here.  Thinking about what my house back in Canada looks like now, what work needs to be done on it, the lawn that needs upkeep, the garden that’s most likely super empty, the shingles that I never seem to wash properly. Before I moved here, I imagined using this great opportunity to reinvent myself, become a bit more than what I was in Canada.  In an effort to stretch this metaphor, I thought I wouldn’t have the Swedish equivalent of leaving my Canada-house-shingles unwashed.  I didn’t change, quite the contrary.  I think instead I’m just going to have to accept that I’m the kind of person who leaves things just be a bit unfinished.

I still have the random leaf, snail shell, and random bit of dirt on that porch.  I have to fight with myself constantly over feeling inadequate, awkward, unsure of myself. Feeling like I’m 31 god damn years old and I should try to be good at at least ONE thing, even if that’s properly cleaning a porch.  I’ll have to settle for just slightly better and let my back porch look just “okay.”

Maybe the real problem with me is that I can’t just accept that I’m not super interested in having a perfect looking apartment, I try to force and guilt myself into this image I have of what I should be like.  I’m the person that has a just sort of okay looking apartment.  I’m the woman who has a few leaves still left on the patio.

 

 

March Recap

I’ve decided that I need to update this thing on how my life is going, even if I have nothing particularly exciting to say!  I wanted to upload photos, just have a more interesting blog but I think it’s more important to just keep the process going rather than stall out because it’s not “perfect.”

I’ve been watching way too much netflix, spending more time outside, and getting caught up in a lot of knitting.  I’ve managed to make it through about 9 months in Sweden, which sounds like both an eternity and such a small amount of time.

March has been a weird month because the weather’s been weird, I’ve been here JUST long enough to have Stockholm feel familiar enough to me but also making me feel weirdly disconnected from Canada, and spring has brought some strange new Swedish traditions.

I’ve also had some incredible people both here in Stockholm and back in Canada remind me that I’m never truly alone.  I’ve had to re-conceptualize friendship by moving here, stretch myself a bit by making some new friends, and embracing my imperfections.

Plans for April?  Celebrate my husband’s birthday, celebrate our 4 year wedding anniversary (omg), hopefully try to keep my connections going with my friends back home, build relationships in Stockholm, FINALLY START MY SWEDISH LANGUAGE COURSE, try some new recipes, explore the city in some new ways, and wear more bold lipstick.

Here are some of my March highlights in photo form.  Until next time  ❤

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cooking more creative foods like this burrito bowl
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finishing my first hand-knit pair of socks
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weird but charming Swedish Easter decorations
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putting on purple lipstick to lift my mood… effective, bold, and made me feel like a beauty vlogger

Rationalizing Not Working

Alright… So I had a lot of opinions before I came here about wanting to start working immediately, and there are a lot of pros and cons to it.

But yet, here I am, still unemployed.

Before, during, and after the move I told a lot of people that I had a ton of big ideas about working here, that I wanted to get an english speaking job to start, and then transition to a Swedish or at least bilingual job as soon as I could.

HAH!

First of all, finding a job here is difficult.  I feel entirely out of my comfort zone, and in a lot of ways I’m still in mourning about the job I lost back in Edmonton.  The pool of jobs that I want to do is small, the jobs that are English-speaking is even smaller, and the jobs that EVEN if they are English speaking often require at least a working knowledge of Swedish.  When you realize that most of the working population in Stockholm is not only a Swedish native speaker but has a solid and life-long command of the English language, my little ex-pat resume looks pretty pathetic.  That being said, I’ve let job leads pass me by, I haven’t followed up on any english-speaking preschools, nor have I seriously looked for any baby-sitting gigs.

At the end of the day, when I choose to work is really my husband and my business.  I’m in no rush, and Graham seems to be rather happy to have a stress free wife, a super clean house, and dinner ready for him when he gets home.  It’s something I never though I’d be happy doing, and honestly playing the housewife has been okay by me.  Maybe not forever, but as long as we are financially okay I see no real reason to push myself to work unless I find myself getting bored or our financial situation changes drastically.

So yeah, shit’s good here guys.  Don’t worry about me.  I’ll just be spending my days at the gym, going on walks, meeting friends for fika, and just enjoyin’ my leisure here while I have it.  Certainly not much of life is easy going and relaxing, so I’m taking advantage of it while I can.

My Dad’s Birthday

So it’s my dad’s birthday today, and it’s the first one I’ve missed since moving here.  Luckily my mom’s birthday is around Christmas so I was able to hug her, tell her I love her, give her present to her in person, and just spend the day with her.  It’s challenging because my dad is so far away, and I can’t do the things I normally do to show him I care.

Because I can’t be with him today, I figure it might be nice to share some fond memories we’ve had together, some reasons why I love him, and just express how great it is to have a dad like him.

Well, here we go…

Phone calls

I usually call the house to talk to mom.  My dad answers the phone and is already on his way to pass it to my mom, because he just KNOWS I’m wanting to talk some gossip, bitch about some problem I have, or just talk about my day with her.  My mom is amazing for that stuff.  However, when shit REALLY hits the fan, I want my dad.  When my first boyfriend broke up with me over the phone, I cried into his arms.  When I injure myself in the stupidest way ever, I want him there.  He has done things only other parents can understand like catch my vomit in his hands when I was a kid (gross, right?).  I know that he’s always there to help with anything I need, big or small, but he’s always the calm one when I’m really in crisis.  He has a disturbingly high pain tolerance, but when I’m in pain it REALLY bothers him, and he jumps right into comforting me or helping in any way he can.

Leaving For Work

When I was a little kid, I really hated seeing my dad leave for work.  He always works so hard, and throughout his life he’s had almost every job possible.  From dog trainer, to truck driver, to that person in the parking lot ticket kiosk.  It was so brave and incredible when he took the leap to starting his own painting company in order to provide a better future for his family.  It meant he was away a lot while my mom took care of me, but we never doubted that he worked hard to better our lives.  I’m sure I broke his heart so many times in the morning when I wouldn’t let him leave.  He’d be halfway down the sidewalk to his car when I’d scream out “DAD COME BAAACK.”  He’d come back, and I’d just tell him goodbye again, only to repeat the whole process as many times as I could get away with just to delay him leaving.  We didn’t have a lot of money back then, but my dad worked SO HARD to build his business and sacrificed so much.  He spent every waking moment not at work with both of us, and I never doubted how much he cared.

Muskeg Tales

Hunting has always been such a central part of our lives.  Whether it was just having game meat around the house, seeing my dad off for a hunting trip, or the stuffed dear heads and antlers on our walls, being out in nature has been something I always associate with my dad.  When I was younger I just got to enjoy the delicious deer sausage, jerky, and more but when I got old enough my dad would take me with him.  We went quading, he taught me about tracking all sorts of animals, and we saw so many beautiful things.  He taught me about respecting nature, about eating and using what you kill, and basic survival skills.  We set up a canvas tent for winter camping, hunted moose, deer, and grouse, and tried to get a glimpse of the herd of wood caribou in the area.

I think one of the times I remember most fondly is when we saw a lynx that was so big we thought it was a wolf.  Its tracks were clearly visible in the freshly fallen snow, and the quiet of the woods was just so peaceful.  I was highschool-aged during most of our hunting trips, and it gave me so much calm and a much needed break from the angst of being a teenager.  Less fun memories included quadding over frozen muskeg that had formed into just giant bumps that hurt our backs driving over.  Also hooking up the quad to be winched out of the mud many times was always a little terrifying to me.  Finally, I didn’t really enjoy covering my head from the black flies as my dad tried to pull the moose he shot out of the woods.  I felt like I waited hours.  Character building, I guess.

Love

Whether we were hanging out at home, catching frogs, picking saskatoon berries, or doing many of the countless things we did together, I always know that he genuinely loved spending time with me.  Family is always his number one priority, and even though I am so far away from him right now I feel so incredibly loved by my Dad.  Even though sometimes I know I’ve been completely replaced by two fuzzy adopted dog-brothers and my dad threatens to turn my old room into a trophy room for their dog trial championships…. I’M STILL THE HUMAN DAUGHTER!

Dad, happy birthday.  I can’t hug you, I can’t be with you today, but you have had a lasting and truly incredible impact on me and who I am today.  I can’t describe in anecdotes just how amazing you are, and I hope you know that I love you so much. AND I KNOW YOU ALWAYS JOKE THAT THE COST OF THE PRESENT REPRESENTS MY LOVE SO GOD DAMMIT YOU KNOW I’M STILL GETTING YOU A GIFT.  😉

 

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Still Jet Lagged

It’s now been a week since I came back to Sweden, and not many accomplishments to speak of.  I haven’t posted on youtube, no blogs, no new years resolutions started.

I struggle to even write this post and just feel all those typical emotions of guilt, exhaustion, and just feeling run down.  It doesn’t help that Stockholm has about 7 hours of “sunlight” (I use quotations because I actually haven’t seen the sun, it’s been hiding behind clouds).  Back in Canada I got to experience the ever familiar bright prairie sun against a cornflower blue sky with that crisp and sharp dry cold.  I kept putting off this first blog post of 2017 because I wanted to do a whole retrospective of the year, post photos of my trip to Canada, document it all.  That’s all very overwhelming right now, so I’m just posting this little thing to get myself back in the swing of being productive.

I’m not sure if it’s winter, if it’s just me being homesick, being bad at adjusting to new things, or just being my typical mopey-over-analytical-self but I feel myself sliding into a serious slump.

I really am trying to not sound like I am complaining.  I have a few friends right now struggling with life and death situations, working through trauma, and other very serious matters that make my little problems seem trivial.  I remember when I was in grade 2 and crying to my dad about how hard my homework was.  My homework at the time was a CROSSWORD PUZZLE.  My dad, who got up at 6am every day to work back breaking labour trying to get his painting company off the ground, got to come home to his little girl freaking out about homework that usually qualifies as a leisure activity.

I should treat myself like my dad treated me back then, with patience and a sense of humor.  My dad didn’t yell at me for not appreciating how hard his life must be by comparison, but gently put my life back into perspective.

My new years resolutions are most focused on priorities.  I want to prioritize relationships with my friends, family, and husband.  I want to think more about what I really want my life to look like, and to work towards that vision.  I want to be just a little bit better than the previous year.

Bullet Journaling for Ex Pats: Layout Tips and Surviving Those First Few Months

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Making a tourist-like bucket list can help you get acquainted with a new city

Adjusting to life in Sweden wasn’t the easiest.  It was my first time living away from my home country in Canada, and the longest I’ve been away from my friends and family.  I used a variety of layouts in my bullet journal in order to help me adjust, process, and remember some of my earlier days living in Stockholm.

My first layout is one I still refer to, and looking at it now I can definitely fill in a few of those squares, so it needs some updating.  It helped me make a list of all the amazing things I wanted to do while living here to help with my home sickness.  Researching all the fun things I was going to do here helped with the culture shock of things being just a LITTLE bit different than what I was used to.

 

 

 

My next layout is similar, but more related to helping me get out of the house.  Taking transit, the fear of getting lost, and being alone during the day made leaving the house sometimes a frightening concept.  I made this little picture layout so whenever I visited a neighborhood or area I could color in a part of the picture.  It made me feel accomplished without putting too much pressure on myself to accomplish certain goals at certain time.

Finally, I knew I wanted to do a weather blanket documenting the weather for the first year my husband and I lived in Stockholm.  For those of you who don’t know, weather blankets involve knitting or crocheting squares, lines, or other patterns in a blanket that represent the temperature of each day.  You pick a temperature range, assign a color to it, and then knit a piece of your blanket corresponding to the weather that day.  Because I didn’t know WHAT to expect for the weather, I wasn’t sure how much of each color to get.  So I decided to just document the weather in my bullet journal, and then get the yarn at the end of the year.  I can’t wait to start crocheting my blanket, and it gives me something to look forward to when we accomplish our first year.

I think the most important thing I learned the first few months was to just go easy on myself, feel my feelings, and realize that some aspects of moving long distances can be a lot easier (or a lot harder) than you expect.

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Each time I visited an area of Stockholm I would color in a part of the picture.
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Keeping track of the weather to make a “weather blanket” at the end of my first year here helps me document and remember a formative part of my life.