We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got. (If I have confused you with this, you should definitely educate yourself on David Bowie.)
I figured its time to share this, as in just 3 short days I will have lived here in Sweden for 5 years! I think its time to go through the things I have learned, and the ways that I have grown in these 5 years.
We can start with what I have learned.
- Obviously I have learned Swedish. I don’t think I could live here for longer than 6 months without learning the language. (Not that it is particularly easy to learn, when Swedes won’t speak with you in Swedish if they realise that you have English as your native language)
Swedish itself is not a difficult language. In fact, I would dare to say it is one of the easier ones to learn, especially of the nordic languages. (Danish and Finnish are DIFFICULT. Both for different reasons, but difficult nonetheless.)
I still struggle with certain things, specifically grammar, when speaking. If I do not spend time focusing on how I write, I struggle with grammar there too.
Despite my struggle I think I have managed to be able to remove my accent for the most part when speaking, as 90% of the time no one flinches when I make mistakes anymore. (and most people do not believe that I have lived here less than 5 years)
If you have ever wondered Swedish people do NOT sounds like this: (Thats Danish people 😉 haha ) [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY_Yf4zz-yo]
- I have learned how to function with public transport! Before moving to Sweden, I had VERY little experience with public transport. It exists back home, but not necessarily in the same way that it exists here. I have learned how to manage busses, and trains like a pro now! (Although I wouldn’t test my skills in New York or anything) Living in the third largest city in Sweden really forced me to get out of my comfort zone, and take public transport if I wanted to get anywhere.
- I have learned how important it is to fight for your rights in health care. Swedish health care definitely has its ups and downs. Its great, because I am not going bankrupt getting the health care that I need. The downside is, because it is subsidised you really have to fight, and push to get anything that is outside of the ordinary, or even at times a normal time with your doctor. I have a few complaints about the quality of care, but I acknowledge that I am not a typical patient either.
- I have learned how to live with someone else. (granted I have almost never lived alone, but this is different) I learned how to live with someone in a SMALL space. The apartment we have right now is SO SMALL compared to how I used to live. I miss having a bigger space. Living like this has forced me to think about what I really need though, so that has been really helpful. (I can say though that I definitely need some more of that “life changing magic” from Marie Condo)
- I have learned what it means to love someone with your whole heart. This past year has been by far the most difficult one for me. It has been a real eye-opener as well. It has forced me to look at myself, and figure out where I stand on a LOT of things. My wife (the person who before November of last year I had known as my husband) came out to me. I have been struggling with my ADHD medicine. (both finding the dosage and the actual correct medicine for me.) Dealing with how all of this effected my school work, as well as how it effects my other relationships.
Through all the ups and downs this all has caused, one thing has been constant for me, and that one thing has been my love for my wife. Its not easy. Its definitely not been without a lot of internal struggle. (and external for that matter, as I am definitely a person who bottles up my feelings and then explodes when I think I may have them figured out) This change has not been without a lot of adjustments, but we still are together, and are happy. (most of the time) I struggle with things, I make mistakes when talking, I want so hard for her to gain some of my own determination to fight for herself, that a lot of times I either take it all out on her when she does not listen, or I just shut down when she tells me that my ideas won’t work. (unfortunately that isn’t the way that I hear it. I hear “Your ideas suck”, which tends to lead to some conflict)
We have managed to make it this far, I have no intentions on giving up. Despite what family, or friends I may lose along the way. Because if you are reading this, you should make no mistake there will definitely be family that I will lose over this decision, and there are friends that I have hesitated to tell as I am afraid of their reaction.
I wish that I could say that this will get easier, but I don’t see that as the truth. I think that it will be a long struggle. The only thing that I can do is hope that in the end it is just as much worth it as it is right now. I feel it in my bones that this is where I am meant to be, so unless that changes then I will be here for every single struggle.
So now that I have given 5 things I learned, I want to talk about how I have grown. A lot of it is definitely caused by the things that I have learned, but some of it is just natural growth from ageing.
1. I went from being in love with being here at 20 years old, to realising that there is no perfect place in the world at 25. Through this I have become more politically involved. (maybe I am mostly an internet news junkie, but thats not any less involved) I realised that in order to be a positive force in your community, or in ANYONES life, you have to admit that nothing is perfect. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Even my dogs are not perfect. (although if you check my instagram, you will see that they take perfect photos) This is important to admit, because if you think that you are perfect, or that someone or something else is perfect, you can not admit that even that thing needs change. Change is natural. Change is important. Change is growth.
I spent most of my life fighting change. Thinking that, I had my life planned out and that it would be perfect if I just stuck with the plan. But here is the secret… Life is NOT perfect, and does NOT follow a plan. You have to be able to accept that you can not plan for everything. (Something that I am still struggling with, although I struggle less than I used to)
2. I need to take care of myself more. I can talk about “self-love” and encourage others to do it, but that is the one part of my life that I have NEVER had under control. This is where the growth comes in. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I was taking care of myself, I would have told you “of course I am!”
But that was a lie. One that I knew damn well I was telling. I needed to. I needed something to believe in. NOW though, if you asked me my answer would be “I am trying. I need to do better though, do you have any tips?”
Now I am more open minded. I have stopped lying to myself that I am doing ok. I have learned that if I can’t admit that things are going badly, then I am definitely in a VERY dangerous place. So I have grown to accept that it is OK to struggle. (Even if I have a hard time dealing with it) I am growing to accept the need for me to love myself where I am at, instead of waiting until I achieve “perfection” to love myself. (That NEVER HAPPENS)
3. I have grown to stand up for myself in life’s many sticky situations. Be it with family, or with health care, I have learned that I NEED to set boundaries of what I will accept. If I do not set boundaries, I will allow anyone or anything to push me around. I have even grown to accept that this means hard choices sometimes. (I stopped talking to my mother for 4 months and my sister for 7 this year, as I was not happy with the way that I was treated by them)
4. I am growing used to asking for help. I used to REFUSE with all my being asking for help, even when I needed it desperately. I would fall apart from taking on too much, or from pushing myself too far, or from simply too much anxiety before I would ask for help. This is something that has been the hardest for me.
I wanted from the moment I moved here to be able to conduct life on my own. Even though I had a partner who loved me, and who understood society, I never wanted to have to ask for help. (That definitely was thrown in my face, as anything you have to do involving the government here requires someone who can speak Swedish. Regardless if they say they can speak English or not, Don’t trust it.)
I used to think I was not worthy of help. I was not worthy of love, I was not worthy unless I could do things on my own. I needed to be strong, and be able to handle things. Now I wonder, “What is the point in having a partner, if they are not there to help you in your moments of weakness?”
5. I grew in my faith. This is not something that I talk about that much. Its not something that I want to talk much about yet. But my faith has grown 100 times as large since moving here, despite me going to church so seldom since moving. I pray at night, I ask God to help, I ask for guidance, and as much as sometimes I may resist the solution that is shown to me, I am thankful that I have my faith to help me along the road.
So there you have it.. In the past 5 years I have grown, and learned a TON of things. I have aged 5 years, and I have lived in a country that I knew NOTHING about before moving.
These past 5 years have been a mix of some of the best and worst times in my life, but I would not trade the experiences and lessons I have learned for ALL the money in the world.
What have you learned in the last 5 years? Where were you 5 years ago? Where do you want to be in 5 years from now? Tell me in the comments below!