I am in Sweden and nothing hurts


I’m in Sweden! WHAT. Hello love, I have missed you so! The moment I saw the endless forests and countless lakes and all the snow as the plane dipped through the clouds, I got teary-eyed. Stepping off the plane into the cold, clean air did the rest. This feels like home. It has for a while, and it most certainly does right now. I’m sitting at the airport as I type this, waiting for the long-distance bus that will take me to my final destination… There’s sports news on one of the TVs, and naturally it’s all skiing and ice hockey. And the weather map is, well, first of all, of Sweden – I mean, OF COURSE it is, but it makes me so happy – and the forecast’s all cold and snowy, too.

This country, you guys. I don’t know. I don’t know how I wasn’t born here. I love how reserved but kind and helpful the people are, I love the language, I love the typical Swedish pastries you can get on every corner.

Right now, I don’t know yet what it’s going to be like to see my friends again, whether we’ll just be bored, whether I’ll have to sleep on the floor and won’t be able to. But it’s already been worth it: all the money, all the organizational pitfalls, the distance traveled – everything for this moment of recognition, of feeling like I belong here.

PS – Update now that I’m at my friend’s: Her place is so perfect for New Year’s fireworks with a view over the lake, and the entire neighborhood is still decorated in tasteful Christmas lights, and I have a comfy place to sleep, and we have already made some lovely plans. THIS YEAR COULD NOT POSSIBLY END ON A BETTER NOTE.

In all honesty

I have always tricked the system, in a way. All throughout high school and uni, I got away with waiting until the circumstances took difficult decisions off my hands. Sitting things out, hoping for problems to solve themselves, relying on others to turn a blind eye, lying to supervisors. In my senior year I didn’t attend a single P.E. lesson (which are mandatory in Germany) which would have kept me from graduating but the teacher, not wanting to ruin my career path this early on in life, pretended I’d shown up often enough to receive a grade. My thesis supervisor at uni all but let me skip my oral thesis defense entirely because he knew I was making up failed classes at the same time and had a lot on my plate. I didn’t get a scholarship for my stay abroad in the United States so my parents paid for it. I got into Maastricht University, the only school I applied to, because they don’t have any entrance requirements. I became an intern last-minute at the company I did because my mom had found the ad and sent it to me just at the right time when no one else had applied yet.

It always worked out in the end. I was always lucky enough. I graduated, I got just-above-average grades, things were moving forward as they should. But I never set real goals and met them because I dedicated everything I had to getting there. That you can get away with never doing more than absolutely necessary – sometimes less – because there’s always people higher up to let you pass or timetables that tell you what to do next or holes in the system to slip through is a terrible, terrible lesson to learn. It feeds into my general laziness and lack of ambition, and creates a toxic mix that led me to where I am right now: jobless, unmotivated, incapable of fixing things on my own.

I have sent out maybe ten job applications in the past three months. I should have sent out at least three times as many, and the job counselor the government assigned to me when I applied for welfare checks if I do. So I lie. I look up job ads and I print them out and I tell him I applied, even though I never did because I couldn’t be bothered to do actual research about the company and write a decent cover letter. I think we can all agree that is INSANE behavior. What kind of person does that, deny herself progress and success just to avoid putting in any effort? A person who never had to. A person who never learned that this is how life works. A person who, time and time again, discovered that the choices she’s made so far were never really her own but just happenstance. A person who always always always settled for whatever came along, for the easy way out that was always there if she just waited it out long enough.

Right now, waiting it out was good enough again. I whined and complained and did little to improve my situation – work towards a job I really want, or even figure out what I really want – and by pure chance, the company I interned for contacted me again and offered me a job. It’s a crappy job, it’s not at all what I had in mind or what I should sensibly be doing. But I didn’t line up any alternatives and so, once again, it looks like I will settle for something I just happen upon; something that’s handed to me; something that’s good enough for now but not ideal; something I forced myself into that I won’t likely be happy with.

I mentioned this in my last post already but it bears repeating: I need to break out of this strange cycle. If I make any resolutions for 2013, it has to be to take control of my life, set goals and actually DO STUFF to achieve them, make decisions and own them, be myself and be happy.

Being an introvert

My stomach is in knots over New Year’s plans right now, and I hate that. I just want to enjoy Christmas and then deal with the inevitable depression I (and many others, it seems) go through every January but not have to deal with worrying about what to do on New Year’s Eve on top of that. As things stand, I’ll be at my parents’ who will be celebrating with my aunt and uncle at home. I will tag along awkwardly, 24 years old, a party scrooge who’d rather just read or watch a movie or walk the never-ending online world every single night than socialize and get drunk. It’s just who I am. I understand the benefits of getting together with a bunch of people to ring in the new year and that it can be fun; I’m just not comfortable at typical New Year’s parties. More to the point: I don’t know any people in my hometown (not anymore) or in Cologne that I would enjoy socializing with. People who like what I like, who understand where I’m coming from when I say “I don’t like parties” without judging or patronizing me or finding it weird or different or boring. And of course that’s a huge part of why I’m upset right now. The realization that you don’t really have people around you that you want to spend time with, who get you, is sad. Painful even.

I have friends like that. But they are nowhere near me, geographically. It normally doesn’t bother me as much but right now it would be damn nice to have a couple people here at home, or even anywhere in the same country as me, that would think it’s a great idea to get together on New Year’s and cook and watch a movie and chat and have champagne and count down to 2013 and be in bed before 6am. I considered escaping to Sweden, where I have several friends who would enjoy an evening like this and where I already saw myself greeting the new year with a long early morning walk through the fresh snow, but since the idea was so last-minute, said friends already had plans. I would just hang out in my Cologne apartment but I had agreed last month that my roommate could “rent it out” to her dad and his girlfriend because I didn’t expect to be in Cologne for New Year’s.

And so mostly, I think, I’m just upset that I didn’t make plans earlier – plans I would look forward to because they’re not just What People Do On New Year’s but what I like doing. I’m upset that I actually care what my parents and aunt and uncle think when I end up spending New Year’s with them, that I already feel embarrassed about not knowing what to say when they will ask the inevitable question: “How come you’re not partying with your friends tonight?” I so badly need to work on these ridiculous insecurities, and work towards creating a life that makes me happy, rather than trying to fit whatever only acceptable mold I think exists.

Gray day II

Today was so much like yesterday that I felt a bit like an extra in Groundhog Day. I read “Gone Girl” until 3am or so and then slept in late until past noon. The roommate, meanwhile, has been running to the bathroom at least once an hour for the past two days. Last night, she started throwing up. She’s not eating, only staying hydrated. I tried my best. Ran to the pharmacy, got her soup, kept the noise down, stayed out of her way. Stayed in bed myself. Went to the park again. Baked apples for supper which you should all try because baked apples are delicious.

NaBloPoMo is almost over and, surprisingly, I did blog every single day but I feel like I cheated. I didn’t always post on time, for one thing. And then half the posts are just like this one: short sentences, random moments, daily non-sense. By contrast, many of you out there have been doing a fantastic job blogging your hearts out this month. Congrats on that to you!

A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor

Something’s come up. A potential part-time/freelance job opportunity. Doing work that I’m good at and that kiiind of makes sense in the greater picture of my career. More sense than being unemployed, certainly. It’s paid horribly with zero benefits, and so, financially speaking, it’s actually worse than being on welfare. On all other counts – from feeling like a productive member of society to minimizing the hole on my resume to getting back into a normal routine and out of the house – it’s of course better than welfare. So I’m anxious about negotiating details and hopefully have this work out and be a first step back in the right direction.

It’s just- This sounds like great news only because I can’t really get into the specifics of it (and let’s keep in mind that it’s not a done deal yet). It is better news than no job at all. But it’s not what was supposed to happen; what I so desperately wanted to have happen: to graduate, do an internship or two, and find a job with some security (freelancing is quite the opposite). Without months and months of worrying while hunting for full-time jobs, and eventually ending up on welfare because money had run out in the meantime. It’s not what my my parents expected of me and it’s not how things turned out for any of my friends.

Now that this opportunity has come up completely out of the blue – via email from a former employer, unsolicited by me – it is easier to see things a little more positive, though. I suppose when nothing is certain, everything is possible. And sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everybody else is doing. After all, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. (Then again, too rough a sea might just kill the sailor so I’m crossing my fingers that this, at least, does indeed turn out to be good news!)

(Image source: labelleviegirl)

If I could live anywhere…


I want to move to Sweden before I turn 27. I am 24 right now. I don’t have a job, neither here in Germany, nor, of course, in Sweden. I have not yet looked into the details of what emigration to Sweden might mean (I’m talking work and residence permits, insurance issues, tax and social security stuff both there and in Germany) and I have not saved up any money. I am also still far from being fluent in Swedish. In other words, I am not ready to move there right now – not at all. This is why I’m giving myself three years to plan and prepare.

Today, this is all I have: my love for Sweden and the irrepressible urge to live there. (Reasons should be fairly obvious by now. Feel free to browse this blog and read future posts, and you’ll know what I love most about Sweden.) When I think of what I want my life to look like 5 or 10 years from now, the only thing I’m certain about is that I want to live in Sweden. There will be setbacks and complications and everyday life in Sweden won’t be as magical as spending half a year there as a student. I know these things. I still think life in Sweden would be a better base for me to become happy than life in Germany (or anywhere else), and I’ve thought so for two years now. So I’m going to take that step.

My plans may change again between now and 2015, of course. I couldn’t possibly say whether or not I will still feel that strong urge to be in Sweden three years from now. But I always do things on a whim; I wait until I feel like it and take action only then; I hesitate and don’t see the point of planning ahead; I’m scared of setting goals because it means risking failure. This time, I want things to be different.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite Swedish words: glansdagar, meaning glory days. Let’s just say that’s very fitting for my plans and ignore the risk of failure, alright?

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

(Graphic source: Marcus Eriksson)

And at once I knew I was not magnificent

Wow, you guys sure do like photos of baked goods, don’t you? Heh. A hearty welcome to everyone who felt inspired to follow this blog after yesterday’s post! I’m back in Cologne – back in the daily rut of unemployment, back to a roommate who likes to annoy me, back to not knowing just what the hell my life is supposed to be right now – and I’m not thrilled to be here. Although not exactly a life saver, it always boosts my mood to know that some of you out there enjoy my photos and my words. So thank you.

I spent the 2.5 hour train ride back to Cologne reading “Fall of Giants” which I mentioned a couple posts ago I’ve really been getting into. I forgot just how interesting and confusing and messed up the First World War was. The second book in the trilogy deals with WW2 and the third with the Cold War, and I feel like by the end of it my head will have exploded because, good god, TOO MANY TERRIBLE DECISIONS MADE BY EGOCENTRIC, POWER-HUNGRY MEN. I mean- obviously. But it somehow becomes even more clear when packaged into a novel, rather than taught as plain facts in history class.

The appointment for which I came back to Cologne was canceled while I was on the train back here (I was STOKED) (not) and the new appointment is next Monday so I could’ve stayed at my parents’ for another week, had I known this two hours earlier. Just the kind of thing you’d expect from a damn Monday but still frustrating.

Once back in Cologne, I went for a walk to the closest city park (see photo), thinking I should really pick up running again, admiring the beautiful sky, hating the traffic noises that you can’t see in the photo, recalling what Living And Working In Cologne was like last November, wondering what the fuck happened between then and today. Twenty-twelve should’ve been the year, you know. Things should’ve finally come together and instead they fell apart.

Sometimes it feels so much more dramatic than it really is, and today is such a day. (Using a largely unrelated Bon Iver quote in the title is always a strong indicator of unjustified whining to come.) Back to happier things tomorrow.

Home sweet home


I took the train home to my parents’ on Tuesday. So I thought in between telling you about the places I’ve lived (here and here), let me also tell you something about the place where I grew up and where my parents and my brother live to this day. It’s a small town in Northern Germany – far from cities the size of Cologne. And- it’s magical here. I had to leave, of course, to realize that. But that’s the way it goes for everyone, isn’t it?

I went for a walk this afternoon through the fields behind my parents’ neighborhood. The winter sun stood low and red and warm, it smelled like fresh earth and dead leaves, my fingers were cold, it was empty and quiet, and I could just breathe and- be. Just: one step after another on half-frozen mud, rain boots on my feet, Ryan Bingham in my ears.

I’ve been going a little stir-crazy in Cologne these past few days and coming home is exactly what I needed. I have some sweet little things planned – baking, window-shopping, coffee with grandma – and right now that’s enough. It’s good.