Not at all dead

1 September 2014

I know it’s been a year since I last posted, but it really doesn’t feel that long for me, in good part because I still get comments pretty regularly on what has turned out to be my iconic post, Why I hate living in Sweden. While I still remember with bitter clarity how I felt when I wrote that entry a year and a half ago, and feel intense sympathy with people who recognize themselves in that post, I no longer hate living in Sweden. My life in Sweden is going really well right now, actually. I no longer think Swedes are boring and close-minded (not as a rule, at any rate). I no longer hate speaking Swedish; sure, I still find it irritating when I say things wrong or can’t find the right word, but it’s not the biggest deal ever anymore. I no longer have to try to follow a complicated set of foreign-feeling rules to interact socially with Swedes; it just comes naturally, and I am Swedish enough now that when the American shines through, I think they just find it refreshing. And fuck them if they don’t. 

 But wait, go back a second, why did I stop blogging? I started to feel weird about posting about my kids. I felt even weirder about the growing share of Swedes among my readers, and became half-convinced people I knew were reading the blog, and that my blog was somehow the reason I was having trouble making Swedish friends. And then I got a government job and, while it certainly gave me a lot of really fabulously good stories, I didn’t want to write about them online. And I just plain got really, really busy.

That’s because I didn’t just get that government job I mentioned; oh no. During the same early autumn week last year, I got three paying jobs all at once. There was a lot going on. Now I am down to just one job, but it is full-time, and it is the perfect job for me, you guys: research at a university on the topic of schoolchildren with immigrant background. Let me repeat: I work at a university. As a researcher! It may not be a permanent position (that is my next goal) but I am almost there, almost back to where I was career-wise in the US. It feels like such a major accomplishment. And I am kicking ass at my job, too. I have brought my corporate American effectiveness and put it together with my practical experience as an immigrant, research background, and teaching degree and experience, and am just hitting it out of the park.

 The puzzle-solving element of all this working and simultaneously having two kids has been a new challenge for us as a family—I hadn’t worked full-time since having children—but it has been so wonderful for my self-esteem and my feeling of belonging and purpose in Sweden that it has been totally worth it. And the kids love daycare/after school care and time with their grandparents. What is particularly great about the work that I have gotten is that it is precisely because of, not in spite of, who I am that I am good at it, like my being an immigrant and having foreign work experience and a different native language than Sweden. My problem before was seeing those essential elements of myself as a problem instead of as a advantage. (To be fair, in most contexts in Sweden those things actually are a disadvantage: I am lucky as all get out to have found work that values them.)

While the main reason for my feeling much more at home in Sweden is because of having meaningful work where I am appreciated for my unique and professional contributions, things have improved on the living-in-a-rural-village front, as well. It is at this point that I have to give thanks to the school bully (now reformed). The ONLY reason we had moved to Sweden was for a better life for my kids, and they were not getting it. I had had enough. It was a circuitous route, but if that kid hadn’t been running around wreaking havoc on that school and harassing my kid in specific, I never would have spent the summer of 2013 rabble-rousing the other parents and (sort of) suing the school. And winning! And thus effecting real change, from getting the school to bring in new teachers and student aides as well as changing the entire climate of the school with regard to bullying. I have much closer connections now to many other families out here through this process and also as a result of their gratefulness to me for being, in effect, NOT Swedish, not conflict-averse, but being American, with my native-born get-shit-done don’t-take-crap from others approach.

This is why I no longer hate living in Sweden: I have had the great luck of finding a way, a context, to participate in Swedish society while still being myself. 


11 Responses to “Not at all dead”

  1. alexaedstrom Says:

    I am an 18 year old half Swedish, half American descent girl who was raised in Texas. I recently moved near Stockholm for university education, but have taken six months off first in order to learn the language at SFI and get assimilated. I’m currently living with my aunt and uncle in a small but beautiful town that’s more lively during the summer months. Before moving, I really didn’t realize how hard it would be to make friends. I have a few, including my foreign exchange sister who came to live with me during highschool, but she lives 1.5 hrs by train. I can relate to your struggle, and now I know that if I start putting in hard work on learning the language so I can get into school and find a job, more friends will soon accompany that, aslong as I have some patience. :) any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

  2. a Says:

    That is an awesome 1 year summary! Congrats on the new job, and on making your otherness work for you instead of against you. I’m glad to hear that the school is better and that the bully issue has been solved. I hope your next goal of getting a permanent research position comes along shortly!

  3. Youma Says:

    Happy to hear!

  4. Zenmoo Says:

    Great update!

  5. alejna Says:

    So glad to read all of this! I am really happy for you that you have found a job that suits you so well, and is so meaningful to you. Woohoo!

    I know what you mean about feeling weird about posting about your kids. I have been feeling that way, too. (I mean about posting about my own kids. Not yours!) But I have decided to start back in posting again more frequently because I actually do have a lot to share that is not about my kids.

    Glad to see you posting again!

  6. Pam Says:

    I am so glad to see your post! I’ve been watching my bloglovin, thinking I missed something and of course wondering what happened to you.

    Happy that life is good for you and your family!

  7. Sara Says:

    Awesome! I’m so glad to hear that things are going so well. Good for you for sticking it out, and finding your place in Sweden!

  8. ~zandra~ Says:

    Excellent all around! I’m so glad everything is going so much more smoothly.

  9. Annika Says:

    What a great update! Congratulations to your job and I do hope that it will be permanent soon! Also wonderful to hear that you were actually able to make a difference in the school situation – it CAN be done in other words :)

    Again, so happy to read this. All the best.

  10. Claire Says:

    I am a newer reader of yours, but I hope you keep posting! I love your spunk, energy, and how honest you are about so many personal topics!

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