I wanted to really open up and share a sort of conundrum I’ve had going on and something that’s recently helped with it. I don’t really know where to begin to catch everyone up but here we go.
I have been applying for Swedish residency since 2014. That is, the beginning of 2014–two full years ago. Due to the ridiculous migration/refugee status Sweden is in, what should have taken maybe ten months took a two full years to complete. I received my residency permit in January, in Solna, Sweden.
When I left Sweden in the beginning of 2014, I was ready to quickly move back and start college (I’m interested in a geology degree.) After a year of adjusting to a new climate and place (one that I’ve felt was a second home for many years) you just have this idea that the new place is home now, if that makes sense. I expected a few months in Utah and then I’d turn around and be back in Stockholm. As the months wore on, I realized I wasn’t in a transient phase and needed to act like I was actually living in the place I was living. Does that make sense? I couldn’t control what the Swedish migration board was going to do, or if and when I would get approved, and I was very unhappy with the idea of continuing to be in Utah with packed suitcases in every corner, just “waiting”.
So, I adjusted. Unpacked. Settled in. A side effect of this was feeling even more in love with Salt Lake City. I’ve always been happy about living here and it’s always a relief to come “back” after a stint in say, Tennessee, or Virginia, or whatever ungodly place I ended up going to. Being back in America, and specifically, Salt Lake after being in Sweden for so long was extra nice. I found myself clinging to this place and really digging in some roots. New apartment, new kitten, a job I was dedicated to in many ways. Being with people who support and love me and help me grow even when I don’t want to.
I don’t know how much of this “here vs there” struggle led to or assisted with my huge meltdown back last fall, or it was even relevant, but the biggest thing I got out of that entire ordeal was that I need specific treatment. (EMDR therapy for PTSD) I found an amazing therapist, and have made some real progress–but more importantly, we both realized just how much more was going on, just how much more therapy and work I need. I have no shame in saying that. I’ve had a hard, miserable, fucked up life and I need help in processing all of it. But this is yet another reason to stay for awhile. EMDR in Sweden? The language barrier is just the start. I won’t get into all of that, but these things only add to my resolve to stay and sort myself out.
But there’s pressure to leave, too. Not a single coworker understood why the hell I would leave work to go to Sweden for a week and then come back. It’s hard to explain to people who would love more than nothing to just move overseas and get an education, “I’m not ready.” I’ve felt a lot of guilt over this in the past two years, even before the permit got approved. What am I doing? Isn’t this what I worked so hard for? Isn’t this my chance to prove just how awesome I am? To myself? Won’t I be happier there? Those questions are all so hard.
I get answers, usually, from being around nature. I have no idea why, or what part of my brain activates when I’m out there digging around in mud, but it has always worked. Not every excursion gets results, but earlier in February I was feeling very lost and dragged Derik out to the Bonneville Salt Flats. I wasn’t sure what I would feel or notice, or learn, but I kept an open mind and just hoped for something to click. I wanted to feel like myself, in a good way.
And it worked. I can tell you the geological history of the area, I can explain in detail why the salt flats exist, the timeline of their forming, and how they benefit everyone and everything — ecosystem, tourism, income– and I can talk for ages about my favorite aspect of Great Salt Lake; it’s a dead place that’s full of life. I find more meaning in that than any religious building or meditation class or whatever it is that helps people through dark times. All of these thoughts and more constantly cycle through my head when talking or learning or researching or exploring my big dead lake, but that day I was actually just splashing around in the water and poking at crispy salt flakes.
At some point, after I had covered my pants in salt and was squatting down digging in the water with a rock (so scientific!) I realized I felt just like I did as a kid, when I very first got excited about geology. There were encyclopedias (this was before internet was a thing) and science classes with rock specimens, but the base of this grand, exciting love was literally me poking the ground with rocks or sticks and just seeing what I could find. No pressure to know everything then and there, just an openness and curiosity of a healthy kid. It was one of the things that made me the most happy from my childhood.
The thought that came to me was that this was enough for right now. I don’t know when I’m moving to Sweden and I don’t need to know. I don’t know when I’ll be ready to go back to school, or ready to do anything, I don’t know the exact chemical makeup of this crispy salt flake or how to go out and survey the surrounding mountains and I feel like a total moron reading the geological engineering textbook Henri got me for Christmas, but I don’t need anything, right now, other than to enjoy poking at the salt and feeling the satisfying, overwhelming curiosity and pleasure that usually eludes me because I’m too busy trying to figure out adult things.