Recently, I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot: “You are so brave for...” and I can't help but think “No, I'm really not. I’m just one of many who has done it.”
Moving away from home to live with your partner is nothing new. Moving away from home to live with your partner who is from a foreign country and a 20 hour flight away is rare, but still, nothing new. Writing a blog about how I really feel and what I am seeing in the world around me is - you guessed it, nothing new.
And yet I’m always hearing this. Am I brave? I fell in love with a Swedish man while I was studying abroad: brave? No. Foolish? A bit. Falling in love is brave for any person, it's opening yourself up to a whole new world of possible pain and hurt, but also the most amazing happiness and friendship you will ever have.
I took this topic to C, my boyfriend, and his response (please read with an adorable Swedish accent if you can): “Maybe they aren't referring to the moving or love, but that it's brave to move to a country where you have to really start over. You are having to learn a new language and a new culture, and find a job. That's pretty brave.” Ok, C, smarty-pants. Sheesh. So I am brave, worship me.
Oddly enough, culture shock did not exist for me when I came to Sweden - I felt at home, at peace, and where I belonged. I love the people, the traditions (like how their old Pagan traditions are covered up by more 'Christian' reasonings, i.e. Valborg), the food is ok but I guess it has grown on me. I love the seasons, and most of all I love C. My real culture shock came when I got severe reverse culture shock.
Being back in the US for those 8 months while my paperwork processed with the Swedish Immigration Board was torture. I mean, literally torture. I criticized everything and everyone and I even got so desperate as to look for 'Swedish' things to do around the city - you'd be surprised what San Francisco has to offer (unless you are from there, then you’re not so surprised because San Francisco is awesome).
But I suppose, like the old saying goes: the grass is always greener on the other side. Now that I am back living in Uppsala with C, I cannot help but miss San Francisco. I miss the rain, mainly because I am so sick of the snow we have had for the past 3 1/2 months, and I miss that non-stop pace of the city. Uppsala is the 4th largest city in Sweden, but in a country of only 9 million people and roughly the size of California, we aren't really living in a 'city', and in the summer the population shrinks because all the students go home.
To be honest, it is nice to hear that someone thinks of you in such a high regards. Instead of hearing “Oh my god, that's so crazy/awesome/insane,” it's nice to hear that it's deemed a more noble act of 'bravery'. I can't say I did it as a knight in shining armor, it just sort of happened: there was no other choice but to move to Sweden to be with C. So I am not really sure if my bravery isn't really just blind love, because everyday is challenge; everyday I think about California and what I could be doing instead of freezing my ass off (read: I'd be tan right now). But it all honesty, there’s no where else I’d rather be. This is where I belong...for now.
Rikki Rene Thornton grew up in Southern California but felt more at home after her move to San Francisco. She's now taken the more distant move to Uppsala, Sweden for love, and finally found her spot in the world.
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