Some of the stumbling blocks that position themselves in one’s path when moving to a new country are distinct to being in that place, to trying to coax a familiar life from the depths of a place strange enough to make you nervous, but beautiful enough to make you want to try.
But it’s also become clear that some of the issues I’ve been grappling with during my two months in Sweden are problems that I would’ve crashed into searching for a thunderclap of clarity regardless of my location. Lund, Knoxville, some unknown location in the rest of world… After weeks of struggling with the very real task of defining my future in graduate school applications, I would’ve still pulled on my running shoes to seek peace in the sound of them propelling me forward across wet pavement. Maybe without the cold numbing agent drizzling from overcast skies in Sweden, I would have listened sooner to the creaking of my knee that was growing louder to accompany the slapping of my feet. But in all parallel universes, I think I would find myself, today, in the same position: propped up in bed, leg elevated on a pillow, duvet wrapped warmly around the rest of my body in contrast to the bag of frozen corn currently numbing my knee.
I think the difference between this warm life I’m now living and the ghost ships that didn’t carry me is how content I now feel. I came limping in from my run, chastising myself for such poor judgment, crinkling my nose alternately at the smell of the sweat-drenched shirt I peeled from my body and the crunch that resonated through my knee with every step I took towards the shower. I let a hot shower rinse the tears of frustration from my face and moved past self-pity and into acceptance. I sipped bourbon in my bed and eventually hobbled out from my solitude to find my housemates pushing furniture across the floor. What did I think of the couch facing the wall? The now naked windows that let in the low-angled light from the autumn sun?
I stood on one foot and strung lights across our ceiling. I hummed along to familiar music and scraped the seeds from a pumpkin, spread the puréed result across a pizza crust warm from the oven, watched Anna place bowls of the most beautiful beets, grown with love and patience, across a pizza and then cover it in cheese transported personally from Italy. We raced to crack jars of walnuts, finished the bourbon, instagrammed the shit out of a beautiful, steaming artichoke, laughed easily and stared greedily at the culinary masterpieces before us. “An organic experience in so many ways” was uttered from an earsplitting grin.
Pushing back from the table after scraping the last of the warm cake from my plate, I realized at some point that I had lost all timidity in admitting how much I enjoyed nights like these. Something at the very core of my being needs them, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude at having such an innate need filled so blissfully.
I don’t mourn the departure of those ghost ships these days, or even wonder about their journeys. Nervousness has been replaced by easy comfort and candle-lit coziness. My body maintains its position that I am no longer a runner, but here in the yellow farmhouse in Sweden, I can’t even find it in me to fight this conclusion. My days are filled with so much more than endorphins, and while my swollen knee complains when I walk down the stairs and concrete images about my future are beginning to materialize, to my growing anxiety, from the abstract blur that’s been spinning above me for ages, I mostly just feel happy. It’s a happiness that’s unique to being here in Skåne, with my homegrown pizza-making Håstad family, sipping bourbon with a bag of frozen corn on my knee.