a love letter to sweden

I am split into parts, fractured into stained-glass sections of several different women all coexisting on a window that people sometimes stop to admire but largely just regard as another color in their otherwise monochrome lives. There is the realist in me, the one who always wins despite my inner pleading to sometimes tip myself in the other, more whimsical direction. There is the waterlogged survivor of several forced and lingering dunks into the waters of catastrophe, the one whose breath is bitter with past heartache and whose mind is acerbic with the vinegar of the darker days. There is the doer, the seed which forms when I feel like life is burying me. There is the lover, the stupid optimist, the brick wall, the hurricane, the flood, the drought.

In Sweden, the dreamer comes out to play.

Sweden is where I go when I’ve had too many shots of the concrete, too many swills of the tonic of tangibility. In Sweden, I fall in love with boundless and glimmering possibility instead of nurturing the verisimilitude of reality. Even if reality is bigger and brighter and more rewarding than my mind could have ever conceived, I come to Sweden to dream of something different.

I felt, in younger times when I was a different person, as though Sweden was always going to be a heartwarming reprieve. I wasn’t exactly wrong, but only because the masochist in me churned my perception in her direction; I learned to savor the heartbreaks that have befallen me here. The snowfall and the ice sheets and the wind that could blow your skin clean off if you’re not too careful align almost too perfectly with the tumult that rolls around in a heart that’s been sutured together time and time again with Scandinavian precision.

And then, of course, there are the summers: those golden-tipped, never-ending days that languish out like a drag of the smoothest whiskey on the shelf. Those days that feel like someone pressed a pause button on real life, the stretch of a few glorious months when stress dissipates into the perpetual sunshine, when bodies are splayed out on any and every patch of green in the city, the national sanctioned pastime of relaxation. Those are the dreamlike, ethereal, orange bursts of drunkenness. Those are times for which we all hang on through the months of darkened sobriety.

But here and now, in the delicious draftiness of December in Stockholm, I came up for air. I came up to think, I came up to dream, I came up to reactivate that certain spark of myself which only seems to ignite under Swedish skies. The puzzling, mystifying, magical facet here is that I’m not suffocated, braindead, or muted into the mundane in my life outside of Sweden. I’m just…better here. My legs are stronger. My hair is fluffier. My eyes are bluer. I am more myself here than I am anywhere else.

Coming to Sweden is like paying respects to all the people I’ve been, all the versions of myself who died here, who were born here, and all those who lived full lifespans in between. From the staunch spires of Strandvägen to the half-pipe valleys of Kungsleden, the luxury of loneliness permeates me. I come here to get lost in a drug-like fairy world of euphoria, being surrounded by tens of thousands of people who are just like me, but too demure to ever say so. I come here to feel connected, and I come here to feel alone.

I come to Sweden to breathe, to remember that I am penning the story of my own life, that the only obstacles I face are the errant hand cramp and the possibility that my pen will run out of ink before I’m finished writing.

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