We stepped off the plane in Stockholm, Sweden to a beautifully warm summery day. Tired, hot and a bit stinky following a 20-hour flight, our dreams of starting our family band travelling through the Nordic was quickly overshadowed by our dawning reality.
Job – nope.
Car – nope.
House – nope.
A million dollars in the bank for us to spend on various IKEA furnishings – nope.
OK, so either we have faith to move mountains or are just plain stupid. A whole next level kind of DUMB. Who knows, maybe a bit of both? Who uproots their entire life, Australian heritage and family of four to move to another country with only seven suitcases of personal effects? Us. Silly old us. Because seriously, you only live once #yolo and you only move overseas once #yomoo and also, I love making big dramatic life changes for shits and giggles because going CRAZY from all of the above is fun.
But honestly, despite our fair share of challenges throughout the process of moving overseas, we have learnt so much. I honestly believe that life’s greatest lessons are learnt through trials, hardship and seasons where you have no control whatsoever over your circumstances. It’s not always fun, but it’s the perfect ground for growing and cultivating something new.
Good ol’ me always takes a lesson out of everything. For example, that swooping magpie nearly poked my eyes out; God is teaching me to not look at the distractions in my life because the Bible says if your eye causes you to sin you should remove it… HAHAHA, OK not really but you get my point. Moving on.
Tip #1: Learn to be OK with eating a big fat humble pie
Right now, there are just short of 30k refugees in Sweden seeking asylum. In Australia, there are 19k (a bit disappointing in number for a country that is sizeable compared to Sweden but I’ll argue politics another day). In 2016 worldwide, there were 65.6 million people displaced, the highest number ever recorded according to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
To state that we are even close to the extreme hardship that refugees experience would be disrespectful towards their situation. At the very least, we have an apartment, albeit temporary. In a very small way, however, I get a glimpse of what it’s like to desperately want to be settled. That feeling – that longing – of wanting my home secured, established, furnished, painted in the colours of my liking and so on is beyond sufficient explanation. We’ve been living temporarily for about a month and I care little about the actual house we end up in. All I want is a final place to call our home. Not to get poetic and airy-fairy, but could it be a mimic of this eternal home we long for where we can be done away with suffering, pain and tears? Who knows.
Transport. If I want to get from A to B, I take a bus and/or train, which takes some getting used to as I’ve always just hopped into my car to get everywhere. Grocery shopping is a bit of a mystery, almost like a game show where I win a prize if I pick out food that’s actually suitable for consumption cos all food labelling is in Swedish. Pretty much everything from reading the mail, taking Elias to the Haemophilia Treatment Centre (it’s called Barnkoagulationsmottagningen in case you were wondering – yeah, try and pronounce that when you’ve had a wine or two) and getting my residency in order all requires reliance on Swedish Husband and fellow Swedes who, might I add, are incredibly patient with my ‘I just got here and have no idea what’s going on’ status.
Being a foreigner, an ‘immigrant’ is humbling. I have to depend largely upon the people of this fine nation to help me adapt and integrate. Being in the position of the one needing help, rather than the helper is humbling. And that brings me to my next point!
Tip #2: Call in reinforcements before things get ugly
Everybody knows I went a little cray-cray after Elias was born and ended up in a mental hospital in 2016. It was a low point in my life but I’m so thankful it happened because it taught me to know my limits, stop living in denial and get support when needed. (Oh, and just on that ‘everybody knows’ point, I actually get people contacting me A LOT via my blog saying they googled “going crazy after having a baby” so yeah, I’m famous for all the wrong reasons HAHAHAHAHAHELPME).
A beautiful friend said to me just before I left Sydney, “Mindi, if you’ve been through all that, you can definitely do this. Because you’re just honest with yourself.” True dat. That experience only a few years ago has not restricted the difficult things happening in my life, it has just helped me employ strategies when the going gets tough. I’m having a video call with my therapist who I left behind in Australia because she selfishly disagreed to moving overseas with us (lol) and in our local community centre here in Märsta we will start family counselling to help us work through some issues with parenting a 3.5 year old who demonstrates strong dictatorship leadership skills.
Is getting help a sign of weakness? NOPE. It’s there for the taking for those who have the honesty and humility to accept that we are frail humans with limitations. Thankfully, both here in Sweden and on home shores in Australia, there are plenty of great organisations and professionals who are experts in dealing with people who just need a little extra love and care. Here’s a blog I wrote on this topic with some info and resources.
Tip #3: Allow time to do its thing and stop trying to short-cut the process
Yeah, that was a really long sentence, but if you’re anything like me, you want things to be back to homeostasis now! We’ve spent the last few years and more intensely, the preceding six months preparing to get here. Slightly disappointed I wasn’t fluent in Swedish after three days and our house wasn’t completely furnished with the comforts and embellishments that make up an IKEA catalogue, I probably could work on my impatience.
Bit by bit, however, we are making progress. As each day passes, we buy another household item that I threw on the curb for council pick-up only a few weeks ago. Elias gets enrolled in pre-school. Lucy is added to the queue for daycare. I find this shop called LiDL that looks like ALDI, smells like ALDI and has that same funeral parlour ambience that makes ALDI a really special place indeed. I don’t care how ghetto LiDL is, it’s a bizarre slice of heaven that reminds me of home.
There have been days where I’ve wanted to book a one-way flight back to Australia because I long to go back to what is familiar, safe and comfortable. But then I realise, I cannot go back towards my behind, because I’m not going there. We are going forward.
I hauled my Aussie ass across the planet to the northern hemisphere to carve out new ground, create new opportunities for our family and suck the public system dry to make a positive impact on others. Look out, Sweden! I may be short and a little awkward, but we are here for gooooood and will keep ploughing through thick and thin. Thankfully, this country is saturated with coffee, sugar-loaded treats (fika) and the people… WOW, they are beautiful and not just in a Tommy Hilfiger catalogue kinda way. Swedes are warm and very, very polite. Like, maybe I can cut in line, steal your car and live in your apartment rent-free and we’d still be friends kinda polite. Yeah.
Excited to see what the coming months and years will bring. As a seasoned pastor (who I am certain wants me to be his bff and move in with him and preach in his church cos he liked my comment on one of his Instagram posts) so famously says, “The best is yet to come!”