Here be elves!

This is an older post originally published on Tumblr. I will improve it, but even as is, it stands quite well to describe us. 

Sebi has an idea…

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Near Åsle Tå, a small and very old village in Västsverige

To create a small e-book which shows Sweden through our eyes. It would be a collection of his best pictures taken here, as well as some stories and insights written by me. With some iterations, we even came up with a name: The hidden face of Sweden: Here Be Elves!

And I got excited. Very excited about this shiny new family project, because it seems to me that we see far more in this country than most people see. And I wonder why.

My friends know very well how much we love Sweden and how enthusiastic we continue to be about every little Swedish thing, even after two years of living here. But I think the actual place has less to do with our constant extraordinary happiness, than it does with an important part of what could be called my religion. Here we go: I really believe that the purpose of one’s life is to find his/ her love, place and meaning.

THE LOVE is the person who fulfills you in every single way, the one that makes you better, challenges you, believes in you, makes you mad and crazy sometimes, drives you to the maximum… your other half of the soul. I have no idea how to find this person, I just know I was lucky enough to stumble over him when I was very young. I do not believe in destiny, but I think we all get the opportunity to meet this person, and it is up to us if we keep him or her close or not. It may seem hard to spot, because this person is not perfect, he does not wear a shiny armor, nor does he ride a white horse. He is not perfect, but he is right for you, even if sometimes it may seem quite the opposite. But if in the hardest moments you choose to believe, to fight, to stay… and if together you overcome these moments, both enriched by the experience, that’s how you recognize your soulmate.

THE PLACE is that part of the world which is right for you. It is a combination of the right scenery and the right people. It is the people that shape the place, and you can see this if you know how to look. It’s in the way the life flows, the we way the flowers bloom, it is in the way the people smile, the way that animals react and in every mundane task you do in your everyday life. This place could be where you were born, nearby or even far away. Sometimes you need to search for it, and this search is much like the search for a soulmate, it can take years or… it may even never happen. If you do start this search, you need to stay awhile before grasping the true heart of a place, because you see the world differently through your tourist eyes. In order to delve deeper in a place, you have to bump your head with everyday, mundane problems, like finding and managing a place to stay. working there, shopping for groceries or for taking your pet to the vet. Some of these will feel normal, some extraordinary and some, just plain stupid. Most importantly, you need to make friends. They, together with all the feelings you gain from doing the everyday living, will chisel out a true feeling for that place in your soul.

THE MEANING is what you are meant to do, that one productive activity that brings you the most fulfillment. I think we all have something that we owe to the universe, and this something can range from raising a good kid, to building a house, planting a tree, writing a book… It can be anything, but for sure there’s SOMETHING that each should do. Its like our lives are puzzle pieces to a better life for all of us, each piece connecting with the others as soon as someone figures out what to strive for. But finding your meaning is hard, especially in a society where safety is treasured above passion, where a certain of money is required in order to have a life and a family and where the most advertised lifelong goal is to just get rich. Despite it all, I believe that finding your true meaning will haunt you all your life. You can choose to ignore it, and I think many do, because this pursuit is hard and challenging, just like the quests to find your soulmate and your place. But you have to listen to your soul and just do stuff, stay alert and aware to see how each activity resonates within you, be relentless in trying things out, learn as much as you can all the time, be brave and don’t give up. I believe that, while riskier, a life led in pursuit of your meaning is far better than a life of conformity.

These three challenges are interconnected. If you find your love, together you will fight for finding your place. Your love will always push you towards finding your meaning, and you will push him too. The place will provide the opportunities that you need in order to do what you are supposed to do. You will be drawn to that place, it will call you, if you have found your meaning.

And so, you’ve guessed it. Its not that Sweden is amazing (which IT IS!), it’s that it proved to be THE PLACE for us.

We have been wanderers until we arrived in Sweden. We’ve always been drawn here, somehow, through both little hints and big, clear statements. We were in a situation where we thought we found the place to let our roots grow, and we made some decisions that tied us down in that place pretty firmly. We still pay for those decisions and they still burden us considerably. But our fight to find our meaning swept us off that place and pushed us here. If we wouldn’t have had the courage to go, we would have had broken lives now, I am sure of this.

Sweden is not perfect. In fact, it can be quite restrictive and oppressive with its many rules, its state controlled alcohol shops, its worshipped queue system and its long, dark winters. It is a country with fewer opportunities of entertainment, an expensive life and people not exactly famous for their friendly, outspoken attitude towards newcomers.

But it is right for us and what we want from life. We want peace, lots and lots of nature, a community that follows the rules and that considers friendship a long term reward to offer those who kind of earn it. People here are passionate, hard workers who respond well to people with the same mindset. Swedes love nature and value the concept of having enough – lagom. This is obvious in almost every picture you take: their little red houses are always surrounded by a sea of green, by a forest or  sit right by a lake. They are never too big, nor too little; they are what is necessary for the family who lives there. The cities are clean and neat; it is not the septic cleanliness that you sometimes find in other places, but it is that kind of clean that allows nature and life inside. Passion roams free, and everybody practices it: from gatherings of really old car owners to painting workshops to tabletop enthusiasts, there is something for everybody and each and every passion is celebrated. There’s rules surrounded by the idea of breaking them: no one drinks during the week, but, man, do they drink in the weekends! There is respect, that guides the conduct of people, for you do not want to be in their dis contempt. And there is love, lots of love, of every single kind but most of all, love of life. Sometimes this love may seem egoistic, for there is lots of freedom in the way you lead your life and there are few people who marry, don’t divorce and are religious in the common sense. But I think this is the pursue I talk about, and it’s OK to move ahead and try again if you did not find your love, your place, your meaning at once. This is a life long quest whose biggest reward is the way to get there….