Alive with the sound of music

Back at work today. Felt like going back into the rut of being anxious, nervous, upset, stressed, picking fights with myself over things that truly won’t matter or upset anyone (including myself) in the following hour, if not day. But no. I caught myself. As I was walking listening to one of Alex’s favorite songs, I recalled being short with Alex that morning while racing to get on my bike, and how kind and patient he is with me in those moments. He knows I don’t want to be that person. I’m not that person. I want my mood and energy to only sing a song of love and joy and…you probably guessed it: gratitude! So that’s how my Tuesday started.

It also helped that it was the first, fresh day back from a short vacation or a long weekend in the Bavarian Alps. It’s hard to get the songs from “Sound of Music” out of your head when you have images of bright green fields and gray mountains dancing around in your head. But today not only marks the day back at work, but also the 7 year anniversary of the car accident my father and I were in, whilst on my way back to university for tennis tryouts. Ah, how life was SO different back then. Focusing on school, making the tennis team, training for this and that, learning only to get a grade, forget and learn something else. Seems small when you look back on it, but I also looked at life very differently back then.

I’ll jump forward to a cool conversation I had today with one of my patients’ spouses. He wasn’t aware about my car accident anniversary being today, but we were talking about my job choice & my priorities in terms of looking forward with my career. He knows my goals of working with sustainability and having a big impact on the world, but he also knows how much I love my job of helping elderly people, and how good I am at improving their moods and days just by walking in their door (his words, not mine 🙂 )! As I explained that my feeling in the mountains was that I don’t want to waste any more time doing things that aren’t fueling my goal, and I want to focus more of my time and energy on the consulting work, he could hear the guilt in my voice. I also explained how hard it is for me to quit jobs, say goodbyes, and take that leap to the next rock. He leaned back and smirked, “As long as you feel like every day is not a waste- that you can find some satisfaction or accomplishment with every day, then don’t stress about hitting that target on the dot”. He then told a story about how one of his old favorite nurses kissed him on the cheek the other day, and how that made his whole day. You sometimes never know what impact you’re having on someone’s day, life, wellbeing, perspective, hopes, dreams, self-image. So, that was my reminder to be gentler with myself. Even though I’m not having the amazingly huge impact on global warming that I AIM to have, I am brightening the days of a handful of old folks in Stockholm day to day. That I am grateful for.

Gratitude is a word that developed more meaning for me after August 22nd 2010. The accident was a highway, car-crushing, too fast to swerve, scream or brake thing. I broke my left leg and shattered my ankle. My dad broke his lumbar vertebrae and sternum. It was a nasty, bloody, glassy, scary mess for a Sunday morning on the way back to university. I can honestly say that I became a stronger person because of it, despite my chances of running a pain-free marathon disappearing (not sure if there even is such a thing, though). Anyways. I need to get back to work, but I just thought I’d share how gratitude can deepen and grow after painful, life-changing moments occur.

 I always am pondering the deeper questions and am cherishing life up on the mountains—It reminds me of my first big trip to New Zealand with my fresh scars & the new outlook on how fragile life is. This time, I went up with the perspective of how full life can be—how many moments, experiences, trips, people, things, thoughts, memories pile up with us, and I’ve been hearing the stories, wishes, regrets, old and new self images of the old folks lately, and wow how it has reminded me how short life is. How GRATEFUL and JOYFUL I was to be out soaking up the sun, swimming, sweating, breathing heavily, drinking coffee, dancing, laughing, and enjoying the company of friends up on a mountain. I’m grateful for all the moments I’ve experienced since the accident, but I’m most thankful that I’ve gotten to experience them with amazing people- both near and far- who remind me that the relationships are what matter most! Accidents seem to be less of “accidents” the more we look at what we’ve learned and gained from them. Less like scars, more like lessons learned.

So if you’re having one of those days where you want to give into the grumpy mood, try to put a happy song in your head, and remember that you can be that kind and loving person who changes the mood of someone else. Be the start of that ripple!

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I forget where we were

Hello world!

I forget where we were

This post is coming much later than I had intended. In fact, I have several drafts started, written just for you, like a teenager’s love letter, crumpled up and saved under the bed for later, when some spark of confidence reappears… Some drafts go on for several paragraphs, but my favorite unpublished letter stopped after “wuddup kweens.” Not sure where that one was going…

REGARDLESS. I’m back. I’m happy to be sharing my thoughts, happenings, insights, or just a string of words that I fluttered together with my hands on this Tuesday morning. One thing that always keeps me from publishing these thoughts is the fear that you’ll be rolling your eyes saying, “Seriously? Another long post about daily jibberish? Any of us could be writing this.” It’s partially true. You probably could’ve written this. I think that’s also one of the reasons I continue to write these– I love to hear from friends near and far, that we’re experiencing some of the same thoughts, fears, or frustrations. I just decided to use my morning off to write some of them down, and take the risk to connect with you in some way. Glad to have you here! (A brief preview in pictures…)

 

So, the big news on my heart is about my new job!

Sidenote: But really, what is a job? In this pursuit of looking for a job that financially supports me, while at the same time fulfills a sense of meaning and purpose, and inspires me to grow, learn, help others, be a better human, yet not limit other possibilities…it’s been a challenging process of prioritization. That being said, I am at a place where I feel like I can celebrate that my priorities and goals are in line with my values and needs. It feels like all these shuffling steps have been moving forward, after all.

I can announce that I’m starting my personal consulting career as a sustainability consultant with Purple Ivy! It’s a small, young consulting company made up of a handful of really experienced and brilliant women. They’ve been working with mostly larger companies (500+) on sustainability projects ranging from energy issues, reporting issues, goal/purpose development, strategy…you pretty much name it, and these women find a way to grasp an understanding of the sustainability challenge, and propose forward-thinking and insightful solutions. I can’t wait to learn with them!

That means that I’ll be working hard to get up to speed on what we offer as a consulting firm, but also personally searching for my niche client who I can help with sustainability challenges. I plan on putting my outgoing personality to use, as well as my writing skills, and my knowledge of environmental and social impacts.

On top of that, for the last couple of months I’ve been developing my emotional skills with my elderly care job (hemtjänst, in Swedish). Man, do I love that job. It’s hard in ways that you’d expect it to be hard- it can be depressing going into some of these situations. Empathizing with their conditions, whether it be loneliness, physical illness, boredom, being trapped inside, being vulnerable to strangers everyday, can be uncomfortable. Phew. You name it. It’s a draining job, but it’s also that much more rewarding when I get a laugh out of them, or I open them up to tell me about some childhood memories, or their favorite recipes or traditions. The joy that I receive fromthat job seriously is so much more valuable than any other time I’ve put into other service jobs. Not saying that the elderly care system is perfect, because there is A LOT of work and thought to be put into better solutions and care. I still struggle with the challenge that many people my age (or even in general) are afraid to work with elderly people. They only picture the diapers, the senility, the cluttered homes…and even if that all is part of it, there’s still an inevitable truth that we’re all connected, right?

fullsizeoutput_13c4I had a moment where I felt like I was from another planet while I was talking to a 94 year old woman about my wakeboarding wipeouts from the previous weekend. I was showing her a video of it on this little box of glass (and whatever else) that fits in my hand, and 20 seconds later it can play her favorite music, show thousands of pictures of my trip to London, or from years ago with my family in Minnesota, and as well can reveal information about her old favorite program Teskedsgumman in seconds… it may feel like we’re so different or so far apart, but the truth is, we laugh about the same things. We still have the same basic needs, and guess what?! We’re both little specks of dust maybe only born 75 years apart, but in the grand scheme of it all, we’re two of the closest people in that moment, right? I’m just saying, the empathy that I exert or exercise at work is one of the most rewarding workouts. I learn so much from them, I come home so much more grateful for life in general, but also my body, my family, my opportunities that lie ahead, my time, my relationships that I have yet to develop and deepen, my work that I can make meaningful, my pages I have yet to stamp on my passport… you know? It could always be worse, and even when it does get worse, we can always be grateful for something new to learn.

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And then it can always get better, too!

Sidnote: Something I think all of the lovely people I visit have in common, is that throughout their elderly years, they’ve managed to stay positive. I can see a physical difference between those people. That’s another whole topic I’ve been working on in my free time: staying positive. If you’ve met me in the last couple months, you’ve probably heard me talk about this podcast that I’ve been listening to, especially in between my visits when I’m not having the best day. It’s called School of Greatness with Lewis Howes (you can find it on your phone’s podcast app, I promise. I even dare you! Yes, you too, Mom!). I could go into how much simple moments of clarity and wisdom come through the interviews he brings onto the show, but just in general to talk openly and honestly about overcoming fears, getting out of ruts, chasing your dreams, accomplishing the impossible, etc. It’s all impossible with a negative mindset, but the opposite is even more true: All possibilities start with a positive mindset. So go and crush that goal that you’ve been too shy, or too embarrassed to say (or even think about!).  …Anyway, so there’s another side tangent for you.

With that job, I’ve learned a lot, not only in becoming more confident with my Swedish, but also humbling myself to learn from others, and to help others find joy and passion in their lives. So as I slowly pick up the consulting job more, and limit my hours with the elderly care, I hope to continue to bring that humility and yet that spark into every project, office, and person’s life that I work with in the future.

Other side notes that I would like to include would involve:

My trips to France/Switzerland, Washington DC, Venice, London. Bah! I’ll have to summarize them with pictures for now. (see below)

Summer in Sweden in general, and how it’s the best place to be in summer (And how I can’t wait for my sister to visit in August!)

How important goal-setting is!

Topics I’ve been learning about with the new consulting job, like circular economy (my latest favorite to dive into)

Travel plans for weddings (yes, I do fly home for weddings with enough notice 😉 )

Hmm there are more if I think about it, but maybe I’ll just blurb out a random post in the coming weeks on some of these “side notes”… Until then, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, if not more!

 

Until next time! Hugs, stay positive, be grateful, love yourself & know that you’re worth it!

New job. Day 1 & Day 2:

Day 1: Love people, use things.

Visiting apartments that make you wish you had the capacity to hold your breath for 15 minutes at a time is humbling. Wading through the piles of old stuffed animals, piles of old grocery advertisements, stacks of loose pictures without names, dusting clocks, glass bottles, and only to realize there’s also a downstairs. It’s heartbreaking to see a person with so many things, living alone, who doesn’t even know the stories behind the things he stares at everyday. What’s even more heartbreaking is that the son who does care for his ageing father doesn’t realize how far away his father has become. He assumes there’s a reason his father leaves 2 knives and a saw by the entrance door, and there’s probably another story behind why there’s an apartment advertisement taped onto the floor. It feels chaotic, messy, and cluttered in there, but I can only imagine how it feels to slowly empty his mind full of memories, and try to cover up that wound with things, sweets, and humor.

A lot of faces, a lot of loneliness, a lot of ignorance from their loved ones, a lot of selfishness revealing itself in different ways. I felt more motivated than ever to 1. go home and clear out my apartment 2. live out my priorities, make sure the people who I admire and love know that and 3. come back to work the next day and learn new ways of how to let these people know that they are loved. Maybe 4. would be to tell the young people around me that the crap they’re working so hard to collect is so so sad. It’s important to see these things from a different perspective- from your grandma’s perspective, from an older self, from your dad’s perspective, getting older should mean growing in relationships not collecting more things.

Day 2: our bodies are temples

I looked into many eyes that were less confused, but for that reason, also more heartbroken. I had less patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and more with muscular deterioration, old age, ALS, humbling, humbling… Watching an elderly man, living at home, all dressed up in a tie, wool sweater, with a fresh haircut who takes pride in fastening his belt. I never thought that helping someone– who is still totally there mentally, but stuck in a body that’s not at all connected to his strength in wisdom and experience–would make me want to cry, but at the same time, not take for granted one trip to the bathroom on my own! Not take for granted any day I can go out and buy my own groceries. Our bodies are truly temples, and it’s sad to see youth- or even elderly mock that and take our bodies for granted.

On the second day, I was welcomed by so many people who loved the assistant I was shadowing. How much JOY I saw in their faces to have a loving woman, who also had recently learned Swedish, coming to take care of them. I feel honored to be able to share some of my joy, love, humility, peace with these people living in what feels like a trapped scenario.

I came home and cried and cried as I retold stories to Alex about these people I had met, these families who are so distant from their elderly loved ones who ONLY talk about their grandkids with so much pride, elderly people telling jokes only to hide what they’ve forgotten.

Day 3.

I may have caught a cold from one of the patients, or I may have just been emotionally, mentally, and physically tired from two full days. I was heartbroken. Not only for the elderly people, but the people around me in town–who walk around town in their fancy outfits, a look of disgust on their face, avoiding eye-contact, who can’t wait to get home and watch their show. I can’t describe how much I felt for them! I definitely had to laugh with Alex how often I would burst out in tears after a “cheesy” statement like how people aren’t grateful for the life that we have to live! Anyways, the first days hit me hard, so I was in bed on the third day, reflecting on the people I met, and also reflecting on how I can make sure that when I’m at that age, or in a condition like ALS, to make sure that I can say I didn’t waste a day or intentionally lose touch with any of my friends or loved ones.

I definitely want you- or any people that I meet- to feel like I love people and I use things, not the other way around.

Broken Parable

It’s already the end of January! You all probably are well into your new year’s resolutions, good habits set in place, endurance building at the gym, plenty of money saved from not buying candy or cigarettes, or not? Maybe you’re just in the process of writing these lists and imagining these goals to create the best version of yourself.

The last months have been somewhat hectic for me, especially in terms of traveling, job security/clarity, lack of routines in general. However, somehow when you get turned up on your head, some fresh blood flows into your brain & some clear thoughts are surfaced, which is why I’m writing some of them here (along with some pictures for Mom)!

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Something I’m working on this year is really building up my self resilience. What does that mean exactly? For me, it means building my confidence but also my humility in a way that I am secure about what my skills are, who I am in the present moment, and how I can interact in a positive way with whomever I’m encountering, all while still moving forward toward my goals.

Ah, my goals. Something always worth revisiting. It’s funny how dreams and goals can be once so clearly and simply defined, but as time passes, priorities change, ideas pop up, etc. and that clear goal bubble becomes blurry to the point where it’s dissolved. (Just me?) I’m frustrated that I put so much weight into the importance of even having a “title” in my goal. For example, my goal used to be to be the best sustainability consultant possible. There are two problems with that… One is that I didn’t even know what a consultant was when I thought of that, as well as I had nowhere near enough experience to call myself a consultant. Secondly, sustainability is so vague & constantly changing, so that title is impossible to reach. And thirdly! A job title is one thing to work for, but once you get there, there are guaranteed to be many more important non-things to focus on which should’ve been prioritized in this “goal.”

So. Goals. We once worked with workshops around creating visions during our master’s program- a vision is basically something that you work towards that encompasses your purpose for striving for this goal, your values that you believe in and which support it, and just to imagine & stretch a bit farther, you paint the really extreme Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Still, after playing with different values and priorities, I often find that my core purpose comes down to helping people in my current environment as well as in future generations. That’s one thing that remains constant. In the process of reflecting on it, and writing it down, I almost always meet my biggest fears, or even new ones.

Language truly shapes our thoughts and opinions, people! The act of writing or speaking out your goals is important in this process of moving forward. I know it’s difficult, scary, making yourself vulnerable, but it’s a (if not THE) first step. Well, this is after you set aside what you’ve been taught and really reflect inwards. Not to go too mushy here, but what I mean is setting aside society’s expectations and setting your own, based on YOUR own real values (again, not what you’ve been taught to recite).

Our ability to think and communicate clearly is what keeps us focused, what allows us to reach our goals.

My life story is at this intersection right now. I’ve been living in Sweden for three years. THREE years. I studied my Master’s of Science because I knew- and really knew in my heart- that I wanted to work with sustainability. What I didn’t know was that it is and was okay to take a leap first into the working world & try to gain some life experience. Had I done that, I would’ve had more context to work with & translate the theory into during my Master’s program. No regrets, but had I not been so insecure about my fear of not fitting into a box or a title, I could’ve had a different learning experience. I’ve realized that this is one of my biggest fears! I’m afraid that society, my friends, my family, my coworkers won’t recognize my potential, my skills, my previous knowledge and achievements because of what I’m doing now. A lot of the things I love to work with aren’t always using my degrees or the full range of my intelligence & experience. Often they’re putting me in humble places that are even looked down upon in society–helping others, listening, serving people, very-non-sexy-unimpressive jobs.

Anyways, I’m back in this situation of not having a title. I’ve been working with social entrepreneurs which is a big group of people who help other people and group themselves under this awesome title. I’ve been enabling social entrepreneurs to help other people, but now I’m wondering what other skills, passions and needs (or gaps) in the society that need to be addressed that I could work with!

It’s been a lot of fun, inspiring, and sporadic mind-mapping work. Keeping myself organized is one of the hardest parts because I have so many interests, so many people and groups I see that need help, so many skills I’d love to devote myself to learn, so many people I’ve met who can connect me with cool projects, …Soooo that’s where prioritization comes into place.

Who are the people that need my help the most? What are my biggest fears that are standing in the way from letting my heart truly sing? What skills do I need to learn to help this group of people?  Will working with this group bring me closer to my goal, or at least serve as a platform for other steps to bring me there? Will it provide enough resources (mentally, emotionally, financially, etc) for the continuation of my goal-chasing journey?!

Man, I’m working on the answers, but maybe this stream of consciousness resonates with some of you, or not. 🙂 Either way, it definitely feels like I’m finding some clarity and peace by overcoming some of these fears & opening up possibilities of helping some groups of people very close to my heart. Stay tuned!

Train thoughts

It occurred to me, even before I sat down on the train down to Lund (in southern Sweden), that most people around me never live up to their potential.  Most of us are limiting ourselves with our thoughts, fears, the put-downs from other people. I think these dark shadows grow so quickly because they have a piece of a truth, or a piece of our past, or something we fear we’ll become, that we can envision becoming a reality. Before you just gloss over the rest, I promise it gets brighter…
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I just came back from a huge conference called Slush in Helsinki, Finland. It was pretty awesome actually- amazing concert-type lights, thousands of startups, thousands of investors, executives, volunteers, students- you name it (ok, no clowns). They had talks hosted simultaneously on topics such as technology changing the food industry, how to overcome failure, stories from giant founders of startups like Skype, pitches on top of pitches of new ideas, talks on the challenges and trends in investing, etc. I learned so so much, not only by listening and absorbing information from the stages, and one-on-one encounters, but also just by trial and error of talking with others. I literally would walk up to anyone who looked remotely bored, friendly, or super successful (almost anyone could fit into this category, including a sleeping person—which is another funny story of how I almost got in a fight). To be honest, I thought I would make a fool out of myself more than I wouldn’t. I am NOT an expert on Alex’s product, and I’m quite clueless when it comes to the jargon of investors, and even the startup journey. I have to say that I picked up a lot quickly and held onto the goal to get Alex’s product and my fearless smile in as many people’s faces as possible at the event. I’m not saying that I was living up to my greatest potential at this event, but I took any fear that bubbled up and I would throw it back with a shot of espresso (also because the coffee line is the easiest approaching spot). I needed to put my best forward, which meant focusing on the things I knew to be true and good about what I was doing. It enabled me to learn a lot more than I otherwise would’ve if I had turned up that tiny voice telling me I was a fake, I was inexperienced, not even part of the company, that I’d get myself into a conversation I couldn’t get out of, etc.
I was able to meet a ton of inspiring, kind, hopeful, successful people. Heard a lot of cool stories of startups and entrepreneurs trying to make the world a better place, pushing themselves into the zone of discomfort, the unknown, and quite honestly, putting themselves in a very vulnerable position.
I’m sitting on the train processing these encounters, as well as recalling a negative experience I had at the conference (not talking about where I woke up someone during a presentation to chat, when he definitely wanted to nap)… It was a confrontation from an acquaintance who got to know me through couch-surfing. After harassing me online, he felt enraged by my average review and proceeded to attack me personally with a hurtful email. I shouldn’t have let this get to me- I shouldn’t have even read it, but similar to one’s own thoughts, negative attacks with even the slightest sliver of truth in them can slip through the cracks and try to break your optimistic attitude down. Thankfully, I was quickly reenforced with positive people around me, like Alex and Yones, who know me well and could support me when I turned to them. But wow, was I surprised how easily I was torn down from one moment to the next when I let the mean and negative thoughts re-absorb in my mind. Now that I definitely see it with a clearer perspective, that the negative words thrown at me were not true. The person saying those things actually doesn’t know me, but haters are going to hate- even if you didn’t think you gave them a reason to… So now, it looks like it was just an exercise for me to wrestle that, to ask for encouragement and love from myself and Alex, while trying to stay positive, optimistic, energetic, and show people my best side. I would say I passed!
I’ve been reading this book, Talk like Ted, actually for the last couple months. I’ve been piecing through it slowly, but savouring a lot of the lessons in public speaking, entrepreneurship, as well as personal development. I’ll add an excerpt from Carmine Gallo’s note at the end of the book that spoke to me with a recurring thought in my head, but was needed in that moment as a reminder. Maybe you need to read it today too:
“If you’re like most people, you’re capable of so much more than you’ve imagined for your life. You have the capacity to move people, to inspire them, to provide hope to the despondent and direction to the lost. You have the ability to educate and electrify, inform and inspire, but only if you believe in your ability to do so.
     Don’t let negative labels hold you back from achieving your destiny. Some people might tell you that you’re not good enough, that you don’t have what it takes to make a compelling business pitch or to give a great presentation. Often the worst labels are those we place on ourselves. I find that leaders who are nervous about speaking in public say the most awful things to themselves—words that they would never say to anyone else. I’ve heard leaders say: ‘I’m terrible at giving presentations’ ‘I got nervous once and it ruined me. I’m a horrible public speaker’ ‘Nobody wants to listen to me. I’m boring’ If these are the type of phrases you repeat to yourself day after day, it’s no wonder you get nervous! You can’t control what other people say about you but you can control the things you tell yourself. Instead of replaying negative thoughts over and over again, reframe your thoughts and replace those negative labels with words of encouragement, empowerment and strength. Remember, ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. Your ideas will change the direction of your life and potentially change the world. Don’t let anything—including negative labels—stand in your way. … You don’t need luck to be an inspiring speaker. You need examples, techniques, passion, and practice. You also need courage— the courage to follow your passion, articulate your ideas simply, and express what makes your heart sing.”
MAN I LIKE THAT. I feel as though those words were written for me. I’ve been feeling so uninspired by my thoughts and the truth is, that that is the case because I allow it to be. It takes courage to stand “in the fire” or in an uncomfortable place, where it may require discipline, focus, or simply honesty with yourself to really reflect and become aware of what you’re thinking about. Also in line with this, was a video that Alex had sent to me:
It reminded me so much of my master’s program’s framework for being aware first, then looking at the next steps, prioritizing, keeping your goal in mind, and surrounding yourself by the thoughts, people, and actions that allow you to get there.
So, even if you aren’t trying to start your own company, or start a revolution, but you simply want to inspire yourself and others to be better human beings for each other, it starts with the personal power and strength that you already have inside you! Flex that brain of yours- sit in that uncomfortable spot & work through those thoughts, connect it with your heart, & off we go to making our dreams come true.
Awareness. Discipline. Patience. Gratitude. Love. Progress. …Wishing you all of these on top of success, (whatever that means to you).

Empowering others as a job?

A lot has changed in the last week and a half. I was ready to write the next post then and there about my project, but I’m actually glad I didn’t! Still, it’s better to just jump right in rather than putting more weight on the importance of the perfection of a post, eh?

So. Here’s what I’ve been working on the last couple months. It’s called the Social Impact Award. It’s a program for students all over Sweden who want to learn more about social entrepreneurship, and maybe even want to start their own company that works toward making a difference on a social issue. Our program provides workshops for inspiration, business planning, business modelling and then we incubate the applicants with the best ideas based on innovation, social impact, feasibility, and the strength of the team.

I’ve never ran a program before, never even wrote a budget before, never cold-called coca-cola before and asked for a meeting to discuss a €100,000 grant! Ha. It’s been rocky. I’m not always rocking it, but I have met amazing people in the last couple months because of it!

I went to Vienna to meet the founders of the program, the other country coordinators, and even the winners of 2016 from the 10 countries that have been running in in the last 6 or so years. It was so inspiring to see the sparkle in their eyes, that you can really enable others to follow their dreams. Many of us feel like we miss that window, or we doubt our abilities or our ideas. I’ve kind of felt that way this week actually…

I admittedly didn’t think I’d get so down about the elections. I think that’s all I’ll say about that, but I also must say I haven’t given up hope for what’s to come. It did affect my mood, my motivation, my feeling of being helpless, and somehow, my feeling that any damn thing is possible. I’m hoping that people believe in their dreams that bring about helping others, because that’s the core of my pitch. If people believe in the fear, hate, and the greedy grind that happens so often around us, then I’m in trouble. No one is going to give me a million Swedish crowns to run a program that helps inspired students believe that their dream or their idea DOES have the power to make a difference. Even if it doesn’t change the world, I want them to see that living with a purpose of helping others changes your outlook on living for the better.

That’s the main reason that I’m still working on this program. There’s a high probability that the program will not come to fruition this year in Sweden. Mostly because it’s just me finding these leads, because my pitch is not perfected, my fear of failing keeps me in bed far too long some mornings, and my scattered thoughts keep me from reassuring myself that I’m still learning.

I’m finding over and over again, that it’s important to remember why we’re doing something. Remember what we’re thankful for, how blessed we are, and then how we can bring that to someone else. Remembering small encouragements helps me also, but we don’t talk about our fears so often, so I don’t open up that opportunity very often!

It’s not news that you’re growing when you’re uncomfortable. But it’s how we respond to that discomfort and the feeling of being a failure, and the fear of failing that defines our success. That’s what’s helping me move forward. I know that I want to be helping others find their purpose, their joy, their mission in life. I want to see their eyes sparkle and get excited about what they’re doing. Is that even a job?

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

So, whatever happens with this program, I’m going to continue to reach out to people and stay optimistic until the last minute. I’m open to the cyber hugs, 100,000 grants, connections, and the encouraging words of my friends and family who know me best, though! 🙂

Reverse culture shock is still real

I’ve been back on Minnesota soil for about 4 full days now. It’s been so fun, relaxing, and re-energizing to be around my family, around familiar places, taking my favorite bike trails, and reliving old, fun memories. STILL. There are some things that keep resurfacing in my mind that I can’t believe I didn’t notice before. I’ll write about it here so that I can stop annoying my parents and friends every time I think about it.

  1. People are SO friendly and chatty.
  2. Sugar is literally covering everything we eat
  3. We are attached to our cars
  4. The sunrises and sunsets are more beautiful here (probably because you can see the sun)
  5. TV commercials are convincing me of all these new diseases I have
  6. There’s a lot of water in the toilets.
  7. I only learned how to use silverware as an adult because we eat with our hands

I felt so lucky to visit the apple orchard we’d always go to as kids with the whole family, to bike with my dad to the city hall & vote, to make apple sauce with my mom, to drive with my brother and sister, to sit around a bonfire with my high school friends and laugh so hard about nothing just like old times, to visit my university in Wisconsin & witness all of the amazing changes and improvements, to visit my other home (Luna cafe!) where I learned a lot about service and working long hours for smiles and granola, to cry with my friends about our quarter-life confusion and congratulate eachother about our progress, to get buzzed off of two beers (so not like old times when we could tolerate alcohol!), and to sleep on my friends’ couches and beds and really reconnect. That’s what this visit was about, and also because 11 months is too long to not have hugs from the people who shaped me.

It’s something special to be able to go home to the house I grew up in. I realize now, at age 25, that my family really created a beautiful and amazing environment for me to grow in. Not only did they encourage me to pursue whatever I wanted (including acting classes, professional careers in tennis, softball, running, cycling, dancing, etc.) but they really established the value of spending time with people and acknowledging others’ dignity. My parents didn’t care if I didn’t win, if I was actually terrible at acting, or if I was never on the varsity team. They did care however if I was trying my best, and if I was using my powers for helping people, not hurting them. “Do your best” was more of a mantra than something I understood at the time, but now coming home & seeing what an oasis it is to be surrounded by love, support, and the comfortable feeling of knowing that you’re accepted, included, and loved no matter what you end up doing is definitely the source for a lot of my success.

It’s hard to come home & see things gradually changing without me. In some ways, everything is the same- a lot of the routines, the stunning sunsets over the cornfields, my favorite dirt roads & steep hills & smell of manure in the morning, and also the love that still fills the rooms in our house. I do however feel helpless and maybe even guilty that I’m not home more often to see the changes that scare me. It’s natural that people get older and maybe lose the motivation to go for walks or find new recipes to incorporate healthy and varied food, or even doing something different or special to show that you care about someone.  In a big way, I have to accept that I’m choosing this life to live abroad. Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunities and learnings that I’m experiencing here. However, I also have to make the most of this situation of going back and forth, and only seeing the big changes when I’m there in person. Skype, snapchat, and messaging helps keep us updated, but the deeper questions, insecurities, and connections are only surfaced in person. At the same time, I love entitling myself to just jump into those conversations when I’m there. It’s with my friends too. Since I know I won’t see them for months, it’s so important that I don’t hold those juicy questions back, really digging for what their challenges are, how they’re really feeling in this or that relationship or job, what they really think they want to be doing. I love being able to dig into these conversations when we have our coffees, and I don’t think I do that even with the people I live around in Stockholm so often, nor did I do it as often when we lived close by. I can ask them, “Are you doing your best?” and really walk through what they’re going through. I love that.  I want to be doing that more everywhere I am, and I want to bring that joyful and safe environment that I remember so well to everyone I meet.

So that brings me to this new …thing/project/program/job I’m up to these days…I’ll post it in a new blog though!