on writing and living.

So lately existence has been kinda eh.

I’m trying really hard to get myself onto a normal human schedule where I go to bed between eleven and midnight and wake up between seven-thirty and eight, and I’m doing okay, but I’m experiencing the thing that I’ve become very familiar with in the last, oh, two and a half years of attempted self-improvement: the more strict I get with myself about it, the more I find myself struggling with guilt, confusion and two-year-old temper tantrums.

This time around I’ve managed to stick to a schedule as far as sleeping, but the other things I was trying to do every day (exercise, do homework, write) are getting spottier. One thing at a time, maybe? I’m really not sure.

Yesterday I was over-contemplating what my pale dissatisfied existence has become, and naturally getting too cosmic about it, and wondering when I became so dead terrified of going and doing things, and I realized that, coincidentally or not, ever since I’ve been in Sweden I’ve opted out of some things because of a paralyzing fear of fucking up somehow.

I don’t know why, but I’ve kind of got it into my head that nobody can know I’m an exchange student. (Perhaps a sad byproduct of the days in which my ambition at Sjölunden was to be the counselor who, when she spoke English on the last day of the session, was immediately stopped with a, “Wait, you speak English?!” Who knows.)

I think I maybe need to let go of this intense need to blend in and be innocuous. I’m literally a transplant. I’m not from here and the language isn’t my first language and I don’t get everything about how to live here. Hell, I don’t get everything about how to live, but when I got cut and pasted into Sweden it all got localized and some stuff that used to be second nature had to be relearned. I like to think I’m pretty adaptable, but still the cultural divides between Europe and North America run deeper than you think, and I got pretty damn comfortable in my twenty years.

It was a good realization, though. I still believe that mistakes exist, and that I can be justified in trying to avoid the really awful ones, but small, stupid, social faux pas aren’t going to ruin the rest of my life. Asking questions isn’t wrong. If I have to speak bad Swedish in response to someone’s near-fluent English, I can do it (hell, I’ve done something very similar before and got paid for it). In fact, today I went to get a lost package from the International Housing Office, and I knew beforehand that I could ask about that in English, and I thought about doing it, and then I realized that it had been a while since I chose Swedish when I didn’t have to, and so I went for it, and after the interaction was over I realized how natural it had been. I can do this.

Today I’m finishing my years-long odyssey through all of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s studio albums by listening to Ashes and Roses for the first time (and just in time, too; she apparently has a new album coming in May). I didn’t like The Calling on first listen (or second, to be honest), and I’m also not really much for Between Here and Gone. I adore the earliest six, and there are gems on time*sex*love. But Ashes and Roses is so far really lovely. It’s just a nice, mellow sound, and so far I like the lyrics as well.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. – Louisa May Alcott

Also, I’ve been writing. I think I’m on a good one. I’m really trying to stick to something I learned when looking at methods to plan a novel: the guy said he observes that people write a sentence and immediately try to edit it, and then get stuck. YES HI HELLO THAT’S ME. So I’m trying to keep myself from editing until I finish an actual chapter.

And I really like “I Tried Going West” from Ashes and Roses.


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