Ups and Downs and Sweden

Ebbs and flows; ups and down; squiggly lines; highs and lows-these are the things that make up life, but more specifically these are the things that have marked the more general trend of the last several months.

While I’d like to think that each day I get a bit stronger and I grow a little more, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the regular and consistent ups and downs I experience, sometimes on an hourly basis.

One moment I feel as though I am doing well, that I am being more present and moving through my day with a bit more intention than I did the one before.  In another moment, I hit a downward movement where my insecurities surface and the thoughts in my mind become loud.

While on a logical level I understand that these ups and downs are what comprise life and that I can learn as much from the downs as I feel the intense joy and happiness of the ups, on a more emotional level I still grapple with the inconsistency of the process.  When I hit the down periods, I add on a little guilt for their presence.

Last week, my Mom sent me an innocuous email casually mentioning a teacher shortage in Sweden.  Without giving it any great thought, I immediately put some feelers out to family there to further investigate the situation.  Within hours, I had feedback which directed me towards an international English school.

I spent the next 3 days extensively researching the school, figuring out the logistics of what a move to Sweden would include, and taking a quick look at apartments-all of this, as I would later tell Ian was an effort to “wrap my head around” the idea.

This is something I do: as I mentioned in an earlier post, I am someone who is slow to process.  Spontaneity has never really been a strength of mine.  That isn’t to say I’m someone who has historically remained immovable and static, I just need a bit of time to think the process through.

The first instance where I can remember doing this was when the option to study in New Zealand was presented.  I was 22, and beginning the process of applying to teachers colleges here in Ontario.  By that point it was common knowledge that there was a surplus of applicants, and while my grades were okay they weren’t anything to write home about.  In an effort to explore further options, in the event that my applications to Ontario colleges were unsuccessful, I began to look elsewhere.

At the time, a friend of my Dad had a son who has just travelled down to NZ and was doing his teaching certification there.  When this option was presented to me, my initial reaction was one of complete dismissal.

Until that time, I had travelled extensively, albeit with family.   With my Mom from Sweden and my Dad from England, trips to the UK and Sweden were a once-every-three-years excursion for me, since I was very young.

Despite my experience with travel, I had never done it alone.  And the thought of my first solo excursion to a country literally on the other side of the planet initially seemed a bit too daunting for me.

A few weeks passed since my initial dismissal of the NZ option, before I decided to submit an application anyways.  I figured at that point nothing was decided, and as the application process cost nothing, I figuratively had nothing to lose.  It took maybe a month or two before the college responded to my application.  During those few months, I began researching NZ.  I grew more familiar with it-as familiar as one can be when still in the northern hemisphere.  The idea of a move to NZ became less intimidating and more do-able.

It took some time and some exploration, but in the end I did move down to NZ and spent an amazing year and a half there.

So, for three days last week, I researched Sweden.

And I still haven’t reached any definitive conclusions.  That’s okay.

What I did realize, at some point on the third day of research was that I WAS considering the option of moving to Sweden.  I realize that this epiphany may seem a bit silly or a bit delayed, as it took me 2 full days to recognize what I was doing, but that doesn’t diminish the significance or importance of it for me.

For the last 3 years, for a variety of reasons I have remained stuck.  I have closed myself off.  I opted to put on some cement shoes and I have stayed in the same spot.  Not physically-in 3 years I have now moved 4 times.  I have had two significant relationships-albeit very different from one another.  I have changed jobs.

I’ve been stuck though.  When I first came back to Ottawa in the late spring of 2014, within a month I had entered into what would turn out to be an incredibly toxic and emotionally manipulative relationship.  With this relationship lasting over a year, and my relinquishing of my own power for that time, I planted myself.  I made decisions through my then partner, and his preferences.

In January of 2015, my Dad started showing signs of what we would later learn was cerebral blastomycosis and cancer.  When Dad’s health started deteriorating, I reinforced my stuck-ness.  Leaving Ottawa, even for short weekend excursions was out of the question.  The stuck-ness of the abusive relationship and my Dad’s health spread from travel to everyday elements.  I stayed in a job that was unfulfilling, even though I had had plans to begin to look for something else.  I stopped exploring.  I stopped learning.  I stopped engaging, with everything.  I stood still.

This immovable stillness continued on, after the abusive relationship ended.  Dad’s health finally began an upswing late last year, but by that point fear had rooted itself firmly in my life.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had grown incredibly fearful of and for everything.  I was afraid to start looking for another job, because really, who would hire me?  I became skittish in my then relationship, petrified that Ian would leave.  While I wasn’t necessarily aware of the amount of fear through which I was living life, I knew I was in bad shape.

I was quickly blasting through my sick days at work; my mornings often involved tears and vomiting as my anxiety over a client’s physical and violent threats to me grew exponentially.

It was a rough couple of months.  Despite certain changes in life, I still chose to stand still.  There was a discussion with Ian in January of this year, about the possibility of maybe moving out west.  I immediately turned it down, with the logic that I still needed to be close by to Dad, just in case anything happened.

It’s incredible how profound an impact fear can have on one’s life.  How it sticks you.  How it keeps you.

This is why then, my 3 day research journey into Sweden was so monumental for me.

For the first time in 3 years, no one else aside from me was factoring in.  I wasn’t considering the health of my parents, or my need to be geographically close to them in the event that something happened.

Likewise, there was no relationship that was influencing my thought process.  There was no person, or relationship that I was fearful of losing in the event of a relocation.  While I know a move to Sweden would make my Mom incredibly happy-she has been encouraging me to take advantage of my triple citizenship and explore Europe for years-I wasn’t considering the option for her sake.  I wasn’t thinking about my two very young nephews who I adore, who are here.  I wasn’t thinking about my current apartment and neighbourhood which I have recently come to love.  I wasn’t considering my financial situation.

I was considering change.  For me.

I made the comment to Ian a few days back, right in the middle of the 3 day research project, that Ottawa hasn’t done anything for me-in that it doesn’t get me excited, or make my heart beat fast.  After further thought though, I realized that since I’ve been back, I haven’t allowed it to.

I haven’t really allowed much to get me excited, or passionate in these last 3 years.  I haven’t allowed anything to get me engaged.

I’ve been too stuck in fear.

I don’t know that I’ll move to Sweden.  The option is still on the table, and I haven’t dismissed it entirely.  Which isn’t the point.

That fact that I’m considering and looking at options for me is what is so incredible.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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