"Thank you," I said to Viktor, handing him the keys to the apartment in the Sundbyberg Municipality of Stockholm, Sweden. "I'm really grateful to have been able to rent your place these past seven months. It's been a blessing to remain in the same location."
Standing at 5'10", with a solid athletic build and shoulder-length dark blond hair loosely pulled back into a ponytail, Viktor looked young and handsomely Swedish as his cool blue eyes smiled back at me. "You're welcome," he replied in his liltingly accented English. "It was great to be able to rent to you. And you've left the place really clean too."
Hoisting on my backpack, I pulled up the handle on my steel blue suitcase and headed out to the compact elevator. In honor of Sweden's flair for simple and elegant style, which I basically returned last October already possessing, I waited wearing a black crewneck t-shirt, dark grey chinos and white sneakers. Once I was outside on the sidewalk, I smiled and sighed, looking up one last time at the apartment building. Then I began the short walk up Humblegatan to Sundbyberg Centrum, to catch the 8:09 a.m. Pendeltåg 43 to Stockholms Centralstation. From there I would take the 8:45 a.m. Arlanda Express to the airport, which would get me there two hours before my 11:30 a.m. flight to London, England.
This was on July 27, exactly two weeks ago. It was also 299 days after my return to Stockholm on October 2, 2019. My second visitor's permit was due to expire July 31. It was time to transition to the next phase of my expatriate journey, and spend the next few months in England. Although I was sad to leave behind new friendships forged over the last nine months, I was grateful to be able to continue on my venture of personal and professional discoveries here in Europe.
This time last year, when I walked out of my boss's office after giving my three-week resignation, I could never have predicted I would be where I'm at right now. Apart from faith, support from loved ones and a preplanned budget, I could not have known which tools would aid me in charting this course. I also couldn't have known which ones would need to be either discarded or exchanged for better ones.
Most importantly, I could not have predicted how I would feel right now. Without making the decision to leave the shores of America, I couldn't have known that I'd need to process emotions that have ranged from completely elated to incredibly doubtful. I couldn't know that the internal soldiers of negativity would be the ones to cause me the most strife. Or that their battles are waged by looking for allies in the words and deeds of those who may not have my best interests at heart.
Over this time I've learned that one of the bravest things I can do is to ask someone close to me to listen. And that it's okay to share with them how I really feel. In this phase of my life, it's been interesting to discover that I can be the person who is, not who I think one wants me to be. In opening up a bit more, I'm more in acceptance that I'm not everyone's cup of tea. And that this is okay. In loving myself a little bit more, I'm finding out in a different way that there is unconditional love out there that will nourish me. However, in accepting this love, it's vital that I give it back.
The journey continues, my journey of experience, strength and hope. My life is not what it was when I was twenty-eight, thirty-eight or last year. For over twenty years, I've been encouraged to allow for the propulsion of forward movement. But in this current chapter of my life, I see once more that the most heroic thing I can do is to be vulnerable and to be honest. With my Higher Power, with myself, and with those in my inner circle. No mask needs to be worn to be myself. Just a willingness to accept, to hope, to believe and to love.