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Day 364 in Finland

Day 364 in Finland. I still can’t believe I live here. I feel like this is home, this is where I feel safe, but I still have moments when the thought that “Hey, I actually live here now!” comes to mind. I can feel I have already started learning from the Finns and adapting more to their way of thinking. I think I now know, at least in part, what makes life so relaxing and enjoyable here, in comparison to Romania.

When I had arrived here, I was still in a very toxic and abusive relationship. My gaze was still oriented towards what I had left behind at home. I think I couldn’t even fully enjoy what I had done for myself and all the amazing things around me, because I was trapped in a very toxic mindset created by that relationship. I could see no value in me. I felt ugly, crazy, unattractive, old, never good enough, never a priority, never important. After he dumped me, I felt extremely lonely. In the beginning of the year I experienced a type of loneliness unknown to me previously. I thought the pain would have no end, I felt like I was losing my mind and I wanted to end it all for good. I could barely get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t want to wash, didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to do anything with myself and at work, I could barely do my tasks and focus.

What got me through the winter was reading a book on suicide (When it is Darkest) and the help of my family and some friends who texted me each and every day to check up on me and ask me how I was doing. One of them almost forced me to go to the office on a daily basis. I am deeply grateful for these people.

Then I started to travel and I saw a lot of wonderful places and met very kind people, who taught me a great deal. It was still a way to run from myself, but also an opportunity to see how much I can do for myself. What I was left with after all my trips this year is the thought that there is so much beauty in the world. It was what I kept telling myself while visiting Argentina, where I made reality one of my old dreams of meeting a friend who has been there for me since I was a teenager. I traveled to another continent and understood how lucky we are and how good we are having it here in the European Union. I saw some absolutely stunning landscapes and met people who have welcomed me among then with warmth and hospitality.

Then I went to Poland and I was impressed with how romantic Warsaw can be. I discovered Bolesław Prus’ Doll and I absolutely couldn’t let this book go until I finished it. I felt like I related to this book and the main character more than I had resonated with a piece of fiction in a really long time. And, maybe the most important thing, I finally understood my boyfriend was never coming back and our story was truly over, so once I got back to Finland, I felt like I had just arrived here and my own story was just about to begin.

I felt completely liberated and prepared to exist on my own, free of all the abuse and manipulation, free of the constant feeling that I am not good enough and I don’t matter. I was finally ready to receive all that Finland had to offer and to enjoy what I had done for myself. I started therapy again and I began to see myself in a new light. I understood my thoughts better and started to identify patterns which I could take control over. Step by step, I started to understand what a grand thing I had done for myself, what skills are needed for that and what kind of strength it takes to succeed in such a plan as mine had been. I also understand that not only do I have the power to make my own life amazing, but I can also improve it for others by giving them as well a change to build a better future for themselves.

Among the moments of deep pain, however, have also found their way some moments of joy and inspiration. I built the furniture for my apartment with a friend and then I decorated it to my taste, I went to the sauna for the first time and then dipped in freezing cold water (this is now one of my favourite things to do here), I was in a wooden bath tub with eight super sweet ladies at a wonderful sunset, I dipped in a lake in total darkness, I started going to the gym again and I am making progress, I read my first novel in Finnish (a dictionary is still needed, of course), I went on my best first date so far with an incredibly attractive Viking, I sang in a karaoke bar for the first time (in Kimi Räikkönen’s bar)!

I’m still single and I think I will be for a long time to come, I still have moments when I doubt myself, but I feel like I did something with my life. I can respect and appreciate myself because I built something, I’ve been through hardship and I stayed focused on my goal. I still don’t have big breasts, my butt is still not shaped as a peach, I still can do only one type of make-up, and I’m still not a total online babe, but I care about the people around me and I have done something with my life. I built my life and my future the way I wanted them.

And Finland has always been my safe place, my safety net, it keeps impressing me and I love her very, very much. Onneksi olkoon, meille molemmille!

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International Men’s Day 2019

A couple of years ago I made a list of 51 reasons why I love men. Some of the things I wrote there now seem a bit childish (although written in good faith and with positive intentions), but many of them are still true.

It’s International Men’s Day today and I want to take the time to celebrate all the men that mean something in my life. It’s a day when I want to encourage other people to be happy about themselves and to take a moment to think of all the things that make them who they are and why they are amazing. It’s also a good occasion to say „Thank you!” to the men who have supported me and who make my life nicer.

This year International Men’s Day has Positive Role Models for Boys and Men as the main theme. It got me thinking about what I’d like to see in men and what sort of behaviour I’d like them to adopt for the sake of their well-being and that of those around them.

So this one is for the most important guy in my life, my brother, for my friends who always offer me support and provide me with good conversations, for my colleagues at work whom I’m learning from every day, for my buddies in the office, who keep me entertained and make my days brighter, for the guys I don’t meet too often anymore, but who have passed through my life at one point, for the assholes who broke my heart thinking my feelings matter less than theirs, for the men that teach us and the men that lead us, for those that make our lives possible or easier in ways we don’t even know, these are my humble thoughts and feelings:

It’s ok to feel good about being a man and not accepting that other people try to blame you for things you haven’t done. I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me it’s not right for me to celebrate my femininity, either.

Please don’t feel afraid of women, because we’re not all out there to catch you red-handed and to make your life miserable. Many women don’t pretend to be fighting for equality when all they want is a new order where they command and you execute. Many of us still cherish you and hope for cooperation instead of gender fighting.

You don’t have to always „man up” or „grow a pair”, especially with your close ones. You’re already a man and you already have the pair. When you’re with your dear ones, it’s ok to just be yourself and if someone cannot accept that a guy might also have fears or worries, get them out of your life and move on.

If you think it’s your responsibility to make sure the family is provided for, it’s not. If you think it’s your responsibility to make the relationship work, it’s not. If you think you’re always supposed to make everything work, it’s not. Most of the time it’s someone else’s responsibility, too. You’re only entirely responsible for what you alone can control, for your actions and your words. Don’t put more pressure on yourself than is necessary.

Please understand that other people’s feelings matter, too. More than your ego. Don’t think only about what you want here and now, think about what it’ll feel like afterwards for someone else. You can make the difference between the two. You’re an adult, not a child.

If you have a child and you’re spending time creating memories for him or her, you’re awesome. This, teaching them how to trust themselves and make the right decisions are the best things you could give your kid. And love. Lots and lots of fatherly love.

You are not simple creatures and I do not understand what you want. I am certainly not a mind reader, so please try to articulate your needs and feelings.

If you’ve hurt me and you know this is of your doing, have the courage to apologize and try to explain why it didn’t work. Don’t hope my pain and frustration will go away, don’t try to make me sound like a crazy bitch. You certainly didn’t think that when you first started flirting with me, so what has changed in the meantime?

And lastly, but not least, you’re awesome in ways that I cannot be awesome. I am awesome in my own way. Let’s not fight against each other, let’s work with each other and try to make our worlds awesome!

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Joker or The Laughter that Breaks Your Heart

I’ve just come home from seeing Joker and I can hardly find my words or shake away the feeling of uneasiness. I try to convince myself it is just a movie and that I should merely appreciate the outstanding acting and the incredibly well fitting soundtrack. But I cannot stand tall or look forwards, I can’t really speak. My head is hanging and my gaze is staring downwards. But the pain… that there is plenty of.

Because Joker is not just a movie. Joker will punch you in the guts and make you short of breath. It will make you want to go into the fetal position so your heart won’t be ripped out of your chest. And good luck trying to strike a conversation with your partner once you leave the theatre and want to share opinions. There is nothing else I want to do right now, but go to sleep. Only I am afraid of what my poor brain will conjure once I have closed my eyes.

And there are also some images running continuously through my mind. The piercing, sad eyes and the light that came over his face when it seemed like a place of refuge had been found in the smile of a child or the tenderness of a woman. The incontrollable, heartbreaking laughter. The wonderful dancing in the short-lived moments when he feels there is also a place for him, when he seems to be liberated from the contempt and abandonment the others have made into his only reality.

And there is another thing that I cannot get over. The disgusting laughter in the movie hall. I am wondering if the creators of this masterpiece realized that what they intended to cast a light upon would not only happen on screen, but also in front of it. And at this point I am not even sure what makes me shudder more: Joker with his sinister crimes rooted in the neglect and disdain of others or the obvious lack of sensitivity and depth of the people around me.

Unfortunately Joker is an entire experience comprising both the artistic act on the screen and also the reactions it elicits in theatres all over the world. It paints a very realistic picture of our society where we avoid showing vulnerability, because it makes us look weak and pathetic. A society where we don’t reach out or talk about the tormenting thoughts that we have, because we’re met with the same urge to stop the self-pitying, since people don’t understand what it’s like to be assaulted by thoughts that seem to be created by a totally different mind that works against you. A society where people offer you support and compasion if you break a leg, but shudder and express scepticism if you tell them your heart or your mind is broken. Yet in this society it is perfectly ok to laugh heartily at scenes of a mentally ill person repeatedly stabbing someone with a pair of scissors and the scenes most devoid of humour still spark laughter in the audiences. This society is full of people so thick that they are still thinking they came to see a comic heroes movie. People so desensitized and unable to understand what they’re seeing, that they can’t even tell they are looking at themselves on a cinema screen.

This movie is entirely a masterpiece and if I hadn’t been afraid I would have a panic attack (I think the dread of experiencing such an episode in public with those people laughing around me was what saved me this time – ironic, isn’t it?) if I saw it again, I would definitely do this. Not to witness the immense pain of Arthur Fleck, but to watch again the oustanding performance of Joaquin Phoenix. For now I don’t think I am that brave.

For now I am left with some questions. What do we do with those who suffer in silence? What is there for the ones tormented by their thoughts to hope for? Do we let them end the game themselves when it becomes too hard to play or do we wait for them to become Joker? I don’t have an answer now. And I cannot think. I can only feel.

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Enter the realm of Nordic Crime

Between the moment when I finished watching the last episode of the newly released Deadwind on Netflix and starting to write these lines, I had to take a small brake to let my giddiness and enthusiasm fade away and to put my ideas in order, so I don’t sound like an overly excited school-girl. If you are planning on entering autumn properly, on immerging into the season of cold and darkness already, the Finnish production Deadwind is an extremely good choice. It will wrap you up in a mist of uncertainty and mystery, it will absorb you into its eerie atmosphere and give you the feeling that you must tread carefully into the frosty nights of the North.

I usually prefer European films and TV shows over their American counterparts, but among the film-makers in Europe it seems the Nordics hold the best recipes for crime shows and thrillers. Known as Karppi in its home country, Deadwind follows the steps of detective Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala) and her partner Sakari Nurmi (Lauri Tilkanen) who are investigating the death of a woman found buried near the construction site of a project developed by a company named Tempo, on whose ability to propose a new means of obtaining green energy depends the approval for construction from the City Council of Helsinki.

The victim is quickly identified as one of the consultants involved in Tempo’s project in more than one way. As the investigation proceeds, suspicion will be transferred from one man to another among the family who owns Tempo and their circle of partners and opponents. Uncovering Anna’s murderer will take time and serious efforts on the sides of Karppi and Nurmi, as they will kick more than one hornet’s nest revealing the wrong-doings of several dishonest business men and criminals, a complexity of the plot which the creators have exploited brilliantly over the span of 12 episodes. There is no predictability all the way to the last chapter of the series, and the uncovering of the murderer at the end was a definitely a surprise.

Personal drama and human relations weren’t overlooked by the creators of the show, but their true merit lies in creating realistic anti-heroes and taking their distance from the American hero – villain dichotomy which is so hard to swallow. Sofia doesn’t give too much of a warm welcome to the team to Sakari and their initial collaboration is filled with tension. Clearly affected by her husband’s recent death, Sofia will take a few wrong steps and will come very near a breakdown before she realizes that she will not be able to solve the case unless Nurmi and herself work as equal partners. The developments in their relationship illustrate the Nordic way of interacting between people with short lines, straight-forward statements, slow and wary revealments of feelings and actions stronger than words rather than romantic gestures and declarations. Family issues and social problems are also depicted through the hardship Sofia’s step-daughter has to go through as a teenager and the disputes between the man behind the Tempo project and his wife.

The creators of Deadwind spared no means to keep their audience on the edge of their seats and to make their hearts race. Scenes full of suspense supported by a matching soundtrack are interspersed at intervals, but throughout the entire series a feeling of insanity is hovering above the plot as the source of such a minutely planned crime. Even religious mysticism comes to play a part in the wanderings of this criminal mind.

For the viewers who have already been to Finland, the show is also a visual revisiting of some famous landmarks in Helsinki such as Tuomiokirkko or Kauppatori with its emblematic building of the City Townhall. The Finland in the film (the personification is intentional) is exactly like the Finland in real life: very often dark, mysterious, a bit wild, but extremely modern, a place where you can never know what will come next. But then again, what better place to dive into the cold seasons than in the enchanted story land of the suomi?

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In the house of books

Tonight I was on my way back home and I passed by the library in Leppävaara and I felt this big urge to go inside and see what a library is like in Finland. While I’m here I would like to experience as much as possible the Finnish way of living or to at least get an idea of what that involves.

However, I am always weary of the fact that I’m a foreigner and that I’m maybe invading the Finns’ space, so I often wonder if I should do this or that, just like I was hesitating tonight outside the library. And this very hesitation makes me feel a bit like a savage, it accentuates the contrast I feel between my country and this one, between how much these people have experienced so far as opposed to what I have.

First of all, I was not sure I could go in there without a pass. In Romania you don’t go inside places just to wander around and see what it’s like. You go in if you actually have some business there. OK, maybe they wouldn’t let me walk around in a police station just to see what it’s like but you get my point.

So I had to ask one of my Finnish friends if it’s ok to go inside even without a pass and if anybody would ask what I was doing there. The question probably sounded funny to him, but I don’t know any place in Romania where you could go and grab a book and just start reading. Even after I entered I was trying to make myself as small as possible so that nobody would notice me, and I kept looking at the employees, convinced that if I act unnaturally one of them would come and ask me what I was doing there.

But nobody asked me anything and I could just walk around the shelves looking at the books (I would’ve definitely done a more thorough check if I could understand the language without having to look up every word) and being impressed once again by how smart the people in this country are. I mean this is how you make sure of your progress, right? By giving your people the access to knowledge.

The place was pretty alive too. Lots of people (even though it was a quarter of an hour before closing time), definitely not just academics or teachers like you would see in Romania, and of various ages. I loved so much that there were parents walking around with their kids: they had probably come to get a new set for them to read (there was a big kids’ section on the ground floor). And students. Students in a library. At 8pm. Actually studying. Well done, Finland!

I read some of the labels on the shelves upstairs and I discovered subjects from almost every domain: technology, poems, geography, religion, there were even books about vegetables and cooking books. Not to mention the pretty well supplied shelves of books in five or six foreign languages.

Remember those articles where the Nordics are said to be reading like mad, where their book markets are estimated at tenths or hundreds of millions of euros, the tops with the Europeans who read the most where they rank among the highest? Yup, it’s all true.

Whether it’s because it’s so often very dark or cold or both outside and they need an indoor activity or is it that they understood that education is the way to go forward, these guys are definitely still offering reading a good place in their lives. My friend said that is a public place so of course you can go inside and read. Oh, and have I mentioned nobody asked me if I took a book with me a home without bothering to let them know? I didn’t check what security systems they had in place, if any, but in Romania something would definitely beep somewhere if you left with an unscanned book.

Well done, Finland! Once again I bow down in front of you.

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Going back up North

On 11th March 2017 I was coming back from my first trip to Finland. It has been one of the best experiences I’ve had so far and in a way I could say it has been life changing.

While I was there I was in a state of complete and almost continuous amazement. I couldn’t exactly point at something in particular, as it seemed to me everything was great and extraordinary. If someone had asked me what was so great about Finland, I wouldn’t have been able to say. The nature that was close everywhere, the ice in the street (ice is usually one of the things I hate most in winter), the train, the order, the serenity, the feeling of freedom… basically everything.

I probably came across as an overly enthusiastic retard because I was so happy and in high spirits and giggling and laughing for no reason all the time (except for work meetigs. You have to be serious during work meetings). But this is the effect that trip had on me. And on top of that, I lived one of my most uplifting experiences (I wrote about it in another post) at sea in Finland.

That one week I spent there and all the related reading that followed only made me love this country even more. When I think about going to Finland, now that I know it a bit better, my enthusiasm is only slighted checked by the thought that I might not be able to get used to the harsh weather or that I might not be able to fit in (despite all my love for this country), but I also feel my heart warming up at the thought of being there, reconnected with the nature, the places, the people I know there.

I picture Finland as the Nature holding me in its arms, giving me a part in this big Universe, making me feel safe and that my existence has a meaning.

To me, Finland represents sobriety keeping to itself when there is no need for too much noise or nonsense, but letting in feelings and warmth when these have gained their part in the game. It is this cool place of badassery (yes, I’m thinking of you, Mr. Tomi Joutsen), evolution and progress. It is the stories I have read in Kalevala when the Finns were just farmers singing about the creation of the world and about how the kantele was invented, but also the companies looking for smarter ways of doing things and the innovation they brought about.

It is now 11th March 2018 and a plane is taking me to the place I hold so dear. There is no better way to celebrate this anniversary.

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Sometimes you just cannot find the words

There are moments when I feel a cold breeze surrounding me. But it’s all in my head. There are moments when I remember the solitude, the empowering solitude that made me and nature become one. There are moments like tonight that summon some of the dearest memories I have of my existence.

I have been struggling to find the right words to describe what I had felt then. Ever since. I tried to explain, at least to myself, what happened that night. And I am not sure I can. I just feel a lump in my throat and the tears coming to my eyes, but I cannot cry, for this is no reason to be sad. Right after that moment I was gasping for breath and I could barely speak although someone next to me was trying to have a conversation with me. I needed time for my mind to readjust to thinking about worldly matters.

There was a night in my life when I went out on deck on a boat. Surrounded by darkness, I was taken aback by the sound of the ship crushing through the ice and all I could do was stammer while I was receiving the wind straight to my chest and my face. I can still close my eyes at times and feel myself being immersed in that landscape, with the roaring sound of the boat through the frozen water in my ears. The lights of the city were yet too distant and barely visible. When I remembered that I could actually move, I turned my head and through the mist I saw a house on an island.

I could only think of nature at that time. All of a sudden everything and everyone had disappeared from the face of the Earth. There was nothing else but me and the elements. And I felt so small, completely enveloped in nature’s infinite folds. I thought of death too, but in that moment, death had nothing frightening anymore, it was the mere integration into that grand, enormous force I could feel everywhere around me. It was something so strong, so overpowering, yet I was not afraid, I knew I was not in danger, I was a part of nature.

And when I was all alone again, later that night, I broke into tears. I just laid down on my bed and let the tears come out of me. Because what I had felt was too strong, completely overwhelming, like nothing I had experienced before. The moment when I have probably felt more alive than ever before. This is what Finland did to me.

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The Nordic Adventure – Part II

It’s almost midnight, my eyes are starting to feel dry because of how tired I am, and yet I can’t sleep. The idiotic smile I’ve been harbouring for the past three days wouldn’t wipe itself off my face.

At times I wonder why (although I don’t want to try too hard) I am so excited about this. What is so special over here? What makes me feel like a child on Christmas day throughout the day? Someone told me I sound like a person on LSD. I guess I do, but then again, this feels great!

I was thinking that traveling is like a super fast way of growing as a person. Probably one of the best lessons I learned these days is that your will becomes so strong when you have to do something you’ve been dreaming of for so long or when you do something that you like. And I know that is not rocket-science, we all know that at a theoretical level. But what is truly amazing for me is how uplifting that feels.

I have experienced today a type of cold I have never felt before. I kept blowing warm air into one fist or the other, I tried to pull down my cap as much as I could. At one point I even felt my thighs were burning, like a thousand needles were mildly stinging my skin, that’s how frozen I was! And yet, I kept going. Back home I would (and I am pretty sure I have) complain and moan about way less than this. I am no fan of cold. But this time, I wouldn’t give up. And I didn’t even want to complain, I would try to confort myself as best as I could and kept walking.

And at the same time, I was amazed by how resilient I had suddenly become. Now let’s be honest: I wasn’t climbing Mount Everest, I was just wandering in the streets of Helsinki on a very windy evening. But normally I wouldn’t even have gone out on a day like this. So to see that I was willing to put up with something I normally avoid or moan about was not only surprising, but encouraging as well.

From a higher perspective, this experience I’m going through right now reminds me of how big the world is, how many the people in it and how numerous the opportunities to make your journey here worthwile. And remembering recent past events, I keep telling myself: “So the world is so big and so amazing, you can have this type of experience and you were worrying about that?”. Now it seems rather silly that I was so stuck on matters that have absolutely ZERO importance in the way life unfolds.

And I’ll go back to that kind of thoughts. Again and again. I know it. And that’s alright. I just hope I’ll always remember the lessons I learned these days and that my skin was burning because of the frost one evening in Helsinki.

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The Nordic Adventure

I’m walking towards my dream and I have a lump in my throat. I am traveling alone and there are so many people around me that I don’t know.

At times I feel like crying. If you were raised like me by overprotective parents, if you’ve always had someone to look after you all the time, then you understand why doing anything alone feels like a significant achievement. So am I scared? Maybe. A little. Am I thrilled? Yes. Does this raise my self-cofidence and make me feel like I can face the whole world on my own? Definitely!

Traveling in itself is such an amazing, thought-provoking and mind-opening experience. Doing it all alone increases that feeling and gives you even more space and time to face yourself. As I’m writing this I’m still in my home country and I already get that feeling that I am part of a much bigger community that the one I usually tend to include myself in.

But I’m already looking at the people around me, wondering who they are, what their life is like and where they’re going. Did they find it hard to fall asleep last night like me because they were too excited? Is someone waiting for them at their destination? How will they spend the time they have where they’re going?

I’ll soon arrive at a much larger airport and the sense of smallness will be even more overwhelming. But so will be the feeling I’ve achieved something important and that the pool of opportunities life has to offer is so vast.

And yet, the best feeling I got from this experince so far is that I am finally living something I’ve dreamt of for so long. Does that mean then that I can hope other things I yearn for will become reality one day?

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Are you here or are you not?

Last night I dreamt of you. Something is eating at my heart again and you came to visit me… only to scare my soul even more.

I was so glad you were back, so stricken with awe, yet I could not let joy overwhelm me. You were able to stand again, your face was as lively as before, they were all gathered together and shouting at me, against my incredulity. Why couldn’t I believe you were back, they were shouting? I wanted to believe it, to rejoice, yet something held me from it.

And then I saw your hands… the candles that were lit up in your right hand piercing through your body… that was not a body, that was just a spectre. My mind was playing tricks on me again.

My soul wants you back, yet I know I will never get this priviledge again. You used to tell me how you loved to just hear my voice, now I am the one earning to hear yours. I desperately need just one more moment: then I would tell you all about those you left behind, about my work, about that boy, about the trips that I planned for the future, I would tell you I am happy and it would calm you down, I would tell you how sad I am and you would confort me with your soothing voice. I would shout out how much I miss you! But as it is, my scream would just vanish into thin air because you can’t hear it anymore.

I still feel the shape of your body in my arms from when I last held you…

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