Kicka här för hela inlägget på svenska: Om att gå vilse och sedan hitta hem: en intervju med Sophia
Today it’s time to ask some questions to the other half of our duo: Sophia. The interview with me, Mike, from last week can be found here: A Transplanted New Yorker in Sweden: An Interview with Michael. It’s been wonderful receiving your positive feedback ever since that one was posted, and we feel very inspired to get going with the “real” interview series this coming Sunday. Until then – here’s the interview with Sophia. Some of the questions have been submitted by you all through Instagram, and some are my (Mike’s) own.
When we met in 2013, we both lived city lives in New York and… well, dressed accordingly. I would say an everyday wearing rubber boots would have been hard to imagine. Today, you primarily transition from running gear to overalls and seem to love it. How was it, going from that well-dressed city person to this total outdoor type? When did that transformation start, mentally?
Such a fun question! I’ve really always been the outdoor type, but that part of me was rather violently pushed to the side as I, as a 16-year-old, started Östra Real Upper Secondary School in Östermalm in Stockholm and was completely transfixed by all things brands and status items. And goodness, that was also when I discovered the magic of a hair straightener! Oh dear. From an objective perspective, I’d say I liked it there – and I only have good things to say regarding the education offered – but it was also during this time I developed an eating disorder and completely lost myself in life. Up until I started there, I had literally never owned any makeup items and had never been very concerned with looks, but instead spent all my time either studying or horse-back-riding somewhere out in nature. I lived for all the weekends and school breaks spent out on Yxlan, and loved life the most when I could just lounge around in comfy clothes, pick wildflowers and hang out with my beloved horses. And then Östra Real rolled around and I lost my balance entirely. It took me many years to fully regain it, and my move to New York was the last piece of that puzzle to fall into place. Once there, it’s not like I feel like my outdoor personality sprung to life, but at least I found my way back to myself again. In other words: there was really no transition necessary. Instead, it was more about finally being allowed to store away those nice jackets and glide into my hiking pants. To be allowed to say goodbye to something that was primarily a facade, and instead become who I already was.
You definitely hid that part of you well initially, even to me. I thought you were a city person through and through – someone who only wanted to travel and do grand things. You had moved to New York, after all, all by yourself! How come you did, and for how long had you planned on staying?
I was supposed to spend three months there to study English, and that adventure was kind of going to be my “last” before I was planning on going to law school and get my own apartment in Stockholm. Between upper secondary school graduation and about 24-25 years old, I didn’t quite know who I was and I was doing rather badly, emotionally, from time to time, but traveling and far away adventures were my passions. New York was supposed to be my last thing of that nature, and then the plan was to grow up and straighten my life out. That it was New York I chose, only the universe can answer. I felt such a strong sense of gravitation towards it I simply had to go. I just had to make it my own, even if just temporarily. Looking back, of course I think that on some level, it was you all along. You and your heart basically pulling me across the Atlantic, making me brave enough to go ahead with it. I know it sounds all hippy-dippy, but I can’t help but to feel that way. Heck, I moved into the apartment just across the hall from you!
And then we met and started dating, and I immediately knew you were the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with and love forever and ever. That was a totally insane feeling, too, and one that I never in a million years thought I’d be fortunate enough to ever get to experience. I feel grateful for that every day. It was an odd sensation, watching your life take a completely unexpected turn but at the same time feel that it was normal and just the way it was suposed to be. Everything with you has just been so natural from the beginning, I guess. Anyway, the weeks were ticking away quickly and the date on my return ticket was approaching fast. At this point, I knew there was really only one alternative, and that was to stay and turn New York into my new home. I had to go back due to visa reasons and spent some time in Sweden while figuring out all the details, but only a few months later I was back, and life continued there until we decided to move to Sweden together in 2017.
I don’t think I understood, at the time, all the bureaucracy and financial worries you had to make your way through to make that move possible. I felt like you kept a lot of it to yourself. Is that correct?
Yes, definitely. I wanted things to work out between us so, so badly, and I was scared to death I’d be a burden on you. I wanted to be as easy and low maintenance as possible, and I wanted to take care of everything myself. For better or worse, I guess.
If you were to share the best and worst parts about New York, how would that sound?
Haha, because I can never keep anything short and snappy, I’ll say what I always say – do you have an hour? No, just kidding. New York is… everything of everything. It’s a city of superlatives and extremes, no doubts about that. It’s loud, big, wild, melting hot, freezing cold – and totally wonderful. In the same way I fell in love with you, I fell in love with New York. And that love still stands. It was there all my mental pieces fell into place and I regained myself and found happiness again. I get all jittery, just thinking about what it felt like to walk around there in the beginning and think wow, I freakin’ live here! There aren’t many places in the world that possess that same energy, and that’s the best of it all. You feel invincible, strong and capable.
The worst… well, the constant noise became too much for me after a while. The same goes for how it’s kind of chaotic and dirty everywhere. The summers are also extremely hot and humid, and caused me several mental breakdowns. I think the best is also the worst, with New York. All the sensory input that initially feels like an injection of life turns pretty draining after a while. At least for someone like me. And it’s crazy expensive!
Oh yes indeed. And therefore not the most uncomplicated place to live as a student. You often refer to your educational background as a rather bumpy ride. Would you like to tell us the story?
Bumpy would be putting it mildly! I’m still making peace with how it all turned out, compared to what I had in mind 10 or so years ago. I’ve always had quite clear and… well, big, academic goals and was for the longest time going back and forth in my head between veterinarian, engineer and lawyer. Those were the ones one should shoot for, if you had good grades and all of that. But then New York entered the picture, and there was obviously no way I could go to law school there. That would have cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars – one year at NYU Law is like $65,000 – and was thus no option. Being a student and thereby getting a student visa was by far the easiest (and close to only) way of being able to move and set up a life there, however, so I started searching for more affordable college programs. That lead me to eventually doing a full-time two year college program in New York, where I became a certified massage therapist with a focus on sports medicine. At the same time, I got my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Linguistics through a university in Sweden, which offered the program entirely online. In other words, I studied two full-time programs at the same time for two years, and my brain was basically fried at the end of it all. It was by far the most stressful time of my life, and I never want to live like that again. At the same time, I’m proud I made it through, and I wouldn’t have wanted anything undone. That was how I could move there. I lived off of grants and loans, and then I worked as a tutor at the New York campus. The income made there was then deducted from my tuition fees. So: I’m a sports massage therapist with a B.A. in English and a minor in sports science as well as nutritional science. I’ve turned linguistics and my love for words and text into my academic identity and try to be happy with that, but I still struggle with a feeling of failure and that I didn’t end up achieving what I originally planned. I get very uncomfortable when asked what I “am”.
As the person who witnessed all your hard work firsthand, I get very sad when I hear you express yourself like that. Few people could have done what you did, and especially with such results. Slowly though, you’ve started to find yourself among writing, words and translation. When did this take on? And do you like it, or would you rather do something else?
I love writing and always have. I also love language – English in particular – and almost think of translation as music. It’s as if I hear the text as a melody in my head and I can really enjoy it if I get into a nice flow. But it really wasn’t until we moved home to Sweden that it turned into a profession. I was a student the majority of my time in the US, and the last year there I worked as a receptionist and a massage therapist. It was awful, in all honesty. My introverted self suffered from the constant interactions with new people and faces, and I had such a hard time dealing with all the different energies that came my way. But – it was a job that paid a salary, so the choice to go there every day was easy. Ever since we moved, our dream has been being able to work together in some shape or form, and to do it from home. And so far, that’s been possible. We don’t work full-time and we don’t make a fortune, but the beauty of low living expenses is that neither is required. I like translation work, but if I got to choose, we’d be able to run Live Slow Run Far full-time and I’d be able to spend all my time writing texts about any and all topics under the sun. I have so many stories I’d like to tell and so many things I’d like to share, and few things beat having enough time to carefully select your words and speak to others through text. At least in my book. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of becoming an author and living in a little house in the woods, actually. I have to say it doesn’t feel too far-fetched anymore 🙂
I’m convinced it’ll come true eventually. And we’re already set with the house! If we leave education and work for a while – you often say that everything happens for a reason and that it’ll all be of good, in the end. What has made you make these your “mottos” and loyal companions?
What a beautiful question. Well, my life has come with some struggles. I know that’s true for most people, but mine have been very challenging and I’ve been at the very bottom many times, completely lacking the will to live. That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever felt. A feeling so completely beyond your control. In a way, it always feels so… I don’t know… tacky? to share one’s misery, but maybe it can help others in a similar situation. I’ve been open with my eating disorder previously, and the same thing goes for my parents’ painful separation. When I was younger, I was also exposed to sexual abuse, and my school years were tough from a friendship perspective. Anyway, everything has lead to something that’s so beautiful and makes my heart overflow with happiness, and because of that, all the hard stuff has been given meaning. That, in turn, has been my greatest form of healing. If things hadn’t happened exactly how and when they did, I wouldn’t have found myself in that apartment in New York at that time, ready to fall in love with you. And then we wouldn’t have been sitting here, at our little dining room table, with a baby on the way. Today, I’m just so happy not only to be alive, but to want to be alive. To love and be loved, have a vegetable garden and a body capable of taking me where I want to go. I need nothing else. That all those traumatic things somehow could turn into this beauty makes me trust that exactly everything happens for a reason – even the shitty stuff – and also that it’s all going to be fine, in the end. That outlook makes new challenges – because those belong to life – easier to handle, since I trust that whatever comes way does so for a season and will turn into something positive eventually. That’s of course easier said than done, and I definitely lost that clearheadedness when my mom got cancer – but even that turned out to bring something positive with it, after all. Lots of suffering, but also many positives. She’s fine now, for those wondering.
I’ve also gotten better at trusting that whatever happens does so for a reason, much thanks to you. It makes life easier to deal with, I think. You don’t get as caught up in small things not going your way, but stand more firmly rooted in what actually means something. One thing that penetrates our message here on our website and also on Instagram is our love for the small things in life. Has this developed in you over the past few years, or has it always been there?
I think it’s always been there, but when I got into those fashion brands and took on a more superficial approach to life in my late teens, flashy trips, daredevil adventures, career plans and god knows what sailed to the top of my list of priorities. I wanted to be the one who had dared the most, visited the most countries and had achieved the most. And somewhere in there, the small things in life got lost. They didn’t quite count anymore. When we moved to Yxlan in 2017, I rediscovered that love for all the small things, and that’s probably one of the most enriching things happening to my life. I feel like Ferdinand the bull, you know from the old children’s book and animated film? I just want to sit underneath a tree and smell the flowers. No big things are needed for my happiness. It’s enough seeing the bees find our flowers, watch the birds nesting in the birdhouses we’ve put up and find the first lilies of the valley. It sounds painfully pretentious and I almost want to puke on myself, but it’s true! My mom and I talked about this the other day, and concluded it’s a privilege to be able to feel enthusiasm, joy and curiosity in life. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone, so I’m very grateful that I have that ability.
Bees and birds naturally make me think of our vegetable garden. While it’s a joint project and almost like a baby of ours, I think I dare say it’s even more of your sphere than it is mine. Why this endless love for the garden?
I mentioned earlier how the greatest joy for me is wanting to live. To get to wake up in the mornings and actually want to wake up makes me happy every day. I don’t take that for granted. Somehow the garden has become synonymos with that feeling, but I don’t really know why. Maybe because plants want to live and grow big and strong too? I’m not sure. I just know it’s one big happy pill for me. To learn new things and take care of these green things from seed to food on the table. It’s so grounding and calming. I feel like the richest person in the wold with this garden. I’d also like to think I’m a somewhat caring character naturally, so it resonates with me, the whole concept of taking care of things and making sure they’re happy. And when my climate anxiety hits me the hardest, nothing calms me down as much as tiptoeing barefoot out to the garden and see the bees buzz around. It doesn’t solve anything, I know that, but it soothes my worries, the feeling of us doing what we can to help. That we’re trying to be a part of the solution.
I can assure everyone reading that you’re very caring. For example, you go upstairs to our seedlings first thing every morning, while I’m still trying to wake up. I hear you spray and water and rearrange them, and it makes me happy too. Speaking of caring qualities – we’re about to become parents for the first time. How are you preparing to become a mother, and what are the values you’d like to pass on to our child?
It feels like the preparations fall into two different categories. One is about physical and concrete preparations, such as making sure our home is ready for a new little family member and making sure I’m as prepared as I can be for labor. The other one is more about thoughts and reflections relating to what kind of parent I’d like to become. Our home feels pretty much under control, and I work a lot with labor prep. I read books, listen to informative, positive podcasts and do all sorts of relaxation exercises. When it comes to my thoughts on becoming a parent, I have a few… well, wishes. I wish that I’ll be able to provide our child with unconditional love at all times, and I wish that I’ll be able to be physically and emotionally present and not come across as distracted or absent-minded. I also want our child to feel like you, Mike, and I, love each other and that there’s a sense of safety and comfort in us as a family. Another thing that I’m bringing with me from my own childhood is that my parents never threatened my and my brother – you know, “if you don’t sit still now, you won’t get…” and similar rhetoric. I’m very grateful for that and I want to be the same myself, even though I understand it’s hard sometimes.
When it comes to values… I want to show that you should be kind and take care of nature. That it’s a wonderful thing to be curious and ask many questions. That it’s a good thing to share your thoughts and feelings with others. That nothing beats laughing a lot and doing as much of what you think is fun as possible. That self-respect and integrity are important, and what others think not at all, as long as your own heart beats with life joy.
You’ve now been pregnant for 8 months. How has it been from a physical perspective, and what has your training looked like?
It’s been a challenge, of course! A cool, transforming and, from time to time, hard challenge. Physically, everything has gone according to plan so far – I haven’t suffered any complications and have been able to stay active throughout the whole thing. I had my stress fracture to deal with during the first half, which meant I did most of my training on a spinning bike as opposed to running. I did a fairly high load – both with regards to intensity and volume – until week 20-22. Around there, it started to feel a little… well, less comfortable, I guess, to do harder sessions. I can’t really explain why or how. Since then, I’ve been jogging, walking and biking (spinning, road and trail), as well as done yoga and some strength training. Active training time – which now has meant that I’ve been in workout clothes, gotten my heart rate up a bit and started sweating some – has been roughly 10-12 h per week. In hours, that’s a little less than normal, but the biggest difference has been intensity-related. Since week 30, I’ve also felt a decent amount of contractions every time I’ve pushed a little extra, so it’s become crucial to listen to my body’s signals. It took a while to adjust my mindset and let go a bit, but it feels great to have done that now. It’s been important, for me, to remind myself that this isn’t exactly half a lifetime but just a few months. Now I just want to move as much I can without any expectations, and I can’t wait to make my way back to where I was after labor. Sustainably, of course. But most of all, I want our baby to arrive into this world safe and sound.
Of course. That’s my biggest wish too. You’ve run a lot for many years. Where do you find your motivation to continue and do you have any specific goals with your athletic pursuit?
Running is one of my first and foremost passions in life. I love to run, and the farther, the better. And while I have indeed been running for many years, I don’t think my true love for it started to develop until around the time you and I met. Up until that point, I had run a lot, but the majority of the miles I had been chasing in an attempt to run away from my inner demons. Turns out that’s not possible. When I came to New York, all those old knots in my chest sort of dissolved and I could run because it was my heart’s desire instead. It turned into the most magical way of making the city mine, and also became my primary way to give my brain some decompression and a break from all the stress from studying. My runs actually doubled as my social time as well – because I had no time to talk to friends and family back home as I was drowning in school work and tutoring, I started scheduling phone calls with my mom when I was going for a run. She has, in other words, had my panting in her ear for hours on end, and also heard me take som epic falls on the pavement multiple times. Anyway – running turned into something so joyful and such a big part of my identity there in the beginning of 2013, and when you started gettting into it about a year or so later, it got even better.
I just like it, I guess. It makes me feel good, get stronger, believe in myself and dare to challenge my limits. And the time spent outside is invaluable. I hope and think that I’ll never need another motivator, but it sure has been an extra kick in the butt to slowly have gotten into racing and running quite far the past few years. Racing has always felt like something way outside of my comfort zone as I downright hate competing and all sorts of comparisons, but I’ve also gotten to feel the excitement of toeing a starting line and crossing a finish line… and that’s a good one too.
In a way, I’d say I have many goals and no goals at the same time. I get stressed easily, and struggle a lot with anxiety related to performance, so I try hard to put as little pressure on myself as possible, but at the same time, I’m tempted to want to believe in and challenge my athletic abilities. A concrete goal that I have is a spot on the podium in Ultravasan 90k. Another one is to finish said race sub 7 hrs 30 min. A third is to be able to do what you said, Mike, in your interview – to put together a race where everything clicks. I think my best overall feeling during a race was at Fjällmaraton 43k last summer, but I managed to time that with you getting lyme disease and not feeling your best. We ran as a mixed duo team that time. I’ve also been thinking maybe that’s why I felt so strong – because you couldn’t really go all in and I could therefore relax, because I could rest assured that I wouldn’t fail us.
That’s definitely possible. What a race that was. And that fall you took at the very end! I can’t remember exactly, but my feeling is that we celebrated with ice cream afterwards. How do answer our routine question of what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Oh, it’s a tie between salted caramel and really, really good strawberry ice cream.
And last but not least: what’s the question you’d like to get asked and what would your answer be?
I thought this was the most amazing question when we came up with it, but now I realize it’s so hard! Hm. One thing I’ve been pondering lately is what I would do should I, let’s say, win a bunch of millions and not have to worry about money ever again. So that will be my question. The answer is: buy an electric car, smack up solar panels on the roof, invest in a massive greenhouse and buy the surrounding woodsy area around our property so that no one can ever come and build a house there. And then I would of course donate a whole lot to various awesome environmental organizations. You could think hey, that’s just a lot of buying-buying-buying, and that’s true. But still. To not even think for a moment you’d move elsewhere. To not have an endless list of things you want and think you need. That makes me very happy. And to want to continue living in a much similar fashion. I’d still like to write texts about the simple life. About sustainability, gardening and nature. Share green recipes and feel like maybe we’re making a teeny, tiny difference after all.
The answer to that question had looked a lot different 10 years ago, I’ll tell you that. It would have oozed yachts and fancy apartments and god knows what, and it would have been embarrassing. It’s when I realize things like that that I think to mysel: thank god I’m getting older and that I’ve managed to create at least some sort of order up in my upper storey.
Thank you so much, Sophia, for always being up for sharing your heart’s thoughts and feelings, and thank you so much, dear reader, for wanting to take part – see you soon!
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– Sophia & Michael