Blogging! Oh, this will be fun. The plan is for this blog to be about the same things as our Instagram account @intabagreen, i.e. a lot of vegetables and small scale farming, all our running endeavors, and some delicious vegetarian food to top it off. But plans often change direction and become something else (thank you life – you’re awesome), so we’ll just go with the flow and see where this takes us.
It seems fitting to start from the beginning, even though a short recap of the past 6 years of our lives was posted to Instagram only a few days ago. (I think we can conclude a most serious case of hubris already at this early stage – where will this end?!) I believe, as a matter of fact, that I’ll go ahead and dedicate this post to my mother-in-law: the no 1 believer in a good story and the one who has told us (me) over and over again that ours deserves to be written down. Captured. Immortalized. So. Our story. It’s truly the work of the universe. Comes with endless of love and devotion. And it sure as heck proves that everything – even the crappiest of crap and shittiest of shit (pardon my French) – happens for a reason and that in the end, it. all. makes. sense. Sometimes, stuff needs to go very very very wrong to turn out unbelievably right in the end.
Close to 6 years ago, I arrived in NYC with a big suitcase, a key to an Airbnb apartment I’d rented for 3 months and a broken heart. Not broken because of a boy, but because of… life. Piles and piles of painful stuff inside of me that were reaching for the surface, getting more and more unruly, becoming harder and harder to contain. There had been parents divorcing and fathers leaving. There had been self-destructive behavior and ill mothers and traumas surfacing from the past. Too much pressure, too much stress. And then I decided to go to NYC. It was like a magnet was pulling me. I just couldn’t not go.
(This is getting emotional, everyone.)
For weeks, I looked for an affordable apartment to rent with no luck. But then, one day, a ‘junior 1 bedroom’ at 230 E 2nd St appeared out of nowhere and happened to be available for a long term rent. I requested to book, and it was all settled before the end of the day. The host was going to send me the key (I know! This was early on in the history of Airbnb, I doubt anyone would pop their key in an envelope and send it with regular mail across the Atlantic – gosh, I feel like I’m getting old!), and sure enough – it did show up just 10 days later. And right there and then, my healing started. Because I got the best sign (oh I’m such a believer in signs) and I knew – this is it. This is going to be something extra. The key was attached to an owl key ring. I love owls. Like, so much. On notepads. As fridge magnets. They’re so darn cute and I love all that they represent. So for me, to pull out the key from the envelope and see AN OWL dangling from it… oh I had to call my mom right away. So with that sign holding my heart and silencing all my doubts and fears, I got going.
I got the flu on day three. This was that year when the flu hit a record number of New Yorkers (2012-2013) and I guess it made me feel like I was already part of the group? Never been sicker, I sort of went into hibernation mode in my apartment. To this day, it’s unclear whether the high fever prevented any logical thoughts from forming or if I somehow just felt pretty safe and comfortable, but I don’t recall these days being scary or feeling at all lonely. I do, however, still associate the Skype ring signal with being sick. My mom would call (oh how she was ready to jump on a plane and come to the rescue!) every few hours to make sure I was still alive and I would wake up from the phone (Skype), clueless of day and time. I thought it was almost comical, the whole thing. And if the owl key ring was the first step in my healing process, getting sick was the second. I’d survive. When I got better, I returned to school (I was attending a 10-week Cambridge English Proficiency Program), made some awesome friends (Paula and Melissa, you are my forever people) and also started going to a local yoga studio. There, they always ended practice with a quote, chosen and read by the teacher from a thick folder. My very first class (oh boy, did I feel cool – hey look at me, I’m blending in among all these New Yorkers, taking a yoga class and then, well of course I’ll go for an overpriced super-food boosted juice), the quote chosen was “Our deepest fear”, by Marianne Williamson. For those of you familiar, you get it. For those of you who aren’t, please take a minute and google it. Like an uncontrollable wave, sadness flooded my whole body. Tears started trickling down my cheeks, I started hulking. Walking back through the East Village, which I had already started to love and truly feel at home in, I experienced something I’d never experienced before. I guess I should call it a… revelation? All of a sudden, it simply just dawned on me – hey, I need to take charge. I need to be the captain of my own ship. I’m freakin’ sinking here and no one can hear me. I felt like… I’d been locked up in a dark room for years and years, only to realize – heck, if I only reach my arm out, I’ll be able to turn on the lights. The light switch is. right. there. I’d just been too scared to do it, too convinced others’ doings would always win, always determine my own well being. But that’s not true. We are all responsible for our own happiness. We all possess all the tools to change the direction of our lives. That night, it finally clicked for me. And so I got back to my apartment, and I looked at this little inspirational card I had on the fridge. “If you don’t change direction, you’re going to end up where you’re heading”. Like really? I had that on my fridge? And that was it. I was on route to happiness. For real. It really, truly, went down like that. Simple, in the end.
Literally the next day (a Saturday, exactly 14 days after my arrival), I stepped out into the hallway of the building to go meet up with Paula and spend the day with her (I believe Williamsburg was about to get explored). As I’m locking my door, this (handsome) guy comes in from the street, walks the 10 steps up to the first floor and starts unlocking the door right behind me (four ft across the hall from my door, a long legged person like myself could step threshold to threshold). And I’m like – play it cool, Sophia. New Yorkers don’t talk to neighbors. But so a miracle happened. The man turns around and says (from behind his sunglasses) “my name is Michael by the way” and we shook hands and the whole world changed. Right there and then. I shook his hand and the whole direction of my life shifted. I KNEW that he was my person. We politely spoke of this and that, and then said goodbye. Of course, I called my mom. This was some juicy stuff, and it simply had to get dissected in every way possible.
That handshake was two weeks before Super Bowl, and for those two weeks I was cooking up plans on how to get an opportunity to interact with Michael again. My mom was utterly confused. While she did understand this was some serious business, she just couldn’t grasp that I was all… taking action (or at least planning on it). I thought of knocking on his door to borrow something ‘cool’ (ideas here were obviously cool items such as a box grater or a vegetable peeler), but I couldn’t muster up the guts to do it. But then Super Bowl came around, and I was like – this is my chance. So I wrote Michael a note that I put on his door, asking for any fun bars to go to for the game. I couldn’t stand waiting around in the apartment, so I took a long walk, and found what became one of my favorite stores in the city, Pink Olive (side note). When I returned, the note was still up. Damn. I considered taking it down, thinking: oh lord, he could live with someone in there! But I left it up, and 10 seconds later, when I was back safely in my apartment, I heard his door open. I froze. And then he knocked on my door. I couldn’t move. I just stood there, holding my breath. And then I heard him go back into his apartment and his door closing behind him. I took a deep breath, and then a minute later, a note came flying along the floor from underneath my door. Of course I couldn’t grab it right away because he would hear my floors creak (duh – female intelligence) so I stood still until I heard him exit the building and then I read what would become our first letter exchange and the real beginning of our story. Michael invited me to come join him at his friend’s place, so I brought Paula and we went together. There were chicken wings and beer waiting for this vegetarian non-drinker, and it was the best night ever.
And now, I feel like this could go on and on forever. I could describe all the steps of our relationship with endless of joy, but I doubt that it would be of equally endless interest. What I really wanted to share, is the way everything had to happen the way it did for me in order to end up in that apartment building on that day at that time, so that we could meet. All the hardship and all the darkness lead me to NYC and the love of my life, and because of all the beautiful things that eventually happened, I’ve made peace with everything that occurred prior. All the bumps in the road served a purpose, and that, that is the best life lesson I’ve learned so far.
After Super Bowl night, we walked home together. We realized we had a gazillion things in common. Skiing, cooking, soccer (Jesus, an American man caring for soccer and not American football – thank you lord). Reading, nature, ginger. But I think above all: curiosity. That is one of the things I love about Michael the most. His desire to learn, his desire to explore, his eagerness to see what’s behind the next turn.
I bought Michael one of my favorite books as a thank you for inviting me, and hung it in a brown paper bag on his door. The book, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (in Swedish, Samhällets Olycksbarn), is like 1000 pages long and it took a while before M made it through. But he did. And it’s one of his favorites too now. After the-book-on-the-door-thing, we went out to dinner (Indian food). And so it continued. We had been dating for close to 3 months when my lease was up and I had a job waiting for me back in Sweden. With not too much said between us, I left. Five months later, I was back with a fresh visa, a renewed apartment lease (same place, just across the hall) and we had managed to see each other three times (this included Michael’s first trip to Sweden!). Six months later, I moved in with Michael. A year after that, in January 2015, we got engaged. In May 2015, we got married (civil ceremony at City Hall in New York, with just our friends Neal and Drew as witnesses) and in July 2016, we had our wedding in Sweden. It was a magical day, through and through.
During our honeymoon in Greece, we talked a lot about our future. We were starting to feel the burden of living in such a stressful place like Manhattan. As amazing as New York City is, living there really comes at a price (literally and figuratively). Working a lot, commuting a lot, stressing a lot – when we took the wedding summer of 2016 off and spent it together in mostly quietness, it just seemed… like we were ready for something new. I know it sounds ridiculously pretentious, but we also kind of dig being together. Like all the time. Like, it’s the best. So we decided that we’d move to Sweden, and in conjunction with that, also take one whole year off work. We also said we’d spend one last year in NYC, working as much as possible, saving up as much as possible, in order to make that dream come true. And so we did.
I think we’ll save the rest of the ‘beginning’ for the next post. The intention, as mentioned previously, is for this blog to capture what we do now – not recap the past. The training (oh the training! Mind blown by the body’s adaption and capability), the planting and the harvesting, the cooking. But I just felt like I wanted to share this. Our beginning. Thank you so much for reading all the way until the end. Words have never really had a hard time coming out of my pen/pencil/keyboard. I might have to work on limiting the flow in the future. It gets out of control, the writing. Lots of love to all of you ❤️