The First Domino
In January of 2016, Washington D.C. was in for a record 24 hours. We were expecting over a foot of snow in the city, and if you know anything about an area that is not used to getting that much snow, this can be huuuuge. I mean the city had to call in snow plows from all over the North East to get ready for the storm to come. Naturally- my friends and I thought this would be the perfect time to do what we did best: Hit the bars.
As the snow was coming down, our familiar haunts turned into makeshift ski lodges complete with people in full on skiing attire. There was a buzz in the city I still never saw again after six years of living there. We were walking bar to bar as others chose to ski (not kidding you- people were actually cross country skiing in the streets) and we decided to pop into one of our go-to spots called Barcelona, right on 14th St.
As us four single guys were standing there, most likely waiting on a round of vodka sodas with a slice of orange, we noticed a table of cute girls across the way. One of the guys in our group who has been known to do well in the lady department took it upon himself to introduce us to the group of girls one by one. We chatted for a while and we were ready to move on to the next spot. The initiator of the conversation encouraged the two who were talking the most in the group to “swap numbers” and we would see about meeting up with them later.
So we went from place to place on 14th Street and as the night turned into early morning the snow continued to blanket the Nation’s Capital. We finally made it to our final destination of the night-Compass Rose– when we looked over and there was that group of girls from the bar before! I tried to pretend I knew the slightest thing about real estate as I chatted with one of the girls over a few Shiner Bocks. We were all ready to go home not realizing what was in the works. The “guy with the hot beard” and “that girl who worked in real-estate” were beginning a relationship that would turn into a marriage six years later.
If you can’t already tell, the “guy with the hot beard” is my cousin Greg and “the real-estate girl” is his wife Alix. They got married a couple weeks before writing this paragraph in June 2021. Both of them have been there for me every second of the way in my time in D.C. and I am forever thankful for them. Not only am I thankful for the spare bed, Alix’s signature spinach/ avocado salad that’s doused in dressing, and the endless good times we have spent together, but I am thankful for one more key thing…
You see, not only was I gaining a future cousin-in-law that night of the snow storm, their meeting set off a chain reaction that would shape my life for forever.
The Bachelor in The Big Easy
So Alix has an older sister named Katie who recently got married to her husband, Brett. Brett is the type of guy that instantly lights up a room when he walks in it. He will talk to anyone about anything and he quickly became one of my favorite people to see whenever Greg and Alix first started dating. This dude is so charismatic that he had THIRTY FIVE guys on his bachelor party guest list– I was thankful to be one of those guys.
Memorial Day weekend 2019 rolled around and it was time for Brett and his closest 35 friends to hit ‘The Big Easy’ for a weekend that would be one for the books. I had been to New Orleans twice before on Fraternity Formals and let me tell you–There is no place quite like it. The chaos of Bourbon Street is something that everyone needs to experience at some point in their (adult) lives.
We popped around the city wearing our custom made “The Golden Leg of Long Beach” (a reference to Brett’s career as a star high school football kicker) tee-shirts that had him in his old football uniform on them. We were loud, obnoxious, having a great time, and made a scene everywhere we went. The stampede of guys stumbled their way through the city, led by the groom playing his harmonica he brought with him. He was like the leader of an over-served marching band, showing us around the city he called home.
As the day went on we all went back to get ready for the night to come. We had a bit of a fancier dinner reserved at a place called Antoine’s. I don’t really know how fancy this place is, but the wine glasses were a step up from the fishbowls we had been drinking out of in the daytime. I arrived a bit behind schedule, as one typically does when traveling with Greg and Stang, and we walked into a room full of guys who sarcastically cheered at our late arrival. As that happened, something caught my eye.
I had spent the past 24 hours surrounded by roughly 25 married guys who were probably a good 15 years older than me. I did not expect to see two girls, who appeared to be my age, when I walked into that room. Rewind about 24 hours- One of the other guys in the group, who is equally as charismatic as the groom-to-be and looks like he was plucked from a Calvin Klein catalog, was on the same flight to New Orleans as the two girls. He sat next to them on the plane and he invited them to this dinner we were having. The two girls who were making the trip down from Connecticut thought: Sure, why not!?
I would sneak a glance from time to time at the blond one who was politely chatting with some of the guys. I knew at some point I had to introduce myself, but I was going to go with a more reserved approach given how many guys were in the room. I overheard that the two girls were Swedish and they even led the table in a Swedish drinking song at one point.
The dinner wrapped up without me getting the chance to say hello, but I wasn’t too worried as they were joining us at the next place- Famous Door. The live band was playing their cover songs and I finally got the chance to make my move. Her name was Lydia. She told me she was an Au Pair for a family in Connecticut and that she had been in The States for a few months now.
We didn’t talk too much more at that point as the band kept on cranking out the hits and my new Swedish friend and I headed for the dance floor. I spun her around as we danced to ‘Don’t Stop Believing ‘ and I remember thinking “This girl has the softest hands I have ever felt”. There was definitely a connection between us as we foolishly danced around to the American songs she surprisingly knew every word to. We made our way to a few other places on Bourbon Street as I held her hand trying not to lose her in the crowd. After a while, we all headed back to the hotel everyone was staying at (besides Greg, Stang, and I) to continue the 18-hour party.
We took the elevator up to the bachelor’s suite (which served as the location for the afterparty) and this is where Lydia taught me my first Swedish word- Tack! (Thank You). Here we really got the chance to chat some more as she introduced me to some Swedish pop music (shoutout Tillfälligheter). We bonded over our love for the Swedish company, Spotify, and we exchanged usernames there. She pointed to her “reit” tattoo on her arm for the spelling of the name in her username as she gave it to me. I was wondering what that meant all night! When I told her my username, to her surprise, my name wasn’t Brett. Which is what she had thought it was up until that point…Not great haha. From there I got her Snapchat username. As 2am turned to 3am she began speaking in Swedish to her friend and you didn’t need to understand the language to know she was ready to leave.
We hugged goodbye, took a selfie that I sent to my Swedish Fraternity brother in Stockholm, and she was on her way. On my walk back to my hotel I remember feeling a bit disappointed. Not knowing if I would ever see this girl again as I was taking the elevator to the room I shared with Greg and Stang. The next morning on the way to the airport I remember feeling the same way– As if I blew my chance with someone who I really connected with, but there was nothing I could do now. We were wheels up to Washington. I sent a Snapchat to Lydia saying how bummed I was that I had to leave a day earlier than her, put my phone in airplane mode, and caught up on some sleep.
When I landed I remember anxiously checking my SnapChat to see if I had gotten a reply from her- I did. We sent a few back and forth as the day turned into night. We eventually stopped until a couple nights later when the Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Finals and they did a close up on Marcus Johansson. I used this as the perfect excuse to reignite our Snap Streak and sent her a picture of her fellow countryman. She replied with a “Weyyåå!”. We sent a couple more back and forth, where I then asked for her number because “it was easier than SnapChatting” (classic) and she sent it on over to me. My first text a couple minutes later (after multiple rounds of proofreading and reworking) was “Hello! Are you going to sleep too, or have you recovered from your 30 hours of sleep haha?” she replied with “Hi! Haha, I am actually laying in bed right now watching a show, I’m pretty beat from this wknd. What about you.”.
Those couple texts quickly spun into hundreds as the weeks went by. We continued to get to know each other over these messages and I knew there was something special about her. I had to see her again. We decided she would have to make the trip down to D.C. on her Birthday weekend in Mid-July. This was the earliest time we could see each other as I was set to go on a 10 day road trip with Greg and Stang and then had a couple of Cape trips lined up after that. We FaceTimed for the first time the night before my trip and little did I know this was one of many to come.
I spent the next 8 days in the back of a minivan with two of my best friends traveling the North West. With every breathtaking sight we came across, I couldn’t shake Lydia from my head. I was so excited to see her again and we were counting down the days to our Bourbon Street Reunion as Greg, Stang, and I made it along on our road trip. Lydia’s texts and SnapChats (when we had cell phone service) helped keep me occupied for the 34 hours of driving we did that week.
The original plan on the trip was to drive from Seattle to Chicago–catching ‘Dead and Company‘ shows on the first two and the last two days of the trip. After spending over a week living out of a cramped van, and relying on water bottle showers, we decided we would cut the trip a couple days short and shoot for Minneapolis to be our final destination where we would drop off the van. Once we decided this and changed our flights, I texted Lydia to see if she was around on Saturday. She said she was and I told her the new plans to cut the trip short and she agreed I should make the trip to see her. We got into D.C. on Friday, and I was back in the car the next day–This time I would be making the 5 hour drive to Darien, Connecticut.
My Mom called to catch up and to see how the road trip with Greg and Stang went and I filled her in on all the details. She was then curious about what my plans were for the weekend now that we cut the trip short. This would be the first time my Mom would hear about Lydia. From there one can only assume she got on the phone and let every one of her sisters know I was doing a 10 hour round trip to see a girl I had just met. She wanted to know more about Lydia and I bashfully told her we just met and we would see where it goes!
I hit the road early on Saturday morning so I could get to Connecticut (where Lydia was living in a loft with a family of four) at a decent time. As I passed through New York City, I watched my Google Maps time slowly tick down to below an hour. I let her know I was only a matter of miles out now, to which she replied that her host parents would like to meet me. I was a little nervous at the thought of this. Here was a girl I have only seen once in my life before and now I have to meet her family that isn’t really her family. Shoutout to her host mom for looking out for her like this though and at least wanting to get a feel for me before I take their Au Pair into the city for the night.
I parked my rental car outside of Lydia’s house and let her know I was there. She came out to greet me and we gave each other a big hug as one of her host kids stood nearby. I introduced myself to him and made my way inside to meet the parents. It was her host kid’s 5th birthday party, so there were a couple of other families around. As I walked in, a little girl (who looked exactly like her host kid from what I had seen in pictures) ran by, and I said “Happy Birthday!”. The girl looked at me strangely as Lydia delivered the news that this was not her host kid–Good start.
I made my way into the kitchen where her Host Mom was standing with one of her friends. She gave me a firm handshake as we small talked about my drive up. With each moment you could sense her sizing me up. Making sure I wasn’t some creep–and rightfully so! Thankfully, I passed the creep test and she introduced me to her husband as he walked by. I specifically remember him saying “I’m not her real dad- you don’t need to worry about me” as he laughed. I said I would have her home the next day and we were on our way.
We went to dinner that night at a restaurant in Stamford called ‘Barcelona‘. You may recognize this from earlier in the story as the place where we met Alix and swapped numbers with her on the night of the snow storm. This was the first time we really got to sit and talk face to face with each other without some cover band or another person on the bachelor party interrupting us. We found out more about each other as I sipped on a Margarita and Lydia drank a coke. Although she could drink in her home country for three years now, she was about two weeks shy of 21 at the moment. This would foreshadow the first of many times where I order an alcoholic drink at a restaurant and Lyd orders a coke.
It was a quick 24 hours but I was back on the road to D.C. after I dropped her off the next morning. I left Connecticut on cloud nine feeling great about where this was headed. I already couldn’t wait to see her again. I quickly came back to Earth a couple of days later when I got an email from the Maryland Department of Transportation saying I got hit with a $340 speeding ticket from a traffic camera in a work zone…Well worth it.
We still were planning on her coming down for her 21st birthday a couple weeks later. She hopped on the bus to D.C. where I was waiting for her in my apartment with a birthday surprise (can be seen below). We had a big dinner that night where she ordered her first drink as a 21 year old. The bartender reluctantly served her a drink after giving her a hard time about using a Swedish driver’s license. We had an awesome weekend together and she got to meet my friends here in D.C., and reconnect with Greg and Stang who she met on the bachelor party.
We continued to do these little trips back and forth throughout the summer every couple of weeks. We even got the chance for her to meet my family when her host family was making a trip to Nantucket. I picked her up from the ferry in Hyannis after the family trip was over and I took her back home to meet my parents. As we pulled into Fish House Rd., Lyd mentioned how nervous she was. She did great though and they hit it off right away. My Mom talked to her about the “shaahhks” that have infiltrated Cape Cod. Lydia looked at me for answers as I translated the Boston accent to her and that my Mom meant “sharks”. Lydia speaks nearly perfect English but my Mom’s accent (which she is used to by now) can be almost unfair to someone who speaks English as a second language.
The First Decision
The weeks and the months went by with trips from Lyd both to The Cape and D.C. Lots of bus, car, and train rides for the both of us. We were now getting to the point of the year where she had to decide to A.) Go back to Sweden, B.) Stay in Connecticut and renew with the host family she loved, or C.) Find a new family somewhere closer to me. Option C was a pretty easy choice for her and for that I am forever thankful.
She began the matching process with a focus in the Alexandria, VA/D.C./Bethesda, MD area and was on the hunt for a new family. The process is basically like Tinder for Au Pairs. The Au Pairs say yes to families on the matching website that they like, while the parents do the same thing on the other end. When there is a match, they can interview and chat more over Skype. Pretty quickly into the process, she matched with a family in Alexandria. 3 Boys: 6,9, and 11. This of course gave me flashbacks to my own situation I grew up in with my brothers. She agreed to be a part of their family and it was time for her to make the move south to Northern Virginia.
I picked Lydia up in Connecticut with all of her stuff and watched her say goodbye to this family she loved. I was feeling a tad bit guilty about it as her and her host mom shared a tear-filled goodbye, but we were both excited that we could be closer together for a year. If you’re not familiar with it, Alexandria is about a 20 minute drive from D.C. without any traffic (which is rare). We made our way to her nice little neighborhood that day and I got the chance to meet the family for the first time myself. They quickly made it clear that not only would Lydia be an integral part of their family, but I would be too.
She was scheduled to work weekdays from roughly 3pm-6pm. A pretty sweet gig. She could sleep in as long as she wanted, go to the gym, hang out and relax in her big house all alone. She could travel to all sorts of places around the U.S., and even have her family (who she hadn’t seen in about a year at this point) come visit. It was perfect….Then March 2020 came along.
The Bomb Shell
It is no secret as to what happened in March of 2020. Billions of people had their lives derailed by COVID-19. Not to the extent that some did, but one of those people was Lydia. Her 3pm-6pm schedule changed to 8am-6pm in a matter of days as her kids were sent home from school due to COVID-19. She very quickly found herself taking care of these 3 boys (and a slew of other neighborhood kids) day after day with very little down time and pretty much on her own as the parents needed their space working from home. She was doing God’s work at this point and I am not quite sure how she did it. It’s not like she was even getting paid for the overtime. The family pays the Au Pair agency a set fee at the beginning of the year, and Lydia gets $200 a week and free food/housing. Regardless of how many hours she works, just as long as it’s not over 50 hours. All of this while she had plan after plan get cancelled as the months rolled by still in lockdown and as Europeans were banned from traveling to the U.S.
There was one day in April where the Alexandria school system officially decided to call it a year and not have the kids come back till after Summer. Devastating blow for ol’ Lyd. I remember being on the phone with her saying “If you want, I would never hold it against you if you went home. You did not sign up for any of this and I feel terrible you are doing this to be with me”. At this point there was a mass exodus of Swedish Au Pairs as they left to return to their home country where things were basically operating as normal. Thankfully, Lydia had the courage to stick it out and finish what she started.
The Second Decision- Let’s Move To Sweden
The weeks of COVID rolled on and we made the most of what we had. In all of this we still had one more big decision to make- What would happen when Lydia’s Visa expired in January 2021? Again, we had basically two options. The first one was that she stay here and try and go to school at an American University on a Student Visa. With this option she would most likely not be able to leave the U.S. out of fear of not getting back in due to uncertainties with foreign travel restrictions at the time. Not to mention, school is free for her in her home country, so the thought of a student debt free life was also enticing. She loves The States, but not seeing her family for even longer was tough to see past. The other option is that I would move to Sweden.
This was such an easy answer for me. We were sitting down talking about it while we were bored in quarantine and the conversation may have lasted about two minutes before I said “I want to move to Sweden with you”. She was sort of surprised at how easy it was to convince me to go. In fact, there really wasn’t a whole lot of convincing because it was sort of my idea in the first place. At this point, I was going on year five of being in D.C., I was ready for a change both with my city and with my job. I figured this was the perfect time to do that, and in a big way. Not to mention the opportunity it provided for her. Being able to go to school for free, and being close to her family who she hadn’t seen in almost two years, were two huge perks for her. It was a win-win.
She was soooo excited to tell her family the news of our new plan and they were the first ones to know. I knew my family, rightfully so, would not be as excited as hers. My Mom would be losing her baby bird and I dreaded telling her to be honest.
I knew I couldn’t just straight up tell her “Hey Ma, I want to move 4,000 miles away to a country I have never been to before, and start my career from scratch, what do you think?”. I knew I would need to come up with some sort of plan as to what my life would look like over there, and to start- what would I do for work?
Very quickly into my research and from my time listening to Lydia and her family speak, I knew the language barrier would fortunately not be too much of an issue for me. In fact, about 80% of Swedes speak English. This is the second highest percentage of non-native english speakers right behind The Netherlands. So I at least was going into this knowing that I wouldn’t have to ramp up my ongoing Duolingo Swedish lessons. I could probably find a company that operates completely in English.
The next thing I took into consideration was ‘who would make things easy (or easier) to get a Work Visa‘. I found out that was the golden ticket to getting in the country. Especially during Corona times. Nothing could be done without the visa and nothing could be done without a job offer from a Swedish company that is based in Sweden. You can’t work from Sweden remotely, you have to actually have a need to be in the country while working in order to be able to stay for longer than 3 months at a time. So this is when I started thinking of companies/ jobs that would be familiar with hiring people outside of Sweden and Europe. More precicesly I thought working at an International School would be awesome.
Lydia grew up in a somewhat large town in Sweden called Jönköping. This is in the Southern half of the country and is about an hour and a half drive from the second largest city in the country- Göteborg (known in English as Gothenburg). This city is nestled in a port on the West Coast of the country and is where Lydia decided she wanted to go to school. I now knew this was my search area and began narrowing the job hunt down there.
As a side note- Lydia will be starting school at The University of Gothenburg after her 4th gap year from high school. It is super common in Sweden to take some time to travel, be an Au Pair, or work and save some money right after high school. This is one of the reasons the Swedes/ Scandinavians pretty much dominate the Au Pair population in The States (along with the Brazilians). Taking time after high school graduation to figure out what you want to do with your life is one of the many sensible things they do in Sweden. Making such a big life choice at 23 makes a lot more sense than doing so as a dumb 17 year old. In The U.S. we sort of have a stigma tied to not going to college immediately after high school, almost as if you’re a loser for not signing your life away to spend 40K a year to party and eventually change your major. The real losers are the ones who think they want to be a pilot one day, and change their mind 7 months into their education (not naming names here just a hypothetical).
After 10 long weeks of isolation due to COVID, my Mom planned a trip for all of us to go to a lake house in Tennessee over Memorial Day Weekend. Lyd and I would drive from D.C., my brother John and his girlfriend Haley would drive from Nashville, and my parents along with my other brother Garett and his girlfriend Caitlin would be flying from Boston. Lydia and I knew this was probably the best time to tell everyone the plan as it would be the last time we would see everyone in person for at least another month and we were pretty early on in our decision to where they would be some of the firsts to know.
We had a great first couple days in TN and the last night rolled around with still having our secret in the back pocket. I was in the living room of our AirBnB with my Mom, Lydia, Caitlin and Haley when the topic of marriage and stuff like that came up, and I figured I would let it go now as the clock was ticking. I spit it out and said that Lydia and I were looking at moving to Sweden when her Visa was up. I think my voice had to be shaking as I spilled the beans to my Mom. She didn’t say much… Just basically looked at me and nodded her head. Shortly after, my Dad and brothers came in and she told me to tell them the news. They were all very excited and thought it sounded awesome as I explained what I was thinking of doing over there. My mom still sat there not saying much at all.
The next morning rolled along and it was time to head back to our respective cities. We were relieved and excited that we had shared our big plan. However, I knew I hadn’t heard the last of it. If you know my Mom- when she gets the wheels going in her head, there is no stopping her. She had a couple days and some long car rides to think on it and gave me a call one night a couple nights later. We chatted back and forth about it for about an hour and she did everything any supportive mother whose son was moving to a country 6 time zones away would do: She wanted to make sure I had a legitimate plan and wanted to work out every single detail right then and there. We tried our best to do so.
We hung up the phone and I could sense a tiny bit of relief through the phone. I answered a lot of her questions, and she gave me some things to consider that I may have overlooked. My Mom is someone who has always been in my corner. Whether it was with school or sports growing up, she was always there. But she wasn’t always there just for the A’s in school or the goals in hockey. She was also there to get my act in gear when I would get a bad grade or when I would complain about having to go to practice. She did everything she possibly could do to make me the best person I could ever be- and I’d like to think she succeeded. Her questioning the move for an hour, and not just saying “wow that’s great honey so happy for you” was no different than her getting on me for bringing home a 62 in Math (a pretty common occurrence). She was doing what she does best, and that is looking out for what is best for me.
Now that I had the support of my family, I could really get the process started. I knew I couldn’t have done this without them. As I stated above, the golden ticket is finding a job. This is the easiest way, although it isn’t the only way. Any of you who have seen ‘90 Day Fiance‘ know that another ticket to being able to live in another country for over 3 months is to marry someone who lives there. Lyd and I were not quite there yet, and that route can have a lot of legal/ financial hoops to jump through. It would just be best to find a job over there.
It was all hands on deck. I was contacting any person who had a connection to Sweden: My brother’s boss, my friend’s cousins, my fraternity brother’s friends. Everybody was getting an email asking if they knew of any places that were hiring. At one point I had a friend of mine in Amsterdam combing his phone book for high school friends he knew that lived in Sweden. Nothing! Just some leads with nothing really serious to show for it.
I scoured the Swedish job boards multiple times a day looking for opportunities. I still had about 9 months before my target move day, but I wanted to get rolling. On that note– It is a bit difficult looking for a job 9 months out. Not a whole lot of places looking for someone from another country to start in 9 months. At this point, Lydia still had about half a year left in The States and I wasn’t quite ready to leave my job yet. In the meantime I just began building a list of places and contacts for when it really got crunch time.
Once December rolled around, and Christmas came and went, I knew my window of opportunity was opening up. From all of my research, the process of getting a work Visa can take about 1-3 months– and that is without considering the fact we were in the middle of a global pandemic. I knew I had to get something locked in if I was going to make it to Sweden by my target of late June 2021. I figured with this timeline I had about 2-3 months to get an interview and get a job offer so I could get the visa process started.
Also at this time towards the end of January, Lydia was set to hop on a plane back to Sweden since her Visa was about to expire. This was a sad day for both of us and was one we were dreading since we first started dating. We got to spend some nice time together on The Cape, which she has grown to love, and we enjoyed our last moments together before we said goodbye for a while. The day finally came, and we packed two years of her life, and the manifestation of her shopping habit, into about 3 suitcases all weighing under 50 pounds. A stressful task, but we made it work. Luckily we had plenty of time as Lyd likes to get to the airport approximately 10 hours early even on domestic flights… Her leaving that day for sure gave me an extra kick in the pants on the job hunt.
One day on one of Lydia and I’s daily FaceTimes, she told me that one of her friends had mentioned an American High School right in the heart of Gothenburg. I was surprised by this as I hadn’t seen it in any of my research. The second I heard this, I was on their website reading all about them. I found out that they are a high school for Swedish kids, but with an American twist to it. They operate in the classrooms primarily in English and are geared towards kids who want to work or study in The States some day. It was not only an international school that I was hopeful to find, but was American of all things. The name of the school- Amerikanska Gymnasiet- literally translates to “The American High School”. I drafted up an email to send to the Assistant Principal of the school. The next morning I refreshed my GMail inbox (as I did every morning hoping for some update on the job front), and I had a reply from her saying that she wanted to set up an interview! I basically sprung out of my bed.
A week or so later I had the chance to speak with the Vice Principal for over an hour. She told me all about the amazing things they were doing at this school and the more she talked about it the more excited about the job I got. Not only was it awesome to hear how the school operates, but the job description of what they were looking for was a perfect fit. They were searching for someone who could help run the main office on the day to day- Check. They were looking for someone with experience working on installing programs on the kid’s computers- Check. They were looking for someone with a Criminal Justice background-Check (that’s what my MTSU degree is in, not to mention a big part of the space BlackHorse operates in). They were looking for someone who could be comfortable in front of a classroom and substitute when needed- Kinda Check! The cherry on top was that I was an American and a native English speaker. A perfect fit.
I left our conversation feeling extremely optimistic about the opportunity. She wanted to set up a time for me to talk more and meet The Principal and one of the founders of the school. A few weeks went by and I was finally able to find some time on his schedule to chat more about the position. I was actually on Cape for this day and I began prepping for the interview the days leading up to it. I had told everyone (including Lydia) that the interview was on a Wednesday, when it was actually on a Tuesday. A little trick my Mom taught me to help relieve some of the pressure that comes along with an interview. No one asking you the day before if you’re preparing, no one asking you if you’re nervous, no one wishing you good luck, you can kind of just do it all at your own speed without any added outside pressure.
I woke up early the next morning (it’s a 6 hour time difference between Massachusetts and Sweden) and got ready for our call. I was very nervous but also super excited to meet him and hear more about the school. We chatted for about 20 minutes until he said the words I had been dying to hear since March of 2020. “We would love to have you on our team”. I could hardly contain the excitement. He told me where we would go from there to get the Visa process rolling and we hung up. I took a deep breath with a huge smile on my face as I left my Dad’s home office and let out an internal/external scream. I hopped in my truck to get a coffee and texted Lydia to see if she was out of work with the double eyes emoji.
Right as I got my coffee at Dunks she replied saying she would be home in 15 and that I could call then. I made my way to The Boardwalk and put the truck in park. I FaceTimed her and she answered in her ICA Maxi work uniform and she said hello as she was putting away some groceries. I asked how she was and told her that she was speaking to the newest member of the Swedish workforce. The look on her face made me tear up on the spot as she began to cry of excitement. Her little sister came running over to see what was wrong to which Lyd replied in a full on cry at this point: “han fick jobbet!” (he got the job in Swedish). Her little sister jumped into her arms and she was nearly as excited as Lydia. Lydia’s excitement quickly turned into a little anger as she said “you told me the interview was Wednesday!!!” to which I replied “woops ;)”
I got home from my morning coffee run to find my parents were both awake and sitting on the deck outside. At this point my Mom knew I had the interview earlier than what I told her. Not only is she the creator of the interview trick, but she knew I would have no other reason to be up that early. She said to me as I walked outside “how did it go?” to which I replied “I got it!”. She came over to me and gave me a big hug and said how happy she was for me as tears filled her eyes. She knew how much effort went into this and she was happy to see it pay off for me. Jack gave me a hug as well, and pulled up a lawn chair for me. I recapped the interview with The Principal and we sat outside for a good 45 minutes sharing our excitement. This was an awesome moment to see everything come full circle from the time I first broke the news to them about a year earlier.
Getting the job was the most crucial part of the whole situation. It was great knowing that I was able to get this job all by myself and because of all of the work I had put in over the past 6 years in D.C. All of those nights in lonely hotel rooms, all those times I had to leave a beautiful Summer day on The Cape to get back to D.C., all of those long commutes to the office, finally paid off. The next challenge: get the Work Visa.
The Visa Process
Now that I had a job offer I could now begin the visa process. Everything runs through what is called ‘Migrationsverket’ which is the Swedish Migration Agency. Despite being a country that is notoriously accepting of outsiders, getting a residence/ work permit can be sort of challenging and time consuming. The job that you apply for and are offered has to be listed on this state run job board for over 10 days, and the company has to prove that the job can’t be filled by anyone within the European Union. The company initiates the visa process by proving this to the Migration Agency as well as proving that your salary will be comparable to what other people in your industry are making. It is a way for the agency to assure that the company is legit and isn’t just hiring you to get you a visa. Once the labor union approves of it, it is on the applicant to take the application process from there. I filled out a short form, paid the $200 fee, and submitted it with fingers crossed.
The goal was always to get over to Sweden by Midsommar (A major holiday in Sweden celebrated at the end of June), and I was on pace to reach that goal until I suddenly hit a bit of a snag. It wasn’t until I physically applied for the visa that I found out it wouldn’t be active and I couldn’t move until 14 days before my start date. Thankfully I have Lydia over there to get on the apartment hunt or else I would be in trouble doing that in just 14 days. With a start date of August 1st, that put my earliest move date to July 18th, about 3 weeks after I was hoping to leave. After being sad about the delay for a minute, I quickly thought: Things could be worse! I will get a couple more weeks to say goodbye to my friends and family, and a couple more weeks to enjoy a Cape Cod Summer (and 4th of July) before I ship out.
The Long Goodbye
These days I spend most of my time just driving around in my truck, going to the beach, and enjoying everything The Cape and Sandwich has to offer. It has been awesome to see my parents every day and have a glass of wine with them at night as we watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We haven’t spent this much time together since I was in High School and it is honestly the perfect way to spend my time before I move so far away. I have also had the pleasure of hanging out with my Aunt Di and Uncle Bob quite a bit between nightly dinners at our houses and trips for a Cosmo and a sidecar at one of the local restaurants. They have always been like another set of parents to me and it’s been awesome to spend this much time with them as well. They have even been letting me sell some of their junk on Facebook Marketplace for a little extra cash! I expect these 4 will be some of my first visitors after I get all settled in.
The Visa Process Drags On
At the time of writing this paragraph I have officially submitted my Visa application but am WAITING. I check my email every 30 minutes to see if it has been approved, knowing full well that it will probably be another few weeks or so before I get a decision. I can’t help it. I am so excited. So excited to see Lydia again, so excited to meet her friends and family, so excited for my new job, so excited to make a fool of myself trying to speak Swedish, so excited to get back to Europe, so excited to walk around my new city, so excited for Fika, so excited for 11pm sunsets, so excited to fly the drone and take pictures in a whole new country, so excited for hockey games, so excited for cold/long winter nights, so excited for it all.
Waiting on the visa has been the most frustrating part of this whole journey by far. Knowing all of those things I mentioned above are just in reach, and all that is standing in the way of me and those things is this approval. Someone out there working for the Swedish Migration Agency has my fate in their hands at this very moment. I just want it to be done with. The closer I get to the two month mark the more anxious I become. What if something happens where it just keeps getting delayed until a week or so before my start date at work and things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to?! Not to mention I have to start planning my flights and travel over there! A lot is at stake here and I am just hoping for that email every day.
LIVE UPDATE 6/21/21: I GOT APPROVED FOR THE VISA- it is now official! Phewwww. The second I opened the email my heart jumped out of my shirt. I quickly saw them say that my application was approved as my fingers shook and I scrolled through the email. It was in Swedish and I had to double and triple check to make sure my Swedish was accurate on Google Translate. At that moment I could feel the weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I was in a coffee shop on Martha’s Vineyard waiting for my ferry, after visiting my friend Jordan, when I got the email. It made for an awesome ferry ride home just smiling ear to ear. Now there is no doubt at all that I am doing this thing. One last trip to D.C. to visit the Swedish Embassy to pick up the hard copy of the visa, and I am good to go! Typically (pre-Corona) one would do this step in the process when they get in country, but given there is an entry ban for non essential travel into the entire EU, it is best that I get all of my ducks in a row here before I get to the border. Would hate to get all that way to have a customs agent tell me to turn back around- so best get it out of the way (plus it gives me one last trip to the place I got to call home for 6 years).
Words can’t really describe how lucky I feel. So lucky that it is extremely comforting. It truly feels as if it’s meant to be. The snow storm, meeting Brett, his bachelor party where I met Lydia after she happened to sit next to one of his friends on the plane, Lydia being close enough in The U.S. to come visit me after we first started talking, Lyd matching with a family near me in D.C. so we didn’t have to be long distance for a year, me happening to email an American High School in the one city in the country we were looking to move to that just so happened to be looking for an American with an Office Management/Instructing/ IT/ Criminal Justice background, getting a job offer there, applying for the Visa and getting it approved in just about 6 weeks–It all has fallen right into place and has reassured me I am making the right decision by going on this adventure.
I want to thank everyone who has supported me along the way. I really couldn’t have done this without you. Especially Lydia. She has been the driving force behind all of this and has been so encouraging at every turn. I will continue to lean on every one of you as I flip to this next chapter in my life and am looking forward to the continued support. There is a plate of Swedish Meatballs at my table any time you find yourself in Sweden.
Nu kör vi!