As my son is falling asleep for the night in the other room, my wife singing “Trollmors Vaggsång,” I sit here typing my last post. I go back to work tomorrow, meaning that this is officially the last day of Pappa Leave for me (at least consecutively, anyway). So many ways I could sign off, lots of “things I’ve learned” that I could list off.
Instead of all of that, I’ll just cover what I reflected on today when I was walking back from the store to pick up my wife’s 1-day-late Mother’s Day gift that my son ordered for her 😉
I was there picking up a package, and I picked up the package speaking only Swedish. Today we went to Skansen (an outdoor Museum & Zoo in Stockholm that is amazing), and when buying our annual pass, I also did this all in Swedish. And then I realized that as the last 15 months has progressed, I have actually been speaking more and more Swedish when I am in Sweden.
“So what?!” You might say, “You live in Sweden after all!” Ah, you see, I have not been speaking fluent Swedish in the 4 years (ok, 3 years + 1 in Hong Kong) that I have lived here. I absorbed a lot, obviously, but was never confident enough to try to speak it – worried that I would be judged, misunderstood, or that people would think I was stupid because I can’t figure out “ett” or “en” or pronounce words like “rutschkana” (slide) without saying them 4 times. But it turns out I learned a few things in this time away.
My self worth has always been tied to my productivity, my ability to be a solid worker, my efficiency, and my integrity. My self esteem has always been connected to what I can do for other people (and frustrated when I was not able to contribute or help), and my ability to contribute to society as a whole. Ability to and actually doing it are two different things, but the ability to contribute has always been key to me. To work and contribute to larger things, and to be able to say “see, look what I have done! I am smart / awesome / amazing – and I can prove it – see?!” – the ability to do so but not doing so (most of the time) – this was always of utmost importance to me.
So when I wrote in the “about” section and occasionally throughout the last 457 days that I am a guy who loves to work, I can tell you this was no exaggeration. Loves to work. Funny phrase in today’s culture where connecting work to your identity is passe, and having amazing hobbies and leisure time is the goal. I still will love to work, because that is who I am on the inside – and it is something I will never be apologetic about. Some people are just this way, and I am one of them.
But what I have seen about myself in this last year is that I am more than just a worker bee, more than an ant marching (albeit happily marching). I am a good friend. I am a supportive husband. I am a family-driven person. I am smart. I am adventurous. I am strong. I can contribute to the world in other ways than just by working and getting results. There are great people everywhere, with all kinds of backgrounds, and most of them are just as curious as you are.
I learned to have the confidence to speak Swedish even when I might suck at it, so that I can learn to speak it better – and that means I don’t really care as much about what people think of me as I used to. It could also mean that I don’t hold the same power to language as I used to – after spending this amount of time in Hong Kong where people communicate without perfectly speaking the language (English), it has probably given me some perspective.
I learned that I am a good father. A really damn good father who knows his son, who knows what he needs, and who gives his son what he needs before he needs it (most of the time) – and that means I know that there are times when not giving him what he wants is what he needs. And, there are times when he’s gotta struggle and I shouldn’t help him with every little thing.
So it turns out in this post, I did list off all these things that I have learned after all!
I guess I don’t know what I expected when I started this blog. I did not expect to have any followers (thanks to everyone for reading!). I did not expect to actually write a blog post every day, or to even keep doing it. I did not expect it to be rewarding and cathartic, as it has been.
Above all, aside from the confidence in myself, I truly believe I am more self aware than I have ever been. I know what my needs are, I know what I want out of life. That’s a pretty good end result of taking 15 months away from work to take care of your child.
Thanks again for reading – maybe I’ll start a new blog later, and if I do, I’ll post an update! (if you have suggestions, please share them in the comments section!)