tiistai 15. joulukuuta 2009

Letting go

First of all, I apologize for the radio silence. However, let me tell you that there has been a good reason for it. This post will also be the last one in a while and the most personal so far because sometimes life doesn't go as planned - something gets in the way and suddenly you find yourself in a situation which you were not prepared for. After a week of emotional turmoil, I am now ready to cut my stay in DC short and am getting ready to return back home. Even though this was my own decision, it does break my heart to leave my friends, this city, the life I built for myself during these past four months. I wasn't prepared to leave this early, there was and still is so much I wanted to experience here but at the same time it is impossible for me to stay. Thus, I will go - with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes but also with extreme gratitude for all that I have had the privilege to experience here.

One thing I have to say about the Americans in difficult situations is that they will show you their support, sometimes maybe even in a way Finnish people might not be able to. Again, I'm making generalizations and I do have amazing friends back in Finland who have supported me through these tough times but since it is easier for American people in general to speak up, they will do just that and to the simple question of "How are you holding up?" you actually feel like you are allowed to reply with honesty. Even though DC is one of those cities on the east coast where peer pressure is stronger than anywhere else in the world and the need to succeed overcomes everything, my friends have supported my decision and have actually congratulated me for taking care of myself by leaving rather than by trying to stick it out when it was clearly not in my best interest. Funny how you can feel like such a loser one minute and like a winner the next - all you need is someone saying that they are still proud of you and that they admire you for your courage to stand up for yourself. So be brave, people!

I am going home in less than a week and my emotions are mixed, to say the least. I know I will miss this place more than I can even understand right now and I know that the significance of my time here will become clear only later. However, I do believe that things happen for a reason and if something, I can say with a clear conscience that I have no regrets. I wouldn't have changed a thing (ok, a couple of days I'd be more than happy to forget) and I feel like this experience has once again taught me, not only about myself but about people in general and also about what life in the States is like. Granted, I've only seen it from one point of view and believe me, this is one big and diverse country but I feel like I've been really blessed to have had this experience. Life is strange - when you least expect it, it'll throw something in your way that you never would have seen coming. If something, I've also learned that things tend to work out eventually, one way or the other and that is why I am not as intimidated by the great unknown that is my future as I could be, being in the situation that I now find myself in. Maybe you get used to insecurity with age or maybe tough times are there so that you can see that you can rise above and come out a winner.

To conclude, I have to thank all my dear friends both in Finland and in America for supporting me, for giving me the strength and courage to follow my dreams and for staying by my side when those dreams didn't turn out to be as wonderful and rosey as expected. I got a text message from a dear friend of mine last night and I really think he struck a chord with these words: It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do. I have been living by those words and now I that I prepare myself for what seems to be an endless row of goodbyes and for letting go, I can hold my chin up and say that if anything, I will never regret my time here. I have laughed, I have cried and above all, I have lived.

lauantai 5. joulukuuta 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

While I continue to write in English, today's topic is something that we Finns are a lot more familiar with than Americans in the DC area - that is snow. I have always loved December in Finland; its blue light around three o'clock in the afternoon, heaps of snow (remember that in the 90s when I was growing up there was always snow in December and no one mentioned the words global warming or climate change), the frosty air and the anticipation of the approaching holiday. Now that I don't get to experience that, snow has come to represent Finland aka home for me and that is why I never, NEVER thought I'd see snow in DC before going home for Christmas. Not until I saw the weather forecast on Thursday and realized that we could be getting some snow this weekend!

And for once the weather man was actually right, it's been snowing since morning (some people might call it sleet but it sticks to the ground so potayto potahto say I) and I couldn't be happier! Not only does it feel like home but it also feels like Christmas. I never thought I'd say this but I missed it all: the greyness that comes with it and makes you switch on the lights at 1pm, the streets covered in melting snow that will turn into puddles in no time and ruin your shoes and the no-good DC drivers who are bad even on a regular day and worse when it snows. I didn't have to wear my sunglasses today and I got to wear the thickest coat I have with me here and I was still freezing. Yes, it made me happy because it made me feel right at home and even though weather is the one thing I actually don't miss about Finland, I guess I didn't know that getting to experience that even for one day brought back a sense of belonging I didn't even know I was longing to have in the first place.

Still, I have to say that people in DC do not know how to handle snow. Even though it's been snowing all day, it's been mixed with water so it's not like we have several feet of snow on the ground (more like a couple of inches which will most likely disappear by morning) and even so, it seemed to take forever to drive up and down Wisconsin Avenue today (I guess people were terrified of driving in the snow even though there was no snow to drive in since it melted once it hit the streets). On top of that, I saw several ploughs - or what seemed to be more like a plough attached to the front-bumper of a pick-up - even though there was no snow to be ploughed! I understand heavy equipment when cars can't get around in the streets during blizzards but come on, we were talking about a couple of inches. I just love the "Snow emergency routes" -signs and can't wait to get a real blizzard in January and February and actually get snowed in. Because that is what happens here; if there is too much snow, schools will be closed that day (too bad it was Saturday today) and people might not go to work because it's just too difficult to move around. As I said, these people don't know how to handle snow and for someone coming from a country where there is snow on the ground for 6 months out of 12, it seems just plain silly. But look who's talking when summer and the infamous DC humidity kicks in...

I am hoping to get more snow as Christmas is drawing closer but odds are it will all be gone by tomorrow morning. Nevertheless, I was happy to get to experience even this one day of sleet, snow and general chaos in the DC streets because it reminded of home and of the fact that I do love winter. Don't get me wrong, I love that I can go out without a coat in November and that my feet are not soaking wet everytime I go out from October till December and then again from March till May but there's a reason why Bing Crosby sings about White Christmas. Thus, let it snow!