Swede vs. Swedish citizen

The Swedish flag

Today is National day of Sweden. In many places across the country, part of the celebration is a ceremonial welcome of new citizens. “New citizens”, “people who have become new citizens.” Now and then, however, you hear and read references to “new Swedes” being welcomed by their Swedish home municipalities.

“Swede” is more of a trait of ethnicity than that of citizenship. And there’s a clear distinction between the two. Citizenship is what you can choose. Ethnicity is what you’re born into. By choosing to associate myself with the country of Sweden and becoming a Swedish citizen, I cannot alter my ethnic origin.

Ethnicity has to do with belonging to a group (or several groups) of people of common descent, language, history, not necessarily bound by territorial constraints. Citizenship has to do with associating oneself with a group (or several groups) of people constituting a state, a country, united under a government and on a particular territory.

True story. I was born in Latvia to a Russian father and half Ukrainian, half Russian mother. Ethnically, I am Russian, but by citizenship, I associate myself with the country of Latvia. I do not call myself “Latvian”, which in my opinion signifies one’s cultural and linguistic upbringing, but rather “a Russian from Latvia”. Since late 2014, I hold double citizenship – of Sweden and Latvia. I will not start calling myself a Swede for the very same reason described above.

The word “nation” has the same roots as “nativity”. The Latin word nāscī means “to be born”. Naturally, nationality is closer to ethnicity than it is to citizenship (that is if my thoughts on the above two concepts which I am trying to explain in this post are correct). Nevertheless, “nationality” has gradually come to imply what country one is a citizen of, which is now the predominant connotation in the English language. In Russian, the word retains its original implication, which is why, when prompted, I sometimes take a second to realise what it is I am expected to state as my nationality.

Photo credit: The Swedish flag by Daniel Goude (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Fresh wounds and evanescent scars

When a cut is fresh, your perception of everything else is blunted by the acuteness of pain. In pain, your foremost need is that the cut be tended to, with care. Everything else is non-existent—your attention is focused on the immediate. Shallow cuts may do with a bandage, while deeper cuts require a more thorough treatment. The same is true of the wounds underneath, the cuts to the soul.

Grieving is a sign of life. It is a natural reaction to the loss of a part of you. It is the realisation that the cut was unnecessary. Losing someone you love is always a cut too deep to stop the bleeding alone. You need someone close to help you treat the wound. A host of neighbours.

When I lost my father to brain cancer 19 years ago, my world was shattered. He was the rock I stood on, and suddenly the ground shifted and my foundation was no more, leaving me hanging by a thread. The unforgettable moments I spent with my father during the first eleven years of my live could not compare to anything I have experienced since his passing.

Grieving is the realisation that the wound is going to leave a mark. Sometimes the scar is dim. Sometimes it is ready to burst at the minute impulse. But the pain fades. Reluctantly, it makes it easier to breathe, it makes room for a tearless start.

In grieving, we learn to adopt what has been taken from us. Peace, energy, joy. We learn to resolve to live a life worthy of the ones we lost, forming and shaping it into an eternal tribute. Because we know they would be blessed if we did.

Weeping with neighbours

My father died of cancer when I was 11, my siblings younger and my mother embarking on a heavy journey of raising three children on her own. So, I sometimes think that it is natural for me to complain about life being unfair.

I am aware that complaining about what life throws my way is pointless. However, I find myself worrying about futile things every now and again. Lacking substance, they aim to fill my mind and heart, crippling my senses and preventing me from living.

Then come cold and sharp reminders of the finiteness of life, which make me be grateful for what I have.


Rebecca Alison Meyer died of cancer on the 7th of June, the the day she turned 6. She was called Little Spark by her father Eric A. Meyer. He shared the troubles his family has been going through on his blog and Twitter.

I have never met Eric or Rebecca. We are strangers. And yet, during the past week, the world has not been weeping with strangers. We have all become neighbours, brought closer by this little spark. (In honour of Rebecca, many people used hashtag #663399Becca on Twitter and elsewhere, to show support to the Meyer family.)

When I see purple, I think of Rebecca. I do not think it is ever going to change. Purple was her favourite colour. For me, purple is Rebecca now.

Rest in peace, sweet child!

Perseverance against aspirations

Flower in the Stonewall, Wirksworth
Flower in the Stonewall, Wirksworth by David Masters (CC BY 2.0)

One warm August afternoon I arrived in Örebro with two huge suitcases and ambitions set on studying to become a teacher. Quickly realising that teaching was’t my cup of tea, I switched to Media and Communication Studies, which I never completed.

During the past 6.5 years, I’ve moved thrice, got married to the girl of my dreams, fathered two beautiful daughters and got a job I love.

My aspirations and plans for the future help me but move forward. The closer I get to the goal, the easier it is to make out the shape of it. And, in faith, persevere.

This post is part of the #blogg100 challenge—100 blog posts à 100 words in 100 days.

My brother is getting married, and I made him a site

I’ve been busy making a wedding site for my brother. It is now live, but I am still polishing up the code. There are still some things to be done, but I am glad how it turned out. I’ve also posted a page, where I describe what I used to build the site.

Love Under The Tree - a wedding site for Erika and Arturs
Love Under The Tree – a wedding site for Erika and Arturs

Visit Erika & Arturs’ wedding site here.

True freedom of speech

When I went to school, one of my classmates (let’s call him Danny) was short. Not abnormally short, just shorter than anyone else in class. One day I was being picked up by my mother. The other kids sat waiting for their parents, talking. For some inexplicable reason, probably just stupidity on my part, I shouted as we were walking past the youngsters, “And this is Danny, ma, look how short he is!”

The choice of words in a given situation is crucial for a message to come across. Just because you can say something does not necessarily mean you should. Freedom of speech is bound by limitations. My freedom to express what I believe must be guided and controlled by whether my words will harm or offend others.

The problem does not lie in my uttering the words of hate, disdain or scorn. It lies in my fostering the thoughts in my mind. The words are the result, the reflection of what’s happening inside.

But we are free to use language to encourage one another, build each other up. True freedom of speech is not about saying what you want—it is about saying what you should. It is also about knowing when to talk and when to keep silent.

When my mother and I left the school building that afternoon, she touched my shoulder and told me, “You know, some people do not like their height, and if you remind them of it, they may get offended. It wasn’t polite of you.” Her words stayed with me since shaping how I view people different from me.

I never got to apologise to Danny. To exercise my freedom to resist the norm, to burst it. But some day I will. Not because I should, but because I want to.

The news of Steve Jobs’ death makes me wonder…

Steve

I wonder the same thing at the news of Steve Jobs’ death as at the news of my father’s death in 1995.

What will I be remembered for when I die?

Will not my life have been lived in vain? Will I have left a legacy to marvel? What would that be?

The questions are still more in number than answers. I know one thing for sure though. I may not be the genius inventor of a new way of thinking as Steve was. I may not be the kindest person on earth giving his last slice of bread to another as my father was.

I know I will not settle for surviving a life of cowardly existence. I know I will take responsibility for my words, actions and thoughts. I know I will do everything that is in my strength to foster a life no one else would dare be ashamed of living.

(Photo via Esther Dyson)

30-days-honey experiment

Honey

My grandma always says, “Want to be healthy? Eat a spoonful of honey every morning!” Wait, what? Just honey and no tea? Isn’t it too sweet? Yes it is. But then again, she  is not the only one to claim it is good for you.

So, I decided to experiment. For thirty days I will consume a spoonful of this sweet gloriousness every morning. I don’t know if I will feel any healthier after my experiment. I hope I will become healthier after it. And I hope my grandma is right.

Have you done similar experiments? How did it go?

(Photo courtesy of toholio)

How long should it take to walk to work?

The tires on my bicycle are flat since the day before my vacation started. This is why I’ve been walking to work after we came back from vacation. It is nothing new to my body, though. Last winter, I was unable to ride my bike due to heavy snowfalls. Which was why I walked every day to and from work, which I enjoyed immensely.

Several days ago, I started recording the time I spend walking to work. (The time I spend walking home from work is very inaccurate, mostly depending on what mood I am in, what I’ve had for lunch or which shoes I wear.) I usually spend between fifteen and twenty minutes. Yesterday, though, I beat my personal record “by five minutes” and landed on 10:38.8. (Proof.)

Today, I tried to repeat it and spend the whole of 15:19.3 walking, which left me begging for more. Something went wrong and I need to fix it. For the next month I pledge to measure my steps and breaths to get to the truth of the matter – does it take ten or fifteen minutes for me to walk to work?