Introspection is Essential to Happiness

This piece might get a little edgy, but I swear it’s ultimately about self-care. I recently posted a bit about dealing with people who don’t understand the creative mindset. Here in Finland, among the international community that we live in, I’ve dealt with less of that. I think a lot of that has to do with the necessity of being open minded in order to live in a foreign country around people that are different than you. There is an American-ness, though, to default to stare decisis, to rely on established precedent rather than engaging in critical thinking. Unfortunately, that tends to preclude any sort of introspection. I believe that introspection is essential to happiness.

Hand-in-hand with the flawed logic of “why make a thing when a more popular version of that thing already exists” are the two go-to documents of American culture: the Bible and the Constitution. I’m not looking to make waves, I’m only trying to make a point. There are a lot of problems that exist today because people fall back on “the Bible says this, period, no need for further discussion” or “the Constitution says that, boom! and it’s settled”. J.K. Rowling’s popularity means that’s how you should write a fantasy novel, and the success of Avengers: Endgame means that’s how you need to make a movie.

Introspection and Happiness

It would be actually useful if people took a breath and looked at the problem that was being solved for. Instead of the literal meaning of the words, the letter of the law, try to comprehend the intentions. Then imagine the possibilities. If that work did not exists — the New Testament, the Bill of Rights, the Harry Potter series, whatever — how would you approach things? Imagine having to look at all of the information we have in front of us today. Picture having to create something, from scratch, to solve the problem.

I know, I know, those things do exist. Those works define current reality and establish our operating parameters. That’s why your fantasy world looks like a Hogwarts knockoff, and you throw out quotes instead of answers. The unwillingness to consider other possibilities affects your life. You limit your own potential. Things that could possibly make you happy have been cut off, voluntarily and by you, because you’ve accepted an orthodoxy about the way things have to be.

Why I’m Not Blogging About Finland (for now)

This one’s getting filed under Self-Care, because it has more to do with the reasons we chose to do (or not do) certain things than anything else. A lot of people have asked if I’ll be blogging about Finland, now that I’ve relaunched this venture. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided against it. I’ll get to my reasons in a moment, but first I want to add the caveat “never say never“. With Finland or any other topic, my choice to not write about it at this time doesn’t mean I won’t add it to the topic rotation in the future. I’m trying to see this blog as a living thing, and while I need to have some structure to it, that means it will change and evolve over time.

Speaking of Finland

Shortly after Katie and I moved to Finland in 2014, we started a podcast. It was something we did for fun, and it had no production value. The original premise was that we were recording letters back to our friends in the US. This seems odd in the era of social media and Skype, but it was based on something in Katie’s childhood. Her pop was in the Marines, and did tours in Vietnam. He would send home reel-to-reel tapes where he talked to his kids. Her mom would set up a recorder at the dinner table, and she and her siblings would record messages for him.

We started off doing a lot of compare-and-contrast stuff, talking about differences and the things we discovered that we liked. It was incredibly tweet. After a while it started to feel like we were fetishizing Finland. I know that we weren’t experts, and after 5 years here I still wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself such. The more episodes we did, the more uneasy I got about it.

Slowly the format evolved, though. Few of our friends in the US were actually listening. Our audience ended up being mainly Finns, who were interested to hear what we thought of their country. Some of the more popular episodes had us answering questions and trying to explain American things that made no sense to people who’d grown up in another culture. A lot of those were uncomfortably political for me. I feared attracting trolls.

Eventually we found a format that worked, but to be honest, we got bored with it. We’d started off doing it for fun, and it had begun to feel like a chore. We kicked around some ideas, but ultimately we just stopped doing it.

Blogging About Finland

All of those considerations above feed into my reasons for not wanting to essentially carry on the podcast in blog form. The biggest consideration at this time, though, is our residence status. I don’t want to invest a lot into talking about Finland only to end up having to leave. My heart will be broken anyway, but spending extra hours writing about the things I love about this country would make it worse. I also don’t know that I could go on talking about Finland if we did have to go back to the United States.

That said, when our residence is renewed for four years (he said optimistically), I will likely add Finland as a category. It would be interesting to chronicle my struggles to learn the language with enough fluency to pass the certification tests. My quest to gain citizenship could be an ongoing topic that could be collected into a book. The potential is there.

In this current state, though, I don’t want to jinx anything. I don’t want to add stress to my life, or set myself up for disappointment.

Why This Immigration Hearing is So Important

This is getting filed under self-care. This immigration hearing is so important because it will touch every aspect of my life. The biggest impact at the moment is on my peace of mind. I want to stay in Finland because it’s the best choice for me, personally and professionally.

For those just tuning in, I am an immigrant. My wife Katie and I moved from the United States to Finland in 2014 so she could attend graduate school. During that time, I’ve supported us as a self-employed writer. To get a job here, you need to either have a degree from a Finnish university, be fluent in the Finnish language, or possess a desirable skill that is lacking in the Finnish workforce. I have don’t meet any of those criteria, so I have had to get by as an entrepreneur.

Up to now we have had legal residence based on her studies. She’s now done with school, but does not yet have a job. She has an offer, but the organization is waiting on funding to come through. She’s also in talks with a museum to have an exhibit of her art next year, and to sell some of her work in their gift shop in the meantime. That won’t happen until after our current residence permit has expired, so we’re filing based on my status as a self-employed person.

The Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

The advantage is that where a permit for studies is only good for one year (recently expanded to 2), a permit for self-employment can be granted for up to 4 years. If things go according to plan, that means I will have resided here long enough to apply to citizenship. It will give me 4 years to gain the language certification necessary to apply for citizenship. At the very least, it’s 3+ years before I need to stress out over applying to renewed residence status.

Yes, we want to stay in Finland and I want to earn citizenship. I’m aware that bothers some people. To avoid being directly political, with all of the problems going on in the United States right now I recognize that I have privilege. I know many people that would love to move someplace like Finland. There are also people I know that are deeply offended that I don’t want to go back to the United States, and that I’m seeking to change my citizenship. Typically I joke that as a good consumer, I didn’t like the service I was getting so I took my business elsewhere. I don’t have a response to people whose patriotism blinds them to the problems, or who won’t try to understand that I’m just happy here for reasons that don’t have anything to do with politics.

Why This Immigration Hearing is So Important

Finnish immigration might shoot me down for any number of reasons. If they don’t grant us residence, I have no idea what we’ll do. We’d have to go back to the United States and start over. Sell everything and begin from scratch, the way we did when we came here. Five years makes a big difference, though. I’m getting older. I don’t know if I’m up for that.

Katie would have to give up the opportunities that are sitting there on the horizon. She’d be impacted both as an educator and an artist. I would likely have to stop writing and get a day job. Again, I recognize my privilege, but I’ve worked hart to get here. The cost of housing and healthcare would be out of reach otherwise. I can only imagine what it will take to get a American bank account again, since I’ve been unemployed had have a 5-year gap in my credit history (they can’t or won’t see activity in European banks).

If you want to help, buy a book. Buy several. Tell other people. The money will be useful no matter what happens, but bolstering my business helps on multiple levels.

Topic: Self-Care and Related Posts

Self-Care: This topic is for posts about making time for yourself in a world filled with stress and unreasonable demands. Because I identify as a spoonie there will be posts related to that, managing mental health, and living a productive life in spite of physical limitations.

Don’t worry about this becoming a pity party. My focus is on what I do differently, how I manage to work around various limitations, and ways I’ve found to compensate for tasks I can’t do well anymore. It’s not about what I can’t do because… It’s a celebration of what I do in spite of

The reason I picked this as a core topic for the blog is because I’m a workaholic by nature. I need to consciously make an effort to slow down and make time for myself. It’s the counterbalance to productivity-related posts. I want to show that the success I have had in life hasn’t just come from working hard, but from taking time to rest, reflect, and move forward mindfully.

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