Building a long distance relationship isn’t easy. Especially not when the distance contains both an ocean and a time difference of 9 hours. We share our days and nights together but never at the same time; when it’s day here it’s night over there and vice versa. It’s more than 5000 miles from the West coast of the US where Johnny lives to the East coast of Sweden where I live.
Then there’s the overhanging shadow of the inevitable question: “Who will eventually move to another continent, him or me?”. It’s not an easy decision and it never feels completely accurate because there are so many aspects to consider. Practical things. Family. Proximity to an ocean (important for both of us). Climate (we both dislike heat). Cultural stimulation. A base for success. Job opportunities. Language skills. Health issues. Safety.
I’ve never felt like I belong here in Sweden. I don’t feel Swedish in any sense really. I see this as a very positive quality, but it also makes me feel like a misfit. My art is so different from the work of my Swedish colleagues. But it’s not all a negative thing – I could start an art movement here. If I wanted to. I could make a change, I could make a difference, I know that. In the US, my art would make more sense, but there would be a harder competition. I wouldn’t be as much of a misfit over there, for better or for worse. Johnny is a writer and could write anywhere, but he wouldn’t have access to a community of any American writers here.
But then there’s the question of safety and health care systems – and to me, the American systems are very harsh and ungenerous. We don’t have the issue of gun violence here and the last time Sweden went to war was in the early 1800’s. Sweden is a pretty peaceful place if you compare it to most parts of the world. Frankly, the blood dripping history of the US intimidates me. And all those guns, the easy access to weapons – and the pride that goes with the second amendment totally creeps me out. I just don’t understand it. When I think about America, I think about Disney, Coke, movies, pop culture and amazing art, but I also think of war, guns, violence, unimaginable poverty and horrible prisons. We don’t have that kind of poverty here. There are no ghettos and you have to work hard to really fuck it up in order to become a homeless person. We have a lot of safety nets here. I just landed in those nets after I became ‘homeless’ after my last breakup a couple of years ago when I was in between apartments without any income. I’m proud to say that those safety nets really do work. I feel very grateful.
The biggest issue for me when it comes to making a decision to move to the States or not – is the nightmare of the American health care system and the whole insurance thing. We don’t have a health care system with the connection to an insurance based on income or jobs here, we are all equally privileged to get (almost free) health care and medical treatment. I have health issues. I need constant medication for my sensitive skin and my allergies. And I will always be a hardworking artist – not a starving artist perhaps, but I doubt that I will make a lot of money in this lifetime. In the US, I would be insured through Johnny’s work, but I’ve worked so hard to become independent, I would never want to be dependent on somebody else to keep myself healthy or alive. The American health care system is something of a deal breaker for me. It’s a horrible system and if I moved to the States, my allergies would get worse because of the stress and worries the system would cause – and Johnny would benefit from our insurance free system.
We are still talking about all the practical details of an eventual (and inevitable) move across the Atlantic Ocean, 5000 miles away from what we consider home right now. But I think, all and all, Sweden can offer more benefits and a better base for a good life than the US can offer, at least at this moment in our lives. And if Trump wins the election, well – then this matter is a no brainer!