2018! I turned 29 in 2018 and started the year by saying that ”This year, I want to grow where I am”. I’d just bought my first flat and was ready to settle down a bit. Well, little did I know!
I came back from the Christmas holiday feeling quite refreshed. The autumn of 2017 had been a lot of hard work and looking back, I was probably not far off a burnout. I went out strong in 2018 and even went to a straight edge morning rave at a squat in Malmö before work. Like I said, I felt quite refreshed.
The Malmö American Women Association invited me to do a talk about moving back to Sweden after having lived abroad for so long. I talked about my anxiety around moving back, how many of my fears turned out to be true and what I did to navigate around the social anxiety that followed.
In many ways, 2018 started great, but it wasn’t long before I started struggling again. I went to Bali in February to visit Kirsty and while there I started asking myself some hard questions about what made me happy and what I really wanted to do. Bali tends to have that effect on people.
I actually spent most of my time in Bali working, and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. I even did a talk on startup PR at Hubud, the coworking place in Ubud, and mentored some entrepreneurs I met there.
We spent my four last days in Bali going to one of the tiny islands on the shore of the main island. While there I received an email from one of the co-founders of Mapillary. They were looking to hire someone to build their comms team and wondered if I was interested in having a chat. I’m not the one to turn down a chat, so I went back to Sweden and met with him.
We had a few great conversations and I ended up pitching how I would do the job to parts of the management team. They offered me the job and, looking back, it should’ve been an easy decision. Mapillary has built the world’s best technology for detecting data in images in order to improve maps, solving a gigantic problem for industries worldwide. The company has raised venture capital from some of the world’s most prominent investors, including Sequoia Capital and Atomico, and to top it off, the leadership seemed really nice and down-to-earth. So yes, it should’ve been an easy decision. But it wasn’t. I loved the place I was at, I was quite scared to join a company that had built such complex technology and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the job as well as I thought it deserved to be done. But during a skiing trip to Åre a week or so later with H and the kids I once again spoke to the CEO and decided to accept their offer. I was terrified.
But soon enough I went from being terrified to being genuinely and thoroughly excited. I started freelancing for Mapillary as I was wrapping up at my former job and my first task was to announce our $15m Series B to the world. I remember waking up at 5.45am of excitement, not being able to go back to sleep. I suggested to my CEO that I should move to NYC to set up our American press office and his response was ”great idea, do it”. And just like that, it was decided.
I spent the rest of that spring working, partying, and feeling generally amazing. I was so excited about the upcoming move to NYC and my work at Mapillary in general.
My CEO and I went to CogX in London in what was my first ever Mapillary press trip (my second week on the job!). We did briefings with all the top tier journalists and I remember feeling absolutely pumped.
HerWay did an interview with me about growing up in foster care and how it’s impacted how I view and approach my career. You can read the piece here (in Swedish!).
Summer came and I went to H’s summer house in Koster for the first time with him and the kids. We’d been together for a bit more than a year at that point and I’d started hanging out with the kids quite a bit. They go to Koster for two weeks every summer and in 2018 I joined them for one week only. I remember being amazed by the house, which has been in H’s family for four generations, by how there are no cars on the island, and by how I didn’t actually want to leave at the end of the week.
I didn’t have much of a choice though, because I was flying to Spain with the same group of people I’d been to Portugal with the year before. It was great.
We’d rented a big villa outside Barcelona and spent the week swimming, canoeing, eating tapas and drinking cava. I loved it, but remember thinking that I missed H and the kids and felt that this was the last time I would go on a long-ish holiday like that without H and/or the kids <3
H and I went back to Koster a few weeks later just the two of us and had a blast. A calm one, but nevertheless. My move to NYC was coming up and I started to get quite emotional about it. I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to leave H and the kids.
We had a crayfish party at work and I remember thinking that my colleagues were some of the most hilarious people I’d ever met. And I still do think that actually, they’re such a fun bunch.
Filip and Isabelle got married on August 25, 2018, and I’ll remember it forever. It was an emotional experience for many reasons and I think I must’ve spent 90% of the wedding crying. Not just because two of my closest friends from college were getting married (to each other!), but also because H was there, I was facing having to make an incredibly difficult decision, and to top it all off I was moving to NYC just a few weeks later. I was in quite a state and tried to maintain a happy face. Somewhat successfully, I think.
I made the decision I had to make and in many ways, it felt like I just tried to survive having made it. Caroline, Isabelle and I went to Isabelle’s summer house for a weekend and it helped a bit. Not much, but a bit.
Soon thereafter I went on my first ever Mapillary offsite. We’re a distributed team, 60 people across 18 countries and eight time zones, and twice a year we meet up somewhere in the world. This time it was in Greece. It was the first time I met with most of my colleagues irl (including my boss) and I held my first company-wide workshop as we were laying the foundation for the company’s first brand book. One of the first questions we discussed was ”why do we all continue to work for Mapillary”, and I remember that many of the answers surprised me. I knew that Mapillary was a mission-driven company but the discussion unveiled so much more than that—for instance, how trust and humility are core components in what we do and how we do things. We launched the brand book at our next offsite six months later and the impact it has had on the company remains one of my career highlights.
Offsites aren’t just about work though, they’re also about socialising. In all honesty, I’m better at work than I am at socialising and I was just a bit petrified of how well I’d deal with being around 60 more-or-less strangers for a week. It seemed like a perfect storm for my social anxiety. I did have a few cry sessions and I did hide in the loo every now and again, but overall it wasn’t so bad. I wrote a bit about it at the time here.
And then I moved to NYC! It had been a dream of mine for years, but when I first started thinking about moving to NYC in 2015 I wasn’t with H, I wasn’t living in Malmö, and I didn’t have three kids in my life whom I loved dearly. I moved to NYC for work, but I also moved to NYC because I’d pushed for it—no-one had asked me to go. And when I got there I felt a bit confused. What was I doing there, really? To make matters worse, I had housing troubles when I first got to NYC which had a big impact on my mental health. I quickly decided to move to a different apartment, so two days in I started looking for a new apartment.
Thankfully, work was exceptionally busy. A few days after arriving in NYC I flew to Detroit to go to State of the Map, a map conference, with several of my US colleagues.
It only took me two and a half weeks to find and move into a new apartment, this time a one-bedroom apartment where I lived by myself, but those 17 days felt like an eternity. I was absolutely exhausted. My new apartment was great, apart from the fact that I shared it with a lot of cockroaches. I’m in no way foreign to cockroaches, in fact I had flying (!) cockroaches in one of my houses when I lived in Uganda, but at this point, I was utterly frail. I kept finding cockroaches in my food and I started to feel like I was going a bit insane.
My solution to this was to jump at every opportunity to travel, so I decided to go to Colorado with a colleague where we went hiking for a long weekend.
It was a phenomenal trip and it felt like I could breathe for the first time in weeks.
Work was as busy as ever and only a week later I went to Dallas for Texas Mobility Summit, where I got to try out a self-driving car for the first time ever.
And then it wasn’t long until I started getting visitors! Ebba was the first one out and we went clubbing, shopping and she even took me on a SATC bus tour, hehe.
H arrived the same day that Ebba left and it was heartbreaking. I was so happy to see him and, again, I couldn’t really remember why I’d decided to move away from him and from us and from the life we’d started building in Malmö. At the same time, moving to NYC really made me see what I wanted. It wasn’t NYC, it was him. We had a very emotional week together, walking 20k steps every day, going to the Met, buying lobster in China Town and staying up way too late every single night.
A few weeks later I went on the work tour of a lifetime and flew NYC >> San Francisco >> London >> Copenhagen >> Helsinki >> NYC in the space of eleven days. I flew to San Francisco for a conference and from there to London for a management meeting where we made a lot of progress on the brand book I’d started working on when we were in Greece a few months before. After a short pit stop in Malmö I flew to Helsinki for Slush, where I was named one of the 100 most impactful tech profiles in the Nordics for the second year in a row.
It was, of course, a great honour, but to be honest I felt more broken than impactful. My sister came to visit me in NYC and if it hadn’t been for her planned visit I probably would’ve moved home sooner. It had been three crazy busy and mentally challenging months, and I desperately needed a break. Looking back, I can also see that I was exceptionally thin and my skin was not in a good state.
Christmas finally came and I moved back to Sweden. I’d been in NYC for three months only, but it felt more like a year. It sounds dramatic to say that I felt broken, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I’d burnt the candle on all ends possible. And it’s so ironic because, by the looks of it, I was living my dream. The dream. I was living in NYC, travelling the world for the job I loved, and work was going exceptionally well. But I felt completely finished. Once back in Sweden, H and I went to Koster for a week for Christmas and did nothing but play Scrabbles, eat cheese and read books.
And somewhere here we decided that instead of moving back to my flat in Kirseberg, I’d move in with H and the kids. It felt like coming home in so many different ways.
2018 was a wild, wild year and the latter part was rough. But it also laid the foundation for phenomenal times to come and I’m so grateful I pushed through.