I’ve been overwhelmingly and unexplainably sad and anxious over the past week. There hasn’t really been a real reason and I was starting to think that something was seriously wrong. But then I went back to work and all the anxiety disappeared in an instant. I love work and I love to work. Better yet, I love my job, and I’ve missed my colleagues over the holiday period. It’s interesting though, I tend to be fairly exhausted before a long holiday is coming up, but it doesn’t take long before I can’t wait to get back. I even went back to work one day early. And I’m so, so happy that we’re back to normal life now.
I thought I’d continue with the decade summary though, so do stay tuned. Writing them up has highlighted to me how much can be done in a decade. An endless number of things, people, and moves, or so it seems. That might be why I hope to have more quality and less quantity in the next decade. Fewer things, people, moves. And better relationships with the things and people that are already in my life. Fingers crossed!
I turned 23 in 2012 and it was yet another year of moving countries. Reading and watching other people’s reviews (which have started to appear en masse over the past few days!) it seems like everything we did during the 2010s was to move countries.
I lived in Wales at the beginning of 2012, but I was in London for the first few weeks. I was preparing for my first ever UK university exams so I spent the days at the LSE library. People told me to chill out, particularly as exam results in first year don’t count towards your final degree. But I didn’t want to chill out, I wanted to smash it.
Looking back I sort of see what people meant. There was no real reason to push myself the way I did, but the reason in my mind was that I wanted to prove to myself (and, to be honest, others as well) that I had the capacity to get a first-class degree. That was all I wanted, and I was 100% determined to get it. So I studied, day and night.
The only other thing I did apart from studying was taking driving lessons. I drove twice a week with a hilarious and, unsurprisingly, Welsh driving teacher who taught me loads about historical tensions between Wales and England while learning how to do a three-point turn. I failed my first practical test but eventually passed a few weeks later, and then I didn’t drive for seven years. Success all around!
By spring I’d managed to find a group of people at Aber that I really enjoyed spending time with. Still, there was no way around it—as much as I’d wanted to get away from London before I now couldn’t wait to get back.
I missed my boyfriend and my friends, and living in an isolated student town felt suffocating. I started exploring alternatives and learnt that I could transfer to a different university. This was mindblowing to me and it changed everything. I rallied my professors who agreed to write letters of references and I applied to transfer to the School of Oriental and African Studies, or, as it’s more commonly known, SOAS. I’d only heard of this university in passing before, but it’s a world-leading university for development studies, which is what I’d set my eyes on.
And all of a sudden, it was no longer true that my first-year grades didn’t count. Me getting accepted to SOAS was dependent on my letters of reference, my application letter, and more than anything, my first-year results. So I did everything, and then some. I even changed my name(!) and shut down my blog as I didn’t want my Google search history from my wild London days in 2008-2009 to risk me not getting in.
It paid off. I left first year at Aberystwyth as the fourth best-performing student out of 250+ students on my course, scoring a perfect first-class mark, and getting an unconditional offer to transfer into second year of the BA in Politics and Development Studies at SOAS. I was over the moon.
My plan was to spend the summer in Sweden, but I’d only just started working at my dad’s restaurant when I received an offer to do an internship with a Labour MP over the summer. I could not believe my luck. Again, I was over the moon, so I packed up my stuff, waved goodbye to Mr Penpal who’d moved with me to Sweden for the summer, and moved to Luton for eight weeks. That prioritisation seems a bit off now, but at the time it made so much sense.
Mum and I went to Turkey for a week before uni started. I should’ve realised this before, but I think it was during this trip I realised that the many, many wounds from my childhood wouldn’t ever be healed with the help of her or anyone else. I was looking for answers to questions I could barely formulate, but I was looking in the wrong place. It was a bizarre week in so many ways, but on the upside it gave me with the clarity I needed to move forward.
And then I moved to London, Stoke Newington, and started second year at SOAS. I loved SOAS from the get-go, and I still have so much love for SOAS and the academic experiences I had there. I missed passion when I was at Aber. At SOAS, passion was everywhere. SOAS has an extremely active and passionate student body and every week the union would send out details about whatever demonstration was going on that week. The demonstrations were about everything from bringing SOAS cleaners in-house for better working conditions to making SOAS divest in fossil fuels (which, by the way, it fully did in 2018 as the first-ever UK university). It was amazing and I loved every second.
Meanwhile, Mr Penpal and I were struggling and we eventually decided to split up. I got a haircut and started seeing some friends after having spent most of my time either studying or trying to figure out the future of us.
I started freelancing for a think tank and a creative agency, which all of a sudden meant that I had a bit of cash. The money went solely to financing a more comfortable life. Having some excess money was wild. I started eating out a few times a month, I discovered the joys of going for brunch and suddenly I didn’t have to choose the cheapest thing on the menu. I loved it, and I actually think I performed better at university as a result.
Mr Penpal and I got back together and celebrated New Year’s Eve together, and 2012 ended on a great high. Overall, 2012 was an epic year. Lots of incredibly hard work for sure, but the returns were outstanding. At the end of the year, I was living in London, studying at a leading university, having two side gigs that I genuinely enjoyed, and I was dating my best friend. Not bad at all.
Being in Koster means you get the time and space to really think about the big stuff. About where you are and where you want to go. Writing my decade in review also helps. Ten years is a long, long time. I can’t remember having many or any particular big dreams at the beginning of 2010. I was pretty lost at the time, so my big dreams came a few years later. I wanted to work in diplomacy and I wanted to have an international career. I also decided that I wanted to save the world. Easy! I got to work in diplomacy and I have an international career, but when I tried to save the world I got the impression that the world didn’t really want to be saved. It was a bit of a mind-fuck to be honest. And instead, life somehow led me to PR.
Basically, the past ten years taught me that achieving one’s dreams is definitely possible, but sometimes those dreams might not be all that. It’s with that in mind I discussed my hopes and dreams for the next decade. Here are some of them, in no particular order.
*Build a stellar marketing function at Mapillary
*Write the book
*Get to a point where I save and invest more money than I spend every month
*Give birth to a healthy child—or two, if I can be greedy!
*Eventually, go freelance before setting up my own business
*Earn my first 1 million SEK as a sole trader, and my first 10 as a business owner
*Build an orangery
*Give more of my time and money to local association groups whose missions I care about
*Get to a point where we feel done-ish with the house (it’ll never be done but you know what I mean)
*Take H and the kids skiing in Canada for H’s 50th birthday (luckily there’s eight years before that one)
*Build and stick to an exercise regime that works for me
*And most importantly, give as much TLC as each and every child in our house needs and do whatever I can to help them see the power in kindness, resilience, and perseverance
There’s not much travelling on my list. I hope I’ll get to travel a bit in the new decade, but mainly for a change of scenery and the chance to relax. It might sound wild but I’m so happy with all the places I’ve already seen and visited. For this coming decade, I’m happy focusing on work, family life, and growing and building where I am. In Malmö! Hehe, I’m so excited about these next ten coming years. Fingers crossed I’ll still be blogging as we enter the 2030s.
I was still in South Africa at the beginning of 2011, but only for a few weeks before I flew back to Europe. The initial plan was to fly straight back to Sweden, but I decided to not get on my connecting flight in Paris. Instead, my old boss from Sick picked me up in Paris and we did some work in France and Belgium buying fashion and furniture for the shop. It was a questionable decision, considering how he had treated me right before I left that job back in 2009. Ultimately, though, I wanted to get to London for a quick visit and once we finished up in Europe he drove me back to London.
Once in London, I did another photoshoot with the fanzine who did a feature of me when I left London seven months earlier. Hehe, it’s wild how seven months at that point seemed like *FOREVER*. Anyway, I think the real reason why I wanted to go to London was because I wanted to see Mr Penpal. So I travelled down to the south of England to see him.
A few days later I moved to Sweden to start university. I’d successfully applied to a few standalone modules at Lund University and I considered it pre-training before starting my bachelor that autumn.
Nicole and I moved into a 1 bed flat in Helsingborg. We’d lived together in London and I somehow managed to convince her that it would be a great idea for her to move with me to Sweden, share a flat in Helsingborg and study in Lund. That was an excellent idea and resulted in an equally excellent spring.
I discovered exercise and started eating. It sounds bizarre and I know I must’ve eaten something before, but I generally tried to avoid food for years. In 2011 that stopped as I started going to the gym several times a week. Living with Nicole also meant that we started cooking, and for the first time in many years I formed a healthy eating habit.
I studied like a crazy person. I put notes all over the flat to encourage me to study more. The dream was to work in diplomacy and I knew it would take a lot of hard work and many late nights of studying to get there. I wasn’t interested in ”working smart”, at the time I was only focused on working hard and putting as many hours in as possible. In February I heard back from Aberystwyth University in Wales and they gave me an unconditional offer to do a Bachelor in International Politics. It was decided, then. I was moving to Wales in the autumn.
When I wasn’t studying or exercising, I was on Skype talking to Mr Penpal. I went to London to visit him during a sunny weekend in March and he showed me London by day. I’d previously mainly seen London by night, even though I lived there for two years, so it was like discovering a new city. We went to the Tate, we went out for brunch and dinners, he took me to Foyles (which, to this day, remains my favourite shop in the entire world) and we had a great time. So great, in fact, that he came to visit me a few weeks later in Helsingborg.
I handed in all my course work and scored a perfect 1st class in all my modules. To say I was relieved was a bit of an understatement.
And in the middle of all my exams, Mr Penpal asked me if I wanted to move in with him, in London. Moving back to London was not part of my plan, but I wanted to be with him more than I didn’t want to be in London. Much, much more. So I moved back to London, just for the summer. And it was great!
I discovered a new London that summer. I started working at Fika, the Swedish restaurant, where the owner would become one of my closest friends (and still is). I bought a bike and cycled everywhere. I went for brunch, went swimming in the Heath, went to concerts at St Paul’s, and much, much more.
I went to Cornwall with Mr Penpal and his family.
And then I finally moved to Wales. Mr Penpal drove me and literally every single one of my belongings (I didn’t have many) to halls in Aberystwyth, Wales. I wanted to get as far away from London as possible, and my wish was granted. It took more than seven hours on two different trains to get from Aber to London.
Aberystwyth wasn’t what I had imagined. I was yearning for likeminded people who wanted to dig into the course literature and discuss everything from the Arab spring to neoliberal discourse. But the great majority of people on my course were 18 and had just moved from home. They were mainly interested in the £1.50 pints. And the fact that first-year grades in the UK university system don’t count towards your final degree didn’t exactly help.
I felt pretty lonely, but at least there was a girl in my halls who had a similar experience. She was a bit older as well so we stuck together in many ways. Still, I missed London (!) and it started to sink in that I would spend three long years in Aberystwyth. So I visited London whenever I could, which was just twice during the autumn, and spent the rest of the time buried in my books.
I also managed to find some time to bleach my hair and chop it off.
And over Christmas we went skiing in Åre. My brother lived in Åre for years so we stayed with him and his wife and it was a wonderful Christmas. I spent the rest of the year in the library of the London School of Economics and started cursing the fact that I’d chosen to study in Wales. And somewhere a little seed of change had started to grow. Dropping out of university was certainly no option, but perhaps there was another way. And with that seed I entered 2012.
I’ve never really been a big fan of NYE. I don’t have a set group of friends the way some people do, my friends are scattered across different friendship groups and I’m usually the wildcard who knows someone from somewhere. This is, by the way, the result of having moved countries a lot and rarely having stayed in the same place for more than a year at a time. Big gatherings can also be a bit overwhelming to be honest, so this year I asked H if he wanted to go to the summer house in Koster instead.
I love it here. The house has been in his family for four generations and for some reason it just feels like home. It takes about six hours to get here, so we only go once or twice a year, but every time we do I keep thinking we should go more often. But we’re here now. We eat shellfish, play Scrabble, bake bread (yes you read that right), watch films and giggle. I can’t imagine a better place or headspace to enter the new year.
Like Jasmin wrote, isn’t it striking how few summary blogs/lists/etc we’ve seen of things from the, err, the 2010s? I think so. The only thing I’ve really seen is Sandra Beijer’s excellent summary, and it made me think of my own 2010s. They’ve been a complete whirlwind of metamorphoses. There’s lots I’d like to forget, but even more I’d like to remember so I dug up my old blog and took a look.
I was 20 years old in 2010 and I started off the year being homeless in London. Yes, it’s true. I never slept rough but I stayed at hostels and on people’s couches for a few weeks before finding a room. It sounds absolutely crazy now but at the time it seemed sort of… normal? I didn’t really think I had anywhere to go. No savings and no-one to turn to. I had just left my job as an international fashion buyer and worked at a pub in East London (some of you might know it—Catch!), I went out more or less every night and did a few ad-hoc gigs in-between where I did everything from modelling to styling to handing out flyers.
I was still hanging out with parts of London’s fashion crowd and did a photography job backstage at JW Anderson during London Fashion Week.
Some friends and I were invited to take part in a music video that was recorded in a suite at a Belgravia hotel. It paid £50 and there were free food and drinks all day which seemed like the biggest win ever.
I went out a lot during the first six months of the year and I remember it getting less and less fun, almost by the day. I was yearning for something else. I’d spent two years in London, first working as an international fashion buyer 2008-2009 and I did the odd styling job in 2010, but I don’t think fashion was ever really for me. I initially loved the scene, being part of a crowd, always finding myself on guest lists during London Fashion Week and what-not, but I never managed to get properly stuck in when it came to the actual work. I seemed to wander aimlessly.
Meanwhile, I remember reading my flatmate’s course literature almost back to back. I started toying with the idea of going to university, which seemed laughable considering the life I led. But then I visited my dad and my step mum in Helsingborg and my step mum almost shook me and said: ”you’re moving back home, now”. I didn’t even think that there was a ”home” to move back to, so it was surprising to hear her say that. I moved from home when I was 15 and the flat I’d lived in back in Sweden was long gone. But she opened hers and my father’s home to me when I was lost and clearly on the wrong track, and I’m very grateful for that.
And so I started to say farewell to London.
I featured in a photoshoot for a fanzine I’d done a bit of work with before. They titled it ”Sandy leaves London” and here I am, outside the shop where I worked 2008-2009. You might recognise the Boy London t-shirt in the window—the shop was owned by the founder of Boy London and we relaunched the brand in 2009 which was a huge commercial success.
The peak was probably when Rihanna wore it when she was on the Jonathan Ross show.
We went to Paris on a whim. We hadn’t booked a place to stay but thought ”it’ll work itself out”, and weirdly enough it did. We stayed with an old acquaintance of mine, walked the streets of Paris during the days and went out at night. Looking back at all these wild endeavours I’m pretty amazed that nothing ever went more wrong than it did.
I went to Manchester and did an interview with Tourist Magazine. The interview was published in Tourist Magazine and also a South African magazine called PaperCity, where they put me on the cover (!).
I spent the summer living with my father and step mum and working at their restaurant. I did a 360 review of my life, spent a lot of time thinking about my London experiences so far and where I wanted to go next. I went to the library and read loads about history in the Middle East(!). Meanwhile, someone left a comment on my blog asking me if I wanted a penpal—yes, the snail mail kind. I thought it seemed like the best idea ever, and it sort of was. He was known as Mr Penpal in the blog and over the next few months, we wrote letters to each other almost every day.
That summer I also applied to do a standalone module in Human Rights at Malmö University. I applied after the application deadline though, so I ended up very far down on the waiting list. That wasn’t good enough, and Helsingborg made me itchy. A London friend of mine, Jana, was also sick of London and was planning on moving back to her native South Africa. On a whim I asked her if I could join her for a couple of months as I figured out my next move. She said yes and I took every penny I’d made during the summer and booked my flights.
But before leaving for Cape Town, I invited Mr Penpal to come and visit me in Sweden. And so he did.
We spent a glorious week together, going to the opera, making food, visiting the library, going to the cinema. We’d spent three months writing each other almost daily but never heard each other’s voices before he flew to Sweden. It was… wild. I mean it was magical actually. I’ll remember it forever.
And two days after he left, I moved to Cape Town.
I dyed my hair pink and never wore nothing but cropped tops.
And bungee jumped 216 metres.
I went roadtripping through South Africa with Jana and her father.
I decided to do a campaign to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS on International AIDS Day, so I designed and printed t-shirts, sold them online and donated all the proceeds to UNAIDS. I read a lot about HIV/AIDS at the time since it’s a big problem in parts of South Africa.
I spent my days working at a shelter for homeless women and children.
I didn’t climb Table Mountain which I regret to this day.
I spent a lot of time in South Africa thinking about going to university. I knew I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure where to go or what, exactly, to study. Jana, her step mum and I talked loads about this and eventually, I decided on political science. I applied to several universities in the UK but my number one choice was Aberystwyth University in Wales. I wanted to study in the UK, but I wanted to be as far away as possible from London. I was still scarred from my early London days and wanted to get to know new people and form a new life.
And so the year ended with me applying to five different universities, having spent months in South Africa and being in a much, much better place than when the year started. And I think that’s obvious from just looking at the pictures, comparing the start to the end of 2010. I was a whirlwind of a year and ended infinitely better than it started.
Another Christmas in the books! It’s the same thing every year, I’m super hyped about the festive period and binge on gingerbread cookies and julmust for weeks before the big day, and by December 25 I’m completely over it and start craving water, exercise, and fresh air. I felt exactly the same about my birthday party this year. The day after the party I had a great sense of urgency to clean out everything from the night before and sort of resume to normal.
But back to Christmas. This year was special since it was the first time my dad, my sister and her kids came to ours to celebrate. There were twelve of us and it feels special to host so many people. It’s also pretty wild to go from having no kids and living in a one-bedroom flat (which was the case two years ago, i.e. the last time H had the kids over Christmas) to all of a sudden having three kids and a house that can host many people (which is the case now). That thought crept up a few times yesterday and had me stop in my tracks.
In any case, we set up different stations for play. Puzzles, table tennis, reading, film, food prepping. Christmas to me means that everyone can hang out in the same space and do whatever they want (albeit minus phones). There’s no pressure to do anything in particular, and if someone wants to hide out in another toom for a bit I think that’s fine too. I was once lambasted for picking up and reading a book on Christmas eve a few years ago. ”Christmas is for socialising”, she said, ”not reading”. Well, each to their own. In our house, everyone is free to do whatever they want.
More Christmas breakfast!
That’s perhaps the best thing about being an adult, that you can set your own rules and boundaries. And I’m so happy to be with someone who shares so many of my values. We care about the same stuff and that makes everything pretty easy. Growing up, I felt a bit… Misaligned. That feeling is long gone, and it’s why I love being in charge of my own life and my own happiness. I’ve even started buying Christmas presents for myself hehe, because why the hell not. This year I got myself a linen robe and a silver ring and, unsurprisingly, it was great!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, whatever you did. Here are some more snapshots from ours:
The jigsaw puzzle!
The calm before the storm
The big tree with way too many presents… BUT there were 12 of us, so.
Three generations of my favourite men
And as expected, we will have food for quite a few days to come…
Time for presents!
And finally… The morning after the night before. Craving water, a clean house, and a bit of sweat.
I have very vivid memories of buying this candle, years and years ago. I lived in northeast London, I was in my final year of university and spent 12-14 hours a day at the library. When I wasn’t at the library, I was studying at home, surrounded by candles (London houses aren’t known for great heating). I was also working at a startup in London’s Tech City and I earnt a bit of money. Not much, but enough so that I felt that I could buy an Oliver Bonas scented candle. It was around £15, and it felt like the most lavish thing ever. Most of my meals at the time cost less than £1, so spending £15 on a candle(!) was a huge splurge. But it also felt like a promise. That if I worked hard, I would be able to build a nice life for myself, with nice things that I can enjoy. Even though I always had at least one side gig as a student, I was terrified of the prospect of not getting a job, particularly since I took out a pretty significant student loan. I even had a huge note on top of my desk that said ”£3500—annually. That’s how much you’re paying for your degree. STUDY!!!”. Lol.
The candle finished way faster than I would’ve liked. But the sentiment didn’t. And at breakfast yesterday morning, the kids set the table and somehow that empty candleholder ended up on to the table. Somehow, it has made it all the way from a very cold house in northeast London to a very warm house in Malmö. And life turned out way better than I could’ve imagined… Even though I very rarely buy £15 candles.
It’s been a wild autumn. Not anywhere near as wild as last year, when I lived in a tiny cockroach castle in Brooklyn for three months and travelled across the US for work, but still pretty wild. H and I knew that it would be busy and we’re also hosting Christmas at ours this year (for 12 people!) so back in October we decided to go out of town for some R&R during the last weekend before the holidays.
We went to Talldungen, a gorgeous B&B in Österlen, about an hour from Malmö. It’s been more than two years since I was there last. Oceans of time, and it made me think about how much has changed. I’ve changed jobs, moved several times, spent a fair bit of time in the US, moved in with H and the kids. And, of course, I’ve spent another two years in therapy. Ever three months or so I re-assess whether I’m done with therapy. I often think that I am, but then I go through some growth curve and realise that I’m probably not.
Way back when I lived on my own in my own little flat in Kirseberg, I would wake up on the weekend and feel like the world was my oyster. Nothing to do, nowhere to be. And let me tell you, that feeling ceases to exist when you’ve moved into a big house. There’s always stuff to do. Always. And if you’re like me, who can’t rest when there’s stuff to do, you simply won’t get as much rest in as you probably need. Things are very different when you’re at a B&B in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing to do, nowhere to be. It was glorious.
We played some cards, drank some wine. We had a five-course dinner and I didn’t take a single photo of any of it. And then I passed out at 11pm like the 30-year-old I am.
The five-course dinner was great, but nothing is better than breakfast. H slept in a bit longer than me, so I had mine while reading Ali Wong’s Dear Girls.
She writes candidly about her experiences of miscarriage. It feels like it was only yesterday that most of my girlfriends were worrying about late periods and accidentally getting pregnant. These days, people worry about not getting pregnant and about miscarrying. All of a sudden, tales of miscarriages are everywhere. One of four pregnancies results in a miscarriage, and I really had no idea until many people around me started trying for babies. Like many women, Ali Wong had a miscarriage. And much to her relief, so did Beyoncé. And Michelle Obama. It’s a great book, highly recommend.
A corner of Talldungen I always want to cosy up in but never do.
And just as I felt recharged and excited to go back home, I received a message that made the ground tremble. Sometimes you get an opportunity to really take a hard look at yourself. And sometimes that same opportunity can make you question everything you thought you knew. That’s the opportunity I got this past weekend, and I’m still working through it and trying to figure out what’s what, and who’s who. It will take time. But as I’ve learnt over the past few years, things often do take time, and it’s usually worth the time it takes. I don’t think this will be any different.
What a week. We have the kids every other week and in some wild way, those weeks are the calm ones. They’re the weeks where H and I cycle back from work (we work at the same co-working space) at 4.45pm to make dinner and hang out with the kids, before getting back to work in the evening. It’s a clean break between work and, well, work. But when we don’t have the kids, the days pass by like in a blur. We have edamame beans and/or corn for dinner in front of work, if we even see each other at all. We both travel a bit for work and somehow we always seem to match it so that one of us is away. And this week has been exactly like that. Work trips, late-night meetings, and lots of events and deadlines to finish before the end of the year. In other words—I’m extremely excited about the holidays. It turns out I will have to work a bit but I’m determined to keep it very low-touch. And, you know, the upside is of course that there are so many exciting things happening at work at the moment. So yes, swings and roundabouts!
In any case, it hasn’t all been work. Here are some other things from the past week.
Jasmin, Matilda, and I went for brunch at Kitchen and Table last weekend. It’s at the top of Malmö Live and feels pretty New York imo, particularly for Malmö.
Look at that view!
I had a very distinct brunch period in my life a few years ago. I moved back to London from Uganda in 2014 and the London brunch scene swept me off my feet, and every Saturday and Sunday I’d go for brunch at a new place. Or, to be honest, an old and familiar place. But like many other things, that, too, eventually lost its charm. I very rarely go for brunch now, which makes it a bit nicer whenever I go.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t actually have brunch though, I do. Like on Sunday last week when my dad and sister came to ours for some Christmas brunch. Here’s our new dining table by the way! Our dining hall is quite difficult to decorate as it’s so long and narrow, and we’ve been looking for a long and narrow table for quite some time. This one is handmade (!), beautiful, and didn’t cost a fortune. Perfect.
We finally got a tree! I spend every morning in here watching Julakalendern before rushing off to work.
Including today. We’re actually heading to Talldungen today for some quality time. We’ve decided to leave the laptops at home, go for long walks, eat lots of nice food and take long baths.
Here’s what it looked like last time I was at Talldungen, two years ago. I’d never heard about it at the time, but it seems like it’s boomed in popularity since. Anyway. I’m very excited about our little 24 hours getaway.