Currently I'm sitting on an A330 somewhere over Delaware. I'm on my way, a journey I've spent the last two months preparing for: the stress, the rush, the frantic selling of stuff, all of it done. Now all that's left is to watch the East coast crawl by on the flight data screen. My own country, the last of it I'll see for at least two years. It's been fun, but I need to see other countries for awhile.
But how did I end up here? Why Finland? I get asked this question all the time, usually by people who don't know me that well - especially by Finns themselves. I have thought about this question a lot myself, and unlike a lot of things I think about, I can pin my fascination with this cold arctic country on a specific event in time and place. During December of 2000 I was home in Charlotte, NC on winter break from college, as was my brother, a couple of years younger than I. We both would use my mother's car to drive around to visit friends or whatnot, and I was on my way somewhere in that car when I noticed a CD sticking halfway out of the car's stereo. Figuring it was something my brother had left there, I put it in and it started to play. The opening keyboard riff of "Stargazers" pounded into my ears with such unexpected volume and intensity that I nearly ended up in a ditch on the main thoroughfare outside my high school. The CD was Oceanborn, and the band was Nightwish, and from that particular moment I would never quite be the same.
As soon as I could I hounded my brother with questions: who was this band, where were they from, did he have any more of their CDs? I took back to college with me a couple of ripped discs from Sonata Arctica, Therion, and that Nightwish CD and immediately set to work finding out what I could. There was only one other CD called Angels Fall First, but there was a new one out soon, Wishmaster, that might even be released in the states due to some attention from Century Media and Metal Blade records. Joy! Though I thought sadly that some random band from Finland would never make an appearance in the states, as Americans probably wouldn't go for that music. But instead I set about learning about Finland, curious as to why so many bands I had recently discovered - among them Finntroll, Children of Bodom, Stratovarius, they came flying out of the woodwork by the dozens. Sweden had a couple of good ones too, such as the aforementioned Therion, but what was it about Finland that gave its music some indefinable power?
The rest, as they say, is history. I found a language course on tape and eventually a teacher. I traveled all over the place to see bands that finally started to trickle into the US. I read about the country's history and several English translations of Kalevala, Finland's national epic. Eventually I planned a trip there in 2006 with my mom, where she would meet her penpal of 50 years and I would trek through southern Finland like a wine lover would devour the Napa valley. It was love at first sight.
"I'll move there someday, even if it takes my entire life." I used to say those words a lot, and they came true a lot sooner that I would ever have thought. I never expected to have such luck so early (considering I had been prepared to spend decades fulfilling this dream), and I suppose the reality of it all isn't even sinking in quite yet. Two months ago I came home for my usual lunch break, fired up my email and saw that email from the university I had applied for in February - the Univerity of Turku - congratulating me on my acceptance in the EuMachs master's program. I had all but given up hope on acceptance, seeing as how my friend from Columbus already attending had gotten accepted in mid-April, and thought that the email would say something along the lines of "Sorry, you are not a winner, thanks for playing" or whatever the Finnish equivalent would be. But nope, that was a notification that my official acceptance papers were in the mail. I felt the floor under my little life shift a little and then fall away, kind of like how it feels at the top of a roller coaster before the big dive at the beginning, and I knew that life as I knew it was going to start to change forever.
The next two months rolled inexorably forward like a train in a Shinkai film, and life became a constant rush to get everything done on time. Would I get my visa, a process advertised to take 8-12 weeks? Would I be able to sell just about everything I owned except for some winter clothes? Would I get a place to live in time? What kind of fees, forms, and red tape would I encounter? But I managed it, playing it by ear but with the help and advice of some friends near and far. Somehow I pulled it all together, and here I sit, now in Connecticut, and the world rolls by. The entirety of my life thus far exists only in a rearview mirror, my life in the states, and I've never been so excited and optimistic.
So long, America, and thanks for all the fish.