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Swede Nothings with Brian Burns: Talk to the Hand

Photo: Aline Chaprazian

Photo: Aline Chaprazian

Since my college’s idea of planning for the future involves algebra and my parents’ career guidance usually includes the phrase “remind me what you’re majoring in again”, I figured it was time to hand the reins controlling my fate over to the supernatural. I got my palm read over the summer and it told me everything I had already guessed about my life: I’m pessimistic, I’m going to spend 86 long years being unlucky in love and I’m never going to grow into my eyebrows.

A chakra beat away from slitting my wrists with a tarot card, the palm reader changed her tune. Choosing to ignore one last bomb about stress-induced head aches and gray hair, I began to drool at the sound of “you’ll never need to worry about money” and “you’ll never have children”. These positive fortunes left me so distracted that I barely noticed Stevie-wannabe-Nicks’ final prediction that I would begin 2014 with some sort of life-changing trip.

I spent two weeks in Spain during my senior year of high school and I thought that would be the extent of my studying abroad. I always figured that I didn’t have the money to travel and that I enjoyed watching Roseanne marathons with my hand down my pants too much to spend extended time away from home. But when a major-specific exchange program to Sweden was announced, I couldn’t resist applying to a program that would allow me to get credits in communication and blonds.

My application process to Jönköping University was easier than you’d think. The exchange program was announced during the first week of October and yet I still spent a greater percentage of that month picking my Halloween costume and visually eviscerating white girls holding pumpkin spice lattes. By the time I bought my Andy Warhol wig and Dunkin’ Donuts added me to their most wanted list, I got word that I would be spending the first half of 2014 eating Swedish meatballs. In multiple contexts.

Once I was accepted for the exchange, I wasn’t sure where to begin. At Emmanuel, academic buildings and hot meals were a hop, skip and an Our Father away and yet I still dealt with two to twelve existential crises a week. In Sweden, I would be spending January to June in my own apartment, cooking my own food, using public transportation and resisting the urge to purchase clothes, shoes, deodorant and other non-essentials. In other words, I’d be entering adulthood: a stage of my life I figured was at least another decade away.

I already had my passport so an unflattering photo taken under hellish fluorescent lights was checked off of my to-do list. This left me with more time to google “Swedish kronor to American dollar conversion” and “what do I have to do to become the fifth member of ABBA?” As I delved deeper into the internet, I soon discovered that a bottle of wine in a Swedish liquor store would cost me more than a leotard grand enough to fit in with Benny and Agnetha. Friday night and my budget’s low.

Ordinarily, I pack for college using the sniff-and-toss method: if the odors emitted from an article of clothing don’t immediately peel the paint off the walls, it’s good to go. Packing for a climate that ranges in extremes from six hours of wintry gray-light to summertime Swedes in bathing suits posed a unique challenge. Keeping half-a-year of your life under fifty pounds in weight can be liberating for some. For me, it was just a reminder of how lame my taste in underwear is.

After some emotional goodbyes—to my family, my dog, my fridge—I boarded the plane and quickly remembered that tall people weren’t built to travel. If I wanted to sit comfortably, I would have to forfeit both legs below the femur. If the flight attendants hadn’t felt the need to deliver a meal every half hour during the overnight flight, I just might have crafted make-shift tourniquets from shredded strips of Sky Mall.

Hurtling forward in time at hundreds of miles per hour, I had time to think about where I was coming from and where I was going. I felt anxious and excited and bloated and, most of all, grateful to that hole-in-the-wall where I got my palm read. A cynic would argue that her divination of a “big trip” was vague enough to inevitably come true—who goes a year without experimenting with LSD? But I would disagree. If I hadn’t received that nudge from the heavens, I might not have had the balls to spend this semester in Sweden. Fate lies in our hand. And if you don’t like the cards you’re dealt, just shrug and show lady fortune your other palm.

Posted by on January 23, 2014. Filed under Swede Nothings with Brian Burns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to Swede Nothings with Brian Burns: Talk to the Hand

  1. Steve Faaland

    January 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Great story stay in touch