Last summer, I took it upon myself to journey and do something new. Fortunately, I was able to get a job in Vantaa Helsinki, the capital area of Finland. I worked there for four months and my work paid well. I was able to visit the many coffees of the city and see the views I had never seen before.
From the outside, it all seemed like the best kind of summer. From the outside, it all seemed fine, but within my mind, a constant battle raged on.
Before I left my home to work, I had recently gone through a breakup with a person I loved. I was young and naive, but I always wanted the best for people. This experience greatly shattered my spirit, which was already in a weak state because of all the bullying I had to endure for over eleven years.
I was a broken man and I hoped that my trip to Helsinki could fix me in a way. I thought that leaving these “too familiar” cities and views behind, I could get over my grief, hatred, and fears. I wished for a new beginning, a new chance to build myself and gain control of my life.
The day came and I left. I drove from Rovaniemi to Helsinki with my father and the trip took an entire day, but we still managed to arrive there on time. I was introduced to my workspace and my coworkers, who are great people by the way, and I began my work.
I really enjoyed my job. Of course, it wasn’t something I’d want to do for the rest of my days, but it was fun and I managed to do my work effectively and well.
The thing that changed me during those four months were outside my work though. I had a new environment to meet, new possibilities to meet new people. I was excited and afraid at the same time.
During the four months, I wrote my book, The Battle of the Broken Mind. The book was fueled by my personal experiences and thoughts. Sometimes it felt like I was writing a diary and not a novel, which helped me with my mental battles.
When I arrived at Helsinki, I wished that I’d get over my past fears and memories. I wished for a blank page to be laid before me. Little did I know that it wouldn’t work like that.
With a new environment and a busy city around me, I began feeling the same feelings I had felt for the vast majority of my life. I felt like an outsider.
My past memories came back into my mind as I saw couples walking the streets, seemingly in love. I remembered my bullies when I saw groups of friends drinking their coffees. I remembered them all and I began feeling increasingly worse.
One thing to note is that I spent a lot of time in cafes when I was there. Cafes were the place for me to write and to think. They were my studios and I enjoyed being there. But there was another side to this. I always sat alone, writing, thinking, drinking. I saw people meeting others and having conversations. I felt jealous for that, for I too had things to say.
Sometimes, I felt like I was a going to explode, for I had no one to share my mind with.
But I always had my writing. I wrote poetry and my book and I think those were the things that kept me sane during those four months.
This kind of cycle continued for a while. I felt like an outcast, but I still managed to work and write. It got so bad that I actually became really depressed in a way that I had never been before… or so I thought.
The thing is, during my school years and my bullying, I always turned to video games in order to escape the painful reality. Once I went to Helsinki, I had no games. I was out there in the open, alone with my thoughts and the only way I had to express them was through written words.
One day when I was writing in the new library, near the train station, my aunt sent me a song from a movie she had seen. It was a Japanese animated movie, thus, the song was also in Japanese. I was hesitant at first, but I gave it a try. This changed the course of thoughts.
The song was called “Sparkle,” and it was from the movie, “Your name.” It’s a story about a girl and a boy who change bodies from time to time, learning from each other and falling in love. There was also an element of time travel, but I don’t want this post to turn into a movie review. They point is, I really enjoyed the movie and it moved me deeply.
This led me to get even more interested in the Japanese language and culture. Before I arrived at Helsinki, I had taught myself the basics of Japanese, but after listening to that song, I started studying seriously.
As I studied, worked, and wrote, I felt increasingly like an outcast. I felt like my bullying was proof of the fact that I don’t belong here. I felt like my kind had no place here, in Europe, in Finland. I began to desire to leave and the place I looked for was Japan.
This thought process gained speed when I met an old lady in a train. She saw me studying Japanese and spoke me a few words. We talked and she shared her experiences about living in Japan before revealing that “Hanami” was near and that I should visit the park where it was held.
Hanami is basically a Japanese festival, during which people would watch how cherry tree lost its leaves. In Helsinki, there was indeed a park dedicated to this celebration and a huge event was orchestrated there in celebration of the cultural unity between Finland and Japan.
I thought this to be some kind of a sign and went there. I wished that I could meet people that shared my views and thoughts and I wished to make friends, for it was something I really needed.
When I got there, I once again felt like an outcast. The people of my age were dressed in cosplay clothing, painting their hair in various colours and having a good time. Me, on the other hand, once again felt out of place, though I enjoyed the sight of the leaves falling.
Time passed on and my book neared completion. I was excited and exhausted from work, writing, and my mental state. I was depressed and balancing between completely falling into darkness and remaining in the light. My family supported me and kept me from entering the darkest of depths and for that I’m thankful.
I turned hateful, jealous, and sad. My past memories fueled my negative emotions and I began to think that every person who looked at me saw me as inferior or worthless. Naturally, I got angry about that kind of thing, but the problem is that those people weren’t really thinking like that. It was my mind that made me believe that way.
My isolation among the crowd grew until I reached a breaking point. The very foundations of my being, my personality, and my identity started wavering and I felt like I was never going to survive or find happiness again. I almost lost my faith during those days. Luckily, I didn’t fall that far.
My book finally reached the end and I published it. I felt good about myself for once, seeing now that I can make something new and unique, though the feeling of still being unappreciated haunted me.
As the summer came closer to end, I fell deeper into my thoughts and depression. Even with all my accomplishments, I felt like I was nothing and unworthy of being loved or honoured.
I even went to visit Malta as a 17 years old boy with his own earned money, though at that time I couldn’t see the achievement that kind of activities held.
The summer ended and I returned home, maybe even more broken than when I left. I had turned cold, filled with hate. I hated others who had friends and relationships, though, in truth, I hated myself. I thought very poorly about myself and for a good while, it continued.
It was only after I turned 18 when I began to rebuild myself. I began to think about all the things I had seen and achieved during the summer.
I had written and published a book, I had worked in a leading tech company for four months, I had gone to Malta all by myself…
I learned to appreciate those things. I saw them for the great things they are and I turned to be more gentle with myself. My thoughts about being an outsider also began to vanish. I realized that I didn’t have to flee to Japan in order to feel good and appreciated. I began to realize my Finn identity and I accept myself with all my flaws.
In many ways, those four summer months were at the time a challenge that almost broke me. I was at my lowest point and suffered from the harshest depression I had ever faced, but after I got over the negative thoughts, I was how important and valuable the experience had been.
Because of that summer, I’m a happy man now. I’ve learned to appreciate myself and talk gently to myself. I’ve learned what I enjoy in life and what I want to do with my life. I’ve realized what kind of person I am.
Because of that summer, I got over my bullying memories and my heartbreaks. Because of that summer, I became whole once again.
Because of that summer, I found myself after years of being lost.
Thus, I tell you, go out there and face the darkness, for light awaits you at the other side.