nu, adv.

Seen: All over the place. Ads in the subway, ads in the street, newspaper ads – mostly in ads, yes, but nonetheless I see it everywhere, and hear it in just about every conversation I eavesdrop. (Is it eavesdropping if you can’t understand what the people are saying?) Nu means ‘now,’ and sounds something like ‘now,’ and for some reason I get really excited whenever I see it or hear it. Maybe it’s just because it’s one of the few words I can actually distinguish, but, regardless, nu makes me happy.

But now is something that requires a bit more attention than just the split-second of excitement I feel after hearing it in a stranger’s conversation.

It’s easy, I’ve learned, to fantasize about the future while abroad. It’s easy to yearn for tomorrow, for the one day closer to going on that trip you’ve been planning, for the one day closer to the weekend when you can spend some time with your friends, for the one day after that long-term assignment is due.

And it’s easy to look to the past for some comfort: it’s easy to get homesick, it’s easy to think of times when you felt truly home, when you felt absolutely comfortable with your culture and surroundings, when you could turn to your mom for advice on how to wash your clothes or to your best friends for help with things so personal nobody else in the world could possibly understand.

I’ve been in Stockholm for about 2.5 weeks – it only took about 1 week to settle into a routine, and at this point my life here feels completely normal, as if I’ve lived here forever. And that’s great! That’s such a wonderful thing, especially considering my usual disposition to anxiety and over-cautiousness while traveling anywhere.

But there’s a major drawback to feeling at home here that I didn’t particularly anticipate: I have begun to fall into such a routine that I oftentimes forget to stop and reflect on where I am, what I’m doing, and how absolutely lucky I am to be here. Stockholm feels so normal to me that I forget, sometimes, that I haven’t lived here my whole life.

It’s hard to remember that now isn’t always, that now isn’t the future, that now is just, well, right now. I won’t be in Stockholm forever, and I know as soon as my plane lands in Chicago in a few months, I’m gonna regret not spending every single moment as mindfully as possible.

Stockholm (and Sweden (and Europe)) has so much to offer – never forget that you’re here, right now (or will be there sometime!), and, most importantly, that you won’t be here forever.

Every once in a while I forget that I’m in Sweden. I wake up in the morning, speak to my host family in English, listen to people singing in English or podcasting in English on my commute, take classes in English, and speak to store clerks and waiters in English, and they respond in English.

But every once in a while I look up, and I see things like these, and I realize that I’m here, right now, and I better soak it up, because I won’t be here forever, and in America we don’t have ceilings painted with cherubim . . .

. . . or sunsets over the Baltic . . .

. . . or palaces to tour . . .

. . . or colorful cobblestone streets . . .

. . . or walks to nearby lakes . . .

. . . or sweet little moments like these.

Now I am here, and I have experiences and opportunities I never thought I would have. And they won’t be here forever, no matter how much I wish that they would stick around for a while.

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