For those not already aware, some personal news: I’ve moved to Stockholm, Sweden.
Given the new year, I wanted to briefly reflect on how I ended up here. 2020 has been a trying year for everyone. In one sense, I haven’t been impacted at all by everything going on in the world: I will end the year just as I began it, developing software in front of a computer screen from home.
In another sense, 2020 was the peak of a multi-year run-up in anxiety and mental fatigue for me. How little my good fortune has changed compared with the unimaginably many misfortunes around me became an unignorable cognitive dissonance. I spent a lot of energy worrying about systemic problems I struggle to see solutions to.
I believe my ideal social contract would be something like this: I want to be free to focus my energy on my work, relationships, and interests. For this freedom, I’d gladly contribute to a state that administers programs that reduce the need for individuals like me to have to focus their energy on anything else.
In practice, this is stuff like equal access to healthcare, education, childcare, welfare, and time-off: things that in the US are not a given and end up distributed unevenly.
So I find myself here, a guest of Sweden, which at least at first glance seems to operate under such a social contract. I’ve enjoyed learning the language, the culture, and look forward to a little more of a hands-on approach to it all in the coming year or so, pandemic permitting.
While uprooting your life and moving halfway around the world is not possible for everyone, I hope that those also suffering from the mental fog of the last year and beyond find time to reflect on why, and find a better allocation of energy in the coming year.