I was overjoyed to receive an email this week, saying that I had been awarded a grant from the Finnish Music Foundation (MES) to help with the costs of my upcoming album. The fact that I've been living in New York for the last 17 years is possibly a bit of a deterrent for those on the deciding panel, which is why I am even more thrilled and grateful for this acknowledgement of my work.
Ironically, after all these years spent in the US, I'm feeling more and more connected to my home country Finland these days. As my self-knowledge and understanding has grown, so has my sense of belonging, when it comes to both Finland and the States. As I feel more at home within myself, I can also feel at home with my surroundings, along with my past and my present.
I am, and will always be very much a Finn: I (still) have an accent when I speak English, I have many Finnish characteristics and mannerisms, my music is dripping with Finnish melancholy, my family of origin resides in Finland, etc., etc. But I do notice these days, whenever I visit my family and friends in Helsinki, how much I am also a New Yorker. American too, but first and foremost, a New Yorker.
Right now, my floor is littered with paperwork for my US citizenship. I've been collecting the required documents gradually for a while now, and I'm just missing the finishing touches before I send this thing in... I have now spent half of my life in the States, and am applying for dual citizenship. The time is right.
The thought of being both American and Finnish is quite thrilling to me. Having felt like an outsider my whole life, I am now decidedly bear-hugging my duality. I am embracing my heritage, but also my current home, and I'm proud of how they both have shaped me.
Getting back to where I started: receiving a grant from Finland is like balm to my old wounds. A divide that has existed ever since I left all those years ago is being mended. As I take root in myself, I take root in both of my home countries.
There's a saying in Finnish: "Niin metsä vastaa kuin sinne huudetaan."
Literally translated: "The forest answers in the same way one shouts in it."
Hehe, the colloquialisms always tickle me... My point is, I'm feeling like I'm being bear-hugged in return. Thank you.