What I Was Up To Then
Since my last update in July
I started a new job as an engineering manager at Stripe. Stripe provides payments infrastructure for the Internet. Millions of companies use Stripe to accept payments, send payouts, and manage their businesses online. I nearly joined Stripe 5 years ago, but they couldn’t support a remote worker in Stockholm. Times have changed and now I am building one of its first fully remote EU-based teams. Also, I joined a union.
I took a week off between jobs and traveled solo to Split, Hrvatska (Croatia). Arthur couldn’t join me due to work, so I went solo. I needed to decompress after 3.5 years riding a rocketship that tragically disintegrated before IPO. (That’s a story for another time.) I did much processing on the trip. A week was not enough time between jobs. I knew that would be the case, but Stripe only starts new hires once a month and I didn’t want to delay an additional month.
It felt fitting that the first person I met up with after InVision was the first person I hired at InVision. Aki showed me around his hometown with pride when I arrived and provided a perfect list of recommendations.
I went on a walking tour of Split. The place has captivated people since the ancient Greeks. People still live in Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace, originally built in 305 CE. The city has been conquered by both Christians and Nazis. Numerous countries’ flags have flown over it. For as long as it’s been there, it’s been trying to get people to forget about their struggles with warm sun and crystal blue water.
I took a day-long boat trip and snorkeled around a few tiny islands off the Dalmatian coast. The boat was unexpectedly pirate-themed and it more unexpectedly served a delicious vegan lunch. The host serendipitously seated me at a table with some fun Svenskar (Swedes).
I spent the trip trying to relax more than actually relaxing. I received the best massage I’ve had in Europe. (“Swedish massage” is bullshit.) I spent a day at the beach. I texted a few friends I hadn’t heard from in a long while. I listened to Kacey Musgraves on repeat and some Indigo Girls (thanks, Rianna).
Dinner with Aki and his wife Henna turned into a 2 am conversation over delicious orahovica rakija (“Croatian walnut liquor moonshine”) his mother had just made. We talked about life, love, and the American expat experience. I walked back to my hotel with a full heart healed in a way I didn’t know I needed.
Arthur’s parents visited Stockholm—and we surprised them with a detour to Barcelona, España to celebrate his father’s retirement. We took a sunset sailing tour with a guitarist. We toured the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, which is the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen. We ate amazing food. We walked everywhere. We spoke a little Español and drank a lotta Aperol spritzes. I also got to meet up with one of my San Francisco friends, Mark Hendrickson, who seems to have found a great life in the city.
Arthur’s parents are the kind of people that if we had met randomly at a party, I would be inviting them over for dinner and hoping they’d become good friends. I am grateful to have gotten to travel with them and to introduce them to one of my favorite cities. My hope is that Barcelona is the first of many such experiences.
This was their third attempt to visit us in the last 2 years. The ever evolving travel restrictions nearly postponed the third attempt. US Americans were once again barred from entering Sverige the day after his father returned to the US. The pandemic canceled a trip to Mykonos, Elláda (Greece) meant to celebrate our friend Dave’s birthday. I had so many swim briefs queued up to show off. Alas. Some friends were able to sneak past the EU’s pandemic Mario-eque thwomp traps. Our friends Katja and Eric reminded us how dearly we missed guests filling our home with conversation and new memories. We also appreciated Eric’s giant muscles when moving appliances.
Then, almost overnight, the pandemic ended in Sverige. By the end of September, more than 75% of adults had been fully vaccinated and all pandemic-related restrictions were removed. We started nervously eating indoors at a restaurant. (Thanks, Karin!) We anxiously attended a fado concert in a cave with poor air circulation. We went to the grocery store with our masks in our pockets instead of on our faces—just in case. After hearing about so many breakthrough COVID-19 cases from US friends, I feared the new infection rate would spike again in Stockholm. But it hasn’t happened. Herd immunity is proving to be real. I wish US media would report this success in Sverige to the dipshits who still won’t get vaccinated there.
Arthur & I bought our dream home. I can’t express how much I loved our condo. Our home regularly made my gratitude journal. Home ownership eluded us in San Francisco for so long. Stockholm made home ownership possible and provided us a space to thrive. I thought we would own it forever. We were content.
And then, the top floor unit in our building unexpectedly went up for sale. It’s a two-floor loft with archipelago views of the north (Djurgården and Gröna Lund) and west (palace and Södermalm). A neighbor referred to it as “the jewel of the building”.
We debated whether the cost was worth it. The extra space would be nice since both of us have chosen to work remotely indefinitely. We love the neighborhood, the location, and the building. Another opportunity like it would not come along for a long time. We thought about our future and agreed we would regret not trying to buy it.
Against the odds, we got approval from the bank and the owners sold to us. In Sverige, it’s near impossible to terminate people’s employment after 6 months. Because of this, banks consider you high risk when you are within the 6-month probationary period. The loan approval required arguing with the bank that my better paying job at a more reputable company actually was a good thing more than a liability. The culture here values consistently applied rules (fairness!) more than exception handling. It was a fight, but now this guy who was birthed in a trailer lives in the penthouse of his dreams.
We sold our first condo to another neighbor in the building who wanted more space after having a baby. It’s a bit like musical chairs, but with condos. People love this building.
Several people have asked, “But what about Arthur’s recently renovated dream kitchen‽” Yes, we once again own nearly the same kitchen we had just rid of. We hope to renovate the kitchen in the new home at some point, but we need to save up and live in the space before starting that project. The new condo has a bit more wear and tear to address, but also more space and more opportunity. The next renovation likely will be far more than just a kitchen.
(Here are the staged photos from the listing.)
Arthur & I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary and 17 years together. With the new home move consuming our time and budget, we didn’t plan anything special for our anniversary. More correctly, I didn’t plan anything special. We made a reservation at Berns Asiatiska. I planned to meet Arthur there because he “had to do something at the office”. Instead, he surprised me with a fancy room at Lydmar Hotel with champagne. We reminisced for an hour, legs intertwined on the couch. We then got the best Manhattan cocktails at the rooftop bar Le Hibou and finally went to dinner.
I love this man dearly. We have had so many adventures together and grown so much as individuals. I feel incredibly lucky to have grown in compatible ways. When I think about how many more adventures we will go on with each other, I inevitably hit an existential crisis. I want him to be my fieldtrip buddy forever.
- Stockholm Pride parade got canceled again due to the pandemic, so instead LGBTQ+ people took walks holding hands—something 60% of queer people do not feel safe to do in the EU according to a EU Agency for Fundamental Human Rights study.
- Radio Sweden interviewed me about not being able to get a EU digital COVID vaccination certificate.
- We met new San Francisco emigrant friends Chase & Wes!
- I wrote about my experience being harassed at work for being gay and atheist early in my career and my reflections on a year without Facebook.
- I gave a conference talk inspired by my Remote Async Work zine
- We put out Halloween candy in our building lobby with a note to come by our condo for more. The candy in the lobby was almost all taken, but we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters.
- So much great queer tv!
- Love, Victor season 2 (Hulu)
- Sex Education season 3 (Netflix)
- Q-Force (Netflix)
- Reality tv:
- Below Deck: Mediterranean season 6
- The Circle season 3 (Netflix)
- The Bachelorette seems off to a good start, but the show just isn’t as interesting when they can’t go on exotic dates all over the world.
- At lunchtime, we finished season 1 of The Twilight Zone (original) and started season 2, but are now working through season 3 of Explained (Netflix)
- The Gospel of Eureka, documentary
- Pride (2014) movie based on the UK gay activists who helped miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984
- The Wonder Years (2021) is a delightful parallel series to the original (Hulu)
- Squid Game (Netflix) was beautifully directed, but the story ended up not being compelling enough to justify the gore and violence. I won’t watch season 2.