Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki is a city of many things for me. Finland itself is a country that gave me many gifts, but as life naturally balances out, it dealt the hand of pain and sorrow.

Being 16, away from home, meeting new friends, hugging my idols, my teenage crush only a few feet away, doused in water front row at Ankkarock Festival to laughing until the early hours on the cathedral steps with pizza and beer in hand. And then being 17, traveling the country, losing that teenage crush when a wedding ring appears, facing the grief of losing my Nana and leaving my family behind, watching thunderstorms and rain fall with my heart in two. In the space of twelve months, at such a young age I was dealt the hand of fate. Not all goes to plan, life doesn’t stop happening and the world doesn’t stop turning. The country I once fell in love with was now harboring my sorrow, grief and pain, the escape became unhealthy and in just a short space of time I associated cobbled streets, deep blue water and wide parks with negative memories.

Back again at 20. To overcome those fears, to relinquish the good memories and to a certain extent I managed to claw back some of my devotion to the city. But I was in love, I was in way over my head and knee deep in mental health struggles. Neither of us could commit, we were two blackened souls trying to stop from drifting below the surface and so upon return, in just a few months he walked away to a better life whilst I continued to desperately paddle for the shore. My love for Finland, for Helsinki was gone. Associated only with the dark, the torture and the overwhelming stabbing sensation of losing someone I deeply cared about, not necessarily for the love, more for the friend and sidekick that I couldn’t face to keep around.

Now at 26, I was given the opportunity to try, try and try again. To return to that beautiful city, that stunning country and make amends. Shake its hand, admit defeat and move on. This week I managed just that. I visited the cathedral steps and my heart didn’t long for the past anymore, it accepted years gone by and let go. I found new spots and sights to indulge in the glorious wealth of Helsinki without needing to constantly relive the turmoils and triumphs of 16, 17 and 20. I found a new passion for the city, for the country that felt like a home away from home. I found a new way forward, wiping the slate clean and giving myself hope that tomorrow can be much better than yesterday, and that yesterday will always be a part of me. It can be a scar, a memory, but not one that I have to force to forget.

I will cherish the laughter, the fan girl still in me, the long days sitting on trains moving from one end of the country to another, sitting on stone steps as the moon flies high in the sky, hanging upside down from bunk beds singing along to music, kissing the boy in the alcove and holding his hand as I slept, dancing around and singing in the festival crowds, to squealing with joy at fulfilling a lifetime within a week. Because I am not a kid anymore, nor am I a girl anymore. I was then. But now I’m a woman, with a whole world ahead of me, a whole life to lead. Those memories hold my soul together, they once broke me, but now I feel strong enough to go forward and choose to let them live within without chaining me down.

On to the next love, the next laugh, the next cry and the next heartbreak. Nothing in our future is certain, only that we can attempt to go forward with an open heart and a sensitive soul toward others. And so with that, welcome back into my heart Helsinki. You beautiful city you.

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