What I thought ...
When I was a teenager I thought that I would lead a "boring, stable life" when I was 30. That I would live in Jönköping (a smallish town near my hometown) in a flat that I owned together with a boyfriend and perhaps work at the local paper. In reality I wanted something different, but I found it difficult to point my finger on it.
Some kind of "rock 'n' roll-lifestyle" (as a metaphor for adventure, parties, travels, romances, writing and other artistic endeavours). And I did experience a lot of rock 'n' roll in my twenties even though it was more poetry than rock 'n' roll. I would never have guessed that I would be into Poetry Slam: I didn't even know what it was as a teenager. I would not have guessed that I would spend so many years in England either. Or that my first book would win a prize for the best debut novel. But then this "early mid-life crisis" hit me, the crisis that resulted in the Swenglish project.
Rock 'n' roll is fun, but yet I yearned for a more stable life than the life I was leading when I approached my 30th birthday. I was fed up with being a constant lodger, moving around, doing day jobs, drinking too much beer, messing about and being far away from my family and my very very best friends.
Now I'm renting my own flat in Gothenburg and am studying ethnology. It doesn't sound very rock 'n' roll. But the most important thing in my life is still my writing. The novels. The poetry. The performances. And I've started blogging for a local paper ... However, now and again a bit of rock 'n' roll happens (when I did a poetry gig in Gävle for example!), but the bottle of vodka that I got from an Englishman back in September is still untouched. That would never have happened ten years ago.
What the Swenglish participants thought ...
About half the people in Sweden and a bit more than half the people in England expressed that their lives were very or pretty different compared to the life they had envisioned when they were younger. Most of them, especially in England, had a better life than expected, but a few would have thought that they would be more successful in their jobs.
Six people (all above 30) thought that they would be parents by now. But there were also two people (above 30 as well) who were surprised about being parents at all.
Five people had not thought very much about the future when they were younger and had nothing to compare with. One participant expressed it in this way: "When I was a teenager I thought I would be dead when I was 27, everything after that becomes some strange bonus that I hadn't expected".
Seven people claimed that they had always followed their ideals, even though their lives looked different on the surface compared to what they had thought. Another person said: "I've made my life into the life I wanted it to be even though I couldn't express what I wanted".
It's interesting to note that in some cases (my own case for example) there's a difference between how people thought it would turn out and how they wanted it to turn out.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: How different is your life now compared to the life you would like to have?