morning mantra.


I learned eons ago, during my early years raised in the suburbs of Atlanta in various churches, that seven was a special number. A number of completion.  A number meaning things had been made whole and rang true. After all, our Creator (or whatever deity you may profess to have faith in), completed his work of creating this world, the universe we now call home, in seven days.

Week seven of life in Madrid was far from one of completion, of peace, of consolation. Instead it was a week ravaged with the most wretched case of homesickness, the feeling that plagued me hardest during my first month here. In each moment, I found myself cataloguing the things I swore I’d never miss about Atlanta the things I missed the most: driving on I-285 while blasting loud music, shopping or walking around Atlanta Station (or anywhere in Midtown period), singing along to trap music at any time of day, Saturday nights in the city where I drank toooo much among friends, Chipotle burrito bowls, Bojangles fried chicken (especially the biscuits), the smell of the house I grew up in, the slowness of suburbia, driveways and garage doors, Southern hospitality, my mother’s hugs, the voices of my Dad and sisters on a regular basis (and the petty arguments), the other half of my wardrobe that I gave away because a lack of suitcase space…

Just everything. Everything plus a million other things, which was perplexing for me to wrap my head around, because I was so unhappy with my life in Atlanta–the prime reason why I jetsetted thousands of miles away from decades of familiarity.

There were several moments rife with defeat, moments where I was seconds away from Skyping my mother, tears streaming down my face and admitting that I couldn’t do this, that I’d been crazy to move to another country, and that coming “home” was the only answer, the only route to ending this battle of adjusting. Most notably was last Thursday after misunderstanding documentation I needed to obtain paperwork here in Spain, leaving to go home empty-handed and going the wrong way on the Metro three times. After the third time of getting turned around, I slumped on a bench, recklessly threw my glasses in my purse and covered my eyes with both of my hands, forbidding anyone who was rushing to and fro to see my sorrow gathering in a pool on my lap.

But then, last Saturday evening, I trekked to see one of Spain’s renowned sights, Palacio de Cibeles, an attempt to pull myself from the depths of doom and gloom. This was what I saw:


As I stood and looked from side to side, the wind whistling through my hair and whipping the Spanish flag in a rolling motion, I sighed and stuffed down more tears, this time tears of consolation, peace and reassurance.

It was foolish of me to expect such a drastic change and pace of life would go seamlessly, without difficulties, without periods where I doubted my decision to begin with and without missing the place I once called “home,” although I wanted nothing to do with there before I left.

It was foolish of me to not think that there would be rough days or rough weeks and that those days or weeks don’t make the entire totality of my experience.

Before I moved, for a year, I worked closely with a spiritual director. Once a month for a couple hours, I went to speak with this woman and she helped me to discern and make more sense of my spiritual life, especially during this “coming of age,” period. One thing she emphasized was the need for me to rely on forming affirmations or mantras for use during meditation and for everyday life, period.

And while I stood on the Observation Deck of the Palacio de Cibeles, staring off into the distance, unable to speak because the beauty of what I was seeing had completely enraptured me, I asked myself, “Why am I here? Why are you here?

Here being Madrid. Here being at this new stage in my life. Here being a place where the noise in my head has quieted. Here being the place where I finally have the space and distance to form my own opinions about the woman I am without the daggers being thrown at me about who I am from others. Here being a place of increased self-reliance. Here being a place where I know that this next chapter of my life is contingent in making a difference in the lives of others, on a regular, everyday basis.

And well, I know why I’m here. And every morning, while the crust still lingers in the corners of my eyes and my yawns flutter in an endless pattern and the sun peaks through my window, I’ll ask myself, “Why am I here? Why are you here?” and it’ll come back like forgotten whispers of yesterdays and I’ll know. I’ll know. I’ll know that the adjustment and the struggle has all been worth it.

I’ll know.


4 thoughts on “morning mantra.

  1. Wow. Absolutely love how you write about difficult topics! Not many people can talk about the tough times living abroad and be so eloquent and uplifting. 🙂

  2. This is a stunning essay Nneka, and it really captures the paradoxical feelings we all encounter when we transition into new phases in our lives. I’m in that space now, so I know it isn’t easy. You’ve really summed up those feelings eloquently, and with visuals to boot! Great post. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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