Roughly a year ago, I wrote this post for Clutch Magazine about what I, at the time, deemed a courageous action: traveling solo dolo to Europe for the first time. I talked about the stares prolonging past a typical glance at someone who might look different. I spoke about how despite my confusion with the winding Spanish streets, i was at peace and found my way. And most triumphantly, I touted traveling alone, thousands of miles alone to a country where I didn’t speak the main language, gave me a renewed sense of self, confidence and self-trust.
Funny how a year changes things, rather how a year can change your perspective on things.
I do think traveling to Spain last September was monumental and needed to happen, but perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned since (temporarily) relocating my life here and something I wouldn’t have the foresight to realize is that with the big leaps, there are often small, more unsuspecting leaps to follow. Leaps taken to continuously fulfill the jump in a different direction. Because life changes are often not completed in one, sweeping action. They are a pendulum swing of one consequential action after another, a ripple effect, a small snowball that morphs into a mountain. A molehill that becomes a mountain.
About three weeks ago, I dragged myself out of my too little twin bed, the twin bed covered in plastic which crinkled whenever I tossed and turned throughout the night (which these days is often and expected); the twin bed, depending on what position I was in, left my long, lanky legs dangling over the edge, like a languid, lifeless hiker, staring blankly far off into the distance at the cliff that looms ahead.
I went to an outdoor yoga class at Templo de Debod despite the frigid temperature and despite my half-assed attempts at layering
But as my body shivered and I intently (and desperately) tried to remain in my center, there was one sentence, one thing that kept echoing over and over again in my mind,
“You are alone. It is just you, you alone, here in this moment.”
This realization is sobering and hits me in both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of what has now become my everyday routine here in Madrid.
It hits me when my students shuffle out of my classes after wishing a great rest of the day or a wonderful weekend and instead of having someone to turn to, anyone, a colleague, a friend, I’m left to reassure myself in solitude that, “Yes, I think that class went well. They laughed a lot. I think they’re learning. Maybe I’m not totally fucking this teaching thing up all the way.”
It hits me when I’m walking around the streets, whether in the city center or the side alleys near one of the two academies I work for or the private classes I have, and something funny happens and it dawns on me there’s no one who would really appreciate that really funny thing that happened. Yeah…that thing.
It hits me when I blank out while trying to think of a certain phrase or word in Spanish and instead of speaking I stare straight ahead, my mouth taking the shape of a big O but nothing escaping but thin, shallow gasps of air.
It hits me when I collapse in a sea of sobs after a tiring day, those days where I’m so exhausted I want to scream or break things or drink until the room is reduced to nothing but blurs and spinning.
It hit me especially hard today when I spent over an hour fiddling with the lock of the door in the new flat I moved into last week, the lock which is extremely temperamental and decides when it wants to open. I knocked on one neighbor’s door and pressed my ear to their door, not hearing any movement and walked away. I knocked on another and stuttered incoherently in Spanish to the two girls who opened the door. They tried to help me, but minutes later after becoming frustrated, shuffled away, gingerly telling me not to cry just because the door wouldn’t open.
When their backs were to me a sat Indian style on the ground in front of the door, my peacoat resting on my lap. I hit my head against the wall in a somewhat violent rocking motion as tears jaggedly fell from my cheeks.
Five minutes later, I jiggled the key and the door swung open with enthusiasm. I had less than ten minutes to use the restroom, attempt to eat lunch, grab a folder and be off to my next class.
I tried to reach out to my roommate and there was no answer. Calling a friend or family member was out of the question because they were busy at work, just got to work or were on the way to work. And in reality, there was really little they could do from all the way in the States.
I was left figure it out on my own, what has become the the usual the past three months.
Those moments are the ones where I question how radical and courageous and brave this move really was. I think about how everyone thinks I’m just in Spain living a beautiful life when each day is rife with frustration, confusion, isolation and loneliness.
Did I really uproot my life, the life where the comfort and convenience of having family and friends nearby, where having support for the crises, big and small, became a distant memory? Did I willingly select this lifestyle for myself?
And am I really as radical and strong and courageous and brave as people think I am if I struggle with wrapping my mind around the idea that living this expat life is full of these moments? And adjustment requires me accepting and being okay with it?
But what if I don’t want to accept it and be okay with it?
Because I really don’t want to.
I really, really don’t want.
I really don’t.