The Pressures of the “Right Decision”

You can’t write the pages for tomorrow without having first written the pages for today…

And yet why is it that I am practically obsessing about doing just that?

Having entered into my late 20’s, that societal pressure that we all face is growing heavier and heavier day by day. As children we are constantly asked about what we want to be when we grow up. In high school we’re pressured to know what we want to study in college. In college we learn to make 5 and 10 year plans. We are constantly taught to envision our future. And while it’s important to dream and to have goals, there almost seems to be an unspoken pressure to also have it “all figured out” by a certain stage in your life.

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Confronting Loneliness Head On

Hard as you can, you can’t outrun loneliness. And while a long hike or a good book may keep it at bay, I’ve learned that it’s not until you look it in the face and accept that it’s there, that you are really able to move on.

Loneliness is something that resurfaces constantly when you are a traveler, living in another country. Understandable considering you’ve uprooted your entire life and have left everything you’ve known from your family and friends to your eating schedule, behind.

I find it especially acute this year, despite it being my second year abroad, because I live alone. And the post-holiday loneliness was proving to be a beast that I could not outrun. It wasn’t even on my heels. No. It was on my back, breathing in my ear, taunting me, weighing down my steps, hard as I tried to move forward. Insert image here of what loneliness looks like for you. For me it’s a hairy green monster with huge claws and a sarcastic grin.

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Photos and Ghostly Fragments

It’s my third year in a row of bringing in a new year in a different country. Two years ago I was crowded onto the infamous Charles Bridge in Prague, waiting to see spectacular fireworks. Last year I was in the main plaza of Florence, horrified by the terrible live music playing, and hoping not to get sprayed with champagne or hit by flying bottles. This year, I’m bringing in the year in Spain, heading to a huge family party, ignoring the fact that I don’t have the red underwear you’re apparently supposed to wear, and prepping myself to eat the allotted 12 grapes.

Despite the change of location, the process of reflecting on the past year and wondering what determinations I’m going to set for the new one hasn’t changed. And my reflection seems to be even more profound this year, as I wander up and down the streets of my old town of Linares, passing by familiar cafes and bars, with bits and pieces of memories drifting past my mind’s eye.

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Lazing in a Funk

I’d like to attribute my sudden lack of energy or motivation to do anything to the homesickness I’m feeling because of the holidays. But that would just be an excuse. I’d also like to attribute it the crappy eating I’ve been doing, combined with multitude of nights going out for beers and sidra that have happened over the past couple of weeks. But that would also be an excuse.

For sure these circumstances are influencing this sudden bout of laziness that I simply can’t break out of, but it’s not the main cause.

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Trouble with Transience

As holidays roll around once again, I find myself growing more and more homesick, one of the hardest things to grapple with as a traveler and an expat. Slightly envious of those who are going home to see their families for the holidays, I continue to explore and work through my feelings towards the transient way of life I have chosen to lead.

The obvious beauty of travel for me is going out into the unknown and experiencing all things new. New food, new language, new ways of thinking, new attitudes toward living. The rush and joy come from stepping out of your comfort zone. And as I master Spanish and become accustomed to the way things work here, there is another rush that comes from that sense of accomplishment. When I think about all of these things I absolutely swear up and down that the expat way of life is for me, and that I can’t imagine going back to life in the United States.

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Struggling with Perfectionism

Whenever someone asks me about my year in Spain, instead of saying it was great, that it was life changing, that it was an opportunity that I’m so grateful for and I’m excited to be going back, my first answer is that it was really, really challenging and difficult and eventually go on to talk about how many mistakes I made and how upset I am that I did not do a better job.

What I’ve realized is that one of the reasons why I’m so hard on myself is that even though when I made the decision to move to Spain I knew that I was breaking away from the traditional career path after I had already gotten my foot in the door, I feel as though because I had such a difficult year it almost validates this idea that I made the “wrong decision.”

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What Are You Dream?

“What are you dream?”

I don’t think my English student had any idea of the profound significance and great timing of her question. I temporarily found myself floored and also amazed that even when one or both parties has little knowledge of the language being spoken, our ability to connect on a deep level is very present.

For obvious reasons, I had to respond to her question in as simple a way as possible. And so what is my dream, in the simplest of terms? Easy. To travel and teach.

As soon as the words left my mouth I had a “duh” moment when I realized that this is in fact what I am doing. I am traveling and teaching.

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