It’s been a whirlwind past couple of weeks here and it’s quite hard to put anything into words right now, but I think I need to because I’ve got so much brewing inside me. I can’t believe I’ve only been here for two and a half weeks. It feels like it’s been so much longer, but in a good way. In such little time I feel I’ve accomplished so much: found an apartment, moved in, furnished the apartment, got electricity, got water, got a phone plan, (sort of) got wifi, been grocery shopping, got my monthly metro card, had my orientation in Barcelona, came back and had my first week working in my school, taught 2 and 3 year old little babies, wiped snot, wiped butts, met hundreds of people, kissed thousands of cheeks, translated tons of conversations, learned more Spanish, used more Spanish, made new Spaniard friends, made friends from my program, explored the majority of Madrid, taken part in a language exchange, enrolled in two courses, have interviewed for a second job, and on and on. To say the least, it feels like this is all just natural, that I’ve been living here for months. Looking back on it, I’m kind of amazed, but, honestly, it mostly feels like no big deal. Like yeah, okay, I did all that. Word. Now it’s time to just take each new day as it comes to me. And be.
I think my favorite thing is that since first stepping out of the airport into the glare of the Spanish sun gleaming over the mountains, I have never once felt like a tourist. And as the plane descended from my trip to Barcelona through the clouds and turbulence, I felt the simultaneous eagerness and comfort of returning home — that itch of renewed excitement and whole-body ease, that long sigh of remembered and beloved skyline and city streets and unknown faces that have somehow come together to mean home. People have said to me so many times that it must be hard to move to a new place with a different language and culture and history and food and everything, for the most part on my own. Well, to be real, sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a real struggle sometimes (many times), but it also just feels right. In truth, it has only been a few weeks and I know there will be times when I am incredibly home sick and miss my friends and family, everything I have known. But I also know there will be times when I feel brand new, when I don’t think about the things and people I used to think about, when I’ve lost myself. I think the best way to lose yourself is in yourself. Not to any person or any place, but to lose yourself in your own being, in your own experience, your own small perspective of this overwhelming and confusing world. Maybe that sounds weird and meta, but I think it’s in yourself where you make your best discoveries, where your greatest, most cherished memories live — in you. It doesn’t matter the place or the people or the opportunities, it’s got to do with what’s within you, what you nurture, what you reach down and scrape out of yourself, what you bring to the surface to give to the world.
I guess I’m talking about that ever-romantic and complicated notion of self-discovery. Finding yourself or losing yourself, or both, is an entirely personal and never-ending endeavor that is so much about putting yourself into anything and everything that is uncomfortable. The uncomfortable is the space that holds everything you need to grow. It is so important not just to learn how to be alone, but to learn to be lonely, here. To not turn to your phone or Netflix or social media to distract you from that feeling, or any uncomfortable feeling, but rather to sit with it. To feel the gravity of silence. The weight of your singular existence and individuality. To not try to rush it away or remedy it. But to be with yourself in your loneliness and discomfort until it fades away like passing clouds, to not be afraid of day returning to this night sky, as it may. It is deeply empowering, even calming. It is here that I keep finding myself, in Spain and elsewhere. It is here where I recognize the darkness and the beauty around me, and how sometimes they are the same things.
Still, each day, there are times my breath is taken away, my heart stretches to let something new in, my mind jumps to do more and see more and understand more. These moments are nothing short of beautifully human — when I am overcome by emotion, something unexplainable and profound. When the tears catch behind my eyelids in teeming pools. When I don’t know if I am happy or sad or terrified, just that I feel. Only that I feel everything. This is my home. This is the house I’ve built of myself that will carry me through the coming months in Madrid and wherever else I come upon. I thank whatever God or the universe or magic and circumstances that came together to give me these eyes that still have so much to see, these feet that carry me, this mind that grows and learns and understands, this heart that wants and hopes and needs and hopes and grieves and hopes and bleeds and forgives and heals and still, hopes.