Looking to the Future

I read a lot as a child: cereal boxes, magazines meant for middle-aged women, the entire series of The Babysitters’ Club books, The Kids’ Almanac more times than I can count. I read a lot now, and since my father owns approximately a thousand biographies, I read those, too. A lot of these biographies talk about growing up in America, about the so-called “simpler times.” You know what I mean: when kids could stay out until the streetlights came on; when the general store was the only place in town to buy your flour, milk, and eggs; when Cokes cost $0.50 and came in dusty glass bottles—those sorts of times. I find them fascinating, because my life looks nothing like that and most likely never will. Those idealized times are gone. I ask myself a lot, is that type of lifestyle gone too?

In those days, there was something to be said for consistency. You might hold the same job all your life, an honorable feat, an example of your unswerving dedication to your family. You might be born, live, and die all in the same small town. Your friends you had as a child might be the same friends you had after high school, when you had kids, when you retired, when you were elderly. Those things … they were feasible then. Are they still now?

I think of my life. I grew up in a small town in Indiana, a stone’s throw from Indianapolis. I lived in the same house from age two to age eighteen. I formed friendships in grade school that carried me through my senior year of high school. We shared a bond, a consistency, that can never be replicated.

But nowadays my life seems chaotic. Since graduating high school, I’ve lived in seven different cities, sometimes on and off. (My hometown seems to be a landing spot.) Soon enough I’ll be on to the eighth. Eight cities in seven years? The same friends I had seven years ago aren’t really the same now, nor will the ones I have now necessarily be the same in a year. Because of this, sometimes I feel off-kilter, like my life is rushing by me, and there’s nothing to grab onto, nothing consistently the same year after year.

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I’ve chosen a different life than most, I suppose. I sometimes forget this as I get lost in the blogosphere, where everyone seems to be like me—travelers, expatriates, transplants. But then I find myself firmly in the “real world,” and no one’s like me. Right now, back home for a month in my hometown, I can’t help but feel different. And by different I don’t mean superior, because who’s to say which way’s better? If I hadn’t met Mario, I know I wouldn’t be living by myself in Spain or any other country; I’m not as adventurous as I might seem.

I also read blogs of the people who have returned, who aren’t going back to Spain, and they talk about missing it. Perhaps they miss the no pasa nada way of life, perhaps they miss the food, perhaps they miss the sun and the paseando and the people they met who changed their lives … but they certainly miss something. And so I ask myself, How do you deal with a life full of longing for something that will never be the same, that you’ll never really have back? There’s no real good answer to that. It’s as difficult to answer as another question I frequently ask myself, How can I live a life where someone is always over there?

Mario, celebrating his graduation, without me. Right now, he’s “there.” I’m “here.”

Right now, my life is in yet another transition stage. Who knows what I’ll be thinking, feeling, doing in six months? I only know a few things for certain: we’ll be together, I’ll miss home, and the inexorable path toward the future will continue.

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17 comments

  1. Good points. Its hard to say who or what’s actually normal. I still miss the Hong Kong way of life from time to time and I was only there for 4.5 months. I guess its just natural for us to grow attached to certain ways or things. Its crappy when we’re away from it but I think its good though, the alternative is never having those experiences in the first place. And its so nice having someone to share this with you who understands exactly (Mario)… =)

  2. I definitely relate to this a lot, as someone who never moved and since college graduation has lived a variety of places on a few continents. And this…How do you deal with a life full of longing for something that will never be the same, that you’ll never really have back? is something I ask myself probably everyday. I don’t really have anything else to add, but great post, as always :)

  3. If there’s one thing I have learned about life, it’s that nothing is constant. Change is the only constant. It seems that just as soon as you get used to something, it changes. I look at my daughter turning into a woman and wonder where my little girl went. It all goes by so fast. Your comment about living in 7 cities since high school made me chuckle. I moved around so much before I “settled down” and got married (at 30) that I lost count!! and now, living where I am now will likely be the longest I’ve lived anywhere, ever, hopefully 20 years…and writing that just makes me cringe! 20 years in the same house? ewie. I guess since I was uprooted at the tender age of 9 is one reason why I get restless. I’m just not one of those people who are content to stay put, have always had the wanderlust. And it’s gonna be a loooooooooooooooooong 8 years until I can retire to Spain. I doubt that my thoughts help you but these are the things that came to my mind while reading your post. Ms. Long-winded signing off for now ;)

  4. Love this post and definitely relate to it. Even though I know I will be living in the same place a year from now, I still wonder a lot about the future, what it will bring, how things would be different if I had chosen to live somewhere else or do something else. Your move is exciting and I am sure you will feel settled more quickly than you think.

    1. I hope so, Gillian! I was thinking of you a bit, because I know you miss Barcelona and Madrid, so I wonder how that is sometimes. I mean, I miss Spain, but I’m going back, so it’s different.

      1. It is definitely an adjustment – going back to Madrid after studying abroad was definitely helpful in getting over Barcelona, and normally I am less sad about not being in Spain and more happy to have experienced living there – but sometimes (especially on days like San Jordi, or El Clasico, etc. I do get nostalgic and kick myself for not renewing for a second year!) It’s so great you are going back – you will really be able to call two countries home!

  5. Great post–I can totally relate to that feeling of nostalgia you get for the past and permanence. Hope the move goes well and you find a little stability in Spain!

  6. This is what makes you an amazing person! Having the strength to live through this instability is what is going to shape your future and who you are at your core! I sometimes feel like I have nothing to grab on to as well but I always think of the benefits that I will reap from this harvest I am sowing.

  7. I love this post! I lived in Texas as a very small child, then In Santa Barbara until 11 years ago, 2 different Hawaiian islands and am soon headed to Spain. I love things about each place and miss people and connections, so although I am able to be happy and create a sense of “home”….I will always be homesick for somewhere no matter where I am. It’s nice to know that there are others who feel that kind of disconnect from their friends and loved ones.

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