moving to Spain

Learning to Live in Spain

Have you all read my interview over on Expats Blog? If not, head on over to read my interview and leave a comment on my profile page if you’re so inclined.

Other people to visit: Erik, Erin, Hamatha, Lauren, Cat, and Christine.

One of the questions I was asked in my interview was “If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?” It’s a difficult question for me, because I’m not one to give advice, at least not without advising you to take whatever I say with a large grain of salt. You see, everyone is different, and I don’t think my experience is the only one, or that you’re like me, or anything of the sort.

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Maybe you don’t like garlic. But why would you come to Spain then?

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Going Back—Ready or Not

I don’t think of myself as a very strong person. I cry easily. I can turn against myself in a second, doubtful and drained of self-confidence. I prefer my own bed, my home, my comfort zone. I can’t sleep on airplanes or anywhere that isn’t a bed, basically. I get cranky when hungry. My pain tolerance is kind of low (a.k.a. nonexistent).

So maybe you won’t be surprised when I say that, even though I’m thrilled to be reunited with Mario, I’m also terrified of moving back. To Spain, that is. You see, the time I’ve spent in Spain hasn’t always been the happiest. If you read my posts from 2010–­2011, you might see this, lurking in the background, the truth I was trying so hard to avoid. It was through no fault of Spain’s own—not really. I was depressed, down in the dumps, and I did nothing to change it. My own worst enemy, if you will.

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But don’t get me wrong. I did find Silly Bands in Spain. So it wasn’t all bad.

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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.