In six short days, I will be back in Spain, livin’ la vida loca. At least if you consider part-time unemployment in a foreign country and the headstrong following of dreams the crazy life. But I’m getting ahead of myself, what I really want to talk about is how I got here.
Right now I am feeling all kinds of emotions (as I am sure you can appreciate) as I pack 3 relatively small (albeit hefty) suitcases full of items I deem vital for a life abroad. I know I will be gone until Christmas and trying to pack for eight months isn’t actually the hard part – it’s organizing all the miscellaneous items I’m choosing to leave behind that’s proving difficult. How does one say goodbye to 24 years of things? I wish I could say I don’t need material positions, but this is the home I grew up in, the bedroom I carefully decorated, the items that comforted me with their presence and consistency.
Many of my favorite “things” don’t fit my 20 Questions game-like requirements for taking along with me. Is it smaller than a suitcase? Does it weigh less than a pound? Is it practical? If it’s not practical, would I risk it being taken by TSA? Questions of this nature. With these requirements in mind, a jar of moonshine, my friends new puppy, a stockpile of almond paste and various extracts and flours have all been eliminated.
Sure, deciding which clothes stay or go was tricky but this is my third time packing for Spain in the past year and a half, so I have a pretty good idea what I will and will not need. Shoes are a whole different story though, let me tell you. If I take my favorite heels, I’ll be taller than my boyfriend whenever we go out. Or, if I just wear them one night a month for girl’s night, they’re basically getting no usage time so isn’t it better to leave them here? My favorite boots are to die for, but if I come back at Christmas wouldn’t it be more practical to get them then – when I might actually conceive of wearing them in Barcelona’s climate?
Such are the questions that plague my mind every five minutes, along with the equally daunting but much more practical questions about how I will make enough money to cover my phone bill, health insurance, a gym membership (so necessary when you take into account all the jamón and potatoes I eat over there), an eventual apartment, groceries, Zara pocket money, etc., etc. I say that fairly flippantly but in all reality I have a budget drawn up for myself and know exactly how many euros I currently have in my bank account – and I mean down to the penny. I have students lined up and will talk to more friends and relatives of my boyfriend when I arrive about the English lessons they have all been asking me about. I am starting to find freelance writing jobs and all in all I think the money situation is as well in hand as it is for any 20-something-year-old in this day and age.
No, the only thing that is truly cramping my style (and delirious happiness at the prospect of moving to my favorite city in the world) is fear. The crippling, nightmare-ish, huge failure, shit-your-pants kind of fear.
To pinpoint exactly what is causing my sleepless nights would be almost impossible because I’ve been afraid of everything my whole life. Irrational and rational fears both come into play, but I have always been one to forecast the worst possible scenario. By age six I had worked myself up into such a state that I needed therapy to get over my fear of thunderstorms (side note: this did not completely work. I swear my stomach twisting itself into knots can predict the impending arrival of bad weather). I am also afraid of: tornadoes (rational), elevators (irrational?), drowning (even though I know how to swim), suffocation (…how?), bad grades in school, diseases, disappointing my parents, losing someone I love in a spontaneous and unpredictable accident (to be fair, this has happened multiple times in my family, so we will say it is a rational fear), ants, heart attacks (again…how? I am 24), that my friends don’t really like me, leaving home, that kids I am babysitting will choke, that I like being alone, that I am not living up to my potential, and so on and so forth.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that most of these are pretty common fear. But my problem isn’t just the fear, it’s the fact that I can’t control the anxiety that racks my body when these fears take hold (which is something else I am afraid of – fear, anxiety and losing control).
Fear is the number one reason I am moving to Spain. Because it is so terrifying to me. I made this big decision, this exciting and potentially disastrous decision, in part because it was so scary and anxiety-inducing to me. I wanted to prove to myself that I could strike out boldly on my own and live to tell the tale. I wanted to quell my own fears of failure and embrace a lifelong dream. I’ve always known the kind of person I wanted to be and that person lives (unrealistically) without fear of tomorrow – only with appreciation for the present. The person I want to be is full of stories, inspiration, and perhaps a glass of wine or two.
The only thing stronger than my fear of failure in a foreign country (which could potentially lead to other fears such as disappointing my parents and not living up to my potential) is my fear of staying in one place forever. It was too easy for me to imagine my life before me: job-searching and living at home, working in my hometown, eventually moving out, finding a better 9-5 desk job, falling in line… Those things are great, but they are not what I have spent my whole life dreaming of. I traveled the world from the comfort of my bed through books and literature, a giant atlas I had, the internet, my imagination – and it was incredible, but it wasn’t enough. Not for me.
I am and have always been a visual person so I know that I need to see places, landscapes, faces, and beauty for myself, to know they exist. I am too easily jealous to let others explore the world for me and accept their second-hand retellings. I am too hungry to not to go and taste every exotic thing I possibly can (fried guinea pig and scorpion skewers spring to mind). I am at once too afraid and too restless to stay, and too stubborn to fail.
So I am going. I am moving to Spain. Everyone I talk to about this (my best friends, acquaintances, the guy at the pharmacy asking why I needed a year’s supply of allergy medicine) thinks it’s incredibly brave that I am leaving because they don’t know the truth. I am not brave. I am many things but brave is not one of them. I am passionate, curious, determined. I am smart, organized, creative, and kind. I’m funny and loyal and occasionally bitchy… But never brave.
My dad says I am jumping off a cliff without so much as checking for a safety net, and I know he has a point. I know he is worried about my health, my diet, my finances, my future. Deep down though, I know he’s wrong, that my safety net is there: my values, my friends and family, my will to succeed, my lust for life. It seems impulsive and stupid but this is the most difficult and thoughtful decision I have ever made. I may be afraid of everything but I am so afraid of losing this opportunity, of letting myself down, of settling, that I am willing to fake brave long enough to jump.
I want to share this journey, share my triumphs and downfalls, my gluten-free meals, my pet peeves, joys and daily thoughts with you.