16 August 2013

On Leaving

"What are you doing?" is probably what I've heard more than anything for the past six months. Often, I even have to pause and ask myself, "Why in the world would you drop everything and just move across the ocean? You have actually lost your marbles."

I think every person is supposed to follow "The Plan" after college graduation: get a job (or go to grad school and then get a job), settle down and get married, have kids, work your way to the top, retire happy. For a long time, I thought I would "be responsible" and do the same, but in college I realized just how incredibly boring that sounds...sorry not sorry. Where's the adventure, the exploring, all the fun of youth? Studying abroad made me realize just how much I still can learn about myself, others, and the world in general by traveling and living in a foreign land.

I can't deny that I'm incredibly excited. I am taking a huge leap of faith here, but this opportunity fell into my lap and it has worked out in a way I could never have planned for. I'm young and really wanted to experience something new in a completely different environment before saddling up for school again. I get bored extremely easily (a huge problem in my life), and while I probably will eventually settle down into life in Madrid and have weekends where I lounge in my PJs and watch Downton, the opportunity for adventures and travel is much more at-hand than it is here. And I want to grow. Physically, I'm basically done and have been since I was about 10, but mentally? Spiritually? Home girl has heaps and bounds left, and what better way to do it than by challenging yourself to the extreme?

I won't lie and say that everyone has been supportive of my decision. I can't exactly blame them: it is a bit drastic and maybe even irresponsible. But ultimately, I am not doing this for them; I am doing this for me. It is not the traditional way of doing things and it does seem on the surface that I'm throwing away my college education. This, however, is perhaps one of the best opportunities I could ever have: I will be moving to a foreign city, with a steady job and reasonable salary, and I don't even have to work all that many hours. I won't be sitting in an office: I will be giving these kids a lifelong skill and give myself the adventure of a lifetime along the way. I want to prove to myself that I really can do anything I set my mind to, and really, after living abroad on your own, you can tackle almost anything.

I want adventure, not monotony and "average". I want to be able to move forward in life knowing that I've seen what I've wanted to see, do what I wanted to do.

Given all that, it isn't all roses over here in my little garden. I'm very methodical when I try to sort out my feelings, so of course I made a list on the strongest emotions I'm feeling...even though I realize that lives up to the emotional woman stereotype.


I don't think people take me seriously when I tell them I'm nervous or scared. Y'all, I don't know if you realize this, but it's kind of a big move. I'm moving to a city where I know no one. Sure, I speak the language and that makes it loads easier on one front, but I've never moved somewhere and been so completely alone. I can't drive home or fly back for a weekend; an entire ocean separates me from my family and friends. I've never taught for such a long period of time. In Sevilla I helped out with English classes at a secondary school but a) that was once a week b) I was told exactly what to do and c) I'm doing primary school now, and younger kids need more entertainment. I also have this ridiculous, if immature, desire to have people like me. And it terrifies me that my fellow teachers might not...or worse, my students. I'm scared that I won't make friends: I'm not an extrovert by any means. I'm scared that I might hate my job or Madrid. I'm scared that I won't find my niche. There's so many things that could go wrong, and my overactive and perfectionist mind can't help but bring these up, more and more frequently as I get closer to my departure date. I'm a big fan of planning; it's the main reason I keep a planner. Not having a concrete plan and knowing exactly what's going to happen...it's terrifying.


Piggy-backing off some of the previous points, I've been feeling quite frustrated throughout the process as well. There's the more obvious points of frustrations: the visa process was an awful debacle of sending papers all over the state, dishing out cash to a million different organizations, photocopying a thousand different documents, etc. The frustration of trying to semi-apartment search or work out a metro pass from across the pond. Dealing with the lax civil servants in Spain. But then there's the frustration that's inspired by people I know. I love my family and friends, but y'all. I am not going crazy, and it does irritate me when people suggest that I haven't thought this through. Trust me, I've given it plenty of thought. I'm not going abroad to go on an extended vacation: I've graduated, and while this isn't the typical 9-5 job, it is still a job. I can't just skip and travel whenever I feel like it as I did when I studied abroad. And don't even get me started on the frustrations of trying to navigate applying to grad school from overseas (and for those of you concerned, yes, grad school is still in the planner).


I was actually kind of surprised to find myself feeling sad about leaving. Obviously, I knew I would get sad about leaving my family and friends behind, but I think more than anything it's surprised me that I've been getting sad thinking about the moments that I'm going to miss. One of my friends and sorority sister is getting married in November, and I most likely will not be able to attend the wedding because of my school schedule. I won't be there to welcome the newest babies to my family for big/little reveal in the fall (dumb, I know, but I love my fam). I'll miss most of my sister's big senior year events. I won't get to see our new cat go from kitten to full-grown evil cat (sorry, I love my kitty but I'll always prefer dogs). My friends' lives will go on with new memories and new inside jokes, things I won't be a part of, and it makes me incredibly sad to think about that. I'll be spending Thanksgiving and my birthday without any of my family members or friends from home or college. And it goes without saying that nothing will be able to replace just being at home with a home-cooked meal with your family laughing around the dinner table.


Despite all the frustrations, anxiety, and sadness, it goes without saying that I'm also incredibly excited about what lies ahead. Up to this point, everything has worked out exactly the way I've dreamed of (and even more than I dreamed of). I absolutely love Spain, and the one time I was in Madrid I loved it. This is a new experience for me, and quite frankly it's one I'm looking forward to tackling. I get so excited thinking about my future students and spend many nights mentally planning lessons and activities for them. And the anticipation is killing me! I'm itching to get on that plane and just GO. Like, "Hello world, here I am, ready to conquer EspaƱa!"...or at least my little primary school.

I'm so looking forward to this next chapter of my life. I am just relishing in the thought of not having to study or write papers for at least a year and having more time to myself and what I want to do rather than what my professors want me to do. I can focus fully on my job, grad school apps, and eventually (once those are out of the way), enriching my life in the way only cultural immersion can provide.

I know this post is really long: I kind of used it as a bit of a rant/confessional. Lately, I've gotten a lot of questions about how excited I am to be going, but it's not always rainbows and bunnies and I want people to know that. Moving abroad is not easy, even if you do speak the language. My time in Spain will be full of wonderful new memories and probably a fair share of poopy days, but I can't wait. Bring it, Madrid.

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