This post idea sort of came to me while I was half dozing off on the plane on my way back to Spain last week. I was in this state of alertness and asleep. I was dozing, listening to the Prince Royce album, thinking about what this upcoming year will hold as music poured into my ears. This is relevant because I listened to the exact same album on the exact same American Airlines flight, just 2 years ago.
I remember that flight, and that day. I was a complete bundle of nerves, but also had a lot of excitement for the year to come. I remember packing up my final things, thinking “it’s just 8 months”. I remember writing this post, a few days before leaving. I remember the drive to the airport, watching the familiar houses and streets and businesses, thinking “it’s just 8 months”. I remember the comfortable silence in the car, and then trying (and failing) to hold back tears when my parents were saying goodbye. That squeeze from my dad made me cry! We took this picture, right before I walked away with all of my bags.
I remember meeting a lot of people at the airport, as we had all planned to meet up. I remember meeting them and thinking “I’m not going to be friends with these people”, and hey, I wasn’t. But it was nice to have other people there, doing the same thing, jumping off the same cliff.
I remember boarding the plane and thinking, “well, this is it. But it’s only 8 months”. I remember the plane ride- I was in an aisle seat next to a kid that took up far too much of my arm rest. He spoke Spanish and I thought “oh crap, I need to learn”. I remember wanting to watch movies (so many options!), but also knew I was so tired. I remember searching the music channels, stopping on the “Latin” options, and turning on Prince Royce. I remember being asleep for the remainder of that flight, but waking up intermittently to various songs, which would evoke this excitement of the year to come and being able to live in a country where Spanish was the first language.
I remember when we arrived, the flurry to get settled into the hotel, and then, find friends. Not necessarily in that order. I remember thinking “I feel lonely, but this is only 8 months”. I remember meeting a couple friends, but not feeling totally comfortable.
Of course I remember moving into a home-stay, which would later be the gateway to my current apartment. I remember meeting Luis for the first time (so early on!) and I remember the first time we texted a tiny little bit outside of class. I remember my first day of school and thinking “this ain’t so bad”. I remember when I started feeling like I had a groove. I remember my first “trip” (to San Sebastian!) and then my first date with Luis, the following night. I remember being so unsure of how any of these new things could only be for 8 months.
Because all of those things that were happening… those were roots. Those were roots developing, and every time I made a new friend, or went on a trip, or did something fun with Luis, the roots were getting deeper.
I remember when people started talking about staying for second years and I remember feeling unsure, like “I’m supposed to go home and start my life…after 8 months!”. But I remember going through the motions of reapplying and letting things just…happen. And they did. And I stayed. I went home for six weeks last summer and came back for a second year, or, just 8 more months.
That second year happened, and I remember- it was better than the first. The roots, I tell ya, it was the roots. They were deeper, stronger, healthier. Which, in hindsight, is not good when….it’s only for 8 months. Have you ever tried to dig up a tree? These roots weren’t flower roots. They were a tree.
I remember hard times last year, mostly internal struggles regarding the future, my working life, Luis, Spain, my friends, the community I have built here, and how they can all fit together into some organized puzzle. This struggle was especially prevalent when the option of a third year came up. A THIRD year. This was certainly not part of the plan.
But I remember doing the same thing. I remember the same thought process. “I’ll just apply and see what happens”. Guess what happened? I’ll let you draw a conclusion on that.
The deicison to come back was not easy for me. It kept me awake at night, took my appetite, make me overthink everything. Because the thing about those beuatiful roots that I’VE built is that they are itertwined with other people’s roots. If I cut these roots, they will kill the roots of others. Someone gets hurt. My parents, my friends, Luis, ME. Someone.
I remember towards the end of the year, finally coming to okay terms with the idea of coming back for a third year. My roommate came back, so that helped. But a lot of other people left, or were leaving soon. I had this internal panic that “if everyone else is leaving to start their lives, then I am making some sort of mistake by staying”. And as they say, I ain’t gettin’ any younger. But I guess what I eventually realized is that (this may be obvious), but THIS IS MY REAL LIFE. This is not some sort of ‘break’ from my real life. This is not a hiatus or a sabbatical. This is my life. My journey. It has it’s ups and downs, but it’s part of my story, so the only right time for my Spain chapter to end, is when (and if) I am ready for a change of scenery. Not when I feel like I ‘should’ go back. Not when I do what everyone else is doing.
So, as for my thoughts on coming back for a third year? I am thrilled. I am lucky that this is my life. That I live in Europe. That I am learning Spanish. That I have a very decent job and other work with flexible hours. That American Airlines can get you from Philadelphia to Madrid in just six hours. That my parents are the most thoughtful, loving, and supportive people in my life. In the world. That that first date with Luis turned into something more. (and that he puts up with these thoughts and insecurities). That I have friends and roommates here that make Spain home, at this point in my life.
Listening to Prince Royce on Thursday night, I felt the same thing I felt that very first time American Airlines jetted me off to Spain. Sadness for leaving my parents, my dog, the familiarity of home, but also a lot of excitement for going into unknown territory. It’s a lot more familiar than it was two years ago, but there is so much more to come. And just like two years ago, I felt a little sick, from a combination of a bumpy ride and some questionable gray gravy they put on the provided meal.
To a wonderful year, with wonderful people.
Apparently grey t-shirts are my uniform of choice.