From One November to the Next

It feels strange to sit down to write, which is always a sign that I’ve been away for too long. Over one month has passed since I last published a blog, and about six months have passed since I was last writing consistently.

One year has passed since I left DC last fall.

On October 30th, 2017, just after Halloweekend (yes, I use that term) and just before Halloween, I dragged my tearful ass into an Uber at 6:30 in the morning. I hugged my two housemates goodbye and hauled my two suitcases containing most of my worldly possessions into the trunk of the car. I cried quietly for a while until the unendingly kind driver asked if my friends and I were sisters, which just made me bawl. He handed me some tissues and put on Kendrick Lamar. I rested my chin on the door and morosely watched the rowhouses of DC fade into the fall scenery of suburban Virginia.

I have never felt more lost in my life than I did on that car ride to Dulles airport. In the span of two months, I’d changed as many major life plans. I quit my job. I put my room up for rent. I applied for a Spanish residency visa in seven furiously busy days and then wasn’t even sure if I’d use it. I spent my last week in the city, which I’d taken off work and planned to use to finish off my DC bucket list, wrapped in blankets on my couch with Thai takeout and Queen Sugar. No offense to the show (it’s brilliant) or drunken noodles (I will always love you), but it wasn’t exactly the triumphant farewell I had envisioned.

I was wracked with anxiety, even though I initiated almost all of these changes. I had made a grand plan to move back to Spain, the country that feels like my second home, and then found myself fantasizing about canceling my flight, begging my boss for my job back, and sheepishly telling everyone that it was one big mistake. Thankfully, my fear of missing out on new experiences and adventure is always ever so slightly greater than my fear of actually having those experiences and adventures, so on the plane I went. Plus, I was stopping at home in California for a little while. Even at age twenty-five, I really needed my mom.

My two months in California were restorative in ways I never could have imagined. I was still anxious quite often, but I felt myself relax in a deeper, more fundamental way than I had in years (except for, uh, when my family fled a wildfire). I took care of myself in ways I hadn’t in years. I finally allowed myself to process all the shifts that were happening within me. Whenever I lamented the upheaval in my life, my mother reminded me that I chose it. And that I chose that change for a reason.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know about all the twists and turns my life has taken since I left DC a year ago—including when I surprised myself (and a lot of other people) by coming back here in July of this year. But for those who are just joining me in this strange little corner of the Internet, or those of you who got bored with my Eat-Pray-Love epiphanies, here is a list of things I have done since November 1, 2017:

  1. Took a freelance writing course

  2. Landed my first paid article

  3. Evacuated one of the largest wildfires in California history

  4. Got approved for a yearlong residency visa in Spain

  5. Bought a one-way ticket to Madrid

  6. Spent New Year’s in Madrid and tried to stuff twelve grapes in my mouth in twelve seconds

  7. Saw my host family from my semester abroad in Madrid for the first time in five years

  8. Stayed out all night for the first time since college

  9. Traveled solo for the first time

  10. Fell in love with Andalucía

  11. Went to Córdoba for the first time

  12. Visited friends in the Netherlands for the first time

  13. Saw my favorite artist’s museum

  14. Saw Carnevale in Venice, Italy

  15. Missed a train

  16. Missed a plane

  17. Nearly missed a visa deadline

  18. Decided to move to Córdoba

  19. Signed a six-month lease agreement on a room in a thousand-year-old house

  20. Broke the lease agreement to work in a hostel and save money on rent

  21. Shared a room for the first time since college (more on that in an upcoming post)

  22. Spent my 26th birthday in government offices in Barcelona to get my residency card

  23. Started to take daily siestas

  24. Went to Málaga

  25. Experienced Semana Santa for the first time

  26. Worked under the table as a waitress for one day

  27. Slept in a wooden shack in the mountains

  28. Free-climbed up to a cave in those same mountains

  29. Rode a motorcycle

  30. Tried mushrooms

  31. Learned the cajón flamenco

  32. Went to La Noche Blanca del Flamenco, an all-night series of flamenco performances in Córdoba that runs until 5am

  33. Saw the UNESCO World Heritage treasure La Fiesta de los Patios, when owners of beautiful houses in Córdoba cover their inner patios with flowers and compete for the top spot

  34. Went to Las Cruces, a weeklong party in which different religious organizations put up huge crosses adorned with flowers and altars that basically serve as watering holes where people drink a ton and dance sevillanas

  35. Went to the feria, which is kind of like a county fair but with no animals and a lot of wine

  36. Camped illegally (three times)

  37. Passed out on a run, hit my head, and had a seizure (maybe not in that order?)

  38. Which introduced me to the wonders of free universal healthcare and Spanish hospitals, which are very good

  39. Went to the south of Italy for the first time (to visit my dear friend Sara)

  40. Swam in the Adriatic for the first time

  41. Decided to (1) go to grad school in Spain and (2) move back to DC so that I could save enough money to do that

  42. Started and stopped smoking

  43. Went back to my old job and my old house in DC, both of which I love very much

  44. Bought a violin

  45. Got my second tattoo

  46. Survived reverse culture shock

  47. Got my first MRI and spent a weekend with electrodes taped to my head (thanks to the aforementioned seizure)

  48. Started therapy again

  49. Got a promotion

  50. Finally started to make sense of it all.

I am now living in DC again and happily starting a new job as the manager of the team I was working on before, at a community health center that does extremely important work. Today was my first day. I’m hoping (and planning) to go to grad school in a couple years, ideally in Spain so that I can live there more permanently. I still miss that country, and especially Andalucía, almost every day, but I’m happy to be here.

In the past year, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve gotten hurt a lot, in more ways than one. I’ve done some stupid things and some really good ones. I’ve changed every major plan I’ve made for my life at least once. I still don’t know which way is up sometimes. But this last year is the first year I felt like I really came into my own as an adult. A messy, imperfect, fucked-up adult, but a person who knows who she is and what she wants.

And isn’t that what counts?