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:
Took a freelance writing course
Landed my first paid article
Evacuated one of the largest wildfires in California history
Got approved for a yearlong residency visa in Spain
Bought a one-way ticket to Madrid
Spent New Year’s in Madrid and tried to stuff twelve grapes in my mouth in twelve seconds
Saw my host family from my semester abroad in Madrid for the first time in five years
Stayed out all night for the first time since college
Traveled solo for the first time
Fell in love with Andalucía
Went to Córdoba for the first time
Visited friends in the Netherlands for the first time
Saw my favorite artist’s museum
Saw Carnevale in Venice, Italy
Missed a train
Missed a plane
Nearly missed a visa deadline
Decided to move to Córdoba
Signed a six-month lease agreement on a room in a thousand-year-old house
Broke the lease agreement to work in a hostel and save money on rent
Shared a room for the first time since college (more on that in an upcoming post)
Spent my 26th birthday in government offices in Barcelona to get my residency card
Started to take daily siestas
Went to Málaga
Experienced Semana Santa for the first time
Worked under the table as a waitress for one day
Slept in a wooden shack in the mountains
Free-climbed up to a cave in those same mountains
Rode a motorcycle
Learned the cajón flamenco
Went to La Noche Blanca del Flamenco, an all-night series of flamenco performances in Córdoba that runs until 5am
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
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
Went to the feria, which is kind of like a county fair but with no animals and a lot of wine
Camped illegally (three times)
Passed out on a run, hit my head, and had a seizure (maybe not in that order?)
Which introduced me to the wonders of free universal healthcare and Spanish hospitals, which are very good
Went to the south of Italy for the first time (to visit my dear friend Sara)
Swam in the Adriatic for the first time
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
Started and stopped smoking
Went back to my old job and my old house in DC, both of which I love very much
Bought a violin
Got my second tattoo
Survived reverse culture shock
Got my first MRI and spent a weekend with electrodes taped to my head (thanks to the aforementioned seizure)
Started therapy again
Got a promotion
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?