Wait… so you don’t speak Spanish? Right. And you don’t know anyone? No. Have you ever been to Spain before? Um, no. But you’re moving there? Correct. But you don’t speak Spanish? No, I do not.
These were the questions that consumed every conversation I had for months leading up to my departure date. Every time someone began these series of questions I always ended up in a frozen state of panic, as if I was being vetted for some high powered CEO position. People were consistently confused, shocked, and in complete disbelief that someone would actually move somewhere where they know absolutely no one, have never even been to and don’t speak the language.
For me, I didn’t see the big deal. Naturally, I was terrified and often wondered “what am I actually doing?”, “ Am I insane?”. However, for me, the big deal wasn’t that I was doing it, it was that it took me this long to do it. I graduated from college with a degree that I could have easily used and been satisfied with. But I wasn’t looking for satisfied. I was looking for something else.
So, I snagged a job waiting tables and bartending that allowed me to have quick cash, a bad back, and a flexible schedule, which I used to my full advantage. I told lied to myself and said it would only be for a year and then I would figure out what I was going to do next. Well, three years and some passport stamps later, it occurred to me that what I loved was traveling. Honestly, who doesn’t?
I then decided to have a very real and deep conversation with myself. Something I had a remarkable talent for, thanks to my mother repeatedly telling me to, “have a talk with myself” whenever I had a bad attitude, that unfortunately and luckily was and is a lot. After watching a few inspirational Gilmore Girls episodes, I pilled up in my bed with some Ben and Jerry’s (V motivating) and asked myself a series of the most significant questions I could think of: What would make me feel disappointed in my life in 20, 30, 40 years? What will I regret the most not doing? Should I have gotten a gallon instead of a pint? Am I going to regret not starting a career in my twenties? No. Just no!
I have always believed that I can start a career at any point in my life and while, yes, that poses its own set of challenges, it is not as challenging as trying to travel around the world or say, move to Spain, when you have a multitude of responsibilities. I look at age kind of like a magnet, the older you get the more stuff you seem to attract and carry around.
So, with that in mind I felt I was at the perfect age and point in my life to make a big dream become a reality. I decided that what I would regret most was not taking enough chances, not putting myself out there, and not taking advantage of my life. So, for me, that meant moving to Spain. While making the decision to move halfway across the world sounds terrifying in itself, it doesn’t hold a candle to actually living it out.
I stepped off the plane from my one way flight with exhausted, swollen eyes and a big smile. As I stood in line to get my long awaited Spanish passport stamp I looked around at all the people, who I automatically assumed were just tourists now that I was about to be a resident, and felt proud. Like a mother watching her child accomplish something big, like a Masters degree (Still sorry about that one, Mom). I felt so proud of myself in a humble way. A way that almost brought me to tears because I was finally here. I finally did it, I made something happen.
Living in Spain will no longer be a “what could have been” conversation at the dinner table in 30 years. It will be a “this is how I took chances and made my life the best possible one I could” conversation.
The “proud- of- you- girl” attitude wore off about 4 weeks later and the “what the !@#$%^& am I doing here!?!” attitude gladly took its place. The stress of trying to find a job and a place to live in a city, that has a highly competitive real estate market and a job market thats ideal hiring season was two months before I arrived, almost made me want to surrender right then and there.
In addition to that madness, day to day tasks that used to be so simple now became challenges, thanks to a lovely thing called a language barrier. Yes, I knew it would be hard going into this, I am not naive enough to think that it would be painless and uncomplicated, but I just didn’t know exactly how hard it would be. Also, it is important to note that the older you get the harder it is to make friends. There came a point where I genuinely considered Adrienne, from Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube, to be my best friend. I mean, she really gets me. I knew I was going home for Christmas and the closer it got to it the more homesick I became. I missed my family and my friends and fried chicken.
I had never in my life been so happy to be home and I honestly didn’t think I would leave. When January rolled around I mustered up the courage to give it another go.
I arrived back with my emotional bucket filled up, a positive attitude and some serious optimism. I decided I was going to try even harder to put myself out there and that’s exactly what I did. I reached out to one person who I had met briefly before Christmas to get coffee. And just through that one action everything seemed to come together. I was able to meet more people and before I even knew what was happening my weekends were full of plans, my work schedule was better and busier and I was able to get into a workout routine. I started doing early morning runs waIks down by the beach and also joined a Spanish class, which is the real accomplishment here. I really began to come alive and feel like I actually lived here.
I now knew how to order more than coffee in Spanish, I knew when and where to find the best produce, and even where the best tapas were. Barcelona officially felt like home. Taking a risk on your life is not for the faint of heart. It is not a simple decision to leave everything that is safe and comfortable and easy. Life is hard enough, why make it harder? I never want to look back on my life and think “ I should have or I wish I could have done that”.
I would rather take a chance knowing that I tried something, even if it fails, than sit with the “what if” burden. I learned so much about myself and what it means to really have to put yourself out there.
How to make it work when it’s not perfect or ideal or in English. Most importantly, I learned how to live without a Target (why isn’t this company international yet!?). All of these things are skills that will make my foundation as a person so much more sharpened. I made it work with the idea and belief of wanting to live the fullest life possible. The one full of stories and experiences and life. During one of the deep conversations I had with myself over this, I always reminded myself, you get one life. ONE. How am I going to make sure it’s the best one I can make?
In a recent conversation with my mother, she dropped one of those infamous motherly one liners. The ones that usually make me cringe with disgust and roll my eyes so far back they could actually get stuck. However, this one left me with my jaw dropped open because one, she was actually right (isn’t she always though?) and two, because it was just so profound and true to my current situation.
She said, “ In life there are no guarantees but there are regrets”. You have to take risks and you have to take chances and most of all you have to do something that scares you. Because if it really scares you, to your very core, it probably means you should be doing it.