I hear your heaaartbeat to the beat of the drums
Oh what a shame that you came here with someooooone
So while you're here in my arms
Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young!
Wednesday, March 4, 2015. 6:20 pm.
I'm driving from my new 9-5 to my next "job" at my aerial dance studio, where I work the front desk, teach lyra, and take as many pole and lyra classes as my body can handle every week. The new job is kind of intense, and that Wednesday, I was physically and mentally spent. My 2001 Accord, doesn't have an auxiliary port, so I'm forced to play mix CDs (as if it's 2001) in order to free myself from the maddening cycle of the same seven songs played on mainstream radio when I'm not in the mood for classical music.
That day, I was not in the mood for classical music. I was a bit restless. I wanted to jam in my car while driving through the mothereffing rain that was the teaser to yet another fucking snow storm. I reached for an old favorite, my "Some Nights in Murcia" cd (because all my mix cds have titles, duh) and transported myself back to 2012/13, back to where it all started…Murcia . (moorsee-uh).
It has been 7 months, 1 week, and 6 days since I stepped off a plane from Madrid at JFK international with Kona,4 carry ons, 2 checked luggage, a heart full of memories, and a head full of anxiety after two life-changing years in Spain. In these seven months, my transition back to full time American has been surprisingly uneventful. My aforementioned anxiety largely centered around finding a job. I temped as an executive assistant for six months, and then last month my temp gig finally yielded on its investment, and I transitioned into a salaried, benefit providing, and career forwarding job as a health program specialist. Huzzah! And even before that blessing actualized, I did manage to spend some time with some of the most important people in my life in the tri-state area. I also succeeded in sticking to my rule of celebrating New Years in a new place, and saw in the start of 2015 in Los Angeles for my first trip to the west side of the sun to visit my one and only foodie paramour (whom I met in Madrid). That whole hitting the wall of reverse culture shock didn't really happen--aside from my forgetting how insanely large American portion sizes can be, which I can legitimately say blew my effing mind. I remain horrified that serving me a pound of "food" and half a gallon of drink is considered normal here. But in considering the larger picture, I lived in Spain for two years. I learned a new language. I climbed mountains, and forded streams, and followed every fucking rainbow!
I kept expecting the, "OMG, you left Madrid to come back to Baltimore, what on earth have you done?!" shoe to drop and hit me in the face. But it felt so normal to be back. It was so seamless a change, that it almost as if I never left, and THAT was the strangest part of my return.
Or so I thought.
Then March 5th rolled around, and I started to realize maybe not all is as smooth as I thought. I was sitting on the couch on the verge of a meltdown and half way to tears as I was frantically texting with my besties, Hillary & Alihah, bemoaning my solo status for a destination wedding I'm to attend in the fall. To be very clear, when I RSVPed for my single occupancy room, I was 1000% OK with being my own date. In fact, my initial plan was to country hop from St. Thomas after the nuptials, and land in Caracas for another lonely planet adventure. But alas, in my return to American life, I had forgotten that vacation time is doled out in miserly portions AND Caracas isn't ideal for solo travel as a woman. So I settled on the idea of a quick island jaunt for a wedding weekend, and adventuring alone another time. My reasoning was I know the bride well (obviously), and a couple members of the bridal party. So what if they're coupled up?! We're all friends, and it's 3 days on an Island, which entails the pre-wedding excursion, ceremony, reception, y ya está. Going stag barely made a blip on my radar. But then, I got a text message from another one of my besties (who won't be attending because she's knocked up) and was advised that it would best if I had a date, seeing as how all the people I know well are in the wedding, and literally EVERYONE else will be coupled off. And the wall started to crumble...
The wall being the mental barricade I've had to build to stop my mind from spiraling down the rabbit hole of "while I was indeed living a very different, and mostly better version of life in Spain for two years, and learning and growing and changing in ways which are collectively tangible, completely impossible to explain, and are still revealing themselves to me and others every day, I was also BURNING through my adult life's savings, stagnating professionally, completely hating every second of it once every few months (also known as Bad Spain Day Syndrome), and was completely removed from the social network and game of chess known as dating and mating for keeps. Meanwhile, my entire social circle was doing the things that humans do as they mature, which is pairing off, getting married, moving to new cities, changing jobs, having babies, buying houses etc. Not much of this standard cycle of life appeals to me. But I am still human, and the desire to find the ultimate travel and life partner isn't something I've eschewed, not in the least. The fact is that I'm a woman who travels, and my plan to make myself a permanent expat complicates the process even more. Now that I've decided to come back to the land of the walking workaholics, I find myself fighting and losing the good fight to kick start my social life while balancing my professional life and extracurricular pole dancing and lyra habit. Essentially, I'm at a COMPLETE LOSS for a social life--both romantic and platonic. Everyone in my close social circle has paired off in a serious or permanent way since I left and came back, and as hard as I've tried to fight this feeling of being left behind, it's hard to avoid when my constant solo status keeps surfacing and poking me the ribs when I'm least expecting it to.
I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to be this girl whose whining about being the single girl in the group. I'm the adventurer, dammit! I'm the foodie, the go-getter, the extrovert with a big personality, big dreams, and some of the most ridiculous expectations of life, and very little patience for anything that falls short of them. I moved to Spain with my dog (and my shoes), alone! I traveled to ITALY, all by my damn self, and celebrated the start of 2014 in the cold midnight air of St. Mark's Square in Venice, with a group of strangers from random parts of the world, and loved that experience in ways I can't even explain. I'm not supposed to be that girl who feels "woe is me, everyone has a plus one and I don't even know where to start to find one". I'm not really that girl at all. But I would be lying if I said it didn't cause me anxiety. Not because I'm busy comparing myself to everyone else, but because at the end of the day, my social circumstances aren't what I want them to be, and I can no longer ignore that. I'm starting over in a lot of ways. Coming back from the adventure which I "chose" to embark upon changed me in ways where I feel a bit out of place from time to time. And feeling out of place and not knowing where to go with it is frustrating.
And there it is, the reverse culture shock, which jabbed me in the throat on a Thursday night while I was sitting on my couch, trying to watch Nashville. It's knowing that I'm different, even if I still have a short temper, and most things, and some people stayed the same. It's knowing I missed out on things that will never be again, and I wasn't present when I really needed to be. It's knowing that the nature of relationships change with age, and that two years away add a layer of to that change. It's constantly seeing things with different eyes, feeling things with a changed heart, being acutely more in tune with my needs and true wants, because I've learned to largely forgo superficial wants that I previously would've made poor choices to attain. It's fighting against falling back into old habits, and constantly fearing that I'll lose everything I gained in the the inertia of daily life. It's trying to fight that inertia and not knowing how to when when there are only so many hours in a day. It's wondering how on earth, and where on earth am I supposed to meet who I'm looking for, when so much of my life feels like it's up in the air.
So back to me in my car, screaming Ke$ha lyrics like my life depended on it.
Because it kind of did. Because when I go to this dark place….this anxious self pitying, self loathing, can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, miserable space where I feel like I've fallen between two worlds, two countries, two lives, two languages, where nobody can really hear me or see me, and I'm just plugging along for recognition and a paycheck, so I can buy some new clothes (which I legit need) and maybe if I'm dumb enough, I'll splurge on those Tom Ford shoes that I tried on in Beverly Hills, that I'll have nowhere to wear them to, and I'm thinking that leaving Spain was the worst choice I had to make because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do, and I didn't want to play teacher anymore, and I miss my friends who are still across the pond, and some days I miss walking into a classroom full of children who will invariably make me crazy, yet I wonder how they're doing without me, and I wish I had done more with my time with them, and I don't know for sure how I'm going to go back to Spain in 5 years and get residency, but I know in my heart of hearts that I have to go back, because Madrid is my home….
I let the music that permeated so much of my being during my first year in Spain in Murcia, transport me back to my happy place. Where I made some of the best memories and friends that forever altered my life, that led me to my second year in Madrid, where I had a bit less "fun", worked a hell of a lot more, and lived it up as best I could with more amazing friends, and made more amazing memories, and stories to tell, and ups and downs and highs and lows, that sometimes I can't believe I made it out on the other side, and sometimes I can't believe I want to do it all over again.
And those songs, these pictures, those memories make me feel full and happy because solo or not, I've made the most MY LIFE like I was going to die young.
And if fates on my side, I'm just getting started.