The circularity of life astounds me. Every once in a while, I will arrive at a particular place in my life, look around, and suddenly understand exactly why and how I got there.
In autumn of 2012, I was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. I was twenty years old and making my first foray into the blogosphere, having applied to be the "official" blogger for my program that semester. I had wanted to study abroad since I was twelve years old, so to say I was thrilled would have been a colossal understatement. Given my excitement, I didn't anticipate my anxiety at the transition, which turned me into a nervous wreck for the first two weeks (I am clearly exhausted, though also happy, in the photo below). I quickly overcame the culture shock, however, and had some of the best four months of my life. In fact, I almost stayed for another semester. The community at my college was the only thing that called me back. One of my closest friends was graduating in the spring and had studied abroad the semester before me, so I hadn't seen her in a year. I planned to do research with my favorite professors the following summer and wanted to get started. I missed my friends and my classes and my favorite coffee shop. Put simply, I adored my school, and so I made the bittersweet return to Los Angeles. Yet I remained enamored of Spain, and promised myself I would move back someday.
Fast-forward five years, and I'm finally going back. I have no doubt that this announcement will surprise some of you, since I've previously written about planning a round-the-world trip in which Spain was not the final destination but a mere stop. Sometimes it is the wrong path that can show us the way, and that is the only manner in which I can explain how I concluded that I needed to change my plans. Over the past few months, I have slowly realized that I have been postponing important pursuits. There is too much that I want to do for me to delay any of it. I have had many of the adventures I've wanted - living in DC was at the top of the list - but it's time for the next one, and this is it. My timeline remains the same: home to California at the end of October, on an international flight at the end of November, abroad for an indefinite amount of time after that. It is the destination and the purpose that have changed. I am moving to Barcelona to live and freelance write. I am doing this for myself, out of pure desire to live the life I have imagined. I am choosing, in a way, to be selfish. When born in authenticity, though, that choice is more benediction than sin. Of this I have never been more certain, though I surprised even myself with the surety of my decision.
And so I found myself, two nights ago, struck with the realization that I am continuing a journey that I thought I had abandoned. I didn't know it five years ago, but writing and living in Spain would become exactly what I want to do. My old blog has long been archived to a corner of the Internet, but I saved my posts, so I am republishing the final one here. Just like that, the end becomes the beginning.
It’s taken me a while to get here. When I say a while, I mean 103 days. That is how long it has been since my last blog post. I wrote it after my program ended, but I was in Lisbon and returned to Madrid a few days later, so I didn’t count it as final. I hadn’t made my goodbyes yet. I have a confession to make, though: the real reason is that I was in denial that my time in Spain was coming to a close. And I continued to refuse to finish my blog long after I returned home, long after I returned to school in Los Angeles, half a world away. Which is how, my friends, we reached Day 103.
The time has come. I am at my desk in my dorm room, staring at my Real Madrid scarf on the wall and listening to Pablo Alborán. I know that the time has come for my final blog post – much as I ache writing those words – due to a dream I had recently. Let me explain.
Last week, I found myself in the campus coffee shop, sitting across from a friend who had just decided to spend his fall semester in Madrid. I recognized with a start after selecting our tiny table that almost exactly one year earlier, I sat at that very table across from an IES Madrid fall semester alumna to ask her the same questions that were now being asked of me. I’d come full circle without even realizing it. I saw so much of myself in this person’s excitement and apprehension, in his nervousness and eagerness to move to an unknown country for months. After an hour that felt like five minutes, I reluctantly drew our conversation to a close. The reality of my next class brought my surroundings rushing back to me, but my memories of Spain kept me smiling throughout the rest of the day. That night, the dream happened.
I was in a taxi in Madrid speeding around la Puerta de Alcalá, my favorite landmark. I felt such elation at being back in the city, and thought I was there for a second semester. I practically yelled at the driver, “Rápido, ¡tengo que ir a Vodafone para comprar un móvil español!” (I have to go to Vodafone to buy a Spanish cell phone!) But as soon as visions of my little red plastic cell phone floated through my mind, I snapped out of it. It’s the end of March. I couldn't possibly be back for a second semester; the spring term started two months ago. I needed to return to my studies at my home university. Distressed, I directed the driver to the airport instead. He fixed his gaze on me in the rearview mirror and tried to soothe me: “No te preocupes, volverás pronto.” Don’t worry, you’ll be back soon. And then I woke up in the same room I’m writing in now.
I understood the dream loud and clear. If you miss a place enough, and you wish to return enough, then you will. I haven’t processed even half of what I learned during my semester in Madrid. I cannot summarize it and I have no parting words of wisdom. What I do know is this: I grew faster and learned more about myself and the world in that semester than I did during any other four months of my life. That I loved living there. That I have a home with my señora. That I picked up some permanent Spanish habits, like eating lunch at three in the afternoon and dinner at nine. Most importantly, that I’ll be back.