I hesitate in writing this because my mind changes every five seconds and it’s still early in the year, with several upcoming, exciting ventures around the corner. But it’s also that time of year where decisions about the upcoming school year need to be made. No going back now. My public declaration: I want to, and plan to, move back to Spain. I miss living abroad.
Even the cows know how to take it easy in Spain
Considering the fact that I lived there for two years, wasn’t entirely content, then came back to NY, some people may think I just can’t make up my mind and am constantly seeking happiness outside of myself. To be honest, I would agree! But as I enter into the new year and grow into who I am, I realize that I am beyond happy in that I found the answers to the questions that led me out of Spain to begin with, and as I discover them, they are leading me back to a lifestyle and culture that is much better suited to me.
The very first and most pressing question that brought me back stateside was the idea of a real job. As a teacher by profession, working as an auxiliar had me feeling like I was stagnating and holding myself back from my full potential. So I came back, and as fate and fortune would have it, got my dream job as a kindergarten teacher. I love every single second of it. I was born to teach kindergarten.
In New York your life is your career, your career is your life. The days are long, the weeks longer, the stress sometimes unbearable and the work politics just plain annoying. Granted, you will come across these challenges no matter where you work or what your profession is, but if you have lived and worked in the Big Apple, I know you
understand the sheer amount of pressure and stress that come from the demands of keeping up with the rat race. The work culture of this city (I can’t speak for the US as a whole because I haven’t lived or worked in any other state, but my guess is that it’s a widespread problem), is nothing short of overwhelmingly exhausting, and for me, simply not worth it.
Getting back into the swing of full-time work is one thing and a challenge I can handle, but my issue lies with the values that we place of work over your overall well-being and a balanced lifestyle. I know it won’t be easy for me in Spain to break into the world of education outside of the auxiliar program, but that is a challenge that I am willing to undertake, especially if it means living a life with a healthy work-life balance.
Happiness? A simple life of gratitude. Oh, and being able to drive to France for a day trip.
Then there’s the question of travel itself. I felt compelled to pick up and move to another country after leaving Spain, ever ready to explore the world. But to be honest, I’m getting tired of uprooting my life. Long-term travelers have or will say this at some point: I’m ready to settle down. Knowing that NY and probably the US won’t be my home, I’m ready to move and stay in one place for more than a year at a time. The challenges of travel include transience which puts strains on your relationships, but if I keep moving around from place to place, I’m only exacerbating it rather than staying still long enough to build a new community.
The bigger and broader yet incredibly daunting question that I couldn’t answer for the past few years? What is happiness? This overarching doubt was really the root cause of my leaving and now my returning to Spain. While my family and long-term friends are here, the values of the best and toughest city in the world don’t align with my own. After working my way through my quarter-life-crisis and figuring out my happy, I know what kind of life I want to live and lead and I don’t think I can find it here.
The question that seems to be floating around often with people entering their late 20’s seems to be centered around this idea of “growing up” and entering the “real world.” But the beauty and fortune of our generation is that we have the privilege of defining what that means to us. Why can’t traveling be “real world?” For me personally, the root of the debate on whether to leave or stay in Spain was this pressure to be in the “real world.” Only, when I got here, I
realized that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For me, the real world is making a change where you are, being grateful for everything you have, and listening to your own heart, defining your own happy.
The ability to travel and experience such richness during a weekend trip? Sold.
Does this mean that I will stay in Spain forever? No. The beauty of our present circumstances is our liberty to travel and live abroad. We are now a completely internationally mobile species. This tradition of settling and having kids and staying in one place for the rest of your life is no longer the only possibility. I will stay in Spain for as long as my heart tells me to, and there’s no way of knowing how long that will be.
My big preoccupation was always on making the “right” decision, but someone once told me that whatever decision you make is the right one if you are learning and growing as a result. Everyone’s path is unique to them, filled with their own mountains to climb and their own questions to answer. That being said, at the end of it all, the final decision is ultimately always up to you, because you are the one that has to live with it.
“We each move forward secure on our own earth, not the earth of others. Happiness is something we must create for ourselves. No one else can give it to us.” – Daisaku Ikeda