Six months and a few days ago, I arrived in Spain with a dream. In a sense, it was a dream of self-discovery, culture exploration, and adventure in a very personal sense of the word. In short, I was terrified. However, I have learned that being terrified is not a bad thing, per se, but a normal reaction to the unknown, and a lesson I will learn many more times in my life before this party is over. As I look over my experiences in the last six months, I am astonished at how much I have accomplished and grown to make my dream of living in another country a reality.
More deeply than anything else, I feel a deep sense of wonder when I wake up every morning in another country where so much is new to me. Yesterday, I actually had my first in-depth phone conversation in Spanish, which is a major accomplishment when talking on the phone in another language is incredibly difficult. I am more confident in reaching out, asking people for advice, and living in a community. I take long walks and bike rides and continually see new things. I take advantage of opportunities to go places, meet people, and have conversations that I may not have done in the past. While I know I have a long way to go, I am pleased with my progress in these last six months to be an international citizen.
When friends ask me if I have visited that city or country, my response is, “Not yet!” That’s actually a good mantra for now, because it implies the openness of the future.
I am moving steadily forward with my PhD, even though there are challenges and points of confusion, including the retirement of my dissertation chair and the search for an organization to participate in my study. Some days are better than others, but I am choosing to accentuate the progress, not the frustration.
I do occasionally get work from a company back in the states, which is a welcome addition to my bank account. I am thankful for the opportunity to work online, and glad that I have made connections in my past that have yielded fruit in my life here.
What is the price for such a life change? In a more immediate sense, it is exhausting to think in other languages for such long periods at a time. Thankfully, my friend Melina warned me about this, and I am coping with how I feel after hanging out with Spanish friends for long periods of time. In the longer term, being away from friends and family is difficult, and there is no way around that distance. Technology, like Google+ Hangout and Skype can help, but the distance is still there.
Overall, the balance is positive. I am accomplishing a life dream, and that feels great! Henry David Thoreau said it well: “If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”