Over the last year and a half, I’ve been toying around with a desire that many young people have: to move abroad and teach in another country. About six months ago, I stopped dreaming about it. I decided I wouldn’t be one of those people looking back in their 50’s and 60’s thinking, ‘Wow, why didn’t I take more risks when I had the chance?’ On Wednesday, I hop on a United flight to Madrid, Spain, to begin my 25th year with a new continent’s worth of risks and chances.
My situation feels particularly insane. This is not only my first time in Spain, but my first time in Europe. The next few months are going to be nothing but firsts: my first time navigating a foreign airport, my first time negotiating a phone plan, my first time living in a place where the primary language spoken isn’t English. Luckily, I’ll be living with another American who will be experiencing all of these firsts along with me. Having someone else with whom to navigate unchartered waters, commit numerous social faux pas, and butcher the Spanish language definitely puts me a bit more at ease.
Still—this probably won’t come as a surprise— I am terrified. I like to think anyone in their right mind would be. Back in August, I sat hunched on my bed at 2 am, manically scrawling out my fears into my composition book.
It’s Hitting Me
The magnitude of what I’m about to do is hitting me with the force of an eighteen-wheeler. I am not even close to prepared for this next year. I am in full fight or flight mode twenty-eight days before I leave. My cuticles and lips are under siege; my picking is at its all-time worst. My cuticles are no longer tiny separate pulses—I feel shock waves in my lower arms.
You can barely manage work responsibilities at home and you want to take your neurotic brain to Spain? You are fucking LOCO, chica. You wanted adventure, exploration, excitement. You wanted to feel alive again after the cripplingly lonely drifting nowhereness of this year. You wanted to get as far away from it as possible. Well, in one month, you might as well have moved to Jupiter. You’ll be an alien. In trying to pull away from the black hole in your own solar system, you hurtled into another solar system’s supermassive black hole. Get ready to experience chaos on a level beyond what you previously thought possible.
I am now just five days away from moving. As I sit amongst the Tide Pods, the multiple bottles of half empty Advil and Ibuprofen, and the jars of Jif peanut butter scattered on my floor (which is astronomically expensive in Spain for some reason; since it makes up about a third of my diet, the thought of not being able to eat it for a year is inconceivable and just not an option), my mom’s words from a few months back come to me:
“You’re struggling to make it here and you want to move to a foreign country?”
As much as I can’t stand her sometimes, there is something about my mom’s bluntness—always as delicate as a stab wound to the gut—that is admirable. She did not say this to be mean. My mom is genuinely concerned for my well-being. She’s seen me leave my keys in the door because my mind already finished the task of getting into the house. She’s had to zip up my purse and button its pockets because I leave them wide open when I’m out. She knows I miss appointments because getting up in the morning is so difficult for me that setting three alarms does no use.
Then I think back to what she said to me before I left for college, when I was far more reliant on her help:
“How are you going to get by without me?”
Guess what? I got by.
Not always easily, I should add, but I did. And sometimes I did just to spite her words, make her choke on them. I am going to prove her, and everyone else who is looking at me with raised eyebrows and cynical expressions, wrong. Even with my deficits and dysfunctions, I am leaving on the 12th, and I’m going to do more than just get by. I’m going to live.
For now, I am signing off. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ramblings of my black hole mind.
P.S. I PROMISE this is not going to become a travel-themed blog. However, I may make posts from time to time discussing my mental health during this huge transition. I also think others would be interested to read about what it’s like to move to another country when you have mental health issues and the mental health care system in Spain (e.g., how psychiatrists compare to the U.S., differences in prescription costs, etc.).