Living Abroad,  Thriving

Accepting My Own Journey (Dani)

Dear Alex,

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity and how it sometimes makes me feel dishonest to write about immersing in the culture and making the most of your abroad experience when I question if I, myself, am doing that. It’s hard to talk about the importance of practicing your language skills and adapting to local customs when I’m at a point in my life in which I’m not necessarily prioritizing those things. It’s easy to get down on myself and wonder if I can really be an authority on “thriving” in the current state of a mess that I feel like.

How well can I navigate others when I feel lost myself?However, this back-and-forth inside my head has also led me to think about an article I wrote quite a while back on accepting others’ journey and not jumping to conclusions about what other people SHOULD be prioritizing, consequently judging those whose paths and/or objectives are different from ours. It’s funny—it’s easy for me to reach that point of recognition and kindness and compassion towards others…but not so much towards myself.

I’m gonna just get personal: It’s been a beautiful but difficult, strange but meaningful year for me. I feel as though last year I had these lofty goals (namely starting Sincerely, Spain, getting my own apartment, and going full-time with my online work) that felt huge and unattainable at the time, but that I then managed to do by the end of last summer. So much of my thoughts and energy from the beginning of 2017 went into making those big changes a reality and then into settling into them in the second half of 2017 that now there’s a part of me that wonders if, now that those goals have been accomplished, I’m just stagnating, unsure of what my next great feat should be.

It's hard to feel 'together' emotionally when this is what your life looks like.This first half of 2018 has been spent entrenched in the house-hunt process at a whole new level, as my boyfriend was looking to buy his own apartment here in Granada so we could move in together. While we weren’t necessarily looking at different apartments for months on end, the process was drawn out and tiring and I know it has taken a toll on my energy levels, my ganas to be social, and therefore my friendships. Everyone has been incredibly understanding but it’s still hard to feel “in limbo” for months (we’ve literally been at least partially in boxes since mid-April) and to still try to hold on to a semblance of normalcy.

I feel tired all the time. I feel stressed at the most inconsequential things. I keep hoping that life will throw me a bone and somehow there will be one completely free day to relax and not stress about any of the “things I am not accomplishing” in order to take that rest. It’s very hard to silence that egoic voice, perhaps especially hard when you lack a clear division of work and home because you work remotely. All of the wonderfully motivating people I listen to (both through podcasts, blogs, and my real life) preach about the importance of “filling up your cup” before you can expect yourself to do for others effectively. I know this is true. And yet, I keep pushing my limits.

I push because I don’t think it’s fair to take off nearly a year to “fill up my cup.” You can’t just keep making excuses and taking rain-checks and expect your friends to still be there at the end of it when you finally feel up for investing in the friendship. That’s not how relationships work. However, I’m struggling to approach the situation in any other way. I keep trying to prioritize and make time for at least one or two social engagements a week (which I enjoy very much at the time) but then the day or two after feel that I’ve made things harder as I recognize how much more I have to “catch up on,” looking around my new house and being reminded of the state of limbo I’ve still yet to escape from. How many times have Claudia and I laughed about how “next week I should have more time” but that kind of “next week” never comes?

However sometimes I do need to just stop and do nice things for myself.So yes, I’ll admit that I haven’t been practicing my Spanish as much as I would like lately. I’ll admit that I haven’t been hanging out with as many friends or taking advantage of all the things my city has to offer. I haven’t been making an effort to meet new people or step outside my comfort zone lately. However, I also feel that I need to stop the negative self-talk about that making me a hypocrite. I DO value all of these things. I DO want you to challenge yourself and to make the most out of your time in Spain because it may be brief and fleeting and you’ll want to know that you got everything out of it that you possibly could.

At the same time, I feel like I’m going through a new sort of three-month-feeling type of crisis. In a few months, I’ll be coming up on three years straight of living in Spain and I think there’s a level of frustration and adaptation that comes along with that, too. My honeymoon period has definitely worn off. Spain is no longer a shiny new fascination in my life, but rather my ‘normal.’ This is my home and so I feel like it’s okay that sometimes I have to treat my home as my sanctuary, not my opportunity to jump out of my comfort zone at every possible opportunity (the way I would have when I thought I would only have those 5 months of studying abroad here). It’s okay that I’m not going out on a limb to go to intercambios and strike up conversation with new people because I don’t even feel able to dedicate my time and energy to the relationships I have—it would be self-sabotaging to try to create more at this moment.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m simply in a new stage of my journey. It’s a stage in which I’ve needed to do a lot of introspection and, in the wise words of a dear friend who left me a voice message the other day, “take a season to go inward.” I’ve needed to prioritize other facets of my life and to invest in things like the home and future that I’m building with my boyfriend. I’ve never been this deep into a relationship before and this stage of staying in the same city for so long is not something I’ve ever done before either. It’s simply a part of my journey that I’m unfamiliar with and therefore it feels a bit overwhelming.

Thankfully, beach season is upon us!I’m aware that I may be doing things differently these days and that that ‘different’ may not even be the way that typical Dani would label as ‘right.’ However, we are all works-in-progress and so it is unfair to assume that what was ‘right’ for us one year ago, five years ago, etc is still going to be ‘right’ at this moment. I’m figuring things out and working through new challenges the best way that I know how to. I may be slipping a bit in terms of practicing my Spanish and being involved in the local community but my retreat from that is not something I want long-term, it is simply the way I’ve subconsciously identified to save a bit of energy to invest where I need it most at this moment.

And that will change. It always does. And I’m feeling especially confident in that fact because the summer is upon us and I always feel a new sense of lightness and rejuvenation at this time of year in which I can spend time in the sun, sand, and water. Those simple elements bring me back to my basics and remind me everything is going to be okay. My journey is a process; it’s ongoing and often unpredictable. However, this is where my journey is leading me right now and for that reason I know it is right and wonderful.


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