So, life has pretty much settled in here in Madrid. I do still experience some new things here and there and when I am explicitly reminded that I am actually living in Spain right now, I get all juiced up, but overall, life has become life. That is not to say that I am getting bored or otherwise dissatisfied with my experience, but instead, that I am actually beginning to feel like I am living a life here and not just visiting.
Moving to a new place is hard. When I moved to Memphis, I was going into the most vibrant and easily accessible social scene that exists, a college campus. I dealt with a bit of the transitional woes that always come with moving to a new spot, but that transition was one that was facilitated by several factors both in and out of the university that helped to soften the blow. When I moved to Chicago, I spent almost a year trying to get settled. While working the equivalent of two whole work weeks in just one calendar week, I hadn't much time to go out and make friends or otherwise acclimate to my new surroundings. I socialized every once in a while, and I did make some friends (and some lasting ones at that), but it took the better part of a year for me to really feel at home.
So far in Madrid, I cannot say that I feel "at home," but I do feel settled to a large degree. I have figured out my routine, gotten to know the city, spent ample time with my students, and made some friends along the way. I am no longer nervous about going to the grocery store and having to talk to the clerk. I rarely have to guess as to what exactly it is that I am ordering off of a restaurant menu. And, I can navigate the train system in my sleep.
Somehow, in only two months, I really feel as though I am living my life here and not just treading water with my head barely high enough so as not to drown. Perhaps it is the fact that I have more free time than I have had in years. Or, maybe its that I don't really have the daily stresses of a normal life. Or, it could be that work requires little effort, and well, thats really my only responsibility, if you can call it that. I have no idea what it is, but I do know that this will not last forever. I also know, however, that I should cherish it while it does. Few people get to take a pause from life and actually live. Now, obviously, every day of my life here is not particularly exciting. I mean, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, and going to bed is not exactly the plot line of a riveting summer blockbuster. But, its the lack of stress accompanied by the intermittent spurts of excitement that make life here enjoyable. In my spare time, I read the news online, watch some TV online, or plan my next excursion. Sometimes I will call a friend, go for a walk, or take a nap, just because I can. I play English games with my students, shoot basketball with them on the playground, and then take a 2.5 hour lunch break to do as a please. Oh yea, and did I mention that I don't work on Fridays?
I am still not as confident in my Spanish abilities as I would like to be, partly due to the fact that I don't really speak it all that much. That might surprise you, considering where I live, but if you really think about it, it makes sense. I work in English all day because my job is to teach it. I live in an apartment with 3 other people whom I rarely ever see (which means we don't really talk), and meeting Spanish people is like building a skyscraper with play-doh, which is to say borderline impossible. I have a few Spanish acquaintances, and relatively often I get to have good conversations with Spaniards by way of social gatherings or things of the like. But, I would not say that I am completely immersed in the language in my daily life. My Spanish skills have definitely improved since I have been here, and I know that as time goes on, I will meet more people and get more chances to practice; however, after two months, the process is a bit slower than expected.
The only real question looming over my head that might cause me stress in the coming months is what to do next...? I have to decide if I want to do this program again by March. If I decide yes, then the problem is solved and I will be living in Spain for another year. But, if I decide no, then the real questions begin. I have at least a trillion ideas as to what I would like to do with myself and no real way of prioritizing them. I have thought about going back to school in the States or going back to school abroad, but either way, what would I study? I could move back to Tennessee, or back to Chicago, or to another place in the US, but where? There is also the exciting prospect of moving somewhere else in Europe or even somewhere else in the world altogether. I could get a job at a ski resort (I know, random, but I have actually thought about this one). I could stay here and get a random job doing something else in Spain, or I could try to work for Teach For America or the Harlem Children's Zone...and the list goes on. The point is, I have no clue what I want to do after this. Heck, I don't even know what I am going to do this afternoon. But, oh well, if there is one thing that I am learning it is that it will all work itself out. I am not going to allow myself to get stressed out about something that I cannot control at this moment. Worrying about the future would force me to stop enjoying the present so much, and I am not really willing to let that happen. When decision time comes, I will choose, and if I don't like my decision, I will choose again. I think its pretty obvious by now that I am not going to really follow the traditional life path, so choosing and then choosing again and then choosing again doesn't really frighten me. For now, I am going to focus on savoring every moment of the present while looking forward to the immediate future. I will be traveling to Málaga, Spain during the first week of December. Then, I will be off to Amsterdam for Christmas and Geneva, Switzerland and the French Alps for a skiing adventure in early January. After that, well, who cares? Its too far away to matter at this point.