March 25th marked my 5 month moveaversary to Madrid, Spain. It’s been a while since I’ve written. Life had gotten so hectic but so good these past few months. I had been working at my school, tutoring kids, enjoying Madrid, and traveling. Since mid-December I’ve been to Hungary, Austria, Morocco, Ireland, England, Poland, and Germany. I had friends from home visit me to see my new city. I started finding my neighborhood spots. I was looking forward to more travel, picnics, and rooftop happy hours when the weather got warmer. Then, coronavirus hit Spain and changed my new life in ways that I never could have pictured. Future trips to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, and Oslo got cancelled. My new friends that I had made moved back home. I started missing the city I live in and the people and kids I work with. It felt like not only the city had shut down, but also a big part of me had as well.
The start of my quarantine wasn’t pretty. To be honest, for the first 3 weeks I moped. The first week was tolerable because it was new. I enjoyed being able to sleep in a bit, savoring my morning coffee, watching Netflix, and living a stress-free life. My roommates kept me sane and as each day went by, we got weirder and weirder. The second week is when things really started changing. My friends were thinking about moving back to the United States. Spain enforced fines if we left our apartments for non-essential reasons. I was hesitant to go to the store for groceries. My family felt farther away than before, with one parent in India, one parent in Arizona, and my sister in California (don’t even get me started on the confusing time zones). I found myself, an active person who likes being busy, without a set schedule and things to do. I really struggled. I kept thinking about all of the things that I could do once this lockdown is over and then would get upset because the family I had made here was gone. I realized that no matter when this lockdown is over, my life here would be different.
Dealing with the loss of freedom and the loss of my friends was (and still is) a big thing. I also started questioning my own reasons for being here and reflecting on everything I went through last year to get to the place (literally) I am now. It was hard…health issues, quitting my job, leaving my friends and family, moving twice, getting rid of my possessions, and other random obstacles all made for quite the journey. Since this lockdown started, I’ve had a very circular thought process:
- I miss Madrid, travel, work, and my friends
- Don’t worry, once this lockdown is over, you can go back to your life
- Oh wait, life won’t be the same because your friends are gone and your school is most likely closed. Who knows when we can travel normally? If you go see your family, can you come back to Spain?
- What am I even doing here in Madrid if I won’t enjoy my life here?
- You did enjoy life here and you can try to start over, it’s not the end of the world
- How many times in your life will you start over? Don’t you want some stability?
- Look how great the last time you started over was…you love Spain and the first 5 months you had here
- Go back to step 1
I needed to get out of my funk…desperately. I forced myself to set some goals – how can I come out of this a better person with a better outlook? I started by enrolling in the Science of Well-Being, a free, online course led by Yale Professor Laurie Santos. The course discusses what things we perceive as making us happy and what actually makes us happy. So fitting. When I enrolled in this course, I knew I had to follow through with it so I told myself I would do it on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Once I started this routine, I realized I missed being active (and exercise is one of the things that make us happy) so I started doing some at-home workouts led by my friend and fitness instructor, Sarika. Just these two activities helped me focus on things that I still had. I started doing more for my school, tutoring for the kids I missed via video chat, continuing Spanish lessons via a tutor, reading a few chapters of my book every day, and also enrolling in other courses (I miss the marketing world!!). Now, as I am wrapping up my 5th week of quarantine, I am slowly getting out of my funk. I rediscovered my passion for reading (who reads 77% of a 400+ page book in one day?). I feel stronger from working out consistently. I feel more fulfilled from seeing the kids I teach and focusing on learning Spanish. I’m enjoying the sunny days when I can listen to music on my balcony. I am trying to be optimistic about my future here in Spain.
I still have moments (okay, hours) when I mope. I tried organizing my Google Photos and clearing up some storage space on my phone and that hurt. Seeing people and memories from Spain and New York remind me of how much I miss my “normal” life. Video chatting with my friends helps bring some normalcy to my days. It takes effort, but I remind myself of two things 1) Some people are in way worse situations than I am in – practicing gratitude every day has become key for me, even if it’s just the 10 minutes I spend drinking my morning coffee 2) I am not alone; everyone is struggling
I had a good conversation with one of my friends from undergrad. He said that he believes that everything that happens for a reason, whether positive or negative. The answer is never “no”. It’s always “yes”, “not yet”, or “something better”. While this wasn’t the experience I wanted for my first months in Spain, I am so hopeful that “something better” is in store for this journey.