I’m caught between two equally real but very different feelings. I reminded myself today that this is a study on an aspect of being human, and I want to take “field notes” on this platform of the different thoughts and feelings that happen while traveling. It’s vulnerable, but it’s what I want right now.
First, I had a real taste of what life is going to be like here on a normal basis. Today I had three classes in a row that are all two hours long. They would’ve been fine, but I’m definitely sick after that week of travel so it was really difficult to be comfortable and focused on learning the whole time. I don’t feel well at all, but I think the sickness will hopefully pass quickly, and I’m going to a doctor tomorrow (fun fact: you can actually buy prescription medicines over the counter here, but I obviously need to know what to get).
I survived all of my classes. In my lengua class, I found that it was actually almost too easy for me. I might see if I can switch to a more difficult level, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to or if I want to put in the effort to be honest. My next class was Spanish literature, and that class is definitely more challenging. I’m really excited already. Today we learned that there are three major movements in Spanish literature, and we’re going to study mainly the first two I believe. My third class is Spanish culture, which I took briefly during the intensive two weeks, so I already knew most of what we talked about today. That class is okay, but I’m not the biggest fan of the professor. I just hope it’s easier to take over an actual semester as opposed to two short weeks, and I imagine it will be.
After classes, I came home to paella and stuffed myself with it and my favorite fruit here. Then I napped, read, and then got to go help my host mom’s seven year old granddaughter learn English. That was easily the highlight of my entire day. I was very nervous to go do it, as I normally am for anything new and possibly uncomfortable, but I knew it’s something the person I want to be would do and I am so glad I went. She was so sweet, it was fun, and it’s great experience for learning to teach people English as a second language. Plus, I get to work on my Spanish too while I’m trying to help her understand concepts! I’m excited to learn from today and plan ideas for next time, as I’ll keep helping her once a week. Despite being tired and sick, I enjoyed this so much and am so glad I didn’t let anything get in the way of me going. I’m still wearing the sparkling silver “H” sticker she gave me on my left hand.
Now for my second feeling: I don’t even know if I can explain it, but I want to because I want to understand it myself. I just don’t feel settled. I’m sure people reading this think it sounds silly because I just moved to a new country and have been traveling nonstop for eight days and returned to that new country, and they’re probably right. But I think that’s important to point out because I don’t think people really consider this that often. Trying to find yourself while traveling is interesting because it’s a whole new thing. It’s weird to have everything that supports you and helps you feel like yourself—work, school, friends, family, routine, home—taken away all at once and to still be expected to function and behave exactly as you did before. Maybe people don’t expect that; some expect you to change for the better, and that’s a fair supposition and obviously what to hope for. But admit, it is weird to have all that stripped away and no one really talk about what it’s like to have to find and keep yourself immediately after something so drastic. It’s like the first time riding a bike without training wheels. All the support is taken away, but you’re expected to ride the same. It feels like I’ve been thrown out of nest and expected to fly, and I don’t know why it’s taken me almost four weeks to figure that out.
Perhaps I tried to fit in and be okay too fast when I first came and wasn’t letting myself be honest about how unsettled I really felt. Maybe coming “home” from a week of vacation to a place that is wonderful but isn’t really home yet is what made me realize it. Or maybe I’ve just been going for this long expecting to feel settled or at least comfortable being uncomfortable and I don’t, at least not wholly. Regardless, it isn’t an excuse for not being true to oneself or falling into a person you don’t want to be. I think I really just want to point out that traveling like this, with no one I know and nothing familiar, really puts the pressure on to figure out who I am without anything or anyone who normally holds me up and makes me feel secure or comfortable. I am entirely responsible for being myself and figuring out who I want that self to be. I have nothing to fall back on here and no expectations from anyone. I also have an entire world of opportunity and possibility. Right now, I’m doing my best to find the things that make me happy and to really consider what I want for myself and the attitudes I want to have in life. I have to be honest with myself because I’m all I have, and that will always be true at the end of the day. I also have to be honest with myself because that’s the only way I’m ever going to feel satisfied with this life and how I’ve spent it.