The first time I really, like really really, left my comfort zone was when I came to Madrid, about 4 months ago. I was 21 years old, not set on any specific life plan, but with one dream that I still hold: To avoid mediocrity. And up until that point, I would unfortunately have had to call my life mediocre.
But one dream I had was to live in Spain. I don’t know why I picked Spain – it was a country God had put on my heart when I was young and I fell in love with the culture when I was a kid. Well, I fell in love with the idea of the culture when I was a kid; I didn’t fall in love with the actual culture until a few months ago. And honestly, I don’t even know if I’m in love yet. It’s more of one of those will-they-won’t-they gray area relationships. And you know what comes with those kinds of flings – the highest highs, and the lowest lows.
Anyway, let’s get back to how I got here: Had the dream. After College decided to go after the dream. Did un MONTÓN of research. Applied to a Masters program. Didn’t tell my parents. Not for a while at least. Yup. Just paid the application fee and waited to hear. And waited. And waited. And waited.
I prayed and I prayed trying to see if this was the right move for me and my intuition finally told me that if I got in, it was right to go.
And I got in.
I was so excited at first, I called all my friends to tell them the good news and I finally told my parents the whole story. As I explained to them that I wanted to move to a country, 6 time zones away, some where I have never been before, to go to school and teach English, I’m sure they either thought I was crazy, or they thought it was a typical Beth dream. Most likely, they thought both. After discussing logistics, we decided we’d reconvene to talk about it again the next night.
But.. the next morning, I sent in my deposit.
Luckily, my parents are, although logical, always supportive. And with very little money in my pocket, I started getting ready to move to Madrid.
I spent the entire summer excited, looking at places to live, reading articles about what its like to live in Spain’s capital, and trying to figure out my very, very small budget. Every once in a while I had a doubt about my financial and emotional ability to leave behind everything I’ve ever known and everyone I’ve ever cared about to go live out a childhood dream. But I quickly pushed the fear back as day by day, things kept falling into perfect place. I kept telling my mom that I knew God wanted this for me. And I truly felt that was true.
Until the week before I left. I remember thinking I was crazy. That I wouldn’t be successful. That I had to quit before I even started. I remember crying on the couch, balling my eyes out to my mom, my biggest support system that I would soon be miles and miles away from.
“I can’t go, mom”. I said it. And as the words came out, I honestly felt it. After a long pause, she looked at me and in the typical mom voice, I heard, “Well, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to, Beth.”
Ouch. Okay – to be honest, Mom, I was kind of expecting like a pep talk. A little “don’t worry! You can do it!”. But nope. Mom was just being brutally honest. And looking back it was what I needed to hear, because it made me realize that deep down I really did want this. And it was just my fear that was holding me back.
And now I could go into some good quotes from Bruce Lee and Will Smith and others about fear and courage and all that good stuff. But you pretty much get it.
And that’s not to say it hasn’t been hard here. Dealing with the bureaucracy. Broken metros on my first day. The language barrier. The six hour time difference from a majority of my support system. Masters classes and teaching every day. Broken phone. Getting hit by a motorcycle. Breaking my thumb. Hosting guests in our small apartment. Spending my first birthday away from my family. Yea, let’s just say I cried a lot. (And shout out to EVERY single friend and family member that answered my Facetimes KNOWING there was going to be a tear-stained face on the other side.)
But looking back on these past four months, no amount of tears can take away from the things I have learned. No amount of bruises and broken bones can compare to the ways I have grown. No misspoken sentences or feeling of shame can dismiss the gratefulness I have for the friends I have made thus far. For the smiles on my students’ faces when I walk in the classroom. For the support I’ve gotten from the other teachers. For the drinks bought, metro lines memorized, nights out, Milka chocolate bars eaten, and everything in between.
So I guess I will add one of those cheesy quotes, because whoever said that “Nothing amazing happens in your comfort zone” was completely right. Because in my comfort I would have never had the millions of amazing experiences I’ve had here. None of the crazy nights, and lazy days with new friends. None of the cool stories and new vocabulary. None of the above-averageness.
I’m looking forward to another full semester of late nights writing my thesis, missed metros, and miscommunication. Because I know all of it is bringing me right where I’m supposed to me and it is all shaping me in to the person I’m meant to be.
But first, I’m looking forward to seeing all of the people that I love back at home for Christmas.
P.S – I’m going to try my best not to be someone who goes abroad and talks about it all the time, so keep following my posts, I’ll be posting some pics and highlights from first semester! (And hopefully I’ll keep my shit together long enough to post timely next year 🙂 )