Self-Love, Self-Doubt, & Madrid

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Calle Fuencarral, August 2015

Despite being the studious kind, I avoid taking all things seriously (besides school, of course) – even when it comes to entertainment. I hate watching ¨serious¨ movies, especially drama, horror, or mystery ; but when I do watch them, they often belong to the light-hearted, endorphin-inducing rom-coms with happy endings.

One of my most favorite is Casanova (2005) starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller. It has all the elements that I find attractive: a bit of romance, comedy, history, and imagination. It´s not a surprise that I have watched this film over and over again, enough times to quote lines without a second thought.

Of course, verbatim and comprehension are two very different things. I´ve never really understood one particular quote, but those few words memorized me and often ring inside my mind with the scene of the leading female delivering the line with an air of effortless confidence and pride.

¨Self-love is self-doubt.¨

(Spoiler alert: Francesca asked a man whom she thought to be a philosopher and friend of Casanova to deliver Casanova this message. Little did she know that she was speaking to the infamous Casanova himself).

But what does this even have to do with Madrid? Well, allow me to backtrack.

The first time I stepped foot in Madrid was in June 2014, right before heading off to Málaga for a summer semester abroad. I was about to turn 20 years old, so imagine… Young, reckless, impulsive, you name it. It was the first time that I felt completely free. No one knew my name nor where I came from. Those who knew such information did not know where I really was. I was just another face in the busy streets, lost in the crowd. I was free.

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First picture taken on foot in Spain – Gran Vía, June 25th, 2014

This first affair with Madrid was cut short, but I was determined to come back. There was something about the city…something inexplicable. No, it does not have jaw-dropping, UNESCO-approved sights, but the city felt alive to me. We had something special and Madrid grinned knowingly that one day I will be running back into her arms.

That day was last September, when I started graduate school and a teaching internship. I landed towards the end of August 2015 and stayed in a quaint hotel in Sol – the most central and touristy neighborhood possible. My first five hours were spent on foot, exploring the familiar sights, hearing the familiar sounds, and breathing the hot summer air with hopes of catching the smell of that same damn popular masculine cologne whose name I still have yet to know (and determined to find out soon).

Aug 20
Gran Vía, August 20th 2015

To say I felt at home would not do it justice. No, I had a home…and Madrid was so much better than that. There, I was liberated from the given identity and all attachments from the past. I was a blank slate, open and ready to fully absorb new sights and sounds of the present moment. Nothing else mattered. Every new experience was between me and Madrid.

Sept 7
My refuge, pictured on September 7th, 2015

A few days later, I was settled in. I found a roof over my head and a street to claim as my own. It did not take long to become accustomed to my new way of life: how to use the metro, where to get the groceries, the best place to go shopping, etc. etc. I could go anywhere and do anything however and whenever I felt like without the fear of getting lost. Have I ever lost my bearing at the beginning? Yes, countless times, but I didn´t care. Not knowing where I was is just Madrid´s spontaneous way of showing me her hidden corners that became our secret spots that never fail to amaze me. Despite losing my ways, I was always confident that I could get back on track somehow – and I have always had. It was the most empowering experience that made me value and love myself more than anything.

Not only do I love Madrid, but I love who I have become in Madrid. I love how the city made me feel the way I felt. Calm, confident, carefree yet calculative. My self-love had never been that intense before…and in the back of my mind, it made me think about the haunting quote from a freaking movie that wasn´t even historically accurate.

Is self-love equal to self-doubt?

And if it is…what´s wrong with that?

May 2
Reflecting on the floor of Plaza de la Villa on May 2nd, 2016

Yes, I am full of self-doubt. I often question who I was, and that person is someone who has always strived to be someone she was told to be. If so, was my existence even relevant, then? Also, I doubt my strengths, but also my weaknesses, questioning if those things define who I really am or if the ¨strengths¨ are truly strengths and the ¨weaknesses¨ are really weaknesses. I doubt my skills and abilities, and often seeking improvement despite knowing that at some point chasing the impossible perfection will cease to become productive, and, therefore, pointless. I wonder how who I was in the past and who I am in the present will shape who I will be in the future. I doubt if I put too much care and emphasis into becoming the distinguished individual when I really am just like all the rest? Aren´t we all the same of flesh and blood?

Asking these self-doubt questions is important. Some people have gone a lifetime without questioning anything. I refuse to live my life as a being who wakes up, eats, and works, only to go to sleep just to wake up to repeat the same mindless routine again at the sound of an alarm clock.

I want to chase my passions, and even that perfection that I know does not exist. I want to see the invisible, hear the silence, taste the sounds, and smell the colors. I want to do certain things just because ¨me dan las ganas¨. I want to walk the opposite direction of the partying night owls going home early in the morning. I want to sit on the floor in an empty plaza at midnight. I want to be a nameless shadow tiptoeing in a tranquil street at 4 o´clock in the morning. I want to be me and I want to be able to love who I am…and I can do that best in Madrid.

If self-love is self-doubt, so be it.

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Gazing upon the Cuatro Torres from Chamartín station after arriving from an out-of-town trip at night on a spring day, 2016
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