Finding ways to distract my mind from missing Spain and feeling like a failure during the job hunt process, I went to the library for a stroll among the bookshelves. Soon enough (like 2 minutes after walking in), I found myself walking towards the non-fiction section and stopped in the third to last row. World history. Go figured.
A bright tangerine book caught my attention right away. Titled ¨Hannibal and Me¨, this book brought me back to Cartagena (meaning ¨New Carthage¨), Spain, where my history buff side roamed free. I imagined walking on the same road as the Carthaginian General Hannibal was on his way to cross the Alps into Italy. His brilliant strategic and bold mind had shaken the Roman Empire with doubts and fear. It is easy to consider him one of the most successful generals of all time. After all, is there any military triumph more devastating that the Battle of Cannae?
Needless to say, I idolized Hannibal. His boldness, his bravery, his grit. However, after reading this book, I realized that despite his ¨successful¨ accomplishments, Hannibal failed to meet his ultimate objective: to defeat Rome. Therefore, his ¨success¨ that we repeated heard and romanticized about was actually an imposter.
This book has changed a viewpoint forever. It felt like my gleaming glass castle came crashing down. Now Hannibal no longer seemed like a distant idol, but someone relateable: a mere mortal who has accomplished some astonishing things but was also too ambitious and prone to making mistakes. A hero who failed his quest.
But the most important lesson from this book can be found in the very last paragraph. Andreas Kluth wrote:
¨Don´t agonize about success or failure. Just do what you must do as well as you possibly can. In the process you may eventually transcend triumph and disaster. That is how to meet those two imposters.¨
My getaway is that, for now, I must keep applying for the job I would be happy waking up to do while continue saving money working at my old part-time job. Just because I got an interview doesn´t mean it is a ¨success¨, while getting turned down should not be equated to ¨failure¨ either. I will find free time to do what I love: reading, learning new things, researching new travel ideas, planning possible upcoming trips, watching MotoGP, and blogging.
So it seems like a new post about my trip to Cartagena is coming soon, huh?
Four years ago in this very same room, a naive junior just returned from her study abroad summer semester in Spain, wondering how she could make it back there again. The answer was obvious: teach English or get a master´s. Or both.
And so I went.
Last summer, I came back here again with much eagerness to return to Spain after renewing my contract, which has a 2-year limit. I was dying to go back.
And finally here I am again. Without a return plane to ticket booked to Madrid this time.
I picked up where I left off: back at the part-time job I motherfucking hate, living with Mom, sharing a car, looking for something to do in the future, doubting everything.
While battling nostalgia of Spain and searching for a full-time contract, I still also have to remain sane – which actually is the toughest part.
Since I got back, I tried to stay busy. I made a CD of my favorite songs, checked out a book, started going to salsa classes, signed up for online classes…but job searching is so tiring. After applying to 30+ jobs, I have been contacted once and had a phone interview, but they had kept me waiting – for the news… Good or bad, I don´t know.
Lately, I started getting into a lot of travelling vlogs and blogs again just like I did before leaving for Spain. Only this time, the target country is Colombia.
What I will say next is ridiculously silly – at least to a part of the logical me anyway.
Once upon a time, I was younger and more innocent. A few days of flirty exchange of messages from a boy from Medellín were enough for me to go on a date with him, and later going insane over him. The guy had a girlfriend at the time. The nerve.
But once I later (much later) realized that he became single, I approached him but with no luck. I didn´t get what I wanted, so I searched for it from another Colombian guy. And got it. And never looked back at both of them.
Lo and behold, as luck would have it, entered another Colombian – this time from Cali. This one got me good. But of course it is not meant to be as we lead very different lives and so far apart from each other. Still, I am offended by his lack of effort and offer to stay friends. What the hell? F*ck, no.
I hadn´t reply to that ¨let´s continue to be friends¨ message as it had hurt me too much, but at least I got what I wanted for the time that I could – which is not the case with the one from Medellín.
And so I feel like I have an unfinished business with Colombia…especially Medellín.
Before you go on to think that I am planning for a holiday of sex tourism, I would like too say that damn, you´re a quick thinker.
Jokes aside, I think it´s important that I go to Colombia and meet the locals and see them as fellow human beings – not some seductive, smooth-talking creatures that will make me trip over my legs every time. For whatever reason, I think that it will broaden my mind to perhaps stop thinking something along the line of ¨Huh, his accent is beautiful, he says all the right thing, he is one sexy Colombian, I should just bang him already.¨
But knowing me, that will probably happen at least once during the trip. And that´s ok.
I want to stop being so harsh on myself with judgmental thoughts. Right now it is more important than ever to stay optimistic. Beginning tomorrow, I will wake up early, work out, shower, eat healthy, go to my part-time job with a smile, and keep blogging.
Let´s do this all over again, yeah??
I may fall, I may not get up, but I will be crawling til I can start running again.
On this glorious sunny summer day, I escaped the heat by ¨going shopping¨ in a mall not far from home. As I strolled through an accessories store, a little notebook distracted me from lazily glazing over the overabundant amount of little pieces of jewelry. The cover of the notebook was made to look like an envelope. It´s read ¨Letters to My Future Self¨. Inside, the pages are folded and labeled with different prompts… I have to say the design and packaging of this thing is ridiculously attractive, but since I am trying not to spend needlessly, I decided to return to you my old friend (WordPress) and write it out. So here goes:
I never want to forget this… I have recently turned 23 (a few hours ago, to be exact). Considered to be a baby by the elderly, I must say that I have an experienced a sh*t ton of things that not many 20-something´s would have. I have just returned ¨home¨ after 2 years in Spain, the place I actually considered my first home. I never want to forget my time in the Iberian Peninsula. There, I had many, many, maaaaany first´s: apartment, job, night out, night out alone, sex, one night stand, love (?), to name a few. Just 2 weeks before I left, I decided to go dancing alone because why the hell not. My only intention was to dance and nothing more. Of course, when you have no expectations, the men come pouring in. I was only dancing into my second song when I was approached. I danced with the first one for a bit and bid my farewell. Walking away, somebody else asked me to dance. Again, I did so briefly and tried to sneak away again, but he soon found me and asked for another opportunity. His accent was different, I thought, so I decided to have a conversation with him. When I found out he was Colombian, I literally groaned (Shit, not again, the 3rd one), considering I haven´t had the best experiences with the previous two. I knew how it was going to go. He was going to say all the right things and then fade away. I didn´t know that I was going to believe him…let alone fall for him.
This post deserves more than just a mention of someone I spent a few days with. (There will be more on that later as I can´t get him the f*ck out of my head and I´ve got time to kill). However, this particular event has affected my state of mind on this particular moment of my life….
Dear my future self,
By the time you read this, I hope you will be more at ease than I am. Not to worry, I am ¨fine¨. I´m back at home from my f*cking amazing 2 years in Madrid. You´d expect me to die from a heartache since you know that I love Spain SO DAMN MUCH, but I´m actually managing. Those frequent trips I took were to practice how to leave Madrid, so it will be alright.
Life goes on.
I had a great time on the other side of the world, but now it´s over. Rather, it´s time to begin again, to chase a new dreams. Currently, I am transfixed with the idea of living in Miami, but I don´t see that happening soon. I´ve applied for a job down there like 45 days ago at a university but I haven´t heard back… It´s not an ideal job, but I do have compatible qualifications and what I need the most right now is experience. Another job I´ve applied for around the same time period is in Tampa. Now this job would be PERFECT since it has to do with international education and that is what I am all about. However, I still haven´t heard from them either… I am growing more anxious by the minute. And how do I deal with this stress? I applied for more jobs – which I feel is kind of pointless because I would have to possibly wait even longer to hear back from them…but it is better than not doing anything.
Moving back home with Mom is not ideal. I feel like I lost my independence and freedom. Hey, at least there is always food and company.
I am trying my hardest to focus on how I feel in this letter, rather than saying things like ¨Wow, I´m such a loser, look at me¨. No more negative self-labeling. I am giving it my best to find light in these dark times. If anything, I need to be more kind to myself.
Anyway, by the time you read this, I hope you are employed, healthy, and happy. Hopefully, you are reading in Miami…or somewhere warm. I hope you are happy being single, or have found someone who loves and values you – even better than the way that Colombian did. I hope you have moved on. We both know that you and him have always been nearly impossible…even though I would give it a shot – but that doesn´t mean he will. It´s a lot to ask of a guy and it´s too much for you to be hopelessly waiting around for someone who didn´t have the decency to say goodbye but has the nerve to say he knows he will see me again. But if he really is the one…holy shit that would be amazing haha….I doubt it will be easy, though. I think you will thank me later when I finally have moved on 😉 Don´t I deserve so much more?
Who would’ve thought that I’d be one of those terrible bloggers who take too long to post something new.
So quick update: I’m halfway through my second year as a “native English language and cultural assistant”. Life’s fine. Work’s not so good.
Compared to last year, I have 7 more classes per week, which adds up to be 29 in total – anywhere from 1st grade to vocational training. It’s been rough – nearly impossible. I’m always tired and running late.
Just feeling like I’m losing grip of everything… blindly reaching for a string to get out of this deep, dark water.
As for the personal life…meh, it’s fine.
I’ve become very close to my former roommate, who just left the apartment to go back to her home university in the other side of the ocean.
As for the love life, still non-existant like always. Not that it matters, but it’s getting closer to Valentine’s Day so the single awareness is becoming more powerful by the day. The only people hitting on me are either twice my age or a few years younger (keep in mind that I am 22) which I think is gross. But thinking that it’s gross is probably why I should stay single. And if that makes me a horrible person…at least I’m an honest terrible person.
I’m 2 stops away, about to get off the metro so I will sign out now.
I have a feeling I will post again soon. It’s actually making me feel a bit better.
So here I am, back on the hard floor where I used to sit before everything started… Everything being the 10 months in Spain, studying and teaching.
Life is back almost exactly where it was before I left the country. I am undergoing the illusion that what happened in Spain was almost a dream. The people that I met were just mirages that don´t exist now that they are out of sight.
But I´ve managed to keep in contact one person in particular against all the odds…one that I should never have in the first place. Deep down, I knew I was expecting more. Even deeper down, I know I was expecting more from someone who cannot give. If he does, it means that he has another girl´s heart to break.
But things between them didn´t work out and I was the first he reached out to… Only for me to find out – on my own – that they were back together again.
So imagine how I would have felt. Ashamed for lowering my standards of morals and values. Embarrassed for being taken as a second draft. Such a lose-lose situation regardless of whether I get to have him or not.
I´ve done everything right in life. Educated, polite, hard-working, open-minded… And yet there has been no luck in my love life. None. At all.
As much as I hate the society for imposing the need to be in a relationship, I could not help but wonder why I have yet to have a boyfriend…. It seems like having one would be validating for my attractiveness and character. Acknowledging that makes me hate myself even more. Who the fuck needs validation from some man? Get your shit together.
Which brought me here for the challenge from the book Self-Love: the 21-Day Challenge by Ingrid Lindberg…
The first challenge is to answer whether or not I love myself…
The answer is:
Sure, I have some positive aspects. I´m pretty good-looking with a voluptuous and just-right slightly toned body. I have a master´s degree from Spain and my work ethics brought me here. I love my roots, coming from a economically-challenged household from a third-world country. I love my values and determination, as well as the acceptance that I am unique but not better than anyone with less education, money, and good looks, among other things. However, I hate that I try to please people too much and the amount of love, care, and attention is never reciprocated. Despite being busy as fuck during grad school, I still made room to see someone -only to stood around for 30 minutes for a date that never happened. I hate myself for still speaking with him after that but never addressing the fact that he was a no-show. I hate myself for still wanting to see him after knowing I was lied to, that he was not in a committed relationship. I hate myself for looking forward to seeing him again. I hate myself that I kept another guy around pretending it was a platonic interest and getting rejected and neglected again. Second blow and I would still do everything to keep them both in my life. I hate that all of this shit happened in the past few months and it made me question whether I was a good person with high moral values that I thought I was. What I hate the most is that I am so clouded to even know how to fix this problem and know what my next move should be- or if I should even make a move at all.
Uff. That was rough.
Day 1 ended with the author saying that most people would not answer with a straight ¨Yes.¨
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.