Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finding Myself and a Few Other Things

Although I have only been here for about two months, there are a few things I have discovered during my time here in Spain:

Discovery # 1: I have soooooooo much room to grow as a teacher.

So this is not so much a discovery as it is an affirmation of a sneaking suspicion that I had last year. After getting into my first few courses with my new students I discovered how difficult it is to create lesson plans, execute those lesson plans, and subsequently augment those lesson plans when your kids look at you like what you’re teaching them is the lamest OR the most confusing thing in the world. Having a good amount of resources and teachers to give me pointers at Glendale is dearly missed. All that said, I haven’t exactly bombed in any of my lessons, I’ve just been learning…discovering, if you will, where I need to grow.

Discovery # 2: Money is not everything…not even close…but it’s something

Oh, money. I haven’t had much of it the past 7 years of my life and the bit I have had has belonged (and still does) to the U.S. government. Coming here some things have been difficult throughout the transition process. One of these things has involved the initial lack of income that became ever so apparent each day. I noticed how I have become accustomed to viewing things as guarantees in life…food, comfort, money for leisure, etc. When my budget gets even somewhat close to challenging the “norm” of what I am used to, it’s amazing how both my pride and my perspective are affected. I realize that salad dressings and ice cream are not too high on the priority list when compared to bread and eggs. I am reminded that I need to keep in mind how much money I have for rent when I go out to enjoy a night in the exciting (sometimes pricy) city of Madrid. But still, when I come home that same night and lay in my bed with a blanket and pillow…I know that there is so much that I have to be thankful for and how truly far from poverty I am. As low as my bank account has gotten I have never had to worry about where I was going to sleep that night…or IF I was going to eat rather than WHAT I was going to eat. I think it is so vital to firstly keep in mind what we have been blessed with and secondly to take advantage of where we are and what we have been given. Time is short. Money is fleeting. Life is now.

Discovery # 3: I need Jesus.

Ok, so I’m cheating again. This wasn’t really a discovery either, but I got hit in the face so hard with this when I came here that it had to be mentioned. When people have asked me if I liked being here or not I have answered yes every time. However, that does not mean that the transition has been easy. I have definitely enjoyed so much of this experience already; the people I have met, learning the culture, the (mini) adventures I have gone on inside of Madrid. Again, these things have come tandem with many difficulties as well; the language barrier, making friends, living on a limited amount of money, finding work, learning how to teach, learning my way around the city, figuring out what I’m doing next year…figuring out what I’m doing with my life. Every time I am met with hardship, however, I am reminded that the source of my joy…the reason that I live…my true purpose in life is still right there. I told one of my friends that one of the things that has kept joy in my heart has been knowing that no matter how terrible things go here in Madrid or how few friends I find here, I can be comforted by the fact that I have a home back in Cincinnati. I have friends in the U.S. that I love with all of my heart that would welcome me back and love me. I am comforted by the fact that there is more than the here and now. I always have something to hold on to.
This is magnified one hundred fold when applied to life and my relationship with Jesus. There are many days when I am tired of the routine, tired of being single, tired of looking for an identity or a purpose or a place where I fit in. But, I know that no matter how difficult or tiresome life gets or how lonely and out of place I feel I will always have a home. I will always have someone that loves me. I don’t have to act a certain way. I don’t have to gain approval. I don’t have to earn anything. I am loved. And I am His.

Discovery # 4: Spain is not (probably not) HOME

I have only been here for two months, so I think it’s a bit too early to call this a complete discovery. There are many things about home that I miss. Firstly, I would have to say I miss the comfort. I usually had a nice bed to go home to with big comfortable blankets. I had a television and air conditioning. I had a dryer to dry my clothes on so they were soft and warm instead of dry and itchy when I put them on. When I wanted to find something I’d know where to find it and it was usually close. Here a lot of times I have no idea where to find what I want. I’m not sure if it’s cheaper (and probably is) somewhere else. And, I might have at least a 15 minute walk or a 15 minute metro ride to get there.
Secondly, the other big thing I miss is just accessibility to certain things. There are things like; cranberry juice, Neutrogena products, raisins, peanut butter, Pandora radio, watching the NBA or Football, Skyline Chili, Chipotle…I could go on but for my own sake I need to stop.
Thirdly, of course are the people. One of my faults in life has been not being able to let people go and wanting to fix problems that I can’t fix. Being in a different country has forced me to put the problems of my family and friends in God’s hands where they’re supposed to be, but has also made it harder to deal with when someone I love IS having a tough time. That added to the fact that it’s always hard to make friends initially. I made a few friends fairly quick here, but of course they don’t compare to the relationships I have back home.
All that said I’m not sure if these feelings are just due to the process of moving to another country or if I actually want to be back in the States. I’m not sure just yet…not just yet.

Discovery # 5: I don’t know what I want in life.

So this is something that most people figure out early in life but it’s taken me a while. I know a few things: I know I want to serve Jesus. I know I want to help people. I know I want to be around people I love that love me back. And, I know I want to get married (someday). Other than that, I’m not sure what the heck I want. I have no clue what kind of job I want to do. I have no idea where I want to live. I can’t even figure out if I like some things or not. Take teaching for instance: This is something I’m somewhat good at. I love kids. I would be able to coach. The whole summer break would be an added bonus (I know you hate to hear this one teachers but I can’t deny that it does make it all the more appealing). But still, in the end if I’m being truly honest, I would have to say that it’s not something that I would wake up in the morning and say “I can’t wait to go to work today!” Does this happen? Do people REALLY find jobs that they’re passionate about? If they do, are they just lucky or did they work to get there somehow? I have passions but I have yet to figure out how to mold them into a profession. They’re either not applicable to the workforce or I’m not good enough at them to do them professionally.
But guys, this discovery that I DON’T know what I want was actually a pretty big step. I have been doing the same things for so long (school, working out, hangin out with friends, working whatever job I happened to be working at at the time) that I just assumed that this was what I was supposed to be doing. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but were my time and money and energy being utilized to pursue the things that I ACTUALLY want in life, that I actually will find joy in? I told a friend that it’s not so much that I don’t know what I want…it’s just that I don’t know where 1. What I want. 2. What’s realistic and 3.What God wants meet. So, realizing that I don’t know these things has made me take a step back and look…and think…and pray…and hopefully eventually find myself.