I’ll tell you what…if you are at a point in your life when you feel like a little soul searching is in order, like you are looking for some sort of experience to help you dig a weeeeedle bit deeper into you you really are (or, if you happen to fall in love with someone who lives overseas, this also is a good reason), I recommend uprooting for a short time and plopping yourself in the middle of another country. And no, not England. And not Australia. Another non-English speaking country. Because guess what? You have fears you didn’t know were fears. And your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily extend thousands of miles. And the things you think you’re going to miss aren’t the things you actually miss. Let me explain.
I consider myself a fairly well adjusted, socially comfortable, easy going person. Nothing ever really rattled me. I’ve always used charm and a good healthy grin to do just about anything. (C says I have a certain “voice” I use too…like the syrupy sweet thing…and ya know he may be right, but I can give countless examples of when it’s worked successfully!). But that all changes when you are in a different culture, speaking a different language, where things don’t work the way you’re used to, and the aisles in the grocery stores are all out of wack. Ya know? And therefore, in my crazy head, overcoming these fears and uncertainties and moments of discomfort that are outside my comfort zone? I refer to them as fearless moments and personal victories. Let’s go with FMs and PVs. I’ll elaborate.
The other day, I walked into the Post Office (Correos) in Santander. There were like 50 people and you had to take a number I only had a half hour before class…and I walked in, thought to myself “Good God, what the hell is going on here?” and promptly spun on my heel and walked out. Sounds stupid, right? I am a mature, confident adult. Crowds have never scared me. But when I walked in there, that all changed. I had to buy an envelope, where was I supposed to do that? Before I took a number? And what the hell is the Spanish word for envelope anyway?? I left and went to class. BUT, a couple days ago, I was having an FM and I walked back into the Post Office like I owned the place, found a number, mailed my letter in an envelope that came from there, and was on my way. In like 20 minutes. I walked out of there like I had achieved some level of greatness. Like in Ally McBeal – YES, I totally channel my inner Ally McBeal, she is the bomb diggity – I was playing Barry White in my head. And strutting. WTF?
Another example. I don’t like new gyms. When you see a newbie in a gym, you KNOW – they bump into things and they don’t know how to work machines, and they use improper etiquette and, well, you feel bad for them. I HATE being the gym newbie. Double that when you are going to a gym in a different country where the machines show you things in Spanish and tell you how fast you’re going in kilometers/hour. I got dressed to go the other night, said to myself “Lynne, it’s time, go do your thing.” And when I got there – at the busiest hour of the day – I saw like 35 people in the lobby, did a 180 and decided taking a nice brisk walk would do the trick instead. COME ON. BUCK UP. I of course have since gone back, but seriously…what’s the gym etiquette here? What if you fling sweat on a machine? And can you stay on it for longer than 30 minutes? And what if – GOD FORBID – someone tries to TALK to me???
The first time I tried something on in a store? Pure PV. I asked to try on boots, in Spanish, I joked with the lady working at the store, I bought my boots and I left. The first time I took the train to the city? And bought a round-trip ticket? PV. The first time I was at a bar where I didn’t know the bartender (rarity around here, I tell ya, welcome to small-town Spain) and asked for the check? PV. The first time I went to the grocery store and understood how to weigh the vegetables and that the checkout lady was asking me for my Lupa card (like your Harris Teeter card, or your loyalty card for whatever grocery store you go to)? PV.
And about the things I miss…NOT the things I thought I would miss. Well, not most of them at least. I miss my friends, especially the ones I saw all the time (the ones I didn’t see all the time, I still email/talk to them just as much as I did before…), I miss my roommate, I miss speaking English and understanding what everyone is saying (though this gets better with time, and I am encouraged each time I understand something). I miss Target. I miss feta cheese. I heavily rely on long IM sessions with my cousin, and Skyping with my parents. But what I really miss? My job. You spend 20 years working in a cube and you think dear GOD just get me out of here, and I got out of there and sure enough, I miss it. I miss the routine and the purpose I had. It’s weird, I know I will find all that here, but that’s what I miss the most.
Anyway. I love that I moved. I know there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t do what I did. And that’s totally cool, it’s not for everyone. But for sure it’s a good test of who you really are.