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The Inevitable Freak-Out Moment: Spain, or “Real Life”?


Feigning discomfort in Paris, feeling real discomfort now!

It’s not unlike me to have these occasional “what am I doing with my life?” moments. It’s happened much more now that I’m in my 20s than it ever did when I was a teenager, which doesn’t make it any easier, because aren’t we supposed to know more about the world by this point? However, now the stakes seem to be much, much higher.

This past year I spent my time living, working, and traveling throughout Spain. Madrid was home, where I had my ups and downs. Around January, I decided I would enjoy the remainder of my time there and head home at the end of the school year. I decided that it was time to move on after Madrid, but as the impending departure date neared, I started to question my decision to leave for good.

It happens, right? Well, once I got home, I experienced some post-travel depression. That’s right; I couldn’t believe I was home, and it started to make me miserable. Though I knew I had to return at some point for more school, for a stable job, or something with a better sense of routine, I questioned myself so thoroughly that I even managed to secure a second job in Madrid.

Yes, you read correctly – a job in Madrid, for this upcoming year. I thought I was done with Spain, but I’m currently in the process of assembling my visa requirements. This has done nothing to calm my nerves over where my future lies – if anything, it’s stressed me out even more.

I know that to the outsider, it seems insane that a 23 year old would question whether or not “there’s enough time” to spend another year traveling and working abroad, but I’m doing just that. And it’s not because I don’t want to travel anymore – it’s the opposite, I do, clearly,ย and will never stop – it’s that I can’t really imagine settling down yet. Or, more appropriately, I see this as an opportunity to get out into the “real world” again rather than being stuck in my hometown, which makes me sadder than sad.

I’m stuck in a limbo phase. I’m gearing up for another move to Madrid, and considering the fact that it’s possible I won’t come back home this time next year. I’ve started to convince myself that even another year in Madrid, where people say I’m “wasting my time” instead of gearing up for my career at home, could be a good career move. Obviously, living in Spain again is a great life move, but for us millenials, we don’t really have the luxury of postponing career boosts considering our setbacks and the economy. We continue to ask ourselves if opportunities like this are stunting our growth as “adults”, and if we really are the “Peter Pan” generation that can’t grow up. I don’t know about you, but all of this unsettles me, especially as this past year in Madrid made me grow up more than any job I’ve ever had at home.

The potential move stresses me out – for the visa, apartment (though thankfully I have help there), and financial reasons – though at times I find myself extremely excited. It’s a never-ending cycle of “I’m so excited” juxtaposed with “what are you doing?”. I can’t help but dread the following weeks, whereas I should be highly excited by my options.

For those of you who are going back to Spain (or to wherever you teach/travel) or going for the first time, what are your thoughts on this? Do you ever think about your age, your need to find a “good job” at home, the pressure from external forces?

7 thoughts on “The Inevitable Freak-Out Moment: Spain, or “Real Life”?

  1. I’m actually have the opposite issue…now that I’m home for the summer, I’m not sure if I want to head back to Madrid for another year. Every time I think about leaving my family and friends to return to Spain, I am near hysterics. And then I think that if I stay home and start a “real life” I’ll end up regretting not doing another year in Madrid. Right now, I’m looking at jobs here at home and if nothing works out, I guess I’ll pack my bags once again and head back to Madrid. Either way, I have to go back because I left a bunch of my things in Spain thinking I was for sure going to live there for another year. I’m just trying not to think about it too much, which was working great for me until August creeped up on me and I realized I only have a month left at home. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens…

    • It’s funny how we’re running in opposite directions! When you told me you were coming back, it did surprise me a little because you seemed so sure of going home after the year, but circumstances change and I’d understand why you’d want to go back.

      The thing for you though, is that home will always be there. Another year in Madrid won’t change that, so if you think you’d regret not returning, I say do it! Jobs will be there in a year, and you can always apply from Madrid (which is what I plan on doing). Grad school’s a whole other thing, but can’t stress over everything.

      I’m in a weird position because I’m done with my hometown – as in, I never want to live there again (it’s been my goal since I was a teen to establish somewhere else). My family’s also moving out of the city, so for me it actually is a case of “family won’t be there” in a year or so, which is another reason I find the Madrid move good. It’s either here or the city my family’s moving to, which is the city I’ve been wanting to establish in for a few years (moving to my hometown wouldn’t even be an option, because I would never pay to live there lol). It gets really confusing and complicated! I always had a feeling I’d enjoy my late 20s the most and it’s probably true – we’re at such an unpredictable age. It’s exciting and the opportunities are endless, but there’s no real guarantee of anything. Yikes!

  2. I’ve stopped thinking of Spain as the not-real world. Indeed, it is MY real world, and it will be for the foreseeable future.

    As a 23 year old, I think you made the right choice, especially if you’re happy about it. You’re far too young to worry that much about settling down and saving for retirement, no matter what they say about starting your Roth IRA at age -3. I think our realities and jobs and retirement will be different than the Baby Boomers’, and the idea that we have to fit into their mold is, um, ridiculous.

    • Of course. Spain IS the real world, at least for me (and for you). I work(ed) full time in Spain, not through any all-fun exchange program. It’s real life stuff, it’s merely the perception of others that perpetuates the idea of “is this real life?” (lol, that worked well).

      I agree that we shouldn’t model our lives after the boomers, but it’s hard not to refer back to what you grew up around. Their expectations are slowly loosening in terms of thinking we have to do everything the way they did, but I think anyone around 20 has thoughts about what consists of “growing up” and where we’re at in all of it now. We’re all a little paranoid, I think. I’m generally very pro doing what you want regardless of timelines, but I have my moments. There are things I prioritize and want them to go hand in hand with travel, but that might eventually mean settling down for a while to make it work.

      I’m definitely looking forward to this year, and see any opportunity as just that – an opportunity. It all depends on what you do with what’s given to you. But, I’m also realistic, and know that as much as I love Spain right now, I don’t want to settle down there. Thus, my time in Spain is very much a temporary thing, and with that comes the thought of “well, how long should “temporary” be?”. Regardless, the plan is to be there this year, unless something drastic comes up!

  3. I think I can understand what you mean… It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision. It was difficult to leave my job in the government and the other agency I was looking into. It’s a little scary knowing that finding a “real job” in Spain will be crazy hard… but was it worth it? I believe so.
    Depending on the grad program, time abroad can be a very good thing. Also, if you want to try another year and decide to stay FOREVER you know you have another friend in the same boat. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • I’ve only known you about a year but I feel like you made the right decision, too. You seem like you’re in your element in Spain, although I can see you pulling off anything. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Haha, I’m very glad to have you there!

  4. The way I see it is you are only young once! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am taking my opportunities and living abroad. I have friends that have been graduated for a year and they can’t find real jobs so I am moving to Italy to enjoy life instead of having a part-time job that will just depress me.

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