Cultivating a Life I Love

Julia Ebben headshot
Julia Ebben
February 11, 2020
rugby match derecho february

IES Abroad recently sent out an email to us bloggers which included an optional prompt proposing that we write a post as an homage to Valentine’s Day reflecting on our experiences abroad thus far and how they are playing into the notion of “living a life we love.” Since I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor to spend time focusing on the positives anyhow, this love-filled holiday presents an optimal opportunity to do just that.

So, how am I cultivating a life I love? Well, for starters, I have made an active effort over the last several years to remember that life isn’t perfect. Nor does it need to be. The overarching point that I’ve come to realize is that meticulously mapping out the future is not only unrealistic, it also makes for a stressful interim. Since I would ideally like to lead a less stressful and more joyful life, I’ve worked (and still am actively working) on letting go of that vision and being more content with living in the moment.

There have been several moments recently when I’ve simply been walking down the sidewalk and have just felt blissful—I’ve felt fortunate to be in Spain, grateful for this experience and the growth it is and will continue to provide me with, happy to be alive. There have been moments when I’ve been sitting with my rugby teammates, and we have laughed for the stupidest of reasons. There have been moments when I’ve been out for a run, and I’ve thought to myself, "isn’t it just a little bit crazy that I’m here right now?" There have been moments when I’ve been sitting at the dinner table with my (truly phenomenal) host family, and we have lackadaisically discussed some aspect of Spanish vocabulary or have spent time poking fun at one another. These are all moments that I valued as they were unfolding and will continue to treasure as solidified memories as well.

I think what it all comes down to for me is knowing myself and setting my own baseline, off of which I can work on. I generally know the things I need to keep me going: a solid social circle (quality over quantity!), an organized calendar, a regular workout schedule, an ample amount of sleep, etc. Once I have all of that in place, though, anything else feels above and beyond and can bring a nice bout of added happiness.

When looking for inspiration for this blog post, I turned to an old archive of blog posts that I have from 2016 & 2017. I looked to see if I had reflected on Saint Valentine or anything related to February 14th, but alas I didn’t find anything from my nineteen-year-old, au-pair self. While browsing, though, I came across this excerpt:

i was randomly doing a wall sit the other day, & lilly [a two-and-a-half-year-old] walked over and looked at me and asked "what are you sitting on?" i responded "nothing." and then in her cute, little human kind of way, she said, "oh no, oh no! i'll get you a chair!" and came over with a kid play chair. she's just so funny and sweet like that sometimes.

I had totally forgotten that this ever happened until I was reading through my archives today. Envisioning this moment again brought such sweet melancholy. Sweet because what a nice memory it is, but melancholy because that phase of my life is over, & the memory will forever remain just that: a memory. Overall, it serves as a good reminder that the day-to-day experiences I'm having now will all too soon become treasured memories of the past as well. I think that being nostalgic for aspects of my own past, though, would point to the fact that I am generally leading a life I love, both in the past and the present. In all honesty, it’s a life I thoroughly enjoy, imperfections and all, & I truly don’t think I’d be willing to trade it for any other one.

P.S. the featured photo on this post is one that I love—it's a photo of some of my teammates and me, taken last Friday shortly after we won our rugby match (my first match here in Spain)!

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Julia Ebben

<p>Hi! I'm Julia, and I'm a junior at the University of Michigan, who is currently studying in Madrid! I am really happy to be working on my Spanish again after taking a few years off from the language to learn German. Outside of my language learning endeavors, I spend my time playing rugby and drinking copious tea with my friends.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Lake Orion, MI
International Studies
Political Science
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