I had set my alarm for 7:45am, having been informed that the painters would arrive at eight and I’d need to be out of bed. The renovation of my old bedroom marches along with no regard for which country I am in and during these few, fleeting days at home I’m forced to accommodate it. In January I left the bedroom I had slept in for almost ten years. Last week, I returned to find it transformed, supplemented by a half-finished extension on top of our sun porch and a walk-in closet that had replaced our guest room. My furniture was gone and my clothes had no choice but to stay in their duffels until I moved into my summer apartment in Brooklyn.
The painters never showed up. I’ve been informed that they’ll come tomorrow and I’ll have to be up at eight again but I’m starting to believe this may just be a scheme to get me out of bed in the morning. It’s another reminder that the room is no longer mine, that I’m no longer allowed to laze around in it all day, that I must begin in earnest with the business of independence. Sometimes I don’t like how much I relate to the bedroom and the in-between state it’s caught in.
Returning to the United States has been a shock, not just because I once again hear people speaking English on the streets and can buy a proper burrito, but because I have found that time did not stop while I was abroad. While I was in Spain having this dreamlike experience so completely separated from the rest of my life, so suspended in time, my junior year of college ended and my bedroom disappeared and without meaning to I grew up. Now I’m back and all of a sudden I need to think about supporting myself this summer and after graduation. Despite being caught off guard by time's unwarranted passage, I do feel that my experiences in Europe provided me valuable perspective on the future and lead me to think about it in more productive ways.
My most concrete realization in Madrid was that I do not have to live in the United States after graduating college. I had always assumed that I would stay in the States and start a family (like my parents had) but now I realize that I can do that anywhere. In many ways, I like living in Madrid better than I like living in Boston or Los Angeles. My origin in this country does not confine me to it and, if I can figure out the logistics of citizenship or a long-term visa, nothing is stopping me from moving to Spain.
Another conclusion is that I love to travel, and if I want to be able to travel recreationally in the future I’m going to need to make some money. It sounds naïve, but until now I have rarely thought about long-term finances in any meaningful way. I’ve had jobs and I’ve saved up but I haven’t really considered what kind of life I want to live and how I can make enough money to live it. If I want to have any hope of traveling in later adult life I’ll need to spend the next decade working hard and living frugally.
All this long-term planning makes me, a skater kid with hedonistic tendencies, a little nervous. But I know that I cannot be a child forever, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to figure that out in Madrid. No matter how much I may miss the nostalgic comfort of my childhood bedroom, I’m far more excited for the tiny apartment I’ll inhabit in Brooklyn this summer and the future that lies beyond it. It’s a good feeling.
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<p>I’m a Spanish major in my third year at Occidental College. I want to pursue a career in journalism after graduating so right now I’m trying to get as much writing experience as I can. In addition to writing, I like skateboarding and pita chips.</p>