Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Where has the time gone? It seems like only a few days ago I was scrambling to pack, anxious and excited to leave but unaware of what was in store. Just yesterday it feels as though I was introducing myself to new people, finding a comfortable space for myself within IES Abroad, within Spain, and in my own life. The trips to the Alpujarra, Ronda, Seville, Cordoba, Barcelona, Mallorca, Morocco, and Cabo de Gato feel as if they happened this morning, each represented by chopped up intervals of memory and tagged pictures on Facebook. Though they are little more than circles on calendars and long lost agendas physically, these experiences as well as all of my time in Granada have been host to an immense amount of personal growth, self-discovery, and an overall incredible time. Its memories like these that I will desperately wish to relive in the future, but ultimately know will be adrift, forever lost in another dimension of time. I will carry them with me, not as to be over encumbered, but because they have all become parts of who I am. Slowly but surely, my lessons and observations this semester have molded me in significant ways mentally, physically, and socially.
It has been a blessing, waking up every day to temperate Granada mornings, its countless buildings relatively similar in height casting long shadows over the cafes, alimentacions, shopping centers, restaurants, and miscellanea below. With the Sierra Nevada’s snow-capped peaks towering in the backdrop, it was easy to get distracted in the sheer beauty that I was surrounded by. Mixed with the hilly, winding streets of Granada, not to mention the mountainous labyrinth that is the Albaicin, getting lost is an art that I mastered quickly. In getting lost I found serenity, disappearing like a statue into a warm, glowing setting, reduced to the echo of my own thoughts and self-made playlists riddled with new music and classics alike. It is here where I found myself writing and reflecting, soaking in the moments like parchment wet with watercolors. It is here that I found myself processing what I have been through, what I will experience, and what I hope to accomplish.
It is worth admitting however that despite the blue skies and brilliant colors that accurately encompass what Granada is both aesthetically and culturally, there have been gray days, hours, and moments as well. It isn’t often that in anticipation and remembrance of incredible opportunities that we think or reflect on the negatives. Partially because we wish to escape regretful pasts, but also because we have a tendency to overestimate how fluid and happy-go-lucky every moment really can be. That isn’t to say that every experience is plagued or over-saturated with bleak undertones and sour moments, but that those spaces of darkness do exist. What’s most important about these inevitable instances of feeling uncomfortable, homesick, anxious, or depressed is to not fear their sporadic occurrences, not to let them define you, and not to be afraid to take the measures needed in order to overcome.
The peculiar thing about these moments is that they can be upon you unexpectedly, in physical forms of discomfort or ailment, and also streams of disoriented thought and emptiness. They can leave you in isolation, forced or desired, trapped in states that you can’t escape mentally or physically as easily as you would like to. The constant learning process and orientation of creating a new life can be overwhelming, taking a toll on any semi-malleable mental state. As notions and concepts of the world are challenging and altered it takes a certain amount of reflection, alone time, or even social time to reconnect yourself with a more positive state of mind. At the halfway point of finals week, self-care takes on an evolved form of importance, reducing the amount of time I have had to sit back and enjoy simple beauties, buried in heaps of work that I admittedly could have worked on earlier (side effects of chronic procrastination, a severe illness that I was diagnosed with in college). Exams and essays hover over me like clouds, blacking out the sun like an eclipse, and hiding the end of the semester on the horizon. But despite the ominous closure, taking the time to do yoga, walk, relax, eat my favorite foods, laugh, spend time with my favorite people, and smile are highly recommended in fighting the tendency to adopt the same gloomy disposition. Take care of yourself because even at your lowest you deserve more. Take care of yourself because things will get better, I promise. But don’t forget to ask for help if you need it, and don’t lose yourself in all the madness.
For the majority of the trip, attracted by the impossibly late Spanish night, I had hopes of watching the sun rise over Granada from an elevated point, punctuating an unforgettable night. I got my wish this week, albeit in the pouring rain. There was something about standing in the steady onslaught, as dark greys lightened slowly into pencil shadings in the sky that was poetic, cliché as it sounds. It wasn’t about the fact that it was raining, it was the fact I was and am in a beautiful city in a life that I constructed with people that I care about. People who have meant so much to my experience in Granada and will continue to impact my life in different ways. And even as the blue and yellow struggled to reach us through perforations in the clouds, I found myself reflecting on the beauty. It is both natural and vital for these shadowy periods to exist, giving rise to the brightness and warmth. In the same way, there is beauty in struggle, or at least positivity can be procured from it in some facet. Whether or not a situation is ideal, one of the most important lessons I have repeatedly navigated is pulling myself through the negative and truly enjoying every moment for what it is worth.
If anything I would say my mistake has been not making enough mistakes. At the beginning of the program I wrote myself a letter, hoping that I would find myself at the end of the semester having totaled indescribable amounts of fun and growth all while having challenged myself with new boundaries and experiences. While I have pushed myself in ways I have not in the past, I still seek to try new things and speak with new people, evidencing my growing thirst for adventure.
With my last few days bound by IES Abroad ahead of me, I intend to enjoy the company of the 100+ or so people that have made this semester unforgettable through studying, talking, eating, drinking, and living with them. If I can’t personally thank everyone for their impact on me, I dedicate my words and memories to them. I only hope that I capture every moment, and leave nothing behind.
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<p>A sociology major at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At school I am a two-sport varsity athlete, sing and beat box in an a cappella group on campus and volunteer in the Twin Cities area. In the future I hope to develop and create safer and more integrated communities, creating equal opportunities in urban centers across the US. Specifically I seek to work against structural racism by reducing disparities that are current outcomes of our social systems. This study abroad experience is a time to reflect and immerse myself in an entirely different world beginning first and foremost with a language barrier. I hope to be successful academically and socially as well as learn a lot about myself and the world around me.</p>