I am an obvious masochist. And no, not in that way. It seems that occasionally in life, when one leaves something behind to pursue another, seemingly more attractive thing, there is the inevitable question of his (or her) capacity to be a rational, contributing member of the human race. At the risk of being too dramatic about it all, it should be mentioned that my list of pros and cons is freaking me out.
First, a look at my current life.
I work with boats. I drive, sail, clean, rent, repair, boats. Boats, boats, boats. I spend my day putting people on boats, convincing people they shouldn’t be afraid of them, making it clear to others that they have no business on them. I have to worry about getting too much sun. I wear shorts and polo shirts to work. My office has no walls–its a booth on a dock, where the fresh ocean breeze blows in my face as I type on my work computer. I don’t have to drive to work. I live in southern California, where it is sunny everyday. I meet interesting people (most of the time), and find myself in the ironic position of teaching them something about, yes, boats. Today, I rented a boat to Bryan Singer (director of X-men, Usual Suspects, Superman Returns, Valkyrie, House M.D….). I can easily get into clubs, get free hotel rooms, and restaurant comps. From time to time, I take friends out for an evening sail and pull up to a dock and eat a wonderful dinner while watching fireworks over the San Diego skyline. I live in a place officially labeled “America’s Finest City.” The weather is so mild that I haven’t needed to wear a real coat in 11 years. The experience I have gained in the nautical industry has facilitated world travel to places I never expected to go. And now, I currently have the closest thing I’ve ever had to a career. And that will all end on September 20th.
Now, regarding Spain, I’ve been watching the news just like everyone else: 20% unemployment, increasing frustration with foreigners, the decline of the Euro, the growing cost of living, the ailing global economy, Penelope Cruz finally and officially off the market. Who the hell do I think I am, just waltzing into one of Europe’s finest capital cities, expecting to thrive as a teacher of American English? I know that Madrid is full of other burgeoning teachers. I am aware of the sometimes flaky quirks of the Spanish client. I know that, for the first time since college, I will have to share a flat with people I don’t know. I estimate my Spanish fluency level at approximately 42%. I am about a quarter of the way through my visa process, with much more bureaucratic frustration to come.
The truth is, I don’t expect to thrive easily, and that’s why I will continue on this life path. I don’t expect to be happy most of the time. I expect many, many instances of extreme discomfort, embarrassment and frustration. I expect to find myself in situations where I simply have no idea what to do. I expect to be lost.
And I also expect to integrate into a culture that drinks wine every day, one that considers it imperative to eat excellent food while talking for hours on end to friends and family. I expect to be amongst people who somehow find a way to be proud of their nationality without being nationalistic. I expect to begin to see life through a foreign lens, one that is possibly clearer than the one I look through now. I expect to meet new friends that I will know for life. I expect to be immersed in a rich history that will challenge my nubile American sensibility. I expect to develop that latent part of my personality, possibly brighter and more charismatic, that can only manifest itself through the tongue of a Romance language. I expect never to drink bad coffee.
Masochistic or self-challenging? The truth is I love these periods of major life transition. Indeed, I have wasted a lot of time feeling sorry for myself, but I have never considered middle management to be worthy of my capabilities. I love language and I love teaching it, and I ain’t gettin’ anywhere sailing around in a boat and talking about how fortunate I am. I have to know it, and prove it to myself. To me, there is nothing more petrifying than slipping into a stinking barrel of complacency.