"Sometimes you just have to get through it," My tango teacher told me as we sat at a table in the closest thing to a milonga I will ever find in Madrid. That was midway through December and I had had my job as a teacher’s assistant in a bilingual school for two months at that point. I kept turning her words over in my head and now in the new year they continue to return to me only this time they are not like a mantra but a revelation.
She told me about how she had only one true friend here- the kind of friend you can call up crying- the kind who will come over for no other reason then you need someone to be with. “She’s rare,: my maestra said, “It’s hard to make friends here.”
She told me how lonely she had felt but whenever she thought of returning to Buenos Aires she realized she didn't have anything left to go back to. Her husband and son are here in Spain. Her life is here now. And there I was sitting there waiting for someone to ask me to dance and wondering why I couldn't just be happy. I felt badly as the words spilled forth from my mouth as if it was the first time anybody ever talked to me. But it felt like she was the first real live person here who not only cared but immediately understood. Her empathy was an incredible comfort.
My experience here in Spain is less of an experience in the sense that my study abroad semester was. I felt like I had to make the most of it in Argentina and although I felt pressured at times to behave or speak a certain way I accepted it because I understood why I was there. When I got to Madrid I just felt empty. I didn't know why I was here. I can not help but contrast my life here in Madrid with what it was in Buenos Aires.
The first thing I did was find a tango class and scouted out the good Argentine eateries and bakeries. I downloaded El Gotan Project to listen to as I took the metro and walked through Lavapies to tango class. It was almost instinctual- I was trying to make Madrid mean something to me in the only ways I knew how. That had made me feel better once upon a time, where was the magic now when I needed it?
I’m not going to lie- this past year (year and a half?!) was nothing like I thought it would be. It was a hard year for me- full of learning new lessons and swallowing the fact that not everything always goes as planned. Looking back I can see that it it was hard in a good way. I have and am growing. But I’ll admit it was enough to give my cynical side solid footing. In the midst of it all I lost faith - not in everything- but enough to be weary and apprehensive. If you have been hurt you want to protect yourself. And moving past that is a matter of healing. But you can move past it. You can get through. Sometimes, most times, you have to.
And a little bit of your faith comes back with every thoughtful action you receive making you wish to be thoughtful in return. Being picked up from the airport by people who knew you when you were little. Being invited to see castles and being lent a phone because you need one and someone happens to have an extra. Going for tapas with your hostel mate and having him pay telling you he’s happy for the company- your company. You start to carve out a life. You meet people, you make friends. Slowly but surely, your faith is increased. Mustard seeds, perhaps, but nonetheless, plantable.
My teacher is right. At first, when she said that - I envisioned getting on a plane and going back to the dark cold North Country promising this time to really make a start but I knew that I had to see my time here through. Now I wonder if that’s what Madrid has been for me- a start. A gentle introduction to the world- hello, you’re not studying abroad, you’re living your life. Let’s get through the start and then you can enjoy the beautiful middle of it all. I am always dreaming but now I am beginning to realize reality has a very deep sweetness- living moment to moment has a joy of its own.
I woke up this past weekend and the last with somewhere to go- somewhere I really wanted to be and I’ve woken up lately with more then just my coffee to get me out of bed. Somehow so mercifully and so unbelievably beautifully I have a small collection of people in my life here who... care. I had felt as if that were impossible here. I felt like Madrid was always going to be all quiet and all alone. But it’s not.
Now I feel like this was what was supposed to happen all along. It is such a gracious feeling.
I’ve gotten through.