Spain

Friday Feelings: Things I’m Struggling With

bilbao public transportation

I stare out the window into nowhere as I ride Bizkaibus up the hill to school, deep in thought. I’m vaguely aware that my facial expressions might have changed reflexively, as they often do when I’m thinking, and I realize I probably look like a crazy person who’s detached from reality. (Or your typical MUNI rider. In comparison, everyone on Bilbao public transit just looks so normal.) As the year winds down, I’m feeling very reflective and introspective. What has gone well this year? What hasn’t gone well? How do I feel about this place? A moment of clarity strikes as I start to understand things I’ve been struggling with, which I’ll attempt to recount.

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1) Impulsiveness, Shopping, and Vague Insecurity

Disclaimer: there’s nothing inherently wrong with shopping. And Spain has some of the world’s best stores, in my opinion. I love stopping by Bershka, Stradivarius, Mango, and Zara when I’m on Gran Via to see what they’ve got. I almost always end up buying at least one thing. Thankfully I’ve budgeted in advance for my shopping habits! I find myself practically drooling over shoe displays and even wanting to stop old ladies in the street to ask where they got their shoes. That’s how amazing the shoes are here. I would be crazy not to take advantage of such great style. But I had an “aha” moment recently – I think I’ve become too caught up in trendiness to the point of being dissatisfied. Maybe it’s from working with teenagers and highly stylish teachers every day, maybe it’s from the up-and-down glances I get daily from other women, or maybe there’s some other reason, but this year I’ve struggled to feel good enough fashion-wise. Looking good is very important here, from the newborn babies up to 99 year old ladies, everybody is dressed fantastically and I sense an air of competition. I find myself feeling envious of their looks. But I’m not from here, I don’t need to dress the part or try to blend in, I just need to be myself. A few wardrobe additions are fine, but I’ve decided that the next time the impulse to shop strikes, I should take inventory of my self-esteem and decide whether I need anything or if I’m just feeling insecure.

PS: One of my 12 year old students asked me this week if I’m pregnant. I’ll be trying to shield my self-esteem from that for a while, as I happened to be wearing one of my favorite outfits that day.

 

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2) Standing Up For Myself

In situations involving creepy men or people I don’t want to be around, in English speaking places, I’m typically polite but simply short in responses. In the last few years I’ve become much better at directly saying no, even if it still may sound too “nice.” But in Spain, I feel like my basic self-protection is just broken. I’ve struggled many times to voice my true feelings (as I shared in my last post). For example, recently I went out with two Spanish acquaintances to an event which I left earlier than usual due to having plans the next day. The next day I received multiple text messages from a stranger. It turns out that the acquaintances gave my phone number to a man they’re friends with – without asking my permission. Most of his messages have gone ignored, with the exception of one short conversation (where he proceeded to ask me for pictures of myself- ugh), and he has continued to text, complaining about me “not being very pleasant.” Most people would rightly take unanswered texts for “not interested.” But for some reason, I can’t seem to 1) tell my two acquaintances that they were wrong to give out my number without asking, and 2) tell this guy that I’m simply not interested and that doesn’t make me an unpleasant person. Instead, I’m just avoiding contact with them all and carrying some low-grade resentment toward the whole situation. Sure, I may think it’s a guy’s job to not be creepy, but in reality I should do my part and stand up for myself when necessary, rather than take the easy way out by avoiding them.

 

moving to new apartment in spain

3) Possible Regrets

I’ve had to make a lot of decisions in the last year. Which region to choose my work placement, when to actually arrive in Spain, who to live with, who to date, those are just a few examples. But within the last year, I’ve changed my mind on most of those original decisions and (naturally) sometimes question whether they were right or wrong choices. Unfortunately, I tend to dwell on the rightness or wrongness to the point of rumination quite frequently. I’m not typically a person who has a lot of regrets, but I can feel myself becoming that way. My most frequent thoughts some days start with “I should have…”  So the best thing I’ve found to do is remind myself often of how I’ve done the best I can with each decision at that moment and try not to dwell on it.

 

class chalkboard

4) Whether I’ve Made A Difference At All

It’s the end of the school year. I still can’t remember all my students’ names. I have 15 classes at the high school, most of which have 20-some students, and 6 private classes. So it’s a lot of planning, organizing, coordinating, explaining, executing activities, and evaluating. There’s still a big lack of respect from some students. But I’ve gained a sizable student following on Instagram. (“Diiina, you follow me on Eeenstagrraaam? I put like on your photo! You go, I mean went, to Barcelona? Que guayyy!”) I’ve noticed some students warming up to me that previously hadn’t. I suppose it’s impossible to ever really know the impact that you have on a place. But part of me wants to know that this crazy year hasn’t been in vain. I’ll just have to settle for not knowing. Which will be hard. I like knowing all the things.