Today I didn’t wipe butts or noses.
Today I didn’t sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”
Today I woke up on a Monday and for the first time in nine months, I didn’t go teach 20 screaming babies.
So this is what breathing feels like.
My job “teaching” English at a daycare in Barcelona ended on Friday, and if you’ve read any of my past posts about the position (like this or this), you may have deduced that this finale is not heartbreaking. What my semi-curated-online-social-media life doesn’t fully show is the dark side of my seemingly glorious existence in Barcelona. I was truly unhappy at my job, and it affected other areas of my life here.
I still feel so lucky that I was placed by Meddeas at a school in the city center of Barcelona—that’s almost like winning the lottery. Meddeas, the English assistant alternative to the very popular auxiliares program in Spain, was helpful, professional, reliable, and I would certainly recommend them if you’re looking to teach and live in Spain. My unhappiness boiled down to the personal: teaching daycare is not for me.
I do love little kids and their bulging, borderline obese tummies and cheeks. I simply don’t like being responsible for 20 of them and their pooping, shrieking wellbeing. Also, if it were up to me, all children would play in the mud for 12 hours a day until they were five years old; they wouldn’t be forced to sit still against a wall while I passed English flashcards of “bookshelf” and “toothbrush,” day in and day out. (Probably more painful for me than the babies, but still.) And the fact still remains that I was never trained to teach at a daycare. I was basically feeding these babies Legos and just hoping their airways survived the battle.
So with this school year (finally!) coming to a close, I’ve decided to leave Spain.
What It Came Down To
I’ve taught English for two years in Spain and think it has been a very valuable experience and a fantastic growth opportunity. I’ve solidified my fluency in Spanish, met international friends, traveled to many countries in Europe, overcome some hardships about being abroad, and had a damn good time rediscovering the Spanish way of life that I came to truly value while I was studying abroad during college.
But I’ve also come to really value some things about my home country, and the more time I spend away, the more I’ve come to miss it.
When Meddeas offered me a placement for next year in an elementary school in Barcelona, I strongly considered it. Was I truly done with this city? I’m in love with Barcelona and there’s so much left to explore here. A change of schools could be just what I needed to feel like a fresh start. I also struggle with an unhealthy mentality that if I’m offered a chance to live abroad, I should accept it unconditionally.
But in the end, I felt like I was chasing a Spanish high that I’m not sure I would ever feel. There are factors to happiness that go beyond a perfect city and a nice leg of ham. Barcelona’s winding gothic streets don’t replace the tight friendships I long for back home. A 2-euro glass of wine can’t make me forget the 16-hour flight separating me and my family. A 20-hour workweek in a dead-end teaching job isn’t always preferable to a 40-hour workweek in a path I’m more passionate about.
So I feel proud and grateful to have lived two years post-graduation in Spain, and I feel completely at peace with returning home. There will be things I’ll miss for sure, and things I rediscover about the U.S. that I’m slightly less than thrilled about. But I’m ready for my next adventure, closer to my roots.
For the first time since perhaps ever, I’m actually not sure what I’ll do next. In high school I knew I’d go to college; after college I knew I was moving to Spain. But now? I have vague ideas but am also not too put off by spending a bit of time on my parents’ couch and mooching their freezer of Ben and Jerry’s.
The general idea is to return home, just north of San Francisco, in early July. Commence with the Ben and Jerry’s. Visit friends, possibly take some short U.S. trips, start exercising again after a year where that whole “sweat once in a while” thing went out the window. Then, whenever I get burnt out of from too much of the good life (or from my parents’ nagging, whichever comes first) I’ll look for a job and apartment. Ideally I’ll start working in a writing and/or PR-type job. Something that pays me more than 850 euros a month. Something where I can think a bit more creatively and not sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” quite so effing often.
It’s always been my dream to move into San Francisco, but with sky-high prices I’ve started to consider other options, primarily Austin and Denver. I’ve never been to either, but heard great things about both. If any of you readers have any input—SF, Austin, or Denver—please let me know in the comments!! I’d be so grateful for any advice!
I’ll be taking off Friday for a 10-day solo trip through Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I’m excited to see a part of Europe I haven’t yet explored, but also a little apprehensive. Will I get bored or lonely being by myself for 10 days? Although I loved my solo trip through Poland, that was bookended by travel with friends. I truly have no idea what to expect from this upcoming adventure—I figure at the very least it will be some good reflection time. My greatest fear is that my Kindle will die on me, and then I’ll really be alone.
If any of you have traveled to these countries, I’d love any recommendations!
After 10 days in the Baltics I’ll return to Barcelona for 4 days, taking in as much tortilla española, Mediterranean, and final moments as I can get. Then I’ll try to catch a standby flight home. If that proves impossible, I actually may just stay here forever, since there’s no way I’m dropping $2000 on a peak-season ticket the night before the flight.
As For This blog
For the past three years, this blog has been my constant. That’s not going to change just because I’m changing country codes! I’ll still be posting regularly, and I have a ton to write about Barcelona and my travels that I’ve been meaning to get to for about six months now. Look for city eat and drink guides, weekend getaways around Catalonia, ways to explore the city on a budget, and much more.
And beyond that, I’ll be writing about wherever and whatever I end up doing next. That’s the beauty of Wor(l)ds . . . I’m not locked in to just one place.
Thank you so much for reading. Spain, I love you. America, I’m coming for you.