My college graduation, May 22, 2016.
It’s no secret for those who know me that I have lived my life at a very fast pace. I’m a typical Type A American with a 20-year plan, and I like my life to be organized, prepped, and planned right down to each minute detail. So if you know these things about me, and you know anything about Spain, you might imagine (correctly) that my adjustment to life here was a little bit challenging.
Although I’ve lived my life in a few different places and needed to adjust my way of going about things with each move, I’ve almost always managed to maintain my pace. Even if the world around me was moving a little slower, I sped up. I buzzed past everyone around me, always keeping my eye on my end goals. And in the U.S., this worked really well for me. I was always perceived as hard-working, goal-oriented, and productive.
This time last year, I was preparing to graduate from college, having just completed the busiest four years of my life. Each day presented a new challenge, and my to-do list never ended. As much as I participated in the cultural tradition of complaining about how much I had to do, I loved it. When my calendar was full, I often thrived.
When I moved to Spain to start teaching English, all of that changed for me. The truth is, I had a lot less to do. And that was very difficult for me. I did my best to fill my schedule as I had always done. I got a second job, starting taking Spanish classes, and planned lots of trips. But I still found myself with an almost overwhelming amount of free time compared to my recent college days. And I struggled to feel like I was doing enough with my time.
Over the course of the now nine-and-a-half months that I’ve been in Spain, I’ve realized that this is the first place I’ve lived where the world around me won’t adapt to the pace I set. This has been challenging, frustrating, and sometimes anxiety-inducing for me. But the Spanish pace has forced me to slow down and live more in the present – even when I didn’t want to. And doing so has helped me grow and come to know myself better than I ever have before.
I notice the things around me more than I used to, and I’ve started spending my time more intentionally. I feel free to spend a few hours at dinner instead of one, and I don’t see a day spent in the park as wasted time. I know that someday, when I leave Spain, my pace will need to change again. But I’ll be grateful that I can take this lesson with me: slowing down isn’t always a bad thing.