When the magic and wonderment of the first couple of weeks begins to fade away, Madrid is just the city you live in. It is so easy for me to glamorize life before actually living in it. When I first arrived, I was a princess in a fairytale, walking amongst other royalty, passing by castles guarded by mythical creatures. My eyes could not close, the adrenaline kept me awake and energized for countless sleepless nights. There are so many things to do and see in this magical fairytale land, but very quickly I got used to being a princess. Once routine settles in, the castles that pass me by on my way to class are just elegant buildings, and the royal, well-dressed people with their sophisticated and charming accents are just people.
Sometimes I have to close my eyes and think about where I am because I could be anywhere. Every morning when I open my eyes and see the daylight entering through my window, I forget for just a second that I am thousands of miles away from all the people and things that are most familiar to me. I have found the people I tend to stick around; I have carved my path through the intertwining streets and the maze that is the metro, missing stops and taking wrong turns, having moments of panic, and feeling so close to giving up, but I persist, and every day it gets easier.
It is easy to get used to not understanding more than 30% of the conversations I hear as walk down the streets to get coffee. I no longer have the automatic English reflex; my brain is constantly thinking and translating in Spanish. The amount I have gathered in such a short time is more than countless Spanish lessons could have taught me. I begin to realize that there was truly no amount of planning that could have prepared me for what it is actually like to live and establish a routine in Madrid.
There is promise in this routine, I no longer feel like I am on vacation even though I still feel like a tourist. The dazzlement might have left my eyes, but I still get confused that I cannot hop in my car and drive to my friend’s house. I have decided that I am somewhere in the middle of a dream and acceptance. I have come to really value the desire for privacy and a home-cooked meal. I miss lounging in my bed, my cat snuggled up to my side, rewatching that one Netflix show for the fifth time, but I also know that life is made up of a lot of 24-hour days of doing nothing, and that time will come again soon enough.
It felt weird to go so long without a permanent home, but since finally securing a place and a room to myself, I am starting to feel that tight knot of anxiety loosening. Not going to lie, apartment searching in Madrid was one of the hardest challenges I have faced in life, but I did it and the feeling of pride that comes with that accomplishment is indescribable.
I have already grown so much and in just a little over a week, I will start my job, the true reason I came here. I am antsy for yet another new beginning. The extra time before work has been good for me to get my bearings, establish my go-to foods and locations, and meet the people the universe planned for me to meet. None of my time here has been purposeless, it is all a lesson with greater merit, much of it too advanced for me to understand yet.
As I navigate the ups and downs of this growingly familiar world and lifestyle, I realize that I was right about what I wrote several weeks ago: home is where your heart is, where you can watch the sun as it sets, and listen to the music of the world as the night grows colder.
All in all, I am feeling more and more at home each day even though the glitter and fairy dust is slowly leaving my eyes. I am falling in love with the city, with the people I have met, with my new life, and even though falling in love is a beautiful, inspiring adventure, it also comes with pain and longing for the ignorance that existed before.