A Year in Retrospect: The Tower

Authored by:
Zoe H.

Zoe H.

In my last post, I wrote in the spirit of the new year. My coming to Spain was actually a dream of mine that was years in the making. Since studying abroad in Barcelona, I knew I ultimately wanted to come back to live in Spain. At the time however, I wanted to come home to the US in order to graduate, gain work experience, and save enough money to afford to make a new life in Spain. Months turned into years, and I realized that my “savings” at some point stopped growing and went into life expenses, and I found myself building a resume and climbing a career ladder that seemed irresponsible to step out of. A complete destruction and disintegration of my old life was required to make this dream possible.

Right around Christmas time, 2017, I discovered a book that changed my life, called “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough,” by Adam Smiley Powolski. It helped me sift through the guilt I experienced from leaving behind my old life, that kept me stuck and unable to move forward. This was a time where I was neither following a traditional career path, nor was I breaking free and “living the dream.” His words, understanding, and encouragement, gave me permission to not only exist in this strange purgatory, but to move forward and grow from it. He explained life in terms of “lily pads” instead of ladders, and made me realize it was okay to hop around, to discover things, and to be open to the possibility that pursuing a dream off the beaten path might end up giving me expertise and tying into a future opportunity that I might not even know about yet

About a month later, a dear friend of mine, who was in a very similar purgatory as I was, passed away. He was only two years older than I was, and it impacted me deeply. He was a lantern and a light in many people’s lives, and it seemed wrong to me that this was where his light stopped. I realized that it really was now or never--I became aware of my own mortality, of how short life can be, and how we have no guarantee of any future beyond today. Now was the time to face my fears and return to Madrid. I felt I had to do this for him as well as me. For anyone who was ever in a similar position in their lives, who felt trapped, stuck, unable to ever truly change things and create a fulfilling life of happiness and wonder. Of course, such a life would still entail many struggles and difficulties, but I wanted to create a life that was worth all that. And to me, Spain is worth everything.

Of course, I came here not just to leave behind an old life or live in Spain, but also to teach as an auxiliar. While I had some prior experience of volunteer work, working in a library and a summer camp, and helping my mother with English since I was a child, I was not at the time entirely sure that I was up to the task. It took some soul searching and self reassurance, that in fact I was well qualified and capable. I was going through something known as the “imposter syndrome,” in which I doubted my own qualifications and achievements, and felt as though I was “faking” them. It took many tears and some hour-long conversation with friends and family to move through this. But when I finally did have this breakthrough, I committed. I stayed all in. I said that I could do this--that I could be a teaching auxiliar, and I was going to do everything in my power to ensure that I was the best possible English assistant that I could be. I became determined, and came equipped with the right attitude, but it was not until the start of my new job in the month of October that I realized how much I had yet to learn.


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