When I first came to this city in March, I craved being alone. I didn’t want to be around people who I didn’t relate with, I didn’t want to see anyone I knew. I was prepared to spend 8 weeks alone without making any friends because I thought that was what I needed, and I thought there was no way anyone could really like me now.
When I arrived, there wasn’t a room for me in the apartment I was meant to stay at; I had to stay with a host family for a week with students from another school. The people around me spoke rapid Spanish, and my Spanish included “gracias” and “si”. Before then, if this had happened, I would have panicked, my anxiety would have been through the roof, and I would have been looking at flights back to Devon as soon as possible.
But in March, I relished it. I enjoyed the different scenery, I enjoyed being outside of my comfort zone. I enjoyed not knowing the language, and the noise of the family around me.
I was free.
I had never felt more lost, and I had never felt more ‘found’ before.
My first weekend here, I got lost in Albaicín. My heart felt so full as I discovered every new corner of this city; it was an experience I had never had before. I climbed to Mirador de San Cristóbal, and the view almost made me cry. That mirador holds so many memories for me now, and each time I’ve gone there since, I think back to the person who first came there, the person who believed she was destined to be alone.
I guess that I felt I was in capable of forming real meaningful relationships. People my own age seemed so foreign to me, and I broke up with my boyfriend after coming to Granada because I would look at him as if I had never seen him before. I’d think “How the hell are we together?” Everyone else’s priorities my age seem to be Instagram, their university lives, or relationships. I wanted to feel something real, true and authentic.
And Granada gave me that.
For the first time, I would walk down the street so happy I wanted to break out into a run. I wanted to sing at the top of my lungs, and I wanted to hug strangers. It dawned on me that I thought I would never feel happy again, and now that I had had a taste of what it meant to be happy, and after such a sad time, I was driven ecstatic by it.
The only person I had to worry about was myself, and I enjoyed getting to know myself again. I began to enjoy the person I was. I took myself on ‘dates’; I went for dinner alone or went for coffee alone. This was a luxury that before I had never been able to afford; I was giving so much of myself to the people around me that I truly had no idea who I was anymore. I would look at a menu or be in a supermarket and think Mum would eat this, Katie would eat this, so and so would want this. What did I want to eat for dinner? I literally couldn’t tell you.
I came here to study Spanish for 2 months, and I loved the challenge. I would call Katie and speak about my day in Spanish, only using the present tense because that was all I knew, but the satisfaction I felt was incredible.
I found that I am still a very curious person. Every day I was wondering about the etymology of Spanish words, and drawing links between English and Spanish.
I found out that I love writing poetry, even when it’s terrible, and I found out that I still adore writing. I felt relieved when I looked in the mirror and saw that I wasn’t a stranger anymore.
I began to go shopping; because throughout 2018, my sister and I would internet shop because it was convenient and only when it was necessary. I remember Katie trying on stacks and stacks of ‘work clothes’ and then sighing when she’d have to send some stuff back. But the feeling of going into a shop and shopping, Christ, it was more fun than I ever thought it could be! I have never liked shopping before, in fact I dreaded it, but now that I could shop, I enjoy it so much.
I’ve learnt that I am still 19. I love going out, and I love dancing. I love just feeling free and existing without worrying who is watching, who is judging. I just don’t care anymore.
I have learnt that people can actually like me for me. I have my blog in my Instagram bio, so every new person I have met will have probably have had a look. For those who have, they know about how my Mum has died, my night terrors, even about how I’ve cried on a coach, and you know what? They still talk to me. They still want to know me. And because of that I have met incredible people, and I have made amazing friends.
I am not too broken for people.
In fact, I have learnt that I don’t think I am broken at all. I’ve just been through some stuff, and my friend reminded me once that so has everyone. Everyone has something that has happened to them.
I have learnt that I love myself. I am proud of everything I have done. I am proud of how I have struggled and survived. I am proud that I have helped people.
I know it is not the destination that counts, but this city has taught me about myself immensely and I’m so grateful for it.
If you can, I implore you to go somewhere by yourself for a weekend, a week, a month. It doesn’t have to be another country where you don’t speak the language; just take yourself and a notebook to maybe a neighbouring village, town or a city and write down your thoughts. Treat yourself with every kindness, and don’t say ‘no’ to yourself. Learn about who you are, even if you think you know yourself perfectly, through and through.
Maybe during this time, you’ll discover a new skill or a new hobby. For me, I love taking photos and I have learnt that this is very cathartic for me, almost meditative.
In our world, chaos is calm. What I mean by this, is that we are fooled by social media, the TV or people around us, that time doing nothing is time wasted. It isn’t. Some of the most important emotional breakthroughs I have had have been the times I have just sat and thought on the balcony late at night, or when I have written a poem in a café. Chaos is not calm. Calm is when your body feels relaxed, you don’t have an itch to check your phone or talk to anyone. Calm is even when you are crying about everything that before you had repressed.
For the first time in a year, I have learnt to be calm.
Granada; thank you.