I remember all the anxieties I felt a month before my move to Barcelona last fall. It was August 2011. My original move date of February 3rd had fallen through due to a number of unexpected complications with my new job in Spain, forcing me to adjust living back at home with my family in Los Angeles after living in San Francisco for nearly three years. Writing still came easy since I had finished graduate school the previous December, but finding a new rhythm and a new schedule largely independent of the writing community I had worked so hard to foster was a challenge. How would my writing do so far from home? I wondered. But perhaps the biggest blow was this: the long-distance relationship with a Catalan that I had worked so hard to keep alive ended in late July, leaving me broken hearted and without a seeming reason to go through with my move. If no one was waiting for me on the other side, I reasoned, then what was the point of hopping on that airplane and flying across the world to live in a city where I would feel so lonely?
As my flight on September 7 approached, I remember that although moments of excitement bubbled up overall the anxiety still overrode everything. Even on that last morning, sitting on the couch opposite my parents, waiting for my shuttle to pick me up, pretending not to see my mother wiping away at a corner of her eye. Even checking in at the airport, tucking my passport back in my pocket as I watched my overstuffed luggage disappear on the conveyor belt. And even as I sat chatting away on the airplane with a chubby 20-something on his way to Tel Aviv, all the time eyeing the front part of the aircraft, thinking that I can still turn around, I can still go back, I can still change my mind… Never before had I experienced this type of moment-to-moment vacillation, anxious to get to a place where I knew I would grow more than ever before, but also afraid about the path I would have to forge on my own and the emotions I would have to overcome. And as the plane tilted over the Mediterranean and the red roofs of Barcelona came into view on that warm Thursday morning one year ago, I prayed silently that my experience would be a fruitful one and that I would learn many a thing during my time in Barcelona, however long, however short it might turn out to be.
Fast forward a year. It’s now September 2012 and a year has passed since I touched down in Barcelona. In that span of time I’ve met many people — some friendships will last a lifetime, I know — and I’ve evolved oh-so-much. I’m an honorary uncle to the cutest two year old in the world. I’ve met a wonderful writing buddy who has kept me motivated and focused even when the beach and beers and boys have tempted me. I’ve learned the delicate art of flirting at a bar, at a concert, at a library, at the store. I’ve tried all kinds of new foods (morcilla, gazpacho andaluz, panellets) and have allowed myself to learn how to cook. I’ve accepted my body after losing 40 lbs total in the last year, and feel young and handsome and ready to conquer the world. I’ve learned to celebrate Sant Jordi instead of Valentine’s Day, La Diada instead of the 4th of July, Carnaval instead of Halloween. I’ve found meaning teaching English to students from eight to eighty, and have come to love the feeling of having my own classroom, my own curriculum, of writing my own syllabi. When I had the flu in February, I had new friends bring me soup and medicine. When I broke my ankle in July of this year after a clumsy fall on the beach, I lost count of how many people here asked about me, took care of me, kept me company when all I could do was sit and talk. Sure, I miss home and my family. But I feel like I’ve really got something here. In short, I feel like I’ve found a new home — not just a home away from home — and I’ve decided to do everything possible to make this a permanent move where I will build my life.
And what have I learned after a year in Catalonia, you ask? It’s simple: I’ve learned to push past my fears because great joy awaits me on the other side. Overcoming my fears has always led to the best path in my life, and moving to Barcelona has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
This is where I live. This is where I’m happiest. This is where I belong.