Happy 2015, everyone! It’s a little late in the month to just now be posting this now, but since I got back from my Christmas trip, I’ve been preoccupied with thousands of photos to go through and organize, blog posts to write about my travels, and the hectic daily routine of teaching English to seven-year-olds here in Madrid. Now that things are calming down a bit though, I wanted to do a post looking back on 2014 because it really was a crazy year in my life.
Since last January, I graduated from college, visited Iceland, walked 800 kilometers across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, struggled through months of visa paperwork, said goodbye to home, moved to Spain, rented my very first apartment, struggled through a couple more months of paperwork to stay here legally, started my first job, and spent two weeks traveling Europe over Christmas. What a year.
But one diploma, nine countries, five hundred miles on foot, and thousands of photographs later, here it is a new year, and I’m really, really happy to welcome 2015.
Last year was tough year for me in a lot of ways– without a doubt, the toughest of my life. So many big changes coming all at once have been a little overwhelming at times, to say the least. I’ve dealt with things I never saw coming and struggled to start a brand new life in another country. Even now, almost six months after moving to Spain, not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what I’m doing here or if I’m just putting off “real life.” I have figured a few things out in the last twelve months, here, though…
I know that I don’t want to be a teacher. There is absolutely no question about that. My job is enjoyable enough, but teaching is not and never will be my passion. Teaching in Madrid, however, has given me the opportunity to live in Spain and do more traveling, and I am now more certain than ever that travel is my greatest passion.
I also know that while I’m not all that interested in a career right now, I never want to be without a job, whether it’s flipping burgers at a fast food chain, bagging groceries, or actually putting my college diploma to good use. After spending close to eight of the past twelve months of my life traveling and living in Europe on my own relatively small earnings, I understand how valuable any kind of work can be. After all, nine months working at Starbucks bought me three flights across the Atlantic, countless train tickets, and (almost) all the hiking gear I needed to walk the Camino (thanks for the boots, Mom & Dad). Even after all that, I still had enough left to establish myself in Madrid when I moved here last September before my teaching job began. It’s a great feeling to have accomplished all of that on my own, and because there will always be a trip to save up for in my eyes, I always want to be working towards the next big adventure, even if I’m unsure of what it will be.
So what’s the next big adventure in the long run? Well, I’m still figuring that part out. As always, I’ve got some potential plans up my sleeve, but I can’t give any of those away just yet. Besides, right now I’m in the process of trying to decide whether or not I want to stay here in Madrid for a second year teaching English. It’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and I have no clue what I’ll choose in the end. While I feel like I’ve established myself here and that Madrid is where my life is now, there’s so much more of the world I want to see and so many more experiences out there to be had. I believe, now more than ever, that a fulfilling life is made from the accumulation of new experiences and lasting memories, not material possessions. I never want to find myself stuck on a career path that doesn’t fulfill me in this way, regardless of how many zeros are printed on the paycheck. I refuse to ever feel stuck in any kind of conventional 9 to 5 routine I don’t absolutely love.
Still, to fill my life with all these new experiences I want to have, I realize that I need to save up for a while. So maybe the end of this year will bring me home to work a job I don’t particularly love, but I know myself well enough to be sure that it will be temporary. As I’m sure everyone who really knows me would agree, I’ll never be happy sitting still. I’m always planning the next big thing no matter how far in the future it seems.
But that’s enough worrying about the future for now– partly because I want to enjoy the rest of my time here as I’m sure that I will really, really miss it when I leave, and partly because, if there’s anything last year taught me, it’s that nothing is guaranteed and that life can completely change in less than one year.
I think the best part of 2015 is how open to anything it seems to be right now. It’s the first year I haven’t really had any kind of a plan, and I’m looking forward to finding out where it takes me.
As for 2014, I’m so thankful for all the new and unique experiences the year brought me, but I’m also glad to it behind me. It was a difficult year, but all the changes and struggles taught me a lot about what I want and gave me the confidence and independence to face almost anything now. I’ve grown so much, learned so much, and changed so much since last January, and now I finally feel like I’m ready for all the unknown changes 2015 will surely bring.
So I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite memories from 2014. Happy New Year!