Swimming Upstream

“The Comunidad de Madrid welcomes you to the Language Assistant Programme for this coming school year 2013/2014,” I read from my email.

I quickly burst into a very ugly mixture of happy and sad tears, as I immediately realized how much this opportunity meant to me. My dream of living in Madrid could turn into reality!

But I had just accepted and started a job—a really great job. I signed a contract and had 401ks and savings plans and benefits and my own office and a Blackberry.

Cue John Mayer…

Welcome to the real world, they said to me. Over and over again.

I continued to work at my job, but as time went on, I could not stop thinking about living in Madrid. I could not stop thinking about how ten years from now, I might look back and think… “Erica, you had every single thing you needed to live in Spain for a short nine months, and you didn’t do it.”

Or how I would eventually hear others’ stories about moving abroad or teaching English somewhere and my contribution would be, “I almost did that, but I stuck with an office job instead.”

But then the next day I would wake up and think, “Wow, I have a job that most of my fellow college graduates would KILL for. How could I ever walk away from this money and these benefits?”

Or I would think about how I could decorate a really great apartment and buy a new Jeep and get a puppy if I stayed in Fort Worth.

But then the next day, I wanted to go to Spain all over again.

I was slipping into this ugly spiral, as I became wholly consumed by these opportunities and pressures. I was not really smiling as much… not really laughing as much… I didn’t feel like “Erica.” I was very sensitive and stressed, thinking about Spain versus Lockheed Martin constantly. Everyone had different opinions that too easily swayed me back and forth.

I came to fully understand that “fork in the road” metaphor. The two options had not one thing in common and would most definitely affect my life forever. That’s kind of a big deal, right?

So, I started seeing a therapist, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself—let me know if you need a recommendation… there’s nothing wrong with seeking help from an outside source!

“I feel like a turtle,” I told her.

“Some days I’m set on moving abroad, and I’m excited. But then I remember that I will need to find a job next July, I will disappoint my family, I will actually have to QUIT the job I just accepted a few short months ago… And suddenly I retreat back into my shell and lose all the confidence I thought I had.”

Sounds crazy, right? But she understood. And she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever been offered.

“I know you want to go abroad,” she said. “You light up every time you talk about it.”

She continued, “You need to spit back truths at all of those doubts, lies and hesitations you are facing. I can promise this won’t be the only big decision you will ever have to make.”

For some reason, this simple, unbiased (and expensive) advice was so helpful to me and things were starting to make a little more sense.

I was finally ready to stop feeling sorry for myself. I was finally ready to feel some excitement and happiness. I was FINALLY ready to do what was important to ME.

Through some more very ugly tears and tough conversations, I finally did it. I quit my job.

And you know what? Everyone at work was so gracious, supportive and encouraging.

I purchased a one-way plane ticket to Madrid, bought my own massive suitcase, got approved for a Capital One Venture Card, received my Spanish Visa and began the long process of moving abroad.

I’m excited to say that I’ll be taking the road less traveled to Madrid on Monday.

And you know what else is pretty cool about this whole situation? Spencer and I are going together.

Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all, trust me. I am NOT going because of him… he is just a fabulous perk to this big adventure. He has been so unbiased, patient and kind through this crazy summer of indecisiveness, even though he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he received his placement email months ago. He’s wiped away many tears as they’ve chosen to fall at the most opportune times… like at Chick-fil-a or Buffalo Wild Wings or at camp or on a sidewalk in the middle of campus. I’m pretty thankful for him, let me tell you.

SO, although I don’t know what in the world is headed my way, it’s an exhilarating and terrifying mixture of emotions.

Whether Spain ends up being the best or worst decision I’ve ever made, I must admit that I’m pretty damn proud of myself for finally finding the strength to pursue something that means so much to me.