When you leave a place you love

Oh, how my heart hurts. I have an actual throbbing pain in the left side of my chest that almost never goes away recently. It feels like pure sadness. What I imagine a literal broken heart to feel like. My stay in Madrid is over and I can’t exactly believe that it’s for real. I’ve been home nearly two weeks now and I haven’t felt like writing or unpacking or doing anything real-world worthy because it’s just too hard. If I write, it means I have to process the mixed bag of emotions I have going on inside. If I unpack, it means I’m actually staying. If I do anything real-world worthy, it makes things feel so permanent. When I graduated from college, it felt like the end of the world. I was miserable, but then I moved to Spain and life was so, so sweet. Now, two years later, the rug has been ripped out from underneath my feet again and the comfortable Spanish life I adored so much ended far before I was ready for it to. Once again I’ve been thrown into this new unsolicited season and I feel like I’m treading water, barely able to keep my head afloat. Queue the second coming of the end of the world.

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Moving to Madrid was such a significant life choice for me. It was the best, albeit hardest, decision I’ve ever had to make. Living there taught me so much about myself, my values, and my world. It taught me that it’s okay to go against the grain and be untraditional. It proved to me that money isn’t everything because happiness is so much more. It showed me that taking risks and diving into the unknown isn’t really all that scary because it is what you make it. But the biggest lesson I learned was to believe in myself.

Two years ago when the plane’s rubber tires made contact with the tarmac in Madrid, I can remember sweating and feeling sick to my stomach in the very last row of the plane thinking to myself, “What the *#%& am I doing?!” I didn’t have an apartment. I didn’t have a phone that worked outside of wifi. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t have any friends (except my Spence). I. was. terrified. because it seemed so impossible to establish any sort of life in that big city. I knew I liked Madrid, but I never expected to fall so deeply in love with living there, and that’s the problem. I never expected to feel so comfortable there after just two years. I never expected to adjust to the crazy meal timetables and Mediterranean diet and actually learn to prefer it. I never expected to prefer taking metros over driving cars. I never expected to become so enamored by architecture or wine or gastronomy. I never expected to enjoy playing tour guide and planning trips for friends and family so much. I never expected to travel through 18 countries in two years. I never expected to find an apartment that really felt like a home. I never expected to truly feel like a local and make life-long Spanish friends. Mostly, I never expected the hardest part of living there would be saying goodbye. Never did I expect to board that direct flight back to DFW without plans to return. And never did I expect to take off feeling sick to my stomach while watching Spain disappear into a sea of clouds and think, “What the &%*# am I doing?”

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There’s this quote,

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

and it rings so true with me. In fact, tears welled in my eyes as I just typed that out. I really loved the person I was during that season and I’m really afraid of losing her. I’m terrified that these memories will become distant and hazy and I’ll forget how small our shower was or how we had to avoid Valentina so we didn’t lose an afternoon watching telenovelas in her piso or how good tinto de verano tasted on a warm terrace in the afternoon sun. I’m afraid I’ll forget how all the kids called me “Air-e” or how I felt when I discovered a beautiful building I’d never noticed before. I’m afraid I’ll travel back to Madrid and everything will be different from how I remember it because I’m different

As emotional and dramatic and sad as I’ve been (if I’m being honest, I cried when my jet lag ceased to exist, you guys), there’s always a huge part of my soul that beams with gratitude and pride because that adventure was far better than I ever could have wished it to be. My goodness, how my heart smiles when I look back at how much I accomplished and how much I grew and how much I learned.  When I’m done feeling sorry for myself (I need just a little more time), I’ll be ready to take on this new life because if Spain taught me anything, it’s that there is something grand waiting on the other side of this end-of-the-world season. I just have to be stubborn and I have to be willing to chase it. 

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19 thoughts on “When you leave a place you love

  1. Precious says:

    I would just like you to know that your post not only brought me to tears as I read it out loud to my mom in our living room, it somehow managed to capture every emotion and thought that my soul has about my time in Spain. As a fellow writer (and not overly emotional person in general), you have a talent for writing and even through the tears I enjoyed every word. Thank you.

    • enc0024@gmail.com says:

      Oh, girl. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling like this–but my goodness, it’s the worst! Thank you for the sweet compliments. I hope things continue to positively move forward for you!

  2. Alaina says:

    This was wonderful! Gave me chills.Even though I have been living in Madrid for almost four years, with no real immediate plans to move back to the states yet, I can really relate to this beautiful piece. I always think about how after living here for so long (and without visiting home for this long) how sad, scared or just hurt I would be if I had to go back to the motherland. Spain has been the most incredible experience I have had thus far and I have learned many things ( as you have mentioned above) about myself and the world around me.
    This being said, I feel your pain but this is also an exciting moment for you to take what you have learned and bring it into your current life. You are very brave. Always remember Spain will always be here. Good luck to you!!

    • enc0024@gmail.com says:

      Thank you so much for the encouragement! Do me a favor and just never leave 🙁 Hope you’re surviving the hot summer!

    • enc0024@gmail.com says:

      Thankfully, Chicago is a wonderful place to call home! I’m really struggling with all of the beautiful and entertaining (sarcasm) things there are to do here in North Texas!

  3. Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds says:

    Oh man this was so so beautiful and sad. My Spain experience was a bit more of a mixed bag, so I’m finding the adjustment back home much easier. In fact, home for me I think is the equivalent of your Madrid. I loved Barcelona but San Francisco just does something to me. Anyway, I feel for you girl, it’s so hard to leave such a special place, but just think, the growing doesn’t have to stop. You can keep building on this wonderful new you, and Madrid will be there if you decide to move back!

    • enc0024@gmail.com says:

      Ah, thanks for reading, girl. I believe if I was “teaching” infants, I would have felt a bit differently about things, too. Maybe I’ll have to pay you a visit in San Fran soon! I’m itching to go anywhere other than North Texas! Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  4. Barbara says:

    Reading Madrid made you feel that way really makes me realize how much I love it too, despite I always complain about the heat, the traffic jams and the crowd in general. Hope you are able to make it to madrid sometime soon

  5. Trevor Huxham says:

    Right there with ya, friend! I’ve been super busy with family and house maintenance stuff for the past week and a half so I’ve been too distracted to feel nostalgic and homesick for Santiago, but now that things are quieting down I’m already missing the walkability and ancientness of Spain 🙁

    • enc0024@gmail.com says:

      So, has it hit you yet?! I’ve been walking to the grocery store, looking like a crazy person! haha. Hope you’re doing well.. we will have to meet up one of these days to exchange stories!

  6. Julianne says:

    exactly the same spot as you, I loved this piece. Ive been home for about a month and still have random crying bouts, an untouched suitcase in my room and second thoughts all the time. If you don’t mind me asking, why’d you come back? anything to do with student loans?

    • enc0024@gmail.com says:

      It’s been nearly two months for me and the random crying fits still haven’t stopped. I had depleted a lot of my savings, do have student loans, had finished my second year (and was totally checked out of the program). In short, Spain was done with me for the time being, I just wasn’t quite done with it. I hope it starts feeling better for the both of us soon! Thanks for reading 🙂

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