Today while waiting for the bus (my normal weekly ritual where I’m either ten minutes early or running as it approaches) I saw an adorable old lady cross the street. She had a cane but was walking slow and steady. Her shoes were fashionable, her coat fur, and not a hair out-of-place. She was probably in her 80’s and she looked envious-ably stellar.
I watched her walk by, offered a smile and she smiled back (a rarity, I find, in Spain). As she walked off, I wondered what her story was. What has she seen? What has she done?
I suppose it’s my own fault, wondering all these things. I live for the story, but also, I’ve been trying to figure out my own for the past month. She’s probably off to a morning coffee with friends where they will sit and play cards, whiling away the afternoon with friendship and comfort. And while I envy that, I also know I shouldn’t be aiming for that sort of simplicity. Not yet. She’s lived her life. I don’t know what she’ done with it, but no doubt a lot. And I’m not 80, not yet.
In the next few months I have to decide about the next year. And while my brain knows whats up, my heart is feeling confused. And it’s tormenting me. A friend said, “You are over thinking it. Like wayyy over thinking it.” And I finally realized today that I am, in fact, over thinking it. Because I’ve learned a lot in the last three years post-college. But also a lot just in the past few months being overseas. Things that whichever path I choose, should be applied and matter. Things I’ve tried to encourage others to pursue as we slip into the delightful age of 25.
Sense of Self-Worth
You is smart, you is kind, you is important. This one goes without saying. Whatever you do, make sure you are respected and appreciated. Don’t go through life or your job feeling invisible or not worthy of things. Things like feedback, recognition, raises. We all have passions and pursuits. We all have mountains to climb and different baggage to carry in our attempt to make it to the top. Never doubt your worth as a human being. Never doubt the worth you can instill in others by being positive, encouraging, and, most simply, kind.
I’m not a trained teacher, and people in this program can easily be shoved aside, ignored, or considered a strange extra that follows teachers around. (And actually they have been. I have heard many a story, and it’s downright depressing.) I’m very lucky to work with teachers who not only encourage me to try different ways of interacting and teaching, but who also recognize my worth. Teachers who respect why I’m here and ask for my help where I can assist as a native speaker. They give me self-worth, even on days when I feel I have achieved nothing. Which, yanno, happens when you are working with 8 different classrooms on a given day.
2. Encourage Laughter
This one is important. I’m always at a loss for why people take things so seriously. (cough sometimes that’s me.) The world is too serious, too angry, too judgmental, too harsh. I watch the kids I teach, I listen to them crack jokes at one another, bursting into fits of giggles that are all entirely too hard to ignore. How come they can be so carefree and full of laughter and we, as adults, cannot? Laugh. Make a joke. Make fun of yourself. Laughing also burns calories sooo…
I get to see a lot of stress and a lot of laughter at school. It’s a strange mix because the teachers are always going 120% but they also aren’t letting it take them over. They can’t. The student’s sense stress and anger (Not kidding, kids can read you like a book if your upset or annoyed or angry. It’s uncanny) and they react to it. The balance of stress and laughter is so interesting to witness because it’s so different from work places I’ve encountered. They laugh with the children. They laugh at the children. Key in point, there is laughter.
3. Don’t Do Something You Don’t Love
Orrrr do something you don’t love but make sure you are compensated enough to do something you love outside of work. If you can’t have one, go for the other. There’s this strange mentality that you don’t have to love what you do. That most people don’t and that’s acceptable, so long as your putting food on the table. But what kind of concept is that? I’m not saying making money isn’t important, I’m saying at what cost is making money important? I work for a laughable amount here (700 euro a month, it’s not a secret). And surprisingly, I prefer making so much less for what I get in exchange. Long weekends. Opportunities to travel. It’s enough to buy me a night out with friends, weekly groceries and the odd (often cheap) trip on the side.
That being said, this is me. I don’t prefer doing something I don’t feel passionate about. I speak for myself when I say returning to the states and attempting not to settle for a job I don’t love will be extremely difficult.
4. Make Time for Friends, and Ask Them to Make Time for You
No one should have to do it all alone. In fact, the world encourages us not to. Sometimes we get so caught up in the whirlwind of things that we forget to keep important people close. Marriages, moves, babies, new jobs, long hours. Often I forget this rule. I forget to reach out and keep in touch. And while my friends never hold it against me, I still want to push myself to be better at this. Because friendship is the life-vest your going to cling to any number of times.
Keep your friends close. Reach out. And ask the same of them. No one likes to feel like they are the only ones putting in an effort. Ask friends to make time for you and when you’re together, phone stack that shit.
Here in Spain, I encounter the same groups of people going for their ritual coffee or beer with their friends. Without fail they show, and they aren’t on their phones and they aren’t quiet. Instead they are shouting over one another telling stories for a solid hour, if not more.
5. Set Higher Expectations Then You Can Achieve
Every one likes a good challenge. And that’s what life should be. Challenging. Personal goals. Work goals. Family goals. I’ve recently taken to making a list of things I want to accomplish each month. To push myself. To push my goals. Before my lists, I was kind of just strumming along. I would do what I felt like, and nothing more. I wasted hours of the free time I’ve been gifted scrolling through my Facebook feed. But that got boring. Who wants to move through life without challenges? Challenges encourage us to grow, to test our strengths and encounter our weaknesses.
I’ve gone through some highs and lows with personal challenges (including moving to a different country without speaking the language by myself). Sometimes pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable and down-right scary. But you forget the bad. Something about how the brain wants you to succeed and so it pushes away the negatives of experiences and instead puts the spotlight on the good. What you learned. What you accomplished. How you succeeded.
I’ll admit to some of these being extremely cliché. Because talking about life is hard to do without being cliché. I would also like to note that I am 24 and haven’t lived a ton of life. Butttt you learn as you live, and you only live by making choices. So onward!