packing it in

I’m done. Spain and I didn’t work out. It’s over.

I’ve learned some incredibly valuable & brutal lessons with this experience. I am grateful for it, even (especially) the painful parts because that’s what is making me grow.

It’s so beautiful here. I got to travel a bit around the country, take a road trip to Granada, go to Barcelona and Segovia and Pino Alto. I’ve been all over Madrid and the outlying areas west of the city. It’s a lovely country full of lovely people and I wish I had known last year what I know now. I would have made some very different choices.

I read recently that 40% or so of expat assignments “fail.” The biggest reasons for their failure is lack of support in the host country, lack of ongoing support from their company/social network, and the general feeling of isolation. I’m not going to list the reasons this assignment didn’t work out. The reasons are legion and some are highly personal. The bottom line is: I called it. I am tapping out. I am moving back to the US next month.

Living somewhere is much different than traveling there. This seems obvious to me now. I uprooted and disrupted my entire life to get here at a heavy personal cost (every kind of cost: financial, emotional, mental, social, spiritual). I’ve lost many cherished belongings along the way, valuable items like my artwork have been damaged, and I’ve spent tens of thousands of non-reimbursable dollars. I’ve suffered worsening depression, ongoing isolation, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, disassociation, migraines, sleeplessness, frustration, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of absolute defeat when faced with trying to accomplish any small sort of thing, like logging into my home security account (still can’t!). It would be different if these snags and issues had an end date, if they were just part of the getting “settled in” everyone likes to talk about. But there is no end. They are every day. Every day there is a problem. Every single day. This has been my life for nine months. It’s just the way things are here.

I can’t remember the last time my heart felt light. The last time I laughed long and hard, felt true contentment or joy or even just peace, when I wasn’t worried. I worry 24 hours a day. To the point where I am scared for my health. It’s been going on since this whole relocation process started: daily stress, worry, headaches, constant administrative hassles, arguing with people, forms to fill out, more forms, exhaustion, frustration, personal expenses that never end, every time I turn around someone else wants me to pay them for something ridiculous like, I don’t know, the mail.

This is no way to live. I hit a breaking point on September 11th and so I am putting an end to the madness: I am moving home. I am entering my plea: Home. Where there are sanitation services, reliable utilities (most of the time, better than here), where I speak the language and I know people and I know how things work and I can see my friends and maybe, one day, relax again. Only work 8-9 hours a day instead of 10-12. Be able to access medical care and know what the laws are. Have a valid driver’s license. Have an actual life again, one that I like. One that makes me happy. Get my shine back. The truth is, I’ve been through hell here in rural Spain and the fight is gone from me.

A final note: some people I’ve told, they understand or at least accept my decision. Others don’t. They are angry for me, at me, even. How dare you squander this opportunity, you’re throwing your future away, you’re crazy for not staying, keep suffering for another year, eventually it has to get better. I also hear underneath these objections traces of “I want to live vicariously through you, don’t take my dreams away.” People of course are welcome to their opinions about my decision. But until you’ve gone through anything like what me and my husband went through in the past year, the nightmare we endured, your opinion carries little weight. I appreciate the concern, I know it comes from a place of love, but you just don’t get it.

Leaving here is now a matter of survival. Staying is not an option. I don’t know how to speak any more plainly. My life choices are not up for debate, and they’re not subject to committee approval. This is my choice. You can disagree with it, but I don’t want to hear about it. It’s done.

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