With Thanksgiving just one day away, most Americans start the annual discussion of why they are thankful.... and social media becomes flooded with posts telling the world (or at least people's followers) details of gratitude. (Not a critique against those who choose to share publicly, just a comment that I believe most social media participants could agree on.) When people are asked, "Why are you thankful this Thanksgiving?" most people respond with some variation of "family, friends, and a roof over my head" (or at least I'm assuming those are some of the most common answers). And I, too, am grateful for those things today, and every other day, but the why behind feeling this way has taken on a different meaning since moving across the Atlantic this year.
This one is intentionally placed at the top of the list. Moving to any new place can provoke feelings of anxiety and isolation; moving to a new, foreign city, where I understand, but am not cultured to, the customs and am significantly less proficient at the language than I would like to admit, can be a potentially panic-ridden disaster. But that could not be farther from my (three month and counting) experience. While there are many factors that have made my transition from Nashville, Tennessee (with a summer stint in my small New Jersey hometown) to Madrid, Spain smooth, the friendships that I have developed have made the biggest impact. Probably a combination of being Americans (don't worry, I'm working on forging international friendships) and just being who they are, my new friends have filled any potential holes I would have felt from leaving behind my family and friends in the U.S. (Side note: don't worry, none of you back home are being replaced) I have yet to experience feelings of loneliness or homesickness, and I credit a huge part of that to my new friendships. I truly believe that any experience, good or bad, can be positively or negatively impacted by who surrounds you. I thought there was no way lightning could strike twice (the first being the lifelong friendships I made while studying abroad), yet I feel equally supported here in Madrid for my second time around.
Florence, Italy in late September
Of course, I am grateful for my entire family. In particular, though, I feel immense gratitude for three of them this year. I've always felt slightly cooler because I could say I had family members who lived overseas, as if that somehow made me more cultured, but I never anticipated needing their expertise for real life situations. Whether it be housing difficulties (check out the third point in this post), international safety concerns, or general "living in a foreign country advice," two of my uncles and one aunt have guided me through adult-ing abroad. Prior to moving to Madrid, I hadn't anticipated needing their wisdom; now, I know how blessed I am to have family that can help me through this specific phase of my life.
3. A ROOF OVER MY HEAD
The "finding a place to live" situation over here is cutthroat. In August and September, thousands (I don't think I'm exaggerating that number) of young, foreign adults bombarded Madrid. Whether they traveled here through Erasmus, study abroad, or to work as an auxiliar, finding a reasonably priced, decently nice, and relatively safe, in a neighborhood nearish the center, apartment was a nightmare for anyone during that time period. After not finding anything I would deem livable (that makes me sound like a diva, but trust me, I wasn't... I looked at one apartment that didn't even have a kitchen) or affordable, I opted to live with a Spanish family through a language exchange program. I'm not going to go into detail, but the process took about a month to be placed, and when I finally moved into their home, I only ended up living with them for a week. That entire housing ordeal made me seriously question my stay in Spain, despite wanting desperately to remain here. Luckily, I happened upon a newly redone apartment, which is where I now reside. While the apartment is far from perfect (yes, it's redone, but not with high-quality materials), it is comfortable, in a neighborhood which I appreciate, and filled with respectful roommates.
I could list off so many more things and reasons why I'm grateful, but I wanted to share how my perspective differs this Thanksgiving from years prior.
Happy Turkey Day!