Thunderstorms over Madrid tonight. It was a grey day, with thick, smoke-colored clouds hanging low, touching the tops of the massive dwellings. It was the kind of day that made me realize how much I missed and needed the rain, the reminder that nature exists beyond spotless, blindingly blue skies. The rain breathed new life back into stifling, stagnant air.
I’ve been in the city for over a week now and every day I’m thankful for it. Despite the oppressive heat, the sweat that runs like rivers down your legs, the dusty, baking streets, there is a freshness to the city. It’s like every time I return, I see it through new eyes. By now I suppose I’ve become like a prodigal child.
Although I have the promise of a job come September and have essentially overcome my greatest hurdle to life in Spain and the future, I’m daily reminded of the money I’m spending that I have but don’t quite own. With the online job market fully saturated, the offers available to me consist solely of teaching English online. But to realize that employment, I must first open myself up to scrutiny. These companies want cookie-cutter teachers that don’t deviate from the script. So rather than studying the exact movements and speech they require, I do what I do best: I avoid the source of anxiety and remain jobless.
I once again reached out to Go Overseas today to inquire about the content freeze and whether established freelancers would be contacted to resume work. The first email to one of the head editors went unanswered. The second, several weeks later, had a reply within hours. She complimented my Iceland piece and said we should be hearing from them near the end of August or beginning of September. This is the work I long for. Uncomplicated and generally unscrutinized.
The money will come eventually, but until then, my bank accounts are eaten away by restaurant meals and pints bathed in condensation. In my joyful return, I made up for lost time not only with old friends but for the life I did not live in Alicante. The money I did not spend on the experiences left unexplored and shapeless. I tell myself I’ve earned it but the small, sensible voice deep within my mind is at constant odds with an unchecked hedonism I let run wild like a wayward child.
I told myself today, after a night of drinking on the flat’s terrace until 7 am, that tomorrow I’ll start getting serious. I ordered a bathroom scale on Amazon. I thought about a fitness routine and a better, more economical diet. Maybe most importantly, how I’m going to write every day. These bursts of motivation find me occasionally and sometimes, when cultivated in the right circumstances, they materialize into something tangible. This time around, I feel that I’m where I need to be and that what I want is well within my reach if I only take control of it.
Talking to a J&J regular yesterday, we got on the subject of our own artistic pursuits. At age 50 he decided to quit his career in translation to pursue illustration. When I told him about my troubled relationship with writing, he asked something I’ve heard time and time again. Did I write every day? And as the reply always goes, I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t. You need to get into a routine, he said. Even if there’s no purpose, just sit down and write. When you start to focus on creating for the sake of pleasing others, that’s when you lose your own unique voice and vision. This struck a deep chord.
While it wasn’t meant as a metaphor, I think this relates to life as well. The past few months I have been making moves to live more for myself. Following a path that will stay true to the essence of who I am and not who I think I could or should be.
So I take the first step of many tonight as I catch snatches of the storm-chilled air through the open curtains. Madrid and I have gone through many phases over the years and as I come to know it more, I begin to understand what it has to offer. I believe it’s that time-released discovery, that ability to continually surprise me that strengthens my connection to it. As I look to the future, I realize I’m here on my terms, ready to face a new reckoning with a city that has had the unique power to both captivate and crush me.