A few days before my departure from Madrid I began composing an e-mail draft that I had meant to send along to my mom. Instead, my update turned into an impromptu writing exercise:
Yo ya no soy yo.
Por lo menos no soy el mismo yo interior.
~ Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
As my time in Madrid comes to a close, I find myself searching for a way to epitomize my stay here. I could recount the multitude of experiences that I've had in the last month--the strolls through Sol, the sleepy-eyed passengers aboard the Metro, laughter echoing the streets on a late Saturday night--but somehow that isn't enough. Simply retelling all that has happened here lacks a certain cohesiveness. I could write and write, meticulously detailing every moment spent in this miraculous city, but a certain essence characteristic of Madrid remains incommunicable. In four short weeks, I've fallen madly in love with Spain, a fondness I can only describe as an unfathomable warmth, a newfound affection for a life I've only dreamed of. It's one thing to indulge in fleeting hours wishing for the fulfillment of a long-held dream--it's quite another to experience the transformation of an imagined journey into reality.
Somehow being in Madrid has managed to satisfy the restless longing that has accompanied my daily existence for several years now. It's as if a bed of embers buried deep within me has suddenly burst into blue flickering flames. I'm alive in a way that I never was before. I'm content with the adventure of experiential learning, finding new knowledge in the field, in contact, in communication. I'm fulfilled in a way that I never knew I could be--I'm awake. Spain has given me the most beautiful of gifts: a self-confidence long-lost, a satisfaction with my own being.
I wish there was a better way for me to express what the last month has meant to me. Grasping at words, these phrases that I hope in some way can make sense of my time here, what I write is not quite what I want to say. What I can tell you is that if you have the chance to step outside your comfort zone in a way that challenges you to be a different version of yourself, do it. Although my time abroad has not transformed me completely, I am assured that I am no longer the same person. I am not me anymore. I can't explain what is different--I can only say that something is. Something significant. Something in the way I see the things around me.
A large part of me is reluctant to leave Spain. I do not doubt that I will return here but I feel a certain melancholia at the uncertainty of when such a reunion will occur. Someday soon, I hope (though Madrid has taught me to embrace any experience with the potential for personal growth, whether in Spain or otherwise). Few things surprise me more than all that I have gained in coming here: unexpected friendships, a unique breed of independence and a willingness to step into the unknown without the paralytic force of fear. I feel more qualified to seek out the things I want, more capable of claiming my own destiny. After years of letting myself be held back by fear of change, my old life has crashed down around me to allow room for a new one. For this experience to have any sort of lasting impact on me, frankly for this trip to happen at all, it was necessary that my world come crumbling down. On the other side of the catastrophe I see a peculiar quality of life that I had not previously been open to--I need not wait for all that I dream of to crawl toward me as if rolling on the heels of a distant fog. I can--and should--chase after my ambitions, not on a whim, but pulled by the magnet of my passion.
In this state of limbo, I'm not sure that I have many concrete observations to offer. These musings are just about all I have the capacity to produce at the moment yet they offer a certain clarity (at least in my own mind) that I did not have at the beginning of this trip. I will miss Madrid terribly... somehow I already do and I have yet to leave it. I'm grateful to all the powers that be that this experience in itself was even possible. So many what if's arise only for me to thank my lucky stars that I found my way here in spite of every frustration and mishap that I've experienced in the last year. I can openly declare that I'm happy in a way that I've never ever been before. This feeling in itself is the ultimate souvenir, the perfect impression to take away from an experience that has been wholly positive and overwhelmingly enriching.