Times are Changing
Have you ever looked back on your life and pinpointed the moments where you knew things were shifting for you?
I have. In fact, this summer seems to be one of those moments. Two months ago, I hopped off the plane in Spain as I’ve done every summer for the last eight years, but something felt different this time. I still vividly remember the first time like it was yesterday. It was my first international flight and only my second flying alone. I was finally getting to do what I'd always dreamed of doing: studying abroad. The excitement was palpable, not only because it was my first time in Spain, but it was also a World Cup summer.
That summer would end up being a game changer for me. Not only did Spain win their first ever World Cup title, but I fell in love. I fell in love with Spain. Everything about it was intoxicating to me, not just the wine. In Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown mentions that one of the ways to experience more genuine human connection is through these moments of collective effervescence, where you’re so connected to those around you through a shared experience that it feels like magic. Imagine feeling an entire nation collectively holding their breath as their midfielder, Iniesta, gets passed the ball in the 116th minute shoots and scores, to win Spain their first ever World Cup.
This summer, I came full circle.
Back in Spain for a World Cup summer, reminded of summers before, and yet I couldn’t help but feel like this time felt like closure. In reading Micheal Crichton's Travels, I was reminded why:
One of the reasons I go back to Spain every year and enjoy reconnecting with the community I have through those experiences is because it reminds me of who I really am. During college, it showed me a lighter, more joyful part of myself that was ever so happy just living in the moment. After college, it thrust me into adulthood, empowering me to make choices I wasn’t confident in making before. Each time I went, it was like shedding an old skin... letting go of an old story that just wasn’t serving me anymore.
Nothing forces you to truly own your power like having to advocate for yourself in a different country, language, and culture that’s different from your own. Regular things like contacting the gas company or going to the doctor become a lesson in communication, patience, and acknowledging where to let the universe take over. It’s both a humbling and empowering experience. This summer was no different. In fact, in terms of transformation, this summer comes in at number two after that first summer in 2010.
Summer of Transformation
There were three major lessons this summer brought me. I have found that for me, summer has always been the right time to have these transformative moments because I’m able to remove myself from the emotional responses that situations trigger. This summer was cathartic for me because I realized these three themes were closing out a chapter in my life and were about to usher in a new one.
The past year was challenging, having left my teaching career, started a life coaching business, and really reexamined various things that I once knew to be true about myself. One of the things that I became aware of was the denial I default to when emotions are too difficult to process. This summer, I came face to face with two misconceptions I had this past year: that I had no community and that I had been a shitty teacher. Facing these in Spain proved the opposite to be true.
The truth is that I have community. They’re the friends across the country to call to have marathon phone conversations. They’re those I’ve met on my travels and still message me to check in and catch up. They’re the people that make the effort when you’re no longer just a stone’s throw away. Those are my people. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by them this summer. Friends I hadn’t seen in a year, others I hadn’t seen in 15, and new soul friends I met once and are now part of my tribe. They’re the ones that make you snap out of it and make you realize you’re being dumb.
The other thing that became abundantly clear was that I wasn’t a bad teacher. At my core, I knew I never was, but it became easier to make that part of the reason I left than dealing with the reality. I just wasn't the right fit for my last school. The truth is that you don't have to be a great fit to leave your imprint on a person or place. After a bunch of emails and messages from my former students this summer, I realized that I had achieved what I had set out to do, which is making a difference in young people’s lives.
Part of my summer was spent building up my emotional resilience in my personal life and professional life. I spent three weeks leading a group of teens around this summer and YES, it was as hard as it sounds. What I realized though as I cried after they left (lots of crying this summer), was that they challenged me to own a part of myself that I had discarded a while back: my power. This summer was a success because I knew I was doing right by my students. As my good friend, Fiel said, “We’re just planting seeds”. Some sprout quickly, as had been my experience in previous years, but some will take longer. I’m ok with that.
Never Say Never
I once said I would NEVER move up to the San Francisco Bay Area. I also said I would never go back to teaching, yet here I find myself recently relocated to the Bay and about to start a teaching job. A few months back, I remember listening to this episode of the Jess Lively show. In it, a woman had gone through the cycle of becoming a lawyer, climbing the metaphorical ladder, changing careers, only to circle back to it with a new understanding of her “why”. My process was similar.
This summer, I acknowledged the gaping hole in my heart that teaching had left. I had realized it from the moment I left. Every email, message, and in person visit had me in tears. That’s not normal, right? No, it wasn’t. As I dealt with the residual emotions, a school reached out to me and after quite some time of talking with them, I thought it looked like a good opportunity.
That is all for now. Let’s see how it goes!