This is the door that leads to the rooftop of my old apartment building. See that rusty lock there? It was the bane of my existence.
It’s safe to say that I was incapable of opening this door. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t get it. I would yell, kick the door, and storm downstairs in defeat to beg my roommate, Francesca, to do it for me.
“You have to be patient, and find the right spot,” she would say.
I didn’t understand. This door hated me. I felt personally targeted. I started resenting the neighbors for locking the door and forbidding me from reaching my clean socks.
The lock forced me to become pretty resourceful.
It was almost the principle of the thing. Why didn’t the building just fix it or get a new one? That thing had to have tetanus.
But this was all just me denying the truth to myself: the lock didn’t have have the problem, I did.
Be it too much free time, my over active imagination, or both, but I began to see the door as oddly representative of my life at the time. At the beginning of the school year, I felt like I was fraying — I had no idea how to effectively instruct a class full of disinterested 12 year olds, I wasn’t sleeping well, my Spanish seemed like it was actually declining, I worried about money; I was excited and lonely at the same time, my mind ran at a hundred miles a minute, yet I felt stationary. Let’s not forget I was experiencing that full-blown identity crisis that many of us deal with after graduating college which made me question the very core of my being…
In other words, a hyperactive mess.
While it is easy to assume that every moment living abroad has been the high life (and I’m not complaining) but what doesn’t translate through the colorful photos are the challenges and the loneliness that you can often feel. No matter how amazing the place you move to may be, to uproot and start somewhere new is difficult. You leave your friends and family behind and you are alone. This didn’t, and still doesn’t, scare me, but even the most adaptable of us can struggle when you long for those moments of closeness with those who know you well.
So I wallowed. I talked to my friends and family. I watched a lot of documentaries and every good rom-com on Netflix and probably ate way too much Dominos pizza. But I also tried, little by little, to create the life that I wanted.
I started reading Spanish poetry, adventuring more, actually enjoying my absurd school days, going out with my roommates, meeting other people, training for a half-marathon. I stopped expecting Córdoba to throw its arms around me and I just sort of worked my way into it.
You know what’s funny? I didn’t even notice the door was starting to open until halfway through April. I was going up to do my laundry and I suddenly realized that I could unlock that rusty contraption with ease.
Change can be hard and perhaps occasionally overrated, but it offers a wonderful opportunity to grow. One of the best parts of moving abroad, or of any transition period really, is not only the new things you learn about your surrounding, but the things you can learn about yourself.
So if you’re struggling in your new environment, cut yourself some slack, eat some pizza, and take a deep breath. With a little patience, determination and hope, the door opens every time. 😉