I was in an un-delicious sandwich, wedged between the empty, overrated and unnecessarily dramatic world of Television Production and the vast murky darkness of “My Future Meaningful Career.” So, I fled the country.
Despite thirty years of being alive I had amassed remarkably few details about myself, in fact at this juncture I knew only two things: I was walking away from a lucrative job and I wanted to work with people. Armed with this tiny slice of knowledge I became certified to teach English as a second language and upon completion promptly moved to Spain where I knew a friend of a friend who had opened a language school there. The journey from idea to passport stamp was roughly six weeks long, and I allowed the rushing current of change to sweep me over the waterfall before I had a chance to examine the details and change my mind.
I wasn’t sure what I was doing. My bewildered boyfriend traveled with me to the airport with a look of startled confusion on his face. I had no explanations, no plan and no return ticket, all he could do was wave from the gate. I was passionate without anything to be passionate about, driven yet directionless, energized but running in weary circles. I wanted clarity, to snap out of where I was, to plunge my face into shockingly cold water and hope the answers would come as I toweled off.
If you are looking to have a mini nervous breakdown there are few places on Earth as amazing as Madrid in which to do it. In a blink I found myself wandering the streets and piazzas of Spain in that awe-driven wonder that is exploring a foreign county. I was also the only person I knew who couldn’t speak Spanish. The friend I was staying with spoke English but had married a beautiful Spanish girl who could communicate with me in spurts, both of us straining under the forced brain activity of broken language. Her skills were far superior to mine, slow but decipherable, whereas I had absolutely no Spanish whatsoever save my two years from high school. If I needed to ask where the bathroom was I was OK, but that was the limit of my knowledge. I ended up eating a lot of things referred to simply as “meat” and once became aggravated by a woman giving me directions from a booth I assumed said “information.” She did not respond to my frantic pointing and motioning and I walked away disgusted that she had been so dismissive. I later found out it was a charity collection stand, the sign above her head had read “Blind.”
Already confused and disoriented I was now isolated, away from familiar surroundings and unable to make even basic small-talk. I sat among my benefactor’s friends, watching them laugh and joke, catching only the occasional phrase and feeling like the only girl not asked to the dance. Sadness is sadness, no matter where you are, at least in New York I could have added my own anecdotes to the conversation. At work I faced the same challenge, standing before a room full of students wondering how to explain the random rules of English when we had no shared way of communicating.
I became the Marcel Marceau of teachers, honing my pantomime skills to the growing incredulous delight of my students. They pushed me more and more, asking difficult questions then yelling out answers like a game of bi-lingual charades as my bobbing and weaving bridged the gaps between what they wanted to say and the English translation. American music floated in their airwaves, and they begged me to interpret the ridiculous lyrics of Mambo No. 5, which I accommodated, using Jim Carrey-esque rubber movements.
A little bit of Sandra in the sun
A little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica here I am
A little bit of you makes me your man
There were no magic revelations to be found in Spain, only wonderful, colorful, glorious Spain could be found in Spain. The confusion I felt in my homeland followed me over the ocean, but so had my tenacity, so had my humor. Fear is fear no matter where you are, but so is funny. Though it offered a delectable life-stage sorbet to cleanse my palate, the only answers it relinquished were the ones I found for myself, and the awareness that I could find them, anywhere I happened to be.