Earth, Wind, Fire, and Discernment: September in Barcelona

First off, let’s set the mood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs069dndIYk

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A very crooked panorama of a very beautiful cathedral in Spain.

I have officially been a resident of Spain for 33 days. And even after 33 days, that sentence is still surreal to read.

Surreal because even though living in Spain feels like a whirlwind for 33 days, it’s also been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I packed furiously for my last two days in the States, dreading saying goodbye to my people for a long time. I drove to Walmart four times and Chick-fil-A three in those last 48 hours. And even as I hugged and kissed my dad goodbye at security, full tears streaming for TSA, I was hoping that this chapter would be a fresh start, ready more than ever to start a new wave.

Instead, things got harder.

After I deboarded and collected my (very) overweight luggage, I was immediately whisked away to a week spent at their beach house in Calella de Palafrugell, along the Mediterranean coast, about an hour and a half from Barcelona (refer to my last post for a very beautiful picture from Google). I spent it with two kids and a grandmother, all of whom I never met prior to my arrival. The grandmother spoke approximately NO English and it became evident that anything past my recollected Spanish vocabulary (very repetitive and very, very basic) was going to rely on the children to translate back and forth.

I spent a lot of that first week disconnected. Disconnected from family and friends, because my Spanish SIM card was lost in transit at the house in Barcelona. Disconnected from my host family. Even though I came to do a job, it still felt I wasn’t relating and nor feeling welcomed and accepted. Disconnected from any sense of normalcy for me, because here I was, sitting alongside a beach that I wouldn’t have been able to locate on a globe a week before.

And as I prayed for divine intervention, some sign of improvement, things just got tougher for me. So bad that I looked up flights to come home within 10 days of my arrival. I equated this to running and became worried I came for the wrong motivations: worried I had something to prove, worried that if I didn’t prove what I needed to, I would only be seen as a failure.

Failure is something that’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around. I have felt a lot of failure from the past two years alone to fuel me enough embarrassment for years to come. Failure is two-fold for ESTJs like me: it fuels me, hardens me, pushes me to go bigger and better and to sock it to whatever is causing the stress. But whenever I feel that stress, it also leads me to shut down, to withdraw and isolate myself. It causes a lot of self evaluation, which can be helpful but also detrimental if there’s no one there to keep you balanced. Don’t get me wrong, I have great people there for me, only a FaceTime away from offering a clearer perspective with a much more optimistic attitude than mine. But in the quieter moments are where I can hear voices loud and clear.

You haven’t found it yet and you’re a year and a half out of college.

You weren’t good enough for that job, or the five interviews that followed. There’s a reason no one replied to your emails. There’s a reason that you don’t get called back. 

You’re too cocky. You’re too blonde. You’re too sarcastic. You’re too enthusiastic. You’re too intense. You’re trying too hard. 

You’re too “too.” You’re “not enough.”

 

The voices I had spent the past nine months stuffing and filling with truths I held onto flooded back to the front of my head and they were louder than ever.

 

I am grateful to say that I have never suffered with depression fully. So many people in my circles have, but I think the closest I got was in February. I was in a very dark place and it took me a long time to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But even through all of that, I could see the logical path out and just waited for emotional myself to catch up.

Here, in Barcelona, there wasn’t a path. There was 10 months ahead of me. I was 10 days in and I was drowning.

 

These feelings led to a lot of harder conversations, with myself and with others: what is the point of surrender, of giving up, and what is the point of knowing yourself and choosing to walk away for you?

Could I consciously choose to walk forward in a situation where I know I would be constantly unhappy, where the expectations I had were not being met whatsoever, in one that constantly felt like tiptoeing and hopeful to please those around me…and keep up the show for 10 months? Or could I walk away from something that feels unhealthy and be okay with disrupting the expectation I set for myself and for others?

That’s another flaw of those dang ESTJs: we take our commitments seriously, and follow our own standards of “good citizenship” to the letter. We are also take-charge people. We are self-confident and aggressive. We are extremely talented at devising systems and plans for action, and at being able to see what steps need to be taken to complete a specific task.

After walking through my 2016 thus far, I was getting vastly concerned for God’s plan in my life. Nothing seemed to be aligning and every time I felt pushed or compelled to do something or go somewhere, I seemed on even more unstable ground than before I left. But this time, as the questions came and the doubts arose, the picture cleared.

 

I took a spiritual gifts test through my international church here about 3 weeks after my arrival. This test was relatively in depth for an online exam and I was surprised at the results. Administration, Hospitality, Leadership, Discernment, and Faith.

All of these things were some of my top struggles for 2016.

Discernment, though, was one that really caught me off guard. I stared at the results and wondered if it was less of a “gift” and more due to my overgrowing skepticism to trust my gut.

But with more deliberation, I realized that God was using all of these things, with my people around me, to tell me to do just that: trust my gut. Trust Him. Listen and trust.

Have faith. That simple.

 

I wish I had a shiny copper penny for every single time I hear this precise statement: “your twenties are for finding yourself! Self discovery! Exploration! Failure! Minor success! Paying your own bills!”

(Or maybe it’s just my parents.)

2016 has taught me more lessons that I ever wanted at 23. This was supposed to be a time of endless joy and new discovery, but in a lot of different ways than I ended up experiencing. Instead, I believe God used this time to grow the spiritual gifts that He has gifted me: administration, for knowing how to organize and execute things to the best of my ability; hospitality, for knowing how to love people and make them feel understood and accepted; leadership, for knowing how and when to take charge and build others whenever possible; discernment, for knowing the difference between endurance and surrender; and faith, for knowing that if it’s not good now, it can and will be very, very soon.

 

So as I take my lessons and look forward with my time in Spain, I truly don’t know what the next few months hold. I don’t know if I’ll be returning in two weeks or 3 months from now. I don’t know if things massively improve and I push forward and things end up being sunshine and rainbows and pure happiness with Care Bears. I don’t know if things crumble from here and I’m on the next flight home. And it’s very unlike me to leave a blog post (or a decision, really) so open-ended, but here’s the thing: ultimately, I’m not in charge anyways. So I’m going to use those gifts and lean on Jesus to do what He wants me here for anyways, and I’m going to make the most of my time here while I can.

 

In the meantime, I would love some prayers or happy thoughts sent my way. I’d also love some Jif peanut butter because I have now learned you never know what you got until it’s gone…and that now includes peanut butter in my daily life.

Also do me one more tiny favor and take Myers Briggs yourself. Some people think it’s a load of crap but mine is TOO SPOT ON to not at least be intrigued. And “self discovery” isn’t just for those dang millennials. Fifteen minutes max AND you can learn your celebrity personality twins? What more could you ask for on a Sunday night?

 

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