Templo de Debod | The Spain Inside

Lessons I Never Knew I Needed

Piensa mal, y acertarás. – proverbio español
Think the worst and you´ll be right. – Spanish proverb

Fort De Soto in Tampa, pretending to be  prisoner
Fort De Soto near Tampa, FL named for Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto. PHOTO CREDIT: J.B. Heffron, 9/5/2012

There’s a voice in my head telling me I’m going to fail. Not an “I hear voices” kind of voice, but more like music that’s on in the background. You hear it even though you are focused on something else, and later if someone were to ask what song you were listening to, you might respond “What song?”

Last night I was trying to get ideas flowing for things to write about. “Why bother? Who is going to want to read what you write anyway?” is what I began to hear. “This is just a little vanity project for you. Something ‘cute’ but it isn’t real work. You need to be finding real work,” and on and on it whispered until I felt about two inches tall.

It’s difficult enough launching a new project on your own, but to have someone browbeating you about how you are just going to fail is downright cruel. I’ve gotten good at recognizing when I’m being mean to myself. At least I notice it now. What I’m still trying to learn is how to defend myself against that voice instead of saying, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

I wouldn’t let someone else speak to me that way, but since it comes from within, I tend to think that an inner truth is making itself known. On better days I know that I’m just being unkind to myself.

Puta Madre Graffiti | The Spain Inside
Angry graffiti in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. PHOTO CREDIT: J. Heffron, 6/12/2011

I’m fighting hard against the urge to make it look like I know what I am doing. I don’t. I could pretend that I’m just really inspired with things to write about, and The Spain Inside is a new fulfilling journey, but it isn’t yet. I think part of me wants to present this façade to everyone else so people won’t worry about me, or feel sorry for me, or think I’m pathetic.

To be sure, there is something to be said for the maxim of faking it until you feel it. For example, forcing yourself to hold a huge grin for 10-15 seconds before making a phone call can make one feel more positive, and therefore others perceive him or her as more pleasant. So I’ve been trying to smile and tell my friends, “I’m starting a website!” But part of me feels compelled to start telling everybody about The Spain Inside because I want them to know I’m doing something.  I’m not the failure my inner critic sometimes says I am.

No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano. – proverbio español
Getting up early won’t make the dawn break sooner. – Spanish proverb

When I studied abroad in Madrid, I told people at home that life was great.  The truth is I was miserable.  During my first moments in Madrid I had my luggage held hostage by my taxi driver until he extorted about 80 Euros ransom from me. I felt stupid and scared, and I had a difficult time making friends.  I spend the first two months bewildered and the next two mired in depression. Around month four I finally began to enjoy myself, but before long six months had passed and it was time to return home!

Madrid was not the ‘sangria in the sun, freewheeling traveler’ experience I had envisioned it to be. I felt like an utter failure. It took some time and distance to realize studying in Madrid taught me lessons I didn’t even know I needed.

I learned how to maintain a long distance relationship with my boyfriend back home. (This was the pre-Skype era, by the way.) We’re married now. Since I had difficulty making friends, I became and remain close to the Peruvian family with whom I lived. Years later, the daughter of that family came to live with me in Chicago for a summer when she studied abroad at a university here. My Spanish also improved drastically because I wasn’t hanging out with other Americans, and the parents in my family spoke no English.

Templo de Debod | The Spain Inside
Fountain and Templo de Debod at Parque del Oeste in Madrid. PHOTO CREDIT: J. Power, 6/5/2006

I discovered a love for reading in the park by myself.  Since money was tight, I learned to cook for myself. I developed an appreciation for green olives and red wine.  I came to appreciate aspects of my own culture that I’d never considered before, such as the American tendency to be punctual. I learned to disconnect from technology. (I wish the last one had stuck!)

El éxito y el fracaso son dos impostores. – Jorge Luis Borges
Success and failure are two impostors. – Jorge Luis Borges

I need to be kind to myself and realize that The Spain Inside is going to be whatever it is. At the very least, it is a good exercise in building my web writing portfolio. At best it will become a fulfilling, lucrative new career. Right now it is a humbling education in WordPress and a challenge to charge ahead in spite of my many doubts and misgivings.

I don’t doubt it also will be full of lessons I never knew I needed.

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