GIRONA, SPAIN: Dreams and other dangerous pursuits

Girona street

What’s the ‘right’ path to take? Do I explore, seek out new experiences, follow the unknown? Or do I look for something stable and dependable? In their own ways, many fellow millennials have strayed from the path we were told to follow growing up.

We studied one thing, changed halfway through, then ended up working in something completely different. Or maybe the hospitality industry tips kept us. Perhaps we joined a startup, wanting to work in a younger environment. Or better yet, we did our own thing, refusing to have a boss.

Another popular option for native English speakers has been teaching English in Asia, which I did immediately upon graduating in 2010. Once I realized this other path existed, I didn’t look back. Why be stuck in some boring office in some boring Ontario town, or at best Toronto, I thought?

The world is big, life short, and I wanted to see what was out there. So from South Korea I went to Morocco, back to Toronto to study again, then to Denmark and now Spain. 

No doubt I feel super privileged to have had the experiences I’ve had. But after almost ten years of teaching the English language, things can get stale. Also given that English teachers in Barcelona are dispensable, the working conditions aren’t the best.

So here I was at my teaching job, making the same measly wage as my 22 year old coworker that didn’t have a teaching certification and hadn’t finished her degree (I really do say it with no judgement to her) and I could’t help but feel undervalued. And the worst part was that I was the one undervaluing myself.

I’d chosen the beach and perpetual sunshine over a liveable wage and a decent job with prospects. I don’t know why it came as such a slap in the face, I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to move here. Barcelona had always been my dream. And when you make your dream happen then realize it’s not what you thought it would be, it can be derailing.

I was unhappy and began comparing myself to others, doubting my decisions. I found myself fantasizing about a 9-5 schedule, dreaming about a consistent monthly salary. Where was my office job? I was suddenly ready for it. I was jealous of my Canadian friends who own property and have well-paying jobs, those who’ve managed to pay off their student debt. 

But then I realized how silly it is to be jealous of people who have achieved things that I’ve made no attempt to achieve; that was not the path I’d taken. My path has allowed me so much travel, change, the opposite of monotony. And those are things I wouldn’t trade for anything. I, too, have achieved great things, and I had to remind myself that. Aspects of my lifestyle are also enviable. 

They say the grass is greener on the other side but a good friend once told me it’s greener where you water it. And while some people can’t find their watering can, I’ve started thinking about how I want to use mine. 

* This title is a reference to the book Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami, and serves as a reminder of the privilege that has been behind all of my decisions. And the picture was taken by my talented boyfriend.

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