I Should Be Doing Other Things

•March 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I feel like this is becoming the motto of my life.  I should be doing other things.  I have so many things I want to do that I always find myself saying I should be doing something else.  In the end as is almost always the case in my life, I end up doing a whole lot of nothing.

On Wednesday, I have an iTalki class with my Spanish teacher.  For those of you not following along, I started taking one hour weekly lessons to improve my Spanish a little over a month ago.  Anyone keeping track of my financial situation should keep their comments to their selves at this moment.  I’m taking the lessons in hopes that this November I can register for and pass the DELE C1 Spanish exam.  When the idea first occurred to me to take this exam I had no idea how challenging it really would be.  While I have a conversational level of Spanish, sitting down and taking an actual exam to demonstrate that I have a superior grasp on the language is in no way going to be easy.  In fact, after reviewing several practice exams I would say the exam would challenge even a native Spanish speaker.  The most difficult part for me is going to be the oral exam.  It is comprised of three parts, each involving talking candidly in Spanish for about 3 to 5 minutes.  While that doesn’t sound like a lot, I realized very quickly that my ability to speak on random topics is very limited and were I to attempt the exam today, I wouldn’t come anywhere near passing.  Now, I’m trying to remain positive by telling myself it’s simply a matter of patience and practice and I will get to where I need to be by November, however, as I am writing this, I should really be practicing that part of the exam.  As I said, I have a lesson on Wednesday and the homework I was assigned for that lesson was to prepare the three parts of the oral portion of a practice exam.  I should be doing that, no?

My New Year’s Resolution was to write a chapter of my novel each month so that by the end of the year I would have a completed work to attempt to have published.  I got off to a great start, writing a lot towards the end of December as a head start on the project.  Of course, I have not written anything in weeks now.  I should be working on my novel.  My main problem, which really isn’t as terrible a problem as I am making it out to be, is that although I have characters, setting, and a basic plot, I don’t have the main conflict that I need to have a novel and not simply a journal of a fictional character’s life.  My ideas have shifted a bit since I started working on it, but I still don’t have a true conflict to throw at this character.  Of course if I wasn’t procrastinating, I could probably have the conflict resolved in no time.  Again, I should be working on my novel.  One inspirational thing that may help me is that this past weekend I bought a new book to read and I am actually enjoying two different novels at the moment.  They are written in Spanish and the fact that I am understanding them without any trouble is encouraging for my advancement in Spanish and they are also inspiring me to get back to my own writing, which is good.  Of course, I should be reading them probably instead of writing here, but I needed  little escape for a while.

As always, I should be looking for work.  I had an appointment last Friday to meet with someone in the unemployment office nearby who was supposed to help me get organized and help me find work a little easier.  Honestly, although his advice was not terrible, nothing he said or offered really helped me out.  I have some information that I should probably be looking into, but I’m here instead.  Ultimately, I don’t know if I will ever find work here but my wife has suggested I look into possibly work based in the United States that I could do from here on my computer.  I don’t know really how I would go about finding that type of work, but it is an idea.

I received an unexpected video call from my former boss back home.  She is the one who inspired me to take m first trip here to Spain and she has been super supportive of me and all I have been doing since then.  I owe here a great deal of thanks for all she has done for me, and her phone call seemed to come at just the right time.  I have been struggling with how to pay my debt back home in the U.S. for over a year now.  Unfortunately, my mother has been taking on the burden of paying my bills and the time has come for that to stop.  It is not and never was her responsibility and she told me she can no longer do it.  This leaves me with no real means to pay my bills.  I have about a week before my next bill is due and I am still without a solution, however my boss has offered to try to find  solution for me.  I am waiting to hear back from here and hopefully she will know of some way I can pay my bills without going further into debt somewhere else.  I hate that I have this debt but complaining about it will get me nowhere.  I should probably be working on that instead of this.

I have books to read, novels to write, and exams to study for, yet here I am doing none of the above.  I think from here I will be obligated to at least attempt to prepare for my lesson on Wednesday or else I will simply be throwing money down the drain.  I suppose that brings me to the end of my rant.  More to come.

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Above The Curve

•January 30, 2019 • Leave a Comment

All my life, I have been average.  OK, I suppose a great number of people could say the same, by definition of average of course, but I am a little tired of falling into the average category.  Sure, there are some things about my life that venture far outside the realm of normal or average, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t stand out in any way from anyone else.  Here’s what I mean by that.

When I was a kid, I played sports.  I liked sports and I was even a little bit good at them, but never more than average.  I dreamed of playing basketball in college someday, but with nothing more than an average jump shot, I would never find my way to the floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium nor would I live to see the day my jersey was retired by my high school.  My lack of athletic talent was luckily overlooked by the fact that I was reasonably intelligent.  I managed to find my way into the smart kid classes, but I was never the smartest, just a little above average.  I did well in school, but no better than my friends and it was never expected that I would attend an Ivy League school.  I was better suited to a small liberal arts college for average people.

I picked up the guitar when I was 19, admittedly a little late to get started on a career in music, but I enjoyed the acoustic melodies and hoped to one day have the guts or talent to write a song or two.  Like my other ambitions, this dream too fell by the wayside as I realized I would never have the rhythm required to play along with others.  While I could pluck out a few Dave Matthews riffs, I never even managed to get through an entire song.

My dreams of someday being a published author still live on, despite the fact my New Year’s Resolution to write a complete novel this year has all but gone to Hell, but if I can’t prove myself to be an above average writer it won’t much matter.  I’ve been sticking with speaking Spanish near perfectly as a goal of mine for over ten years now, and while I can certainly manage a conversation better than most, I still fumble when it comes to talking with my wife, someone I am with each and every day.  My goal of passing the DELE C1 Spanish exam this fall may be a realistic goal, but I doubt I will score much above the average score for a gringo like me.

Look, I know I will never be above average if I keep settling for average, but excelling in any of the aforementioned skills would require either a miracle, natural talent, or an obscene amount of time spent practicing, none of which I have much of.  In order for me to focus on one goal, I have to sacrifice another, and I can’t seem to bring myself to do that.  Spanish is the one thing I focus on every day and there are moments when I feel like I just will never get it.  I know speaking a foreign language at this point in my life is not something I am going to be tested on (OK, yes I am if I take the DELE exam, but it’s not going to cost me a college scholarship or anything like that.) and I should just focus on speaking as well as I can, but for once in my life I would like to be a bit more than average.

I don’t really know what it is I want.  I don’t seek fortune or fame or anything like that, so what good would it be to be above average?  Should I just be happy with being average or should I be looking for ways to be more?  I really don’t know.  I just know that someday I would like to look back at my life and say, “Oh, yeah, I did that.”  Maybe someday.

Preparing For The Talk

•January 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

In just over three weeks, I will have lived in Spain for three years.  I find it incredibly hard to believe that three years have passed since I said good-bye to all I knew and loved in the United States so that I could start a new life with my wife in Spain.  Originally, I thought I would be moving back home to the United States sometime between three and five years after I came here.  While I am only just now entering that threshold, I am anxious to move back to the United States.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel my wife is on the same page as me.  We had talked about living all over the place, not just in Spain, but my hope was always to find our way back to the U.S.  Before I ever packed my bags, my wife told me she would live anywhere with me, as long as we were happy.  I worry she is going back on that statement, or at the very least is having fears about moving to the U.S.

We only ever spoke of moving to the United States once since I have been here, and it was an outright “no” from my wife.  I realize now it was much too soon to suggest that, but we had been going through such a hard time and were under so much stress, I thought maybe it was the necessary solution.  I understand now why she said no and I understand why it wasn’t the right option at the time.

My wife really only has two people she is connected to here in Spain; her mother and her father.  For them, my daughter is their only grandchild.  My wife’s niece is trying to have a baby, which would make my father in law a great grandfather, but that is still a ways off and my wife is always concerned for her father’s health.  He is 76 years old and while no one wants to say it, he may not get to see a great grandchild and my daughter my be his last chance.  For that, I understand why my wife is hesitant to leave Spain.  I try to be understanding, however my family still has not had the chance to meet my daughter.  Yes, my mother and brother did see my daughter when she was one month old, but that’s all.  My other siblings and friends have not had the chance to see her in person and she is growing up so fast I am afraid they are going to miss the opportunity to see her as a baby.  If we were to move to the U.S., her parents would always be welcome to come stay with us, and while I know how much of  journey that is, it would be the same journey my family would be expected to make to come visit me in Spain.

My mother has told me to be patient and not to say anything that would upset my wife, but after giving it some thought, I have decided that I need to have a talk with my wife about making a plan to move to the U.S.  Right now, we are working on a plan that would bring us closer to her parents and would allow us to make money without the hassle of commuting to Madrid (or any other big city).  If we can move closer to her parents and my wife can find work, we want to save a little money so that we can open a coffee house.  If all falls into place, I would be happy with that option, but what I have decided is that if by the end of May of this year we have not moved, or at least settled on moving, I am going to talk to my wife about starting the process of moving to the U.S.  In all actuality, there isn’t a whole lot involved, but it’s going to mean some sacrificing on our part and making sure we follow all the proper procedures in getting my wife the appropriate VISA.  I don’t believe it’s terribly complicated but there are steps we need to follow and decisions to be made.  My hope is that once the plan is put into action, it will take between six months and a year to actually get to the U.S.

I am planning on making my arguments in May, but I need to start putting my thoughts in order now if I am going to make a reasonable argument.  I want her to be convinced that this is for the best and it will benefit the three of us, and that I am not doing it to be selfish.  Like I said, if we can get our original plan to work out, I’ll be fine.  That’s why I am giving it until the end of May.  I feel if by then we are not on our way, we need to change course.

I know we will have a huge support network in the U.S. and that’s something I need to convince her of.  Not only my family, but my friends are eager to see us come home and if we go forward with our plans of opening a coffee house in the U.S., I know of quite a few people who can help us get things going.  I dream about running a business back home and I get so frustrated when I am stuck here in the house all day accomplishing nothing.  I hate feeling useless and I am certain I wouldn’t feel that way running my own business.

It scares me to think of the future sometimes.  I worry I will never find work and that things will fall apart, but then I tell myself that we can open our own place and we can be successful.  I know businesses fail, but I truly feel I can succeed with this, but I need to find my way back home first.

With all this free time, I should really put together my thoughts.  I’ll get to work on it, as like I said, come the end of May, it will be time to talk.  I’ll keep you all updated.  Until next time…

Is This Really Who I Am?

•January 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I’m finding it a little hard to believe I am going to hit 38 this year.  It seems like just yesterday I sat down at my hand-me-down kitchen table in my first, and only, apartment to start this little blog of my life.  So much and yet so little has changed over these nearly eight years and I honestly don’t know where I am going from here.  I was certainly a different person when I wrote that first entry.  Well, let me clarify that a little.  I haven’t really changed all that much.  I am still a testy, sarcastic, pessimistic with hopes of optimism, somewhat difficult to get long with person with a dry sense of humor and an affinity for coming of age contemporary novels.  I still hold out hope that someday I will write the next great novel and on occasion I still dream of achieving fame and fortune.  Certain Dave Matthews songs still choke me up and hearing a good old fashioned Bronx cheer still gives me goosebumps.  All that being said, I am in no way the same person I was when I set out on this journey.  The paths I have taken could no way have been foreseen by me or anyone else I knew at the time.  I’m no longer the tight ass McDonald’s manager who sacrificed his soul to please his boss, nor am I the scared little boy who wouldn’t dare move away to college for fear of losing the life he so desperately needed to hold onto after high school.  OK, that’s going a ways back.  The point is, no one could have predicted the roads I would take and if you told my best friend in 2011 that in 2019 I would be married, living in Spain, and the father to a beautiful two year old girl he probably would have asked if you were talking about the same person.  I suppose the honest answer to that would have been no.  I’m not the same person, or at least I have not traveled the paths my friends and family had picked out for me.  I was the loner of the family, always preferring to be alone rather than among the crowds.  My friends were a tight knit bunch and while I may not have had the most friends, I had the best friends.  I wasn’t always easy to get long with, but I have done my best to rectify that and I think I have loosened up a bit over the years.  No one saw the move to Spain coming, not even me, and ending up here has been the strangest journey I have yet to take.  I still hold out hopes that my journey will come full circle and bring me back to the US someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, but I have to be patient.

I sometimes can’t believe I am where I am and that I still have so much left to do.  My daughter is only two and I fully expect to be a part of every major event in her life.  The thought of her growing into a teenager, an adult, a mature woman freaks me out a little bit.  Hell, I may even get to be a grandparent someday.  This life, as short as it may be, can sometimes feel pretty long.  By no means do I want it to pass any faster than it is, but I really can’t fathom that someday I will be in my sixties (fingers crossed).  My thirties have flown by, but at the same time, I still feel that I am a young person.  Watching my daughter grow gives me a glimmer of hope for my future, for our future.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be the person I see in my dreams.  Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.  Maybe it’s better to head into the future not knowing what to expect.  I don’t really know.  The fact is, I don’t really know much of anything.  As much as I like making my lists and plans for the future, everything is really totally random.  It’s a little scary to think we’re really living without a safety net, but I’ve made it this far.  Maybe the best is yet to come.

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Changes Are Coming

•October 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a little too long since I’ve written here and despite my desire to always perfect my Spanish, I feel like maybe I should spend a little time here as my English speaking self.  It’s been another whirlwind year and I can’t believe we are already approaching November.  Honestly, I don’t know where to begin to catch you up on all that has been going on, but I suppose I’ll just ramble on for a while and soon all will be explained, or so I hope.

The Summer was, well, the Summer, as it has been the last two years I have lived in Spain.  Each day is identical to the one prior, it’s hot as all Hell, and no one leaves their house until eight or nine o’clock, which means for me and my wife and a little baby, we didn’t get out much.  June and July were a little rough, but we drudged through August and actually had the pleasure of travelling to Germany for a week.  I can honestly say I never expected to be able to say I spent a week in Germany, nor any other European country for that matter, in all my life, but we did it and I loved it.  Germany is nothing like Spain.  In fact, it’s much more like the U.S. than Spain is.  The people were friendly (I’m not saying Spanish people aren’t friendly, I’m just pointing out that the Germans I encountered were very nice.)  and despite not speaking a word of German, we got by pretty well.  (My wife speaks enough to get us through meals in restaurants and tourist spots.)  It is really a very beautiful country and where we stayed was like a picture out of a magazine.  It gave us time to forget about our troubles back in Spain for a few days and despite being a little rushed, it was quite a nice time.  I would never hesitate to return and I even have the desire to start learning the language, although it is a rather challenging language for English speakers to pick up.  Maybe I’ll give it a try.

On the topic of languages, I once again started practicing a little bit of Italian over the Summer, but after a few weeks, I became a bit lax in my studies.  It’s not that I don’t want to speak Italian.  In fact I really do want to speak several more languages, however my overwhelming desire to perfect my Spanish, added to the fact that I really struggle with certain aspects of Italian grammar left me unwilling to put in the time each morning to continue with it.  I must say, I actually had progressed quite a bit, and perhaps after the holidays I will give it another go.  I still have French, Portuguese, and German waiting in the wings.  It will all depend on what turns my life takes in the next few months.

We have talked about moving to Leon, a smaller part of Spain where my wife’s parents live.  It’s quieter than Madrid and quite a bit cleaner.  I like the idea of living a bit closer to my in-laws as they have been a great help to us whenever we needed it.  It’s not fair to ask them to make a four hour trip to see us anytime we are in trouble.  Sure, it can be stressful living so close to family, but I think the benefits outweigh the added stresses.  We have been searching for adequate housing and we recently found something that might actually be perfect, but we’ll have to make the trip there to see it.  That can become complicated as unfortunately my wife is currently recovering from a fractured foot and she is on crutches for the next several weeks.  Additionally, before we can make any move, we have to be sure that she has a stable job.  The job market in Spain is crazy and sometimes it is simple the luck of the draw if you can find work.  As we all know, I have been unemployed practically the entire time I have been living in Spain and finding work in Leon may be no easier than here in Madrid.  We are looking to cut our expenses drastically, which would allow us to go on living as we are living and possibly start a meager savings.  Ideally, after we make renovations to the house we choose and we save a little bit of cash, we would like to open our own coffee shop somewhere nearby.  It has always been a dream of mine to own my own coffee shop and when my wife told me that she too shared that dream, I was ecstatic, but it’s not something we can do spur of the moment.  A lot of planning will have to go into it, and when we first started discussing it, she and I had all kinds of great ideas.  Unfortunately, finding a house and a job have to come before the coffee shop, so plans have been put on hold while we research our other tasks.  Although I doubt we will become extremely wealthy running a coffee house, the idea that we can be our own bosses and still live a comfortable life is very appealing to me.

My wife has suggested that should we have success with our business here in Spain, she would like to open a location in the U.S.  Of course I loved this idea.  We might be getting a little ahead of ourselves with that idea, but I am all for it.

I have quite a few things I would like to do that could potentially provide additional income for us, but I have been struggling to get to work on it.  As I said, my wife is currently home on crutches, which puts my other hobbies aside for a bit, but I still hold onto the hopes of someday publishing a novel or collection of short stories.  I know being a published author is 1) very difficult to accomplish, and 2) not necessarily very profitable, but I have at least two strong ideas that I would like to someday get into novel form.  I tried my hand at novel writing a few years back and it was a humbling experience, but I think I have been licking my wounds long enough and it’s time to get back to it.  As I said I have at least two ideas for novels as well as some preliminary ideas for short story collections.  I have to keep telling myself that I have to live my life a little bit at the same time as being the person I have to be for my wife and daughter.  It’s not easy to balance the two, but I have to start trying.

It looks like I won’t be making it home to the U.S. again this year which is disappointing, but I am not going to let it get me down.  It’s hard not being able to see my friends and family whenever I want, but right now I am busy with family things here in Spain which have to take precedence.  I miss my family back home, but they understand.

I have to get going now, as I have to pick up my daughter from daycare, but hopefully I can find a little time to keep this blog updated before the title becomes Forty Years and Counting.  Thanks for reading and see you soon.

Trapped

•June 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Imagine being trapped inside yourself for a minute.  Imagine that in your mind, you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it, and yet you can’t find the way to get it out.  You stumble a bit and in the end, say nothing, leaving your well thought out speech buried in the depths of your consciousness.  I go through this each and every day.  Living in Spain, I struggle to express even the simplest of my thoughts and desires, simply because I lack the proper vocabulary to properly say what I want to say, or in the heat of the moment, my brain simply won’t produce the words I want to use.  It’s been frustrating to say the least to spend the last two years in a prison like silence, only expressing myself in my thoughts and rarely out loud.  Even the few English speaking people I have come across have only offered me the most minimal of conversations, leaving me begging to say more, yet with no one to hear me.  Sometimes I talk to myself in the car, just to remember the person I once was.  You see, it seems that after enough time in silence you begin to lose the person you are or once were.  In an effort to preserve who I am, I have slowly begun to let some of my previous personality slip out occasionally with my wife in English but she has no idea what I am saying, or at least does not necessarily get the context of what I mean.  One of the things I miss the most about my life in the United States was the conversations over a cup of coffee I used to have with my best friend.  Our chats were hardly monumental, as we just talked about the events of our day and such, but it was my chance to really release a lot of what I had inside.  Being unable to unwind, even when my wife comes home and asks me how my day went is one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced.  In my fears that I will never again set foot on American soil, I worry I will lose who I am entirely.  Of course I have said before that we all have personalities that we adapt to our different situations.  I speak differently to my best friend than how I would speak to my mother, for example, but the fact that I have been so stifled here in Spain I fear I will never truly have a personality of my own here in Spain.

Tonight we have two friends coming over for dinner and a drink and I always hold out hope that something like this will be an opportunity to talk a bit, practice my Spanish and let some of my thoughts and feelings out into the open.  I mentioned it briefly to my wife and she said I simply need to butt into the conversations when I can, but even that is a challenge for me.  I often have to try to translate the conversations in my head, and many times I only grasp a fraction of it, so to jump in would take a tremendous effort.  Often, by the time I get what is being said they have already moved on to something else.  I am going to really make an effort tonight to participate in the discussions, but I just don’t know how I will do,

Living here is like living in the Twilight Zone.  There are some things very much like the United States, but then suddenly I will come across something that seems very odd to me.  The obsession with food and eating at particular times will never make sense to me.  Sure, when I was younger we ate dinner more or less at the same time each night, but when living on my own, I ate when I was hungry.  Maybe it’s the fact I spent so much time at McDonald’s that I got used to having food at my disposal whenever I wanted, but here, it seems as if we approach two o’clock and haven’t settled on what we are going to eat, a small crisis develops.  I have always been the type to live by a certain schedule, but this whole food obsession is too much for me.  It frustrates me that you can only find the stores you like in the middle of big cities.  If you just want to go to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, you have to commute half an hour or more and it’s hardly relaxing.  My number one way to unwind was always to go sit and write at a Starbucks, but I am not about to drive half an hour take the metro for another twenty minutes, and then walk through hoards of people just so I can sit “in peace” for an hour.

We have been talking a lot about moving to Leon recently, and while I think it is a good idea, I would much rather be discussing moving to the United States.  I know that is something I can not ask of my wife right now, but I honestly feel things would be better for us there as opposed to in Spain.  Sure, there will be obstacles to overcome, that is inevitable, but I just feel I have so much more of a web of connections there as opposed to here and I could find a way to make a better life for us.  Here, I feel helpless.  My wife keeps telling me we need to save at least a little bit before we can make any changes, but I don’t know how we are going to do that when I am still without a job.  She has started talking about selling things off to help pay for things and that scares me.  She has talked about selling one of the cars and while I understand that would be a financial burden off our shoulders, I think we need to maintain two cars in order to get by.  I don’t know.  I have to do what she wants.  I sometimes wish I had never done this to her.  She deserves so much more.

Anyway, I’ll be on my way.  Hopefully things will get brighter soon.  Until then….