Moving Abroad: How I Finally Let Go of My Expectations
My expectations of a smooth beginning were thrown out the window upon moving abroad the September after college graduation. Before living in Madrid, Spain, my mind was filled with memories of my semester spent there a year and a half prior, meeting and falling in love with a fellow American in my program, and spending countless hours wrapped up in each other all over the city. This time, I was confident our relationship would continue to stay strong, especially since we had been long distance for a few months ever since he moved to another country to teach English abroad. Because I was about to start teaching English as well and had just returned from visiting him in his new country, I thought the commonality and recent reunion would be yet another point of strength in our relationship.
In addition to teaching English, I had also secured a job as a live-in au pair with a family in Madrid. I was so focused on saving money with free room and board that I assumed taking care of two small children, after a full day teaching a classroom of small children, would be manageable. I made a lot of assumptions and had many expectations for how my year in Madrid would go. And barely a month after I arrived, these expectations came crashing down.
I made a lot of assumptions and had many expectations for how my year in Madrid would go. And barely a month after I arrived, these expectations came crashing down.
My living situation and relationship ended unexpectedly on the same weekend. After feeling unhappy, lonely and overwhelmed working as an au pair in addition to my day job, I gave the news to the family that in order to restore my sanity, I would have to stop working for them. Ultimately, I decided that being an au pair just wasn’t working out. Coincidentally, my boyfriend had been thinking the same thing about our relationship and broke up with me the next day.
That weekend was one of my most difficult and lonely, and I was tempted to throw in the towel and return home to New Jersey. I realized, however, that instead, I needed to rid myself of any expectations for my year in Madrid and completely start over.
It’s strange to simultaneously feel immense sadness and freedom. I spent the next two weeks living in a hostel, and struggling to navigate the Spanish rental market while nursing a broken heart. At the same time I wanted to stay focused on my job at school, make friends, and build a life for myself in Madrid. Even at this low point, I felt free, and I found comfort in knowing that the only place to go was up. I knew it was time to take advantage of this fresh start.
Ultimately, I decided that being an au pair just wasn’t working out. Coincidentally, my boyfriend had been thinking the same thing about our relationship and broke up with me the next day.
In addition to finding an apartment in a beautiful neighborhood, I learned to love and appreciate my job and the teachers who had become family. I made forever friends from all over the world, went on dates with beautiful Spanish men, greatly improved my Spanish, and got to know Madrid inside and out. I learned to love its understated beauty, long, sunny days and relaxed pace of life; and slowly, slowly, I began to heal. My challenges initially broke me, but only then could I learn to manage my expectations, give up some control and go with the flow, and find strength within myself. I felt confident and capable, and I was excited to return to Spain for a second year with my newfound strength and peace.
I constantly look back on my time in Madrid with a deep appreciation and love for all I have gained. It’s a city that means so many wonderful things to me, and there is no comparison to my two years living and working there. Being completely on my own and having to create a life and home for myself in a foreign country, while going through my own personal crises was incredibly difficult and rewarding. It was only through letting go of my expectations that I was able to embrace and take advantage of the blessing of a clean slate.
Moving Abroad: How I Finally Let Go of My Expectations photo credits by Marisa M.