Having spent years prior stressed with studies and extra curricular activities for my CV, after I graduated and moved to Madrid in 2014 I decided 2015 would be all about me. Here’s a little something about what I got up to, and my plans for the year ahead.

I wouldn’t say I’m a totally selfless person, but over the past few years I had often put my concerns for others ahead of my own. I took everything very seriously. From the age of 16, I had my CV and employability in mind and was therefore consistently working or volunteering alongside my studies. I even did a TEFL course for 6 months, because apparently all those essays, seminars, lectures, and part-time work weren’t enough for me. On top of that, I also found myself in serious and monogamous relationships, and struggled with managing feelings of co-dependency and my need to be independent and in control of myself.

It was difficult, but worth the exertion. I graduated with an awesome degree, and an impressive CV to accompany it. Then I ran away to fulfil my dream of living abroad. I was single, but not so ready to mingle, and for sure still holding on to a bit of my past. I struggled to figure out what to do with my time since I no longer had a mountain of extra-curricular activities to occupy myself with. Living abroad wasn’t as incredible as I thought it would be, so I felt a little lost, and often bored.

But after I returned for the new year, all changed. I decided to embrace the unknown, and learned to love the freedom of no longer being tied down by the pressure of obtaining a degree. I filled my time with Au Pairing, Teaching English, and too many fiestas. I made mistakes, I worked too much, and I was constantly questioning who my friends were as everyone around me were recent additions to my life.

The real test was learning when to turn things down.The October before, I accepted a job in Singapore for the following September. I did so as a means of escape because I wasn’t satisfied with what Madrid had to offer. But when I faced up to the fact I’d got carried away with work and making international friends, and hadn’t achieved what I set out to in Madrid, and therefore needed to make some changes. Thus, I turned down Singapore, my host parent’s job offer of me au pairing for another year, and even my friends who had asked that we might look for a place to live together when I returned. I decided that I would come back, live with total strangers for the sake of learning Spanish, and not allow myself to work 7 days a week.

But work and my career were not the only things I struggled to get right that year. I’d also made a conscious decision to stay single, something that seemed very curious to those around me. I was persistently made to feel like I was doing something abnormal and wrong, because of course – how could a young woman not feel the need to have a man by her side? It was incredibly frustrating having to explain myself over and over again, and at one point I felt so disillusioned I found myself going on dates that I really had no interest in being on.

That summer I returned to a job I love, and then backpacked around Eastern Europe for 1 month. Travelling for me has always been a healing experience. I wasn’t on my own, but I had a lot of time to think and observe my surroundings. In Sofia I had an epiphany –  I decided to leave the pretty club, and in doing so said adiós to my ridiculous list of insecurities about my looks that I’d held on to since adolescence. I also realised that I was doing so much better alone than I ever had done whilst with someone else, and that felt darn good.

I moved into a hostel, and continued to feel like I was on holiday for another month. The time I spent talking to different people every day was priceless. Listening to people’s life stories gave me peace of mind that I am on the right track, even though I’m not certain which direction it is taking me in. It was from then on that I no longer felt guilty for being single, at last.

Then all of a sudden two months had passed, I’d moved in to a beautiful double bedroom in one of my favourite neighbourhoods, started my job as an Auxiliar de Conversacion, and even kept a handy part-time cleaning job at the hostel to add to my savings. I’ve started dance classes, and already have been putting savings away to head to Sudamerica by the end of the year.

All the while, my Spanish has improved leaps and bounds. Since I started living and working with Spanish speakers, words and sentences are all of a sudden coming naturally to me. I can’t help but get a huge grin on my face when people say “Yes, she speaks Spanish” or “You don’t speak un poco, you can speak Spanish”. I still wouldn’t agree with the latter, but the sentiment is there and I LOVE IT.

You know that old saying you need to love yourself before you can love someone else? Well, 2015 was the year I achieved that, and I made a number of awesome friends along the way. I am totally content with where I am and what I am doing, and I feel mentally healthier than ever.

So what lies ahead for me in 2016? My first resolution was to quit facebook for a month, something I’m already finding to be having a positive effect on my productivity… Furthermore, I will continue working my way through completing my 10 goals in 10 months, of which I have already completed 1 wheeeeey.

Here’s to another year of learning from mistakes, jumping on opportunities, and doing whatever I please!

– MW.

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