Hello, 27

What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work

-Mary Oliver in “Work, Sometimes”

As I write this post, I am sitting in my room on an unseasonably chilly September-Barcelona evening. I have a steaming cup of tea nearby, candles lit throughout the room, and the scent of a paolo santo stick lingers in the air. It is the eve before my 27th birthday, and I am taking a moment to pause and take stock of the transition I’m living in.

The first two weeks of school have been exciting and challenging and amazing and overwhelming all at once.  As I write this, I have a mildly sore throat and a bit of a drippy nose- no doubt from the combination of exhaustion, the interaction with hundreds of new people, and exposure to viruses from all over the world.

Since school started, I feel like I’ve been functioning either at 100% or 0%. Either I am navigating new relationships, both at work and in my social life, or I am at home, under the covers, eating popcorn and watching Netflix, alone.

It’s a bit disorienting, these extremes; however, this is exactly where I am in the transition process.  I am constantly surrounded by people, but I don’t know anyone well yet.  I have budding friendships, tentatively-building trust, and the base laid for classroom relationships, yet, after two weeks, nothing could possibly be anymore than it is right now.

When I woke up this morning, I stayed curled up in bed, and reached for the book nearest my nightstand.  My hand grasped New and Selected Poems: Volume Two by Mary Oliver.  My first notable thought when reading this book was I really need to gather more books about Spain, because reading poetry about the U.S. makes me homesick.

My second notable thought came when I stumbled across the following lines in Oliver’s poem “Work, Sometimes:”

What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to find happiness here.  In this new place, I’ve been alternately energized and exhausted, on-top-of-my game and completely overwhelmed, connected with the people around me and feeling lonely.

Tomorrow, at 1:52pm Barcelona time, I turn 27.

It’s my first birthday in a foreign country.  My first birthday at my new job.  My first birthday I’ve had to plan for myself in a while (shout out to Mel), and my first birthday I’ll be celebrating with friends from all over the world.

So tomorrow, when I wake up and remember it’s my birthday, I will be filled with nervousness and excitement and apprehension for my job and the day ahead.  And I will take a deep breath, and remember, the groundwork is laid.

I have my projects I am passionate about- teaching humanities, supporting ELL students, carving out time for yoga and swimming, learning Spanish, making friends.

It’s okay if I am curled up watching Netflix alone a little more than I would like to be right now.

The good work is in process and progress will come.

Hello, 27.  I look forward to meeting you tomorrow.



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