Pressure Pressure Pressure

New Year's day on the beach. Me encanta San Francisco!

Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking about my life in Spain and how it compares to my life back home in California. The SF Bay Area to be more specific. My life in Spain is quite simple and easy. I have a lot of free time; time to do things that please me, such as cooking and travel and plenty of time to spend with friends.

I’ll admit it took a while to adjust to having a lot of free time. And more importantly to feel comfortable with the time. What would I do? I need something to do, Right?! What do you mean relax on the couch? I need to do something while relaxing, right? As I write, it seems ridiculous that I don’t consider relaxing as doing something. But I know I’m not alone. My friends at home (in America and living abroad) stuggle with the same issue. I pondered about time perspective and the direct relation of where you’re from/where you live and how it influences you. There are always a perceived million things to do, or feelings of we should be doing something. I’m learning to resist this feeling, to question it and focus on what’s important… but I’m very conscious of this.

Reflections and perspective

But I began feeling pressure, pressure that I have to DO everything now. Everything as in, now I have a lot of free time so I Should maximize it, right? I should read, cook, make photo books, research grad school, figure out my next “plan,” as in work, learn more about things that are on my “never ending to learn more about” list and travel. “I’m living abroad, take advantage  of it, you don’t know when you’ll live in Spain again…,” I thought. A lot of self imposed pressure, eh? It took me a while to acknowledge what was happening. I felt a pressure of this is “my only opportunity to work so little and when else will I live abroad?”

Why did I feel this pressure? And why do I think this is the only time I’ll have the chance to work so few hours? Or live abroad?  And why do I need to DO everything now? Who says I can’t find another opportunity like this? Or better yet, create a lifestyle that allows me to work as much or as little as I want, live where I want, travel where I want?

I began acknowledging a self imposed pressure I had put on myself; since I only work 1/3 of the standard American 40 hour work in Spain, I should somehow be utilizing my “extra” time in a strategic manner or use it to my full potential (whatever that means), right? I began to wonder,  how self imposed is this pressure? How much are my surroundings, my culture, friends and family and societal expectations influencing and impacting me? How much have I been impacted growing up in a society where consumption is encouraged, over working is the norm and always being on the go is a way of life? A lot. I’ve grown up in this society, in this system and it’s been accepted as normal. Most people don’t know any different unless they step outside there comfort zones and view life from a different perspective. 


My mom has always been incredibly supportive of my dreams and goals. She continually encourages me to do what makes me happy and always seems to know just what to say when I’m in doubt. On the contrary, my Chilean father, took the more common parental stance (and very Latino philosophy) that university education, a professional career (think: lawyer, doctor or business woman) and having a family equal success and happiness. I resisted my father’s well meaning intentions constantly but finally understood where he was coming from when I moved out on my own, had to pay rent and bills, and he was no longer here to argue with.

Are you happy? A good question to reflect on

I still carry the pressure and guilt of what is expected of me or rather what I think is expected of me. Expectations may be cultural, societal and familial and may always be somewhere in the back of my mind but the more important question is how do I want to live? Living in Spain, I’m learning what I want in my life, what’s important and how I’m the only one in charge of making my dreams come to fruition. I don’t have all the answers and I’m still pondering how to make a living and do what I please in life but I’m learning valuable life lessons living abroad. Working less and having more personal time doesn’t mean I should nor want to cram my time with things on my “To Do list.” The Spanish know what’s important in life; spending time with friends and family, eating good food and taking time to enjoy life.


Do you feel pressure to always be doing something? Do you like “extra time” or does it make you want to fill the time?  Have you experienced similar feelings or thoughts?

Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.


2 thoughts on “Pressure Pressure Pressure

  1. Oh gosh, Lauren, I actually just posted about this (in terms of my current situation) – about the mounting pressure to move forward and do something useful. I know exactly what you mean, though. My first year in Spain, back in 2007, my roommate and I had trouble adjusting to siesta time – everything closed so we couldn’t run any of the errands we needed to run after school for 3 hours. After siesta, we each had to scuttle off to give private lessons and normally weren’t free again until evening. Anyway, those 3 hours of siesta drove us nuts. Eventually, we became used to it, and I remember reflecting a lot during that free time, and having so many great conversations with my roommate and other friends. I also learned to cook during that free time. 🙂

    Regarding expectations – yes. I think that is what keeps me up at night the most. My parents, both immigrants who worked so hard to give us the life they never had, did not expect me to move from the Land of Opportunities to the Land of Siesta. The question of what I’m doing with my life arises almost every time I speak with them. They consistently mention how their friends’ kids are now doctors, lawyers, home-owners, etc. I think one of the hardest things that I’ve had to come to terms with, is not only accepting that I can’t make them happy, but that perhaps my success in my own eyes might very well be viewed as failure in theirs. The best we can do is make the best choices for ourselves, and hope that others (and of course, our own self) will accept us for who we are.

  2. I think particularly in our culture that there is a constant pressure to be doing something all the time. I mean, where else in the world do people work 60+ hours a week? I’m not sure if it’s because we (as a culture) value possessing more and more and more over cultivating relationships and enjoying the moment like you say the Spanish do so well, or what? I just don’t know how we got to this place.

    I think there is a pressure to fill every spare moment with activity and that’s why so many people watch so much TV or are on Facebook because it feels like we are doing something rather than nothing. One of my theories is that when we are doing “nothing” then we are forced to sit with our self and the questions arise such as, “Am I happy?”, etc. come up and we don’t always want to know the answer to that because if it is “no, not really” we might have to do something about it. That can be scary for a number of reasons and thus avoided at all costs. If we are constantly bombarded by outer stimulation then we don’t have to face our self. My 2 cents.

    I don’t know if this helps, but when I tell people that you are now in Spain learning Spanish and teaching English, they say, “wow, your daughter really knows how to create a wonderful life for herself!” I agree.


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