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.
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.
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.