Supposedly kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland garlands you with the gift of gab. I’m beginning to wonder if there some conditions to this effect, like “Expires after ten years” or “Offer not valid in second language.”
Ireland was my first trip across the pond when I was nine or ten years old. We went the Gparents, toured around by bus, and kissed the Blarney Stone. Recently over here though, I’ve wondered how much gabbing I should do, how much going out and making friends should be a part of this experience. I’ve also doubted if I’m actually good at it; sometimes making small talk in a second language demands way more of my brain power than I’d like to admit.
This is (was?) my struggle this week: From a purely robotic perspective, I could think like this: I have 4 more months of what is essentially free time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I could definitely read all day, eat some food, tralala on the exercise wheel, rinse and repeat. I could spend my days at the library and my nights watching movies or on blogs or daydreaming and leave out the complications of trying to figure out my fellow barcelonins.
BUT! I’ve learned I don’t work like that. Friday night, I avoided the strangers in my house (I say this in jest…there were no actual strangers) by going to a movie. Then, midday Saturday, I hit my non-social wall. Friendships, people time, and activities really do matter.
This may seem obvious, because it is, but after my close friend N. left Barcelona, I thought that I could probably make it the next four months with minimal social interaction, ya know, just to avoid the awkwardness and effort of really getting to know people. For those of you who have seen me running around the office like a maniac, leaping across the classroom when I teach, or stopping in just for gossip between classes, you would have looked at me and said “YEAH, RIGHT!” So, I don’t know why I couldn’t look at myself and see that, too.
This week I learned that yes, I can spend 4 or 5 hours working at the library in silence and solitude, but that might be all. I confess: it is really really hard for me to work what is the “typical” eight hour day. I can actively be doing stuff for eight hours (organizing a trip, reading a little, paying bills, reading a little, take a walk, read a little), but I cannot read page after page for eight hours.
(No lightning has struck me out of the academic universe? I’ll cautiously process and say more.)
And yes, I can happily go climbing by myself…I like climbing with a friend more, but I can do it.
Here’s the clincher, though: I will also turn into a hopeless nutcase if I don’t also plant mini-roots here and get involved. Those way-too-healthy cooking classes? They create sanity. Having a beer to make chatting with a total stranger a little easier? That also creates sanity. Listening, live, to an hour and a half mashup of the past 3 decades of top-40s hits? There is perhaps nothing that makes you feel more human and entirely un-robot than that. That is like reading rocket fuel; it charges your batteries and lets you go be a serious person again after.
I realized this week that I’m going to have to give myself permission to be a little more frivolous. It is okay to pay 8€ for a pilates class I could do myself just to be around other people while doing it (this is going to be tomorrow’s activity…and the third time I’ve tried to find a pilates class, so let’s hope this works!) It is also okay to go to bed at 2am on occasion if that means that I got to meet a new vasca who might like to go to an art museum with me. It is also okay for me to read at my own pace, my real pace and not my militaristic “May 2015 Work Plan” pace.
By the power invested in me, I hereby grant myself permission to be more than just a reader this week and the following fourteen. I will look to make stories in Barcelona, not just to read them.
And in case you needed permission to do the same, I hear my authority stretches out to you, too. I think it even reaches further than the Blarney stone’s…