I was sitting at an outdoor table at Starbucks in Plaza de Callao when I looked up from my book at the diamond shaped Metro sign hanging above the stairs a couple of meters in front of me. It was a Sunday evening, the first real fall day that actually required a sweater (or a winter jacket, if you’re Spanish), people were leaning against the rails around the metro opening, walking through the plaza with bags on their arms, cellphones to their ears, headphones clamped tight, sweaters pulled over fingers. The tables around me were filled with people talking in their rapid Spanish way, hands dancing in front of them, cigarettes dangling between fingers, bags on their laps and half filled cups in front of them. That’s when it hit me, in a ‘I’m now really awake and when did that happen?” kind of way: I live in Madrid. I live in Madrid.
And by ‘live in Madrid’, I mean I live an hour from the city centre by bus/metro, but that’s me just being picky. You’d think that this realization would have hit earlier. I mean, I’ve been here two months already, in Spain almost three. How long does it take before you realize a very obvious fact? But, there I was, sitting outside on the first perfect fall day we’ve had, my head being spun by a fact very obvious to everyone. (Except me, obviously.) I never aimed to live in a big city. I mean, up until I left for France, I kind of aimed for Saskatoon, which is not really that big. (And suits me just fine.) I never really thought about living in a big city. I’d been to big cities (Vancouver, Toronto, Louisville, Orlando, Taipei), but I’m a small town, prairie girl. I just didn’t see myself really living in one of them. Fast forward a year and look at that: I go into Madrid several times a week and I am in absolute love.
I get it now, this love for big cities and the way they’re alive and full of light and noise and cinemas and theatres, restaurants and people from all over everywhere and bars that are open until four am and the metro and having a metro ticket to pull out just as you approach the barriers and sliding your way right through. I get the love for the towering buildings and the way there are monuments in parks and newspapers in five, six, seven different languages being sold by kiosks next to keychains and postcards.
One of my friends mentioned, months ago, just after I’d made the decision to come to Madrid, that she couldn’t wait to see how I handled it. Since I am from small town Saskatchewan and all that. She bet I’d be overwhelmed and wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I guess, in a way, she was right. I didn’t really venture out into the city for a couple of weeks after arriving, trying to get my bearings. But after I made that leap? I’d like to think it was like the first time I boarded a plane. I was 16 and my sisters, parents and I were going to Disneyworld just before Christmas. My parents, both of whom have travelled their fair share, said that we were naturals going through security, as if we’d been doing it our whole life. So maybe I don’t look like I’ve been moving around Madrid my whole life, but I took to it. Someone else asked me how long it took to get used to the metro and I took a second and looked at her. “Not that long. I mean, you look at the map, figure where you want to go and then connect the dots to get there. You also just have to kind of trust yourself, that you’ll get where you want to go,” I ended up telling her.
I guess that really sums it up, all of it, really. Leaving Canada, France, a summer travelling, moving to Madrid. You know yourself better than anyone else out there, but you still don’t know everything, either. You’ll learn things about yourself while doing new things and going new places and meeting new people and seeing new things. You’ll figure out that you’re pretty damn capable of handling a lot and you’ll figure out a way. At least, I figured that out about myself and I’m now learning other new things. Like I actually really love this city and we might have been shy towards each other at first meeting (or maybe that was just me), but we’re getting along perfectly and hopefully that will continue for a good long while.
Things I’m Loving: