Friday, July 18, 2014

Thanks for the Memories - Goodbye Barcelona

(July 1) This morning we left Barcelona. The word that best describes how I feel right now?  Relieved. Yeah I wasn't expecting that one either. But not only have the last 9 months been some of the most trying of our lives, the last 4 or so weeks have been especially so with everything coming to a head with exploding hot water heaters, apartment repairs, moving, taxi strikes, problems with our house in the US, my MacBook deciding to kick the bucket, saying our goodbyes and so much more. 

So relieved it is. Relieved to be ready to move on to the next chapter. With so many balls in the air, one piece is done and we can focus on the future, starting with the next 7 weeks before we move to Amsterdam. 

But while I'm relieved, I'm also, of course, sad to say goodbye to a city that I unexpectedly fell in love with. I think I can vouch for Aidan that he feels the same. He tried so hard to hate it here (and did for the longest time) only to find himself calling it home more than the US, a surprise to us all. I think the move is hitting him the hardest of all. 

Barcelona changed us. I'd like to think it is for the better. There is a saying I like that I found a few years ago that I hold dear to my heart:

"And once the storm is over you
won't remember how you made it through, 
how you managed to survive.
You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm 
is really over.  But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm, 
you won't be the same person who walked in."

Barcelona was a storm that we had to weather. There were times when it was like a wild tornado with everything around in total chaos. There were other times when it was like a beautiful tranquil spring day when our lives just felt... Normal.  It took a long time for us to get to normal but it just goes to show what can happen when you just let life take it's natural course - things just fall into place. 

This experience of living outside our comfort zone was something I truly believe everyone should do at least once in their lives. It changes who you are down to the core. You find strength where you didn't know you had it. You find you are more resourceful than you ever realized.  You find that there is more to the world than the bubble (that you were perfectly happy in) you were living in.  You find you are capable of ... Anything.

If you can weather the storm that is expat life, really, the world is your oyster. There is nothing you can't accomplish. This life is not for the faint of heart. In a million years I never would have thought this would be our lives. NEVER. When the idea of moving to Barcelona came up 6 years ago (a year and a half before we actually ended up doing it), I thought there was no way we could do this - to leave the lives we had been perfectly content with, to uproot the kids and take them away from their family and friends, to go to a place where we did not speak the language. 

There have been times where it has been overwhelming, intimidating and even downright scary (never for safety though!). And there have been way more times filled with laughter, excitement and the joys of living a life less ordinary. This adventure was a leap of faith for us. It could have been a disaster. It's certainly had its disastrous moments, but it has been anything but a disaster. It has opened our eyes to the world in a way nothing else ever could. 

When we look to the people our children are becoming, truly third culture kids, it gives us a great sense of pride but also reaffirms that this was the right decision for our family. We've had our struggles like any other family - whether an expat or not. But as a whole, this has made them global citizens, something essential in this day and age where the world is rapidly becoming a smaller place. This experience will open doors and create opportunities for them that would not have otherwise existed had we stayed home in the States, opportunities that we probably wouldn't have even known existed. 

It will be hard for us to define normal again. We want to move back to the comfort of home again, some day. And I've heard mixed reactions about what that move is like. Some say it feels completely natural. Others say that it wasn't long before they had the itch to get moving again. And others say that they no longer feel like home is home but nor do they feel that where they are is home either - an eternal sense of limbo. 

We are thankful. Thankful that we have been able to have these amazing experiences and to give our children these opportunities to experience a different life. Barcelona has set the bar high and it's not going to be easy to top what we have learned about the world and ourselves through living there. But we are excited to see what new adventures Amsterdam has to bring to the table.

We will be back Barcelona. I already miss your beautiful blue skies - that special blue that only seems to exist here. We will miss your vida tranquila. We will miss our friends. And our school. And we will even miss those annoying quirks that may frustrate us but also make Barcelona a unique and special place to live. This is not goodbye Barcelona, just see you later - we will be back.

As we depart, I need to add this one last song that always puts a smile on my face when I think of Spain and I expect every time I hear it going forward it will remind me of all the amazing memories we have had here the last 4 1/2 years.

The day we arrived in Barcelona, January 5, 2009 - Liam age 2 1/2 and Aidan age 2 1/2 (taken at Barcelona airport upon arrival)

And the day we left Barcelona, July 1, 2014 - Liam age 7 and Aidan age 10 (taken at Barcelona airport upon departure)

Julie, Josh, Aidan and Liam

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