Last November, my husband and I had packed up all our belongings into 7 suitcases. We said goodbye to friends over coffee, wine and gin-tonics. Then we left our newlywed life in Madrid, Spain to follow an opportunity that opened up in NYC.
It is hard to believe that this was a little over a year ago. In that amount of time, our entire life shifted in a way that makes our old life almost unrecognizable. There were many things with the move that was a welcome change. Though we have moments when we wish to have spent a little longer abroad. A negative consequence that we noticed immediately (and continue to feel) was the higher cost of living here. Even after a year, it still hurts at the first of the month when we have to fork over rent that was twice the amount that we paid for an apartment near the heart of Madrid.
Then again, I certainly cannot regret where life has taken us this past year. Now, we have an adorable little newborn. Had we stayed longer, we wouldn’t have our little one. I knew that I didn’t want to be pregnant and give birth in a foreign country where my language skills was only intermediate and there was no family around to help. Another thing I’m grateful for is having my skin back to normal. Madrid was so dry that I suffered a terrible case of eczema the whole time I was there. It didn’t help that I found myself allergic to Spanish wine, of all things!
There are a few Madrid habits that have hung around our household. Late lunches and dinners are still the norm. It doesn’t help that my husband comes home late from work. We also have gotten pickier with what we consider good bread and olive oil. It’s pretty hard to find a decent one without spending a fortune (or at least it feels like a fortune in comparison to what we used to spend).
If you told me last year that my life would be the way it is now, I would not have believed you. Has it already been a year already?
A familiar feeling hits me as I sleepily walk to the kitchen at 4am for my customary post-breastfeeding glass of water. No, it’s not the one of pure exhaustion that only a newly-minted parent can understand. This is a more nostalgic, slightly giddy feeling that was a norm for me just last year.
A year ago, I was still living my complete other life in Madrid, Spain. Waking at 4am used to mean something different. It meant that I was about to have a day of adventure and travel. A 4am wake-up call meant excitement. Of course, my love for sleep could only be overridden by a reason such as this.
Maybe it is this new state of tired delirium that right now I can almost hear my alarm go off for a 4am wake-up call. (I insist that we can make it to the station by 6 with 30 minutes extra sleep, but my husband wants to be safe). I am groggy but the anticipation for a new place to explore brings energy was I go through a final item check and last-minute packing of toiletries.
In an hour or so, I step out into a still sleeping barrio (cuz, honestly, who wakes up early on a weekend when Spaniards don’t start partying till 2am), then hop the metro for the train station. On the ride over, you can see folks headed home from a night/early morning out with friends. There are also others who have the same eagerness in their eyes, riding the metro with their bags packed. We all make or exodus out of the subway car when we get to the train station, ready for whatever adventure the weekend brings.
Those days are now over. That chapter in my life was brief. It feels like the hint of a dream from long ago. Who could have predicted 11 months ago when we decided to move to NYC that those moments would be replaced by these types of 4ams? Instead of walking around my apartment for a final check before locking the door, I now have a newborn child cradled in my arms for a night feeding. It’s a different sentiment. Another type of excitement. It is also far more uncharted and uncertain than any travel could ever bring to me.