There were two roads and I took the one with the promise of Starbucks

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

If only my high school English teacher could see me now! *Sighs in melancholy*

If you are unaware of this poem, it is “The Road Not Taken” written by Robert Frost in 1916. This poem is controversial and beautiful and has everything to do with my horrible “play on words” title of this blog post. -__-

When I first read this poem, I thought about its meaning and took away what I think is most commonly taken away…take the road less traveled, it will make “all the difference.” But, as I sat with my Pro/Con lists of staying in Spain another year or going home, I was reminded of what this poem truly means.

One thing I love about stories is that sometimes, the right one stumbles into your lap at the most opportune moment. This poem was that for me.

These past few weeks I have been stressed. I’ve been stressed because for the first time in my life, my future isn’t exactly clear. I have always been the A B C D E F G-plan type. This is to say that I’ve never-not known what I was going to be doing with my life in the foreseeable future. Until now.

When making those plans, back-up plans and back-up, back-up plans, I always would consider them as second best (or third, or fourth, blah, blah…) But as my list kept getting longer on both sides of staying and leaving, I realized my plans were all the same.

To give a little back-story I have been battling my decision to stay in Spain for about a month now. I can’t describe the feeling or even the moment it happened, but out of nowhere the thought of not staying in Spain wrestled in my mind. It could have been the disappointment of not getting the job I wanted…but in the end, I’ve never been so happy to not get a job in my life. It could have been the roommate and man drama in my life…but those things seem to follow me wherever I go (some call it life, I’m pretty sure it’s just me). Or it could have been the fact that I miss my family…eight months without seeing them is looking pretty bleak. But I think the best explanation is that I just wanted to look at a different path.

Back in October, I made up my mind that I wanted to stay in Spain. This decision was made because my first month was awful and in October things started to look up. There was a change in the weather and also in my mood. Spain was amazing, why would I even consider leaving?

So I didn’t. I didn’t consider leaving because I was set in my decision.

But fast-forward six months and here I am, finally allowing myself to not look at going home as “failure” but instead as a plausible option. I changed my mind. I allowed myself to consider another option and whereas it has caused me many sleepless nights, I am happy it did.

The truth is, both options aren’t perfect. Staying means pushing off my dream of being a teacher another year and going homes means living with my parents while hunting for that dream job. One I get to live in Europe another year, the other, I get to be home with a new baby nephew while working towards a teaching job. My two paths; both equally as beautiful and beaten…ok, I’ll stop the path analogy; I’m getting annoyed with myself as well.

The point is, just like the poem says…

“…And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.”

…my options are equal.

But I have still have to make a choice right?

And I have. I have made the decision to come home. Yes, that’s right, Makenna Schrader is coming stateside. For good (well, I think…but who knows really?)

Now I could go through that list of pros and cons and tell you how I made my decision and probably change the story to make it sound like that was the better option. People have also told me “I can always come back and live in Spain if I want to.” And I’ve entertained those ideas, but here is why I am not going to do either of those things.

In this poem, Frost acknowledges these thoughts too,

“…Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

He tells himself that he will “come back,” but he knows deep in his heart that he will most likely never come back. It’s funny, because it’s true! In order to lessen the blow of giving up one option, we always say that we can come back and try that decision another day. We do this because accepting the fact that we will never have this opportunity again is heartbreaking. By choosing to go home, I am most likely giving up this chance to ever do it again; people can keep saying there’s a chance, but in my heart I know I’ll never live in Spain again (visit, of course, live, probably not).

A little bit of a depressing poem…but wait, there’s more!

The best part of the poem just so happens to be the most famous part that has been quoted for years.

“…I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

What I think Frost wants to convey and what I think I take away from this is that when making a decision, after telling ourselves we can go back, we end up making up this idea that we chose the less traveled road in the end. We like to say that we “made the right decision” because it helps with the idea that we missed out on the other.

Still depressed? Don’t be.

During the past few weeks I have been trying to find the “deal breaker” the one thing between the two that I can’t miss out on. I do this with a lot of decisions and I think we’ve been trained to do so all of our lives. But I think what Frost is trying to show and that should give hope instead of depression, is that regardless of the choice, either way, it will be ok…or not My options were equal, I gave up something with both…I just needed to pick one.

So what does that mean? Even though I haven’t lived this one through yet, this is what I am taking away from my decision.

I’m choosing Starbucks. I’m choosing living with my parents at twenty-three years old. I’m choosing expensive coffee over cheap. I am choosing small town USA over traveling Europe. I’m choosing a stateside adventure over a European one. And that’s ok. Instead of making up some story about how one is better than the other, I have opted to simply listen to that voice in my head (as I was mid-downward dog I might add #yoga4lyfe) that said, “You want to go home.” That’s it.

My advice is to make the pros and con lists. Think about your decision. Consider every possibility. But above all of it, just make the decision. Each decision will lead to hard times and each will lead to some amazing memories, don’t resent the one you don’t choose, be thankful for the opportunity to be able to choose.

I am a college-educated, independent, and well-travelled individual. I am going home jobless, with all the ambition and promise of that decision.  It wasn’t the better option, nor was it the worst, but I made the decision regardless…“and that has made all the difference.”

Un abrazo fuerte.

Nos vemos July 31st USA.

 

 

Makenna Schrader

Poem and explanations were aided by: http://susanbaroncini-moe.com/please-stop-misinterpreting-the-road-not-taken/ 

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Thirteen Reasons Why

Two weeks ago I pressed play on a Netflix show and unknowingly entered a whole world of controversy. From the name of the post, I am obviously talking about Thirteen Reasons Why.

Rooted with so much strength and ugliness is this heavy 13 episode series on Netflix that takes viewers into the life of a Middle-Class American suburban high school. I don’t think a time of life has ever held so many emotions than those years in high school. In short, a young teenage girl commits suicide. As if that sentence doesn’t strike pain into your heart enough, like it should, we are then faced with the reasons why it happened.

After binge watching the thirteen episodes, much like the other teenagers on the tapes, I finished feeling hollow. As an educator, as a high school graduate of a similar school, and as a soul that has been touched by suicide, I was flooded with emotions. After finishing the show and giving myself time to process, research and process again, I feel I have finally come into some rational opinion and I thought I would share it with the world.

When the majority of people sit down to watch a television show, they are looking for entertainment. However, within the past few years, we have seen a switch. Instead of films being only for entertainment, films are now transmitting news and information about topics that hit relevant issues in our lives. Instead of going to the movies to escape our world, we go to the movies to learn something about our world. In my opinion, this is good and bad. The good is that people are finally being faced with real things that are happening and being forced to open those conversations. This is eye opening and thus creating discussion that later leads to improvement. It’s something we can relate to…even if it is a little bit dramatized.

So what is the bad? In my opinion it’s the business. As much as I love the conversation starters of movies and media, I am panged with the forever-itching fact that it is “all to make money.” This brings insincerity to anything I watch. On top of the drama that is hitting us hard, we are then faced with this drawn out drama that could have been incredibly meaningful if just left at one movie/season of a show…instead of a sequel, prequel and five-years later-quel (ahem, Star Wars). The point is it’s too much when it starts to seem too drawn out.

But what’s the problem with this? How is this bad? I love all the Star Wars Movies!

When I sat down and pressed play on the first episode of Thirteen Reasons Why, I was instantly sucked into this awful horrible world that is this show. It was brutal to watch at times, incredibly disheartening at others, but most of all, it was realistic. It was realistic in the sense that watching it, I could think of times I had seen things like it in my school. It was realistic because I could see what choices the students were going to make and I KNOW students who have made those decisions. What hit the hardest was the fact that I know people who have tried/failed/succeeded at making Hannah’s decision. My eyes were sore from crying and my heart was broken from watching…until the last scene.

If Thirteen Reasons Why signs on to do a second season I will not watch it. This show was terrifying. It was heartbreaking. But it made a statement! A statement that it wanted to start the conversation about this HUGE issue we have in the states and I applaud that effort. Regardless of your opinions of how good or bad the show is it opened up a dialogue that I don’t think friends, parents, educators, politicians, etc. should shy away from. However, that should be it. That should be where the story ends and the viewers have to take what they can and change it for the better.

Making a second season, to me, ruins the idea that the producers want to inspire this change. They just want to make money. They want to make a second season so they can capitalize on viewer’s emotions. I have seen the negative effects of this just listening to people around me talk about the season already. Instead of hearing the discussion of hurt, the presence of this in our schools, and how awful it is that this show had to be created before we started talking about these issues, I am hearing things like, “what is going to happen in Season 2?” or “Hannah is too dramatic and Jeff is SO hot” and my least favorite, “(INSERT YOUR NAME HERE) welcome to your tape” (Laughs to follow). This is detrimental to so many teens and young adults who are experiencing these issues.

When the rhetoric is this, we are not looking for a solution we are making a mockery of the second leading cause of death in people 10-24 in the United States. And if that is the conversation that will be surrounding this show, I want no part of it.

Here’s the thing. Even though the story is fiction, the school, the students, and the actions that occurred within those tapes happen all the time. If that makes people laugh, if that makes people want to poke fun at the “tapes” then shame on them. Laughing, making memes, and diminishing those topics makes them taboo. It makes them fade back into the confines of a person’s head that is struggling with depression. It counteracts the purpose of making these forms of media.

This needs to stop.

Be aware. Be empathetic. Be understanding.

Be aware of your actions as your holding these conversations. Before you make a joke, think about the people in your surrounding…you never know another person’s experiences. Be empathetic when someone says that this show was triggering or that this show wasn’t a good thing. Everyone has their own reactions and reasoning, put yourself in another person’s shoes that has or hasn’t experienced suicide. And lastly, be understanding. Understand that people are hurting and that making a joke about something that is this sensitive is wrong. Do what is inherently right.

Telling someone “welcome to your tape” with laughter in your voice because your friend didn’t do you a favor, is not right. Stop acting like it is.

Do the right thing. Talk about the difficult issues. And spread the positivity…you never know who might need it.

 

Sending positive vibes and love to everyone!

 

Makenna

Truth or Dare

Over the past few weeks as many of my blog readers (aka friends and family) know, I’ve been experiencing some writer’s block. Now for most people, and me included most of the time, this wouldn’t mean anything. I’ve gone years with writer’s block and didn’t bat an eye. But what I think has made this entire situation the most frustrating is that I’ve wanted to write. I’ve wanted to say so much, but didn’t know how.

*dramatically curses and contorts face*

As I was walking up an incredibly gigantic mountain, kicking myself for not just calling a taxi to take me to this so called “wonder of Spain” I realized, or what I think I realized rather, is that sometimes words need to go through a storm of processing before they can be articulated on a page (or computer screen for that matter).

And with that… I thought. And I let the storm rage. Ugly crying while you’re walking on the side of the road is always a great picture of yourself for people passing by in their magical and beautiful coches. #mymusclesarecryingmore.

It should be said that this past weekend I randomly decided to solo travel to Bilbao, Spain. I needed the time away and I had a hankering to see Spain’s equivalent to the “Great Wall of China”

Tucked away about an hour outside of Bilbao is a small town called Bakio and 6km up and down a mountain is this beautiful wall that leads up to a tiny cathedral in the middle of the ocean.

Sounds like it would be amazing? It was. The pictures don’t justify the beauty, but it truly was worth the walk.

As my legs were sweating tears of pain, I kept thinking about patterns. I kept thinking about the patterns that, as of recent, have been occurring in my life in so many ways—personal and professional. As I was thinking about these things and getting frustrated with them individually, I kept thinking about my grandma’s lesson that “a friend is always a need answered” and my mother’s advice of “you need to take of your inner Makenna”

Which reminded me of a story.

While I was in high school, much like a lot of prepubescent teenagers, I was hopping from friend group to friend group, not necessarily fitting into one specific one, but also…not-NOT fitting in either. It’s a weird combination, which is what high school is mainly about. Being weird.

High school was the time to be weird by trying to fit in, find out what we liked to do and of course try to survive. I had a great high school experience, I wouldn’t go back to that time period for even a second, but it was fun while it lasted (ask me about college and I would pay my life-savings to go back #jkIcant #mizzouhasallmymoney)

In high school, I was never the type to latch onto any group, any friend or any boy for long. I never was good at sticking to one thing. Yet, my senior year of high school, I had a group of friends that I loved. They were funny, strange, and incredibly loving. They were my need answered while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

It was during this time that I had started talking to a boy that I had met over the summer. At the time we were talking, I thought nothing about him. I wasn’t interested in him in a romantic setting…I just liked him as a friend. However this was also the time that everyone was boyfriend obsessed. It was the fashion to wear your boyfriend’s hoodie, football jersey and to have a secret nook around the school to make-out.

I remember inviting my boy-friend to homecoming that year (he was a year older) just because I thought it would be fun however, I remember my friends descending on me. The questions about if I was interested or if I wanted to date him were relentless. I even ended up loosing a friend over it…#highschoolCANbebrutal.

It was a crazy time. What I remember the most was the night of homecoming after the dance had ended. We all were at my house in the basement, my date included. After that night, I knew in my gut I didn’t like this boy romantically regardless of what my friends had said, but I didn’t know what to do (when you are 17 you just don’t) I don’t know if it had been planned before, but my lovely friends decided to play the game Truth or Dare. It should be noted that I hate this game and my friends knew it. But yet, here we were playing this game and of course, I ended up having to kiss my date.

Needless to say, as all juvenile stupid parties go, by the end of the night I supposedly was “dating” my date to homecoming (after the kiss, he texted me, “do you want to do this?” I promptly responded, “Do what!?” and he said, “Date.” He was sitting right across from me. The innocence of high school! #daysbeforetinder). Every part of me knew this wasn’t what I wanted, but I felt the pressure from my friends and I felt like I had to do it.

To make a long story short, I ended up dating this friend for two months. He lived farther away from me, so I was able to have time between seeing him. I remember it was during those two months that I kept having this sinking feeling that this wasn’t right. I shouldn’t feel this way. It was then that my mom told me, “you have to check-in with your inner Makenna. How does she feel?”

I remember rolling my eyes at her because she was my mom and I was in high school #poormothers. But, I took her advice. I checked-in with myself and realized I didn’t want this and I need to get out of it. That evening I called him and was broken up within the hour. My insides stopped rolling over and I was free. Sadly, I had to return the sweatshirt #RIP.

I tell this story for a few reasons. The main not being that I like talking about my tragic love life, but rather, my friends were my need answered at the time, but I also learned to listen to my “inner” friend as well.

These past seven months abroad, I have fell in love with the friends that I have here. They are amazing in every way. Brilliant, caring, fun, and supportive people some of that I know I will keep for life. But, during this time, I have also been faced with a load of issues. I have had to grow up these past few months and make adult decisions; it’s been terrifying at times! And as much as I love my new friends (and my old ones as well, I promise!), the one aspect that I’ve had to constantly remind myself, is that I need to check-in with myself first.

Walking up, down, up and down that mountain last week, I reveled in the time to be able to think. To let those words that had been trapped in my brain for the past few weeks, rage on and sort themselves out. I checked in with myself and I made sure the “inner” Makenna was not depending too much on the advice that was being thrown her way #nomorethirdpersonpromise

The point is this. I have always cherished the friends that I have in my life and I have always valued (the good ones’) advice. I enjoy listening to people’s points of view and they have good advice! It’s good to get a second opinion in medical issues, why not those important decisions in your life as well! But what we all have to remember is that the only person who knows our heart is you. The words and feelings are swirling in your mind, not your friends’. Take time to sort them out.

My advice is get out. Solo traveling is a dream. It gives you a chance to be by yourself, clean up your brain and decide what you want to do with the issues that you are faced with. You are incredibly smarter than you think. Listen to your friends, but also listen to yourself. If the two are contradicting, choose yourself, turn down the outward advice…if they are true friends, they will stop and love you even if they have to say “I told you so” in the end.

Sometimes it makes us better people to make mistakes on our own and sometimes our decisions provide wonderful chances that we would’ve missed out on if we listened to the advice.

Take my brilliant mother’s advice and listen to your inner self. Never play Truth or Dare. Be strong. Be reflective. But mostly, be you.

 

Un abrazo,

 

Makenna

Churros, Chocolate, & Chuckles

This past week was the first week back after a very eventful Christmas break and I can be honest, it wasn’t the hardest, but it also wasn’t the easiest. With such an eventful break, I was looking forward to some routine…just not the 6:30 alarm. Entering school on Monday, it was a shot of normalcy and I welcomed it! By Tuesday, I was exhausted. Es la vida.

Over the past week, my head has been swimming. From “why is he not texting me back,” to “how can I defer my loans one more year?” and “Only one pastelaría a week? What?” It was chaos. No amount of miles of running nor Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have been able to assuage the frustrations, but poco a poco. It will be ok. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

The truth is, I’ve been worried and I think it’s in the water. As much as we are all trying to remind ourselves that we only have six definite months left in Spain and trying to aprovechar…the next year questions have been circulating and applications are opening. It is sometimes hard to remember that you are still in this magical place when it seems reality is sneaking up on you.

As I sat across from my lovely roommate yesterday morning, indulging in chocolate and churros of course, we both vented about our frustrations about men, school, and life in general. We were fed-up, confused, and felt like the world was crashing down.

However…six big churros and one cup of chocolate in, something changed. It started with one chuckle. Which turned into laughs, which later turned into tears streaming down my face…but from laughter. We laughed because we took a step back and looked at what we were doing, what we were so upset about, why we felt the world was ending…and it was funny. It was funny not in a pathetic way, but because we were taking life too seriously.

The thing is we are both twenty-three years old. We both graduated from college. We both are Fulbright scholars. We both are working as hard as we can to make a change in the lives of about 225 children every week. And don’t forget, traveling to different cities and different countries on our weekends. *Starts laughing*

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Our lives are not ending.

When I think about all that we have accomplished and I think about how far we have come since that steaming hot day we walked off that plane; these things we are so frustrated about seem to fizzle out. Somehow we made it here and somehow we will make it through.

I get so caught up in the plan (Um, why else do I have so many calendars) and the expectations on how I think things should be turning out (you mean we aren’t supposed to get married after the first date?), that I forget that I didn’t plan for anything that happened to happen (trust me I could not have planned for the wine to be THAT good).

The point is take time to step back from these situations that make us miserable and laugh. We are too young and too accomplished to be feeling like our world is coming to an end right?

We need to accept the things that come into our life, deal with them, and then move on. Lets lighten our load! What I have found to be the best way to do that? Laugh (I recommend a ten minute Beyoncé dance interpretation, sure to make even the best dancers laugh).

The point is the world is harsh. Things are not pretty all the time. But we have come so incredibly far and there is too much to be thankful for. The world may be a bitch, but that doesn’t mean you have to be too.

So I leave you (of course) with my all time favorite quote. Not because it was said by the wisest person around (ok, that’s debatable) or that it brings so much meaning into my life. But because it reminds me to do just what is says:

“Nothing to me feels as good as laughing incredibly hard.” –Steve Carell

Remember to laugh.

 

Sending best wishes to everyone,

 

Makenna

Choosing a Better Story

It’s been about three months since I last checked the amount of time I have been in Spain (refer to my freak-out blog about cottage cheese) and I feel I need to take a minute to acknowledge that I have made it four months. Four months! During my study abroad, this was the amount of time when I was getting ready to go back to the states. Now, three years later, I am here again but this time my return flight is still not booked. The homesickness comes in waves, but leaves just as quickly. With my family boarding a plane to Spain in just four short days, the “missing home” tide is low.

I did, however, think it was time to reflect on my time thus far.

When I think back to when I got off the plane in Madrid, exhausted and in a haze, my heart hurts. My heart hurts because little did I know as I held all my luggage sweating and confused, that the next thirty-days in Spain were going to be hard. Little did I know I was going to get miserably lost (and four months later I still do!) Little did I know I was going to get my phone stolen…again. Little did I know, I was going to feel the pain of being disconnected from the world without a phone or wifi. And most of all, little did I know, that the urge to get right back on that plane as soon as I got off was going to stick around for awhile.

I’ve slightly mentioned it before, and for those who were with me during my first month in Spain, you know, it was not easy for me. I believe everyone has their own experiences, so I will not say that it was normal that I wanted to turn right around and leave when I got to Spain, but I do know that for the majority of people, we second-guess ourselves. For me, I spent the first month second-guessing my big decision to move to Spain. I was tired. I couldn’t remember my Spanish. And I was insanely discouraged. Did I mention, I wasn’t connected with the world at the time? #nowifi #nophone #foreigncountry #nogoogletranslate #firstworldprobs

After all my posts about loving Spain and wanting to stay, I am sure you are wondering…what the hell changed?

The truth is, it was a series of two events. The weekend I went to see my friend Chelsea and her boyfriend in Madrid was a huge turning point. This weekend centered me. It gave me a taste of familiarity (Chelsea and I met while studying abroad in Sevilla) and it helped me realize that I can do this. That weekend, I enjoyed a beautiful city (remember: a city is a need answered), I was able to share life stories with a best friend who reminded me to have grace with my Spanish ability, and most of all I relaxed! I will always be grateful to my bestie for that weekend 🙂

The other event was a little more spiritual. When I returned home after that weekend, I was feeling refreshed, but also I was craving something (and trust me, it wasn’t cottage cheese). I was craving my Sundays. I was craving my Sundays in Columbia, Missouri. I was craving church.

Now I am not going to sit and write a hyper religious post, tranquilo. But, on that Sunday, as I watched the live stream from The Crossing back home, something clicked. As much faith that I have in my heart, I will always be amazed and shocked when the perfect lessons come at the most perfect times #blessed. This week’s sermon topic was “Choosing a Better Story.” As I sat in front of my computer, tears in my eyes and a pen in my hand, I wrote and soaked up every word.

From that day on, my time in Spain turned around. That’s not to say it was all smooth sailing, but something changed (I had also gotten wifi in my piso that weekend, so you know, it could have been situational). It was that day that I decided to stop being a spectator. I realized that everything I do has meaning and that every minute counts. The truth is, I changed. I was ready to live the better story.

To make a long four month adventure short, here is my advice…or at least what I have come to believe thus far:

Regardless of your religious affiliation, you have a “story.” Some will argue you can choose it or it is chosen for you, but either way, sitting and watching won’t make you happy (unless you are at a football game, there’s some happiness there). The truth is you need endurance, you need perseverance, and you need to keep learning. You are running the race of your life; be active in its design. For me this is not merely planning lessons, but accepting the fact that I am influencing young minds! How cool is that?!  Find what you love, keep going with it, and enjoy the run.

And so I leave you with one of my favorites:

“The purpose of life, after all, is to love it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Choose your story and love it.

Besos,

 

Makenna

An Open Letter to All the Men Who Have Merely Visited My Life

So I was going through my saved draft posts this week because I could not think of words to write this week (I am still going to write a post, but I am just not sure what about) and I found this post I wrote but never posted before I left for Spain.

I think it wasn’t the correct time in my life and I wasn’t ready to share it with the world. But, today, as I sit and am currently playing the “Spanish men” field here, I still feel this way. Deciding to come to Spain without connections has been my best decision still. Contrary to everyone’s belief before coming to Spain, I don’t have the Spanish boyfriend or the Scandinavian boyfriend (Sorry, Colin) that you all wanted me to have. Instead, I am living my life and loving my life.

However, I still found this post comical, especially since I did end up stashing the Clay Matthews jersey in my luggage!

I hope you laugh at this post, it was meant to be comical. I appreciate all the people in my life and even the visitors, you are great as well! So here it is:

You poor poor souls.

There are not too many of you to count, but plenty of  loving, funny, frustrating and cringe worthy stories to pack up in my luggage and carry with me on my way to Spain. Unfortunately, I only have one free checked bag and rather than spend $50 for an additional bag, I think I am ready to leave behind some of you with my old sweatshirts. I have a floppy hat to pack.

To the men who have merely visited my life in the past few years, I do want to say that regardless of how brief or catastrophic your visit, you have etched yourself on my life which has lead me here…and I’m happy here. Over the years, some of you outstayed your welcome and some left too quick that I barely had a chance to tell you all my good jokes (your loss buddy). Either way, I have always felt this need to apologize to you all. I have wanted to apologize for the crazy, erratic blonde/brunette (it was a phase) woman you met and came to know, but now as I am ready to move across a big ocean, I’ve decided…I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry, not because I am now the secretary of the “She-Man Men Hating Club,”(#littlerascalsreference) but rather that “crazy” woman still lives in my soul and she’s not going anywhere. I’m not afraid to admit that I have some crazy tendencies that might come out once I open my mouth…for all of you men or women who don’t know the “crazy” I speak of, just know that my grandma refers to me as “spirited.” But the point is, I am spirited. I have a ton of energy and I am extremely passionate about a lot of things. But, that is what I love about myself.

Now, I know that is not everyone’s cup of tea and I am by no means shaming you for not sticking around, but I’m done holding the responsibility for why it didn’t work out. For years I always thought that I was the problem and I kept apologizing for the things that made me me. I’m sorry I’m too hyper, I’m sorry that I am too interested, I’m sorry that I sound too smart, I’m sorry that I sound too dumb….the list went on and on. It was like I was living the cliche statement, “it’s not you, it’s me” and actually believing it is me instead of just saying that to assuage your heart.  But the thing is, I don’t want to apologize anymore; it wasn’t me or you. It just wasn’t us.

Some of you fine men that know me well today, would roll your eyes at that statement and I would laugh with you too. But it is true and it has taken me a week before my twenty-third birthday to understand that sometimes it just isn’t meant to be and it is not anyone’s fault. Some didn’t want to stick around because I move too fast (yes, my family is the best and I want you to meet them), some of you didn’t want to stick around because my dream is to travel (which means leaving you), and some of you didn’t want to stick around because I exhaust you (I’m hyper!) Whatever the excuse you gave me, whatever the reason for your check-out, I want you to know that it’s ok. But, I don’t want to tote you along anymore. Stop waiting around in the lobby, just leave.

My intent is not to yell at you and tell you how much I hate you, because that would be a lie and dramatic. I still care about each of you (or majority of you), but I want you to know that I am leaving that responsibility of our demise at home with my Clay Matthews jersey (I am sincerely upset I cannot bring it, trust me). And even though I cannot predict the future and I hate absolutes, I have to say, I don’t want to try you on in the fall when I return home like my Matthews jersey. I want you to move on, I want to move on, and I want you gone.

As I finish out this letter that took me about two weeks to actually complete, I want you to know that this is hard. As silly as it sounds, leaving the life that I have grown to love (even you and your drama) is terrifying. But, through that fear, I feel free. I am living out my dream and I am not allowing you to come with me; I cannot afford any more baggage.

I wish each of you crazy fools the utmost of happiness wherever your life takes you.

 

All the best,

 

Makenna

 

 

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”

 

It’s almost been two weeks since my last post and as much as I wanted to keep up with my posts every week, I needed a week off. I needed a week to try to process everything that has been going on and even as I sit, trying to write, I am struggling! So a disclaimer to my readers who keep up with me, it might be a bumpy ride.

To start I want to say that two weeks ago I thought my world was ending. *If you were not aware already, I tend to err on the side of dramatic* but also, I pride myself on trying to always find the silver lining. “No hay mal que por bien no venga” has been my life motto ever since I learned it in Spanish and I have been trying to stick to it. But, two weeks ago, when the United States took a turn that I wasn’t expecting, I faltered.

Unfortunately, I cannot sit and confidently write a post that will encapsulate all my opinions about the election, nor do I believe I have a right to. I have not kept up with politics over the years and I am unable to say I fit with one side or the other. But regardless…my heart still hurts for all the pain and confusion that is going on in the states and I know what is right and wrong. As a woman, as sister of a black brother, as a member of a progressive family, and as a decent human being, I am scared for what the future holds too.

But even as my eyes watered as my brother texted me how truly horrible things could turn out to be, this quote kept running through my head.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Now, I know I have several friends who will roll their eyes, especially since the quote originates from Harry Potter (my favorite books of all time #basicbitch). Quotes have always been something I rely on and I have zero shame admitting it. ANYWAY, I kept thinking about this quote. I kept thinking as everyone talked about his or her outrage, about how awful the world is going to be for the next four years…I could not stop thinking that it could not be true.

Right now in the world big things are happening. Scary things. Dangerous things. There is so much changing and people are scared for the future, we have never been where we are today. However, as I have been reading and freaking out, I have also been thinking. The truth is we all spend our entire lives trying to chase the future, but we will never truly understand the future. As terrifying as that is, as much pain that will happen during that time, with every part of my body, I have faith that there will be happiness.

I have faith because over the course of my short twenty-three years, I have met a lot of people. I have come across a lot of bad people, malicious, selfish and terrible people (working in public schools, you meet some people)…but for every awful person I have met, I have met at least one wonderful person (when you work in public schools, you meet unsung amazing heroes as well!) I believe in the people that I have met. I believe in change and I believe that there will always be happiness if you look hard enough.

The point is, I believe in the good of people. I am well aware that there are people who enjoy suffering, whose hearts are so saturated with hate it is practically spewing from their pores. But I am also aware that there are people who love unconditionally, people who fight for what is right relentlessly, and people who breathe happiness into the darkest of souls.

What I want people to know is that sometimes the world feels like it is crashing down around you, it feels like your lungs are collapsing and your head might explode from the terror (holla drama!) but remember there are good people in this world. The moment we forget that, accept defeat, and give into the fear, is the moment we loose everything worth fighting for. The point is, surround yourself with good people, laugh when it seems impossible and push for what is right…as difficult and impossible as that sounds.

Phew. I don’t know all the answers and I will never say that I do, but I refuse to believe the world is ending and that THIS is the end. So I leave you with another quote, one of my favorites, one that centers me every time I read it:

“Attract what you expect, reflect what you desire, become what you respect, mirror what you admire”

Be the positive. Be the light. Be the happy…the world has enough fools…and I promise you the world will be a better place.

 

Besos,

 

Makenna

Abort Mission: You actually don’t know how to say that

When people in the states would ask me if I was fluent in Spanish, even though they thought I was being modest or shy, I wasn’t. The truth is, I don’t know how to answer that question. So I wanted to address this issue, talk about the struggles of speaking another language, and be honest that I will never be as good as a native. So here it is:

  1. Sometimes I feel like QUEEN B herself

kg3pie63sugo0Beyonce moments are difficult to come by, but when they happen you have to carpe diem. I am not going to lie and try to be modest…sometimes I can speak Spanish perfectly. When I say that though, I mean my grammar is perfectly correct for a sentence or two. News flash, no one speaks perfect. But there are some moments when I am speaking to a colleague or a Spanish friend and I know they understand me because I am speaking correctly, not because they simply understand broken Spanish. It’s in these moments where I feel like I can take on the world. It’s as if all those thousands of dollars that were thrown into my education are going to great use! I learned something! I am not going to say this is an “every moment I speak Spanish” occurrence, but it happens semi-regularly (varying degrees of Beyonce fab). Thankfully, I am taking a Spanish class that is supporting the cause. #BeBFab

  1. WTF is Fluency?

tumblr_lrmovogwdq1qd4ukbo1_400When people ask me if I am fluent and I give them a blank stare back, they typically follow up with “well you lived in Spain!” or “you’re moving to Spain!” but the truth is the word fluent is hard to define. What makes someone fluent? I remember struggling with this idea in my education courses when discussing how to improve students’ fluency in reading. How do you measure it? So to answer the question, I typically say, “I can get by.” Which is true! I live in Spain. I speak Spanish everyday. But with that, there are varying degrees of the amount. I am an English teacher; at least 30 hours of my week are dedicated to speaking in English. I cannot speak Spanish 24/7. I can converse easily in Spanish, but sometimes I spend three minutes trying to explain something that should have taken me two seconds but since I didn’t know the word, I talked longer. No pasa nada, I like to talk.

  1. Wait do I speak Spanish?

10936365When I was growing up I wanted to be a basketball player. I was pretty good, but there were days when I just wasn’t. If you ask my mom she will always say “I knew if your head was in the game the moment you stepped foot on that court.” The truth is I don’t know what made me have a good game or not, I would prepare and train with the same determination every week, but sometimes, I wasn’t in it. The same phenomenon happens to me with Spanish. There are some days where I wake up and I understand when my Spanish roommate speaks in her rapid Spanish tempo, but there are others where I wonder if I ever learned Spanish at all. It happens. But to be honest, this happens to me in English too…mind you at a lesser level…but there are days when I cannot speak or understand words. I would like to say that it’s because I am intellectual and thinking of some wonderful new idea, but rather most likely, I am just having a day. I know it’s strange, but soy yo. Sometimes I have to stop what I am saying and start again *abort mission* I have begun to try to remedy this and not seem like such a fool, by taking deep breathes and reminding myself, “you at least understand some words Makenna, tranquila” This has come in handy several times.

  1. “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m Free”

xdl3x_s-200x150Yes, I do hope you sang that while you read it. As much as some people want to wash away their American identity, especially when loads of Spaniards think Nueva York is all of the US except for Texas…and that it’s a normal thing to ask if you’re Pro-Hil or Pro-Trump (umm, is that even a question anymore?) I know it’s not possible for me. I love the United States, I miss it frequently and I do want to move back eventually. The truth is though, as hard as I study Spanish and as much as I try to immerse myself, I will always be a native English speaker and I cannot change that. I want to learn as much Spanish as I possibly can and be able to switch between the two languages relatively seamlessly, but I will always speak English better. Facts.

The moral of the story is that speaking another language is multi-dimensional. It isn’t something you just pick up and learn in a semester. It is not possible. It requires constant work and practice to improve. BUT. With that said…IT’S FUN. If you love learning languages you’ll understand. The feeling of accomplishment when you remember a new phrase or vocabulary word and can use it in conversation is like an inner Beyonce hair flip. It just feels good. So my advice to people who are learning another language is give yourself some grace, don’t be ashamed if for one day you need to speak English for the entire day (just don’t expect the citizens of the foreign country you are in to follow #petpeeve) and relax…poco a poco it will come.

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Abrazos,

 

Makenna

Thoughts and Thinkings of a Traveling Overthinker

After worrying last week about the future, I decided to put all my plans for the future on hold and simply enjoy Spain. I was feeling so detached from what I was doing everyday, my kids at school and the amazing culture that was around me, that I had to say “NOPE.” This week, I put them all on hold and decided to start to immerse myself more into my surroundings! After visiting a friend in Calahorra, meeting up with a new Logroño friend, and having a much needed movie night, I can say I have started to stop worrying about what my future holds.

But what kind of post or who would I be if I didn’t have something to say every week…”Diary of an Over-thinker” should really be the title of my blog! Well truthfully, it was extremely hard to think of something to write about this week. I have been so incredibly happy these last two weeks, but I didn’t know what to write about or really what I wanted to share. There are only so many times you can listen to my happy school stories! And as strange as it sounds, my thoughts didn’t fully come together until last night as I was enjoying a movie night with my Fulbright friends.

 

Before the movie started we all went around talking about how our lives had been, what we had been up to and some classic children stories (typical of all teachers). A common trend throughout a bunch of my friends was that they wanted travel. They needed a change of scenery. They felt they weren’t doing enough with their lives here in Logroño if they weren’t utilizing those days we have off. As I sat and listened, I kept thinking about my feelings around this subject. I’m not going to lie, I thought about my budget, but I also came to the realization that I just don’t have the same feelings.

When I left Spain the first time I felt I had seen Europe, five countries in four months, but I also still felt I had the infamous “travel bug” and I wanted to see everywhere in the world or at least I thought I did. But the truth is, I have never been that person. What fascinates me about traveling is learning how others live and living that life. I think the most beautiful part about moving abroad is that I didn’t sign up to take a break from my life and travel to a million different countries; no I decided to uproot my life and move it to another country. I did it because I love the Spanish lifestyle, I did it because I want to improve my Spanish and I did it because I want a different experience than what I could’ve had in the U.S. When I think about my goals about moving abroad, low on my list is getting more stamps in my passport.

Now, I don’t want my friends who want to travel every weekend to think that I don’t agree with their way of life. It’s not that at all. I lived that life when I studied abroad. I wanted to go everywhere and see everything…and trust me, I still love to travel and there are places I do want to see! I think there are wonderful aspects of traveling and utilizing the time you have in Europe to see Europe…it’s amazingly beautiful here! But, I think what I have realized about myself is that I want to be here; I want to create a life here and live it here. I love Spain. Teaching in Spain is not only a vessel that brought me to Europe to travel, it is why I am here. I am here for Spain!

It feels like I am somewhat going back on what I said before I left for Spain—that I wanted to travel and that I have a traveling heart. This is still true, I still want to travel, but I was given this opportunity to teach in Spain to be a U.S. Ambassador and learn about Spain. I don’t feel I can personally do that job to the best of my ability if I am traveling outside of Spain every weekend. With that said, I know some people believe that what makes them better U.S. Ambassadors is that they have the experiences and stories from traveling to help. I respect that!

I sincerely don’t believe there is a right and a wrong way to go about this whole living abroad thing. Everyone has their own ideas and desires from the experience. I think I am just realizing mine. I know I cannot completely forget where I came from, I don’t want to do that nor do I think it is possible, but while I am living in Spain, I want to live with the people and the culture around me, I don’t want to do that from an airplane seat.

All in all this is what I have been feeling these past two weeks  all rolled into one semi-understandable post. Focusing on the future last week scared me and made me feel out of control, whereas this week forgetting about the future and fulfilling some of my goals of simply living in Spain, helped me realize that it’s all going to be ok. If I need to travel because I need a break from Logroño than I will do it, but I don’t need to worry about seeing everything all right now. I can always stay more years if I think I need more time!

To put an end to my rant, I wanted to put a quote because let’s be honest, I am a basic bitch who loves quotes (you’re welcome best friend). But really, this quote stuck with me because I think it encapsulates a little bit about my feeling for this year abroad and what kind of “traveler” I want to be.

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

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Wait. I actually really miss cottage cheese.

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It’s been three weeks. SAY WHAT? Next Sunday it will have been a month. NAHHHH WAY. Ok, ok, to say I am baffled would be an understatement obviously. Spain has been nothing less than what I wanted this year abroad and I truly feel a strong affection to the beautiful mountains I see every morning on my way to school…it’s slowly becoming my home!

With all my praise and newfound La Rioja pride, it actually hasn’t been quite that smooth. I remember during Madrid orientation, a mentor telling us that this experience is not exponential. There are times where everything will be looking up, your Spanish is improving, you reach your students, etc., but then, there will another day that you’ll mess up. You’ll miss home. And yes, you’ll probably want to cry. Coming from someone who studied abroad for a semester, I could not agree more. Unfortunately, as I was sitting there listening to the advice three weeks ago, I didn’t think my “dip” so to speak was going to be as early as it came. My third week has been that “dip.”

To start off the week, I was exhausted. The festivities of San Mateo really took it out of me and starting school/getting back into a routine was hard. On top of that, after trying to be productive and go for a run, I ended up twisting my ankle and scraping my knee. Hence, the rest of my week I was laid up in bed, after teaching all day, with frozen peas on my ankle. I don’t even have Wifi in my piso to marathon Netflix to pass the time either. Truly the worst situation #firstworldproblems

Anyway, during this week, through those minor bumps and being holed up in my piso all evening, I had an overwhelming sense of homesickness. I felt discouraged in my Spanish abilities because I wasn’t speaking it as frequently as I wanted, I was stuck in my place with frozen peas, and even with the little contact I had back home, I felt, more than anything, I needed to be home. It was hard and I wasn’t expecting it to hit so soon after my big move! And lets be honest, I really needed some cottage cheese to make everything better (my family/friends will understand my struggle and you’re wrong if you don’t like it).

But I promise I am not here to talk about how sad or depressed I am that my strange curdled cheese addiction is not being met. No, truthfully I hadn’t realized how therapeutic a caña (beer) and a good vent session was until I finally opened up to some fellow Fulbrighters. On top of opening up about the life that I left behind, my pathetic homesickness, and my real reasons for traveling abroad, it was an immense comfort to find out that I wasn’t alone. By the end of Thursday night, I was back to my positive self, te prometo (I promise you).

However, I couldn’t have a life post without some lesson or take away? What kind of educator would I be?!

What I’ve realized from the people I’ve talked to and reflecting on my own feelings about moving abroad, is that we all wanted to move for different reasons. But however drastically different those reasons, there are still some aspects that we miss at home and along with that there is a balancing act of how to manage it all. Makes sense right? It took me three weeks, but what I’ve realized is that I need to stop living a life 3,000 miles away and live my life in Logroño, Spain. The one that I actively sought out and applied for!

This scared me. I didn’t want to give up what was back home. I loved my life back home and I wanted to keep it close to my heart…with Skype any relationships can last…it won’t be that bad. Wrong. The thing is it’s exhausting trying to live a life from a distance. Only the serious and most important ones can manage. So what does this mean? That I am stopping all communication back home? NO. Calm down, mom.

No, what I am saying is that I am consciously choosing to lessen the weight of the responsibility of my life back at home. I’m choosing to not have FOMO (fear of missing out) every time my friends post pictures at a football game, I am choosing to not let problems at home that I cannot control, control my emotions here, and I am choosing to keep updated with issues back home, but to be involved and aware of everything that is going on around me. Sounds like common sense. However, regardless of how common, it’s still difficult.

So I am settling in here. I am making friends, working, and living day-to-day in Spain. I promise you, there is enough to think or worry about with that alone! Where does that leave us? Well, here is my advice to any travelers who decide to stay for an extended time abroad: live in the moment (cliché alert), embrace the different culture that you are living in, and as much as possible, leave the life you had back at home. The one’s who matter will understand and the one’s who don’t understand, won’t matter. Your favorite foods will always be there when you get back…pre-packaged in a white container at Walmart.

I hope this suffices as an update of my life this week! I promise next week’s will be quite interesting…I had my phone stolen last night…I’ll have a lot to talk about.

Sending all my love,

 

Makenna