I returned home on a Wednesday, exhausted but happy to see my family. After sleeping a very long time, my husband took me to IHOP (because I wanted American breakfast food – not a thing in Spain). Then I sank into a jet-lagged stupor.
That weekend, the news came fast and ferocious. There were 3 mass-shootings in the US. Three mass shootings in the space of two days was enough to snap me back into the reality of where I live.
I sit now in a waiting room while a friend has surgery after a car accident. I fiddle on my phone, glancing from one app to another, and pause at the Metro app I have not removed from my screen. I wish I could tap it, type in Moncloa, or Vicente, or Cuatro, and then magically find myself back in Madrid, not dealing with the spiraling violence of my own country or the aftermath of car-related injury.
Not driving and not fearing a white man with a gun… those are the things that I miss most about my time in Spain. I knew the lack of driving would ease my anxiety issues a bit. That was a given. However, I did not realize how much the dread of possible violence has become woven into my nervous system.
I’m not saying Spain doesn’t have crime or political problems. They have their own struggles right now, with a rising homeless population and sky-rocketing unemployment rates. Their political parties use some of the same divisive language we are accustomed to in the US. I am not painting Madrid as a heavenly utopia in my mind.
However, the hard part of returning home has not been adjusting to the seven-hour time difference, going back to eating dinner at around five, or cooking my own meals instead of being served in a cafeteria. The hard part is fighting fear again, feeling the little creature burrowing between my ribs as my children return to school, tickling the skin of my neck while I stand in line in a retail store, and whispering words of despair every time another news story lands.
I wanted to bring my newfound sense of confidence and freedom home. I wanted to go to festivals in Memphis having the same enthusiasm with which I dove into Pride and San Fermín while in Spain. I thought I could shed my illogical anxiety and embrace an unafraid version of me, but it turns out my anxiety was never illogical in the first place.
It isn’t me that needs to change in order to live free of worry and fear. It is society that keeps me tied up in my own nerves, and I can’t fix this country all on my own.
I don’t mean to end this post on a hopeless note. I have brought home some of the confidence I gained while living in Madrid. I have brought home a new perspective from which to view my own anxiety and assess my situation. These are good things.
However, if I could, right now, I would gather my family and friends and fly back across the ocean. I know leaving is not the answer, but the answer feels totally beyond my grasp in this country today.