Sometimes we have to return to the places we’ve been to understand just how far we’ve come since last standing in those places. Madrid is one of the places for me.
Madrid has represented people, places, restaurants, malls, schools, apartments, art, street fairs and festivals, tests, walks, meals, cooking classes, and so much more for at least a third of my life. It was here I grew up and became an adult, learned how to cook, taught English, began studying law, and survived and defended myself – with the help of many friends – in a language not my own.
Revisiting this place is always nostalgic for me. I loved living here, and the pictures my mind holds of each memory are like a fresh painting with each glance I take of a monument, plaza, or street sign I had seen at least once before throughout the past 10 years.
Revisiting a familiar place is part of this self-care journey of introspection and continued growth. To understand how far we have been, we have to remember where we have come from.
In Madrid I was young, recently out of college, and excited for numerous new experiences. Ten years later, I have now graduated from law school, started my legal career, and identified a specific practice area I would like to pursue. I’ve gotten to know myself, and I’ve owned my unique interests and opinions in various contexts.
On a recent visit to Madrid while sitting in a gelato shop waiting for a friend, I overheard two Americans ordering at the counter. I recognized their accents right away, and we struck up a conversation.
They were just like me 10 years ago: studying abroad, pursuing legal internships, and practicing Spanish.
We shared experiences, and they asked me what I currently do. I explained to them how my steps in Madrid had led me to my current role in international law; how I used my Spanish skills daily; how to make the most of their time in Spain; about law school should they pursue it (they were both interested); and beyond. Their eyes were wide the entire time.
At the end of our conversation, I realized the insight, progress, and strength that coated my words as I had spoken them. Our conversation was short, but its depth had meaning I had hoped for not only these two young women but also for myself.
Looking back, I realized I had accomplished the goals I had set out for myself when I arrived in Madrid, when I left Madrid, and since I had lived there. While Madrid might have been the birthplace of many of my professional and personal goals, it was also a point of reflection along my journey. Madrid had been one of the stops on my train ride, and to acknowledge it in its entirety, I needed to glance back at it ever so briefly.
“Don’t look back” is a phrase that has never helped me to acknowledge where I have been. It’s never helped me with acceptance. While it’s important not to linger in the past, it’s also important to spend some time in the present and acknowledge the importance of past lessons in life. The contrast between past and present paints a new picture: one of nostalgia paired with one of growth measured by the distance between those old warm feelings and where you now stand.
I’ve never been so happy to share gelato with strangers whom I could mentor and learn from in a mere 10 minutes. My recipe for growth nowadays is this: be still; look back and acknowledge; step forward; repeat. Of course, enjoying a little gelato along the way doesn’t hurt.
© 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.