I wake up in the morning. I do the same thing each day; I open the weathered curtain, which so ineffectively occludes the sunlight that filters into my room through the pitiful slither of window I have.
I open the window, which stretches from floor to ceiling, and I am hit by a wall of heat emanating from my balcony. I used to marvel every day at the fact that I woke up in Barcelona, now I groan at the 25° degree heat at 7:30am and wonder when I’ll need to take a siesta because of the heavy, heavy heat.
I pad my way through the apartment and make myself a cup of tea, reminding myself that I need to ration my intake until my next visitor can bring me proper British teabags – my main request from any guest. I sit on my cupboard next to the window, sipping from my initialled mug, thinking pensively about the day ahead. I dread it.
I dread the heat, and the fact I’ll have to change my clothes at least two or three times because I sweat through everything and I feel disgusting. I dread travelling from one end of the city to another, anxiety-filled journeys through the purple line to the green line to the red line and back again, all day. I dread the lessons I have to give, doubting whether I’m actually imparting any knowledge to my students, whether they’re learning anything or if they just show up because they have to. I dread mealtimes, because they only highlight how bad my relationship with food is, and how much worse it is in a different country. I dread counting out the cents in my purse, knowing I have to pitifully scrape by until next month’s pay. I know that even though I WhatsApp all day every day, I feel lonelier than I ever have before.
By this point, maybe you’re thinking “you live in Barcelona, how bad can it be, really?”. Maybe these sound like trivial problems given everything that’s happening elsewhere in the world right now. Maybe you’re wondering how I can possibly bitch about the weather, how I can turn my nose up at the gorgeous Mediterranean diet, and hey, isn’t the cost of living so much lower than in the UK? And I understand it. Completely. I have friends who used to live abroad, their incredible photographs and details of their new lives and experiences used to litter my social media feeds, and I’d envy them. “Wow, look how lucky they are. I’d love to do that some day”. Now I’m living it, and honestly? I promise you, it’s no effin’ picnic. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Of course – Barcelona is incredible. A manifestation of cosmopolitanism and culture, vibrant and bustling and lovely. I have the chance to live a slower paced life, learn two languages, and experience so many new things.
And while trying to make the most of all of that, it’s not the polished, Instagram-ready life that it might seem, and I’m fed-up of people glamourising my life from afar. My problems and worries and anxieties get pushed to one side by people, because again, how bad can life get when you live in Spain? I’m not taken seriously anymore, because I’m obviously just over-exaggerating and making a big deal out of nothing, and why don’t I just go to the beach and shake it off?
Is it my fault? Have I posted one too many ‘OMG LOOK AT THIS’ pictures on my social media accounts? Have I flaunted a new life that isn’t all that it seems? Have I fooled you all, and in doing so, tried to fool myself?
There’s been a lot of debate recently about how we view other people’s lives through the lens of social media, and how it’s unfair to make judgements and assumptions based on a square grid of pictures, calling social media the ‘highlight reel’ of someone’s life rather than an accurate representation of that person’s real life. My own Instagram feed is full of beautiful pictures of this place. It doesn’t document the days where I can’t stop crying, where I doubt myself and every choice I’ve made in the last six months, or the days where my anxiety is out of control because I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent this month. The days where I feel like I’m going to fall apart at the seams.
They’re the times I don’t know how to document – it’s not that I don’t want to capture those moments – so often these are the times that shape and change us and that’s really important to me. I love reading blogs that are brutally honest and relateable and real. The ones that make you feel like no-one’s really got this whole life thing figured out, that sometimes the only thing we can do is put one step in front of the other and give it our best shot.
It’s why I took a break from blogging when I first arrived here and have been pretty quiet since I started again. I didn’t quite know how to write about this incredible opportunity when, at times, I truly felt so lost and miserable; when so many people asked “how is it? I bet it’s amazing!” and all I wanted to do was scream, “no, no it’s not, it’s really fucking awful!!”. I felt like I had to adopt this pretence, acknowledge how privileged I am to have this chance, to please and reassure the family members and friends who were worried about this move in the first place. Don’t worry them, I told myself. Stay strong.
So often we look at these snippets of people’s lives and feel envious or roll our eyes when those that we think ‘have it all’ complain. I’m guilty of it too. I used to look at the bigger bloggers and think, stupidly, that the free holidays and endless free swag would in some part make up for their bad days. We do the same with Facebook, saturated with pictures and check-ins, and we forget about the people behind them. The people whose lives aren’t perfect, the people who struggle through their days. We forget to check-in on those people, to ask them how they’re feeling, disregarding any problems they mention as unimportant because what have they got to worry about? Life seems to be working out for them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that people’s lives aren’t for us to glamourise. Of course, envying, comparison – we do these things naturally as human beings. But just because someone’s life might look shiny and flawless at times, it’s dismissive and careless to forget that we ALL have bad days, bad weeks, bad months – and that they happen no matter where you live, no matter how much money you have, or how beautiful your apartment is. Take a step back from the screens and remember the people who’re behind them.