I moved to Spain, signed a lease on an apartment and found myself without internet rocking back and forth like I was having a nervous breakdown because maybe, I was. I tried reading, even managed to plow through 100 pages almost finishing a book but couldn’t see it through till the end. Then, I convinced myself I was hungry, so I devoured an apple, slice of bread, and a glass of orange juice. At least none of it was bad for me, right? I fiddled with the light and fan on my induction stove because well, the fuck else was there to do? What does it say about me that I couldn’t handle being without Al Gore’s internet?
I told myself I needed it because I had things to do. Articles to write, emails to send, and Netflix shows to watch if I’m being honest. How was I supposed to fall asleep without Lorelai, Toby, Serena, or Meredith glaring back at me? I told myself I needed it because I needed to stay connected to the life I left behind in the United States. But, hadn’t I flown on three planes, across multiple states and an ocean because I needed a change? I wanted to experience a different life while there yet was clinging to the one I left upon my departure. I told myself I needed it simply because I wanted it and couldn’t comprehend not being able to throw money at a problem and have it solved immediately. That’s not how bureaucracy works here in Spain. More money will not solve my first world problem any faster.
“No te frustres porque está fuera de tus manos. No hay nada más que puedas hacer al respecto hoy. Tranquila Gabriella.”
Tranquila Gabriella, she said. I’m sure it’s a phrase I’ll hear throughout my time here until I well, actually relax. I’m so used to going, going, going. I’ve already started thinking about what I want to be doing after my time in Spain is up and I only got here last Monday.
I’m not proud of that.
My therapist has challenged me to think about what it might mean to actually let myself enjoy things. To be present in my moments as they’re happening, instead of always thinking about the next item to tick off my “To-do in Life” list. This inability to stop and smell the roses means my life plays back in my head like a movie with someone else as the main character instead of as this series of events I breathed, smelled, tasted, rolled around – lived in. Well, at least the happy moments do, the accomplishments. I’m very familiar with my pain. Lived every second of it. My pain and I are extremely well acquainted.
So maybe, I told myself I needed the internet because I needed to be able to tell a bunch of people I do know offline and someone I only know through a screen what it felt like to arrive. To finally have arrived and be doing this thing I talked about doing concretely beginning in 2015, but realistically, way before I ever knew what it would even take to do it for real. There were requests for pictures, “Post more Spain shit, I’m trying to live vicariously through you.” “Post more of Spain I want to see it.” And I was struck by both the entitlement we feel to others’ lives in this digital moment and the access we give others to our lives for better or worse. I couldn’t and don’t blame them. After all, I created a hashtag for my move, didn’t I? Everyone has a personal brand. And God forbid you’re trying to make that brand anything resembling a business. We’re all just trying to get a piece of the pie and that pie is in capitalist societies directly related to what one can produce. But did I want to commodify this experience? Do I want to commodify what is now quite literally my life?
A fun way to throw shade these days is to ask someone if they would do something if they couldn’t take a video or picture of it to be shared with the world via the internet. I say throw shade because while I’m sure it’s true some humans do things only for the burst of dopamine that comes from seeing X “liked” by a mix of strangers and friends, documenting and sharing our lives and even our work isn’t this phenomenon that began with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Our methods may be more “advanced,” but they are by no means new.
I told myself I needed the internet simply because I needed it, expected it, wasn’t prepared to be without it. But maybe, that’s a sign to remember that all I really need to do this “writing thing” is a pen, some paper, and while I’m here on the northern coast of Spain, the sea.