A Dance Floor In Spain

My 19-year-old brother and I sat in the kitchen talking about where he might study abroad. The decision came down to Argentina or Spain, Argentina being the obvious choice that would allow him to explore his own culture as well as a country that will forever be a part of our lives. And then there is Spain where, because we are of Sephardic descent, he could go even deeper into exploring our roots, and even come back as a Spanish citizen if he so desires. (They tried to get rid of us several hundred years ago, now they want us back… It’s all very confusing!)

The dilemma is a familiar one. Ten years ago, that was me. As we spoke, I remembered arriving at JFK with heavy bags and folded uncertainty. I was embarking on my first international adventure — or at least my first trip abroad without my family in tow. It was a feeling that would resurface in different forms over the next several years as I took more and more chances wandering down unmarked sidewalks.

Pick-up truck rides in Mindo, Ecuador.

Pick-up truck rides in Mindo, Ecuador.

I remember our first night out as a group in the beach town of Castelldefels. It took us a good hour or so to realize we had accidentally chosen a gay bar to celebrate our arrival in Spain. We were slowly finding our way around, and getting lost was usually a happy consequence. I also remember walking home early the next morning and seeing swastikas graffitied on the walls — a not-so-subtle reminder that there was still a lot to learn from my semester in Europe.

Horse statue. Rome, Italy.

Horse statue. Rome, Italy.

A week later, I celebrated my 20th birthday at a nightclub in Barcelona. It was our first night in the big new city, and after a quick unexpected cry with my best friend on a stoop (we were exhausted, disoriented, and starving, and after spending two hours in a fruitless quest to find a restaurant that was open before 10pm — welcome to Spain) we went from feeling like lost little kids crumbling on a street corner in a foreign city to realizing it was time to grow up. On my first day in Barcelona, I was completely overwhelmed by my new surroundings, but the uncertainty was quickly washed away by dancing until the sun came up. I woke up to breakfast with a view of the Mediterranean Sea glittering from the balcony of my host family’s apartment. It was that morning when I realize that everything was going to be ok; I might just fall in love with this place.

And I did.

Steps. Rome, Italy.

Steps. Rome, Italy.

Then, I remembered all that happened while I was in Barcelona. I arrived while I was in love for the first time, but as the weeks went on, I began second-guessing my life at home… I was meeting new people, traveling to new places, and connecting with the world (and myself) in a whole new way. My semester in Spain became a catalyst for a lot more self-exploration that would occur during the next decade… And ahhh (good “ahh” not like “AHH!!”), the things (and people) I would soon discover…

Flammable truck. Plaza in Old Town Quito, Ecuador.

Flammable truck. Plaza in Old Town Quito, Ecuador.

My twenties began on a dance floor in Spain. In many ways, I couldn’t have picked a better moment to represent all that would come my way in the next decade. There would be traveling, dancing, flirting, excitement, passion, love, confusion, disappointment… My twenties were totally and completely liberating like a tipsy night of dancing in a foreign city, and yet, at times, completely overwhelming and scary when the hangover of real life weighed heavy on the bliss of escapism. My twenties had flashes of light and moments of brief darkness like the strobe light that life can be, revealing and taking away all that I wanted in brief, momentary flashes of possibility…

And now I’m here, spending my days with cadavers, studying to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a whole new group of people and a blog that captures many of those flashes of adventures gone by. As thrilling and inspiring as the last decade has been, I find myself less scared and much more excited about the next decade that awaits me.

When I look around at my classmates, most of whom are in their early twenties and fresh out of college, I realize how grateful I am to be on my way out of this fine decade. I want to wish them all good luck, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. If anything, I’m excited for them! When I was in their position, I had no idea how crazy things might get — that is, if they’re lucky enough to take risks. Maybe I’m projecting here (yeah yeah yeah, just a little bit…), but I do believe that the lucky ones are about to embark on a totally life-changing, wild ride. They will take on adventures, get scared, and maybe even get vulnerable enough to learn something. There is so much excitement in one’s twenties… sometimes, too much (let’s be honest). But I’ve been there and done that! Like all good rides, it’s almost time for me to get off and let the next set of twenty-somethings get on. It’s been fun, but I am more than ok with moving onto the next ride…


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