I can’t believe we are already 3 months in on the 2017 Happiness Project! Strength Month and Mindfulness Month were both very successful in my opinion, and this project has proven to be a great way to compartmentalize and tackle my goals, when the list seemed long and overwhelming at the start of the year. Having spent time devoted to myself physically, through strength goals and mentally, through mindfulness goals, I felt like now would be the perfect time to explore more external goals, by calling March Culture Month! To divide up my goals for this month I came up with four categories to help manage everything I hope to explore!
This month is all about getting OUT into my city, exploring and making new connections. I have lived here 6 months, and while that might not feel like a very long time, it has already become easy to get caught up in routines, walking the same paths, going to the same places, etc. This month I want to focus on changing that up a bit. I want to go out into Sevilla with new eyes, explore new areas, meet new people, and try as many new things as I can! I want to make an effort to speak to the people I see every day, to put myself out there and see what I can learn about my surroundings and myself. Some ways I plan to explore the concept of Reaching Out in Sevilla are:
- Exploring Sevilla and Andalucía to see this place in a new light
- Speaking to new people, or people I might see every day but haven’t spoken to before
- Continuing the “intercambios” or Spanish-English language-exchanges I have developed this year with consistency
- Seeking out and attending cultural events such as flamenco, art exhibits, and local markets
In Spain, you might think it’d be easy to naturally pick up the language, especially after living here for an extended amount of time. Unfortunately, nope. This is much harder than it may seem, and you really have to force yourself to actively practice and study the language if you want to improve quickly. This feels especially true as a native-English speaker in a city where a lot of people know at least a bit of English. Learning Spanish doesn’t just happen on its own, no matter where you are, and plenty of people easily spend a year living in Spain without ever really reaching the level of language competency they might desire. This is something I am very aware of, and sometimes I’m still terrified of ending the year and still stumbling through interactions with Spanish speakers. This a main reason I chose to spend this month buckling down on my language and culture research. Here are some ways I plan to integrate these things into my daily routines:
- Study Spanish for 10 minutes each day
- Explore Spanish news sources, blogs, TV, and films
- Listen to Spanish podcasts and music on my commute to work each day
- Make a list of words I come across that I don’t know or would like to, and find out their meaning
- Research Andalucía as well as other regions in Spain!
Lean into Vulnerability
This one ties in a bit to the Reaching Out category. Moving to a new country is a very daring and brave act. I have to remind myself of this often, especially when I am unsure of my language abilities. It is easy to recoil in fear when a stranger speaks to me rapidly and I don’t catch everything they said, instead of just saying, “I don’t understand, could you repeat that please?” (in Spanish obviously). Whether it’s insecurity in my language abilities, lack of knowledge of certain cultural norms, or maybe even a desire to try something new but a fear of going alone, I want to fight back against that fear and make myself vulnerable anyway. Most of the time, when I do this, people are kind, helpful, and receptive, and even when they’re not I still learn something new and feel good for having taken a risk. Here are ways I hope to combat fear and uncertainty in Spain so I can lean further into vulnerability:
- Maintain routines even during disruptive life moments like travel and visits from loved ones
- Ask more questions, even if I’m nervous or unsure how to word something
- Reach out for the things I want, or the people I’d like to get to know better
- Go on little excursions and try new things alone!
Learn from Positive Cultural Traits
Many people know Spain as having a very relaxed, passionate and peaceful way of life. Who doesn’t daydream of a good siesta every now and then? But as an American in Spain, it’s sometimes easy to catch yourself fighting against certain aspects of the culture instead of embracing them. One big thing I notice and have heard a lot of Americans talk about is how slow people sometimes walk here, not minding to take up the whole sidewalk and momentarily block your path. Americans, myself included, tend to get quickly frustrated by this, but recently I decided it would be a shame to spend a whole year of my life annoyed at slow walkers. I should instead realize that my neurotic speed-walking is in the minority, and try out a slower pace for myself. Walking slower, eating slower, and just generally taking life in in a more peaceful way is a foreign concept to many Americans and can actually be challenging for us. However, I am excited to open up more to the beautiful and relaxed Spanish way of life, so I can begin to learn something more about Spanish culture and possibly how to enjoy my own life more. Here are some cultural traits I hope to learn a thing or two from:
- Walking slower, and just generally being less rushed and hurried throughout the day
- Enjoying longer meal times and savoring them as sacred moments instead of something to check off the to-do list
- Verbally and physically cherishing loved ones in a more open and loving way
- Being more direct with desires and intentions by doing less beating around the bush and more voicing what I want or how I feel without holding back
All of these things are just ideas and curiosities I plan to explore. As I get further into this Happiness Project, I have been asked if all the different topics feel overwhelming or unattainable, and sometimes I have to ask myself the same thing. I think the key to this whole project is to remember that the main goal is increasing my happiness. It should be a joyful thing, not a stressful thing. So I am going through this with the intention of being kind to myself, exploring new ideas, and just doing what feels joyful and healthy to me. The new routines that have brought me the most joy so far truly have stuck with me and contributed to my growth and joy. My main goals for Culture Month are to learn more about Sevilla and its people and history, and also find ways of improving my Spanish while forming routines to practice the language more actively. I am excited to spend extra time this month learning more about this beautiful country and language, as well as myself as I navigate them. Thanks for following me on this journey. More culture, please!