BY SAM BOATMAN
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust
My name is Sam. Growing up the way I have, I can gladly say that it is very unorthodox to most. Having a family of 10, you really begin to develop your individuality early on as you have to share the attention of two very over worked parents. Growing up with my family, I was somehow always the kid that got lost. Either on road trips, at the dock on Lake Powell, brothers and sisters sporting events or just at Sam’s Club; you could assure that if a kid was missing, it was Sam.
As I grew, this habit of being comfortable while being loss caused me to find security in myself and less of what surrounded me. It also has caused for me to do some pretty spur of the moment things which sometimes was pretty stupid. (like taking a cage fight with 24 hours notice without any prior cage fighting experience). In high school I went to three different high schools ranging from private Christian schools, to the “Beverly Hills” of Arizona Public Schools to a far more rural Public School hours north of the main city. Instead of staying in Arizona like the majority of my friends, I decided to go to school out South at the University of Alabama. I took the time to explain this to you because nothing in my life experience could have prepared me for the last month I just experienced. While I love my family, this article is not about them. This article is about the family I made and the lessons I’ve learned.
It was the last day to apply for the International Study program and I figured why not. A few weeks later I got accepted to study in Barcelona in the fall of my Senior year. Fast Forward two months and I find myself on the tarmac at the Airport in Barcelona. Instead of deciding to live with other international students, or my own dorm, I decided to do a homestay. When I left my hotel to go meet my new family, I was beginning to get super apprehensive about the whole thing. Anxiety for the first time in my life begun to set in. I could feel an icy web begin in a knot in my stomach and work itself through every vain until it got so aggressive I actually threw up. This fear was absolutely new to me, and so completely foreign. It was the decisive moment that I figured out what I was made of. When I met my family I was greeted by Lupe and her two daughters, Solez and Beatrize. Solez is 11 and Beatrice is 16. I took a very questionable elevator with a translator from my school and went to meet them. When I met them I ignorantly thought that they would speak some English, and they assumed I would speak some Spanish. So, the second that our translator leaves and we have establish ground rules, it occurs to me that I have no way of communicating with the people I am living with.
I remember in that moment feeling so defeated. I wasn’t even particularly sure why. It came to me a few nights later of struggling with it that my issue was based in my expectations. You see, I expected to assimilate into the Spanish culture as easy as I have with others. I expected to have A.C. and a family that could speak with me. I had to many wrong expectations.
Being such an extreme extrovert, it was insanely difficult to not be able to communicate with them. I’m happy to say that after I gave it some time, effort, and changed my expectations and reevaluated my perception of my circumstances, I’ve firmly established a relationship with Lupe, Solez, and Beatrice. It has been a month now and I can honestly say I have never grown more in such a short period, nor come to love a group of people so fast. Of course there were bumps… like when Lupe gave me an antibiotic that was mixed with a pain killer and did NOT mix with alcohol well. I thought I was getting Tynol so I took two and ended up taking 4x the recommended dosage and had the worse night of my life full of delusional anxiety and throwing up. I learned to seriously stop making assumptions after that and google translate became my best friend thereafter.
The relationship between me and Lupe is comical to say the least. Since she is divorced and Beatrice and Soloz switch off every week, I have grown closest with Lupe. As I type this I am sitting across from Lupe, listening to some Spanish soap opera and still not able to understand anything she asks me. Albeit I am learning, and so is she, so our lines of communication have opened up a little bit. For the most part we just shout adjectives at each other that we know and rely on charades for the rest.
The moral of the story is this: When you find the courage to pursue a new adventure that life throws at you, lean into it. When life presents you new opportunities, it’s going to come with some challenges too. When you begin to question how you got somewhere, you need to implement faith and believe that you are exactly where you were meant to be and to persevere. When your expectations fall short of your new reality, learn to change your paradigm. Your perspective and attitude of things determines the reality you live in. When fear trickles in, do not ignore it. Instead face it immediately and figure out where it’s rooted and vigilantly attack it until that fear is dead. The last thing I want to do is to encourage you to consider finding ways to begin to step outside your comfort zone. Every time you get comfortable being uncomfortable, it allows you to get that much closer to the heart of life. Go get lost, travel with no destination in mind and fall in love with your new discomfort.
Sam Boatman is currently a senior student at the University of Alabama. Feel free to befriend him on Facebook.