Lessons of Being Alone

First true moment of loneliness

Even though I have siblings, I was raised as an only child in my household. My Grandparents on my Father’s side raised me. Growing up I always felt like I was alone. I wished I had another sibling living in the house with me. Sometimes some of my cousins would come over to play and I would go to their houses as well but once I got older I didn’t want to be bothered by anyone. I wanted to be left alone by the people that were in my life, but I wanted other people to be in my life, that were not around.

I would lock myself up in my room and be in there for hours. Contemplating life and how I hated everyone around me, blocking everyone out. Yeah, I was at that age of life where I hated the world, and everyone was against me. I wanted to be done with high school, so I could move far away and start a different life. A life with no restrictions and where I could be whoever I wanted to be.

I didn’t have a desire to go right off to college after high school, but I was seventeen when I graduated, and my Grandmother told me the only way I was going to leave the house before I turned eighteen was if I went off to college. So of course, I picked a University that was outside of Nevada, on purpose. I was dating a girl at the time that was a year older than me. She was already in college but transferred over to an art University in San Francisco, where I also attended.

It was my first time living in a city away from my family. Even though I was with someone I knew, it was still a massive step for me. The first girlfriend and I broke up immediately after arriving in San Francisco, but we remained friends. We are still in each other’s lives till this day.

There were days when all I wanted to do was go home, back to Las Vegas and be with my Grandmother. I loved sitting in a room with her and just watching her. Her little “fake laugh” was always my favorite. It was her way of saying “yeah right” or “yeah whatever” without using words. I would sit in my dorm room and cry because I missed her so much. You could say I was a Grandma’s Girl, for sure. Even though I was so angry with her as a child for having so many restrictions on me, I always wanted her approval and to make her proud of everything I did in life.

Moving away to San Francisco for college and being hundreds of miles away from my family in Las Vegas truly helped me grow as an individual. My college days were a shit show of emotions, but I learned some of the most valuable life lessons during this point of my life.

I apricated everything my Grandparents did for me. Including being so strict on me in high school.

One day I was walking down Market Street in SF and I saw a Grandmother talking to her Granddaughter. That little girl was so mad at her Grandmother for something! She had a little pissed off face and you can tell they were arguing over something. In that moment it reminded me of my relationship with my Grandmother and it made me tear up a little inside. I ended up calling my Grandmother to tell her about what I just saw and then I thanked her for everything she did for me as a child. I told her “now that I am an adult and on my own, I am understanding why you did everything that you did, and I truly appreciate it.” I will always remember that moment because my Grandmother passed away a couple of years after that and I am happy that I decided I would tell her “Thank you.” I know for a fact not a lot of adults take the time to say thank you for the things they put their parentals through. Or even their friendships.

It’s a beautiful feeling to show genuine gratitude towards someone that has touched you in some way.

 

Being in a relationship and feeling alone is the loneliest feeling

 

After college I lived in my car for a couple of months and traveled around the United States. I had an acquaintance traveling with me but even with someone with me I still felt very much alone. I’ve never been much of a relationship person, even though I am a hopeless romantic. I just don’t get into relationships unless I feel like it is absolutely right. I am now twenty-eight and I’ve only been in four relationships my entire life, but I have dated many many….many ladies.

During my road trip, I thought maybe the cure to my loneliness could be a relationship. Within my first week of being back home in Las Vegas, I matched a woman on Tinder. She was beautiful and my perfect type! I thought I hit the jackpot and she had to have been a tourist. Nope, she lived in Vegas! We ended up meeting up right away and I thought she was perfect. My heart fell to the bottom of my stomach when she walked into the cigar bar we were meeting at. The conversation went so well. I couldn’t stop smiling. We ended up leaving the bar and made out a little by her car. The following day I had coffee delivered to her job since we had been out a little late and she had work the next morning. I thought it was a cute gesture and so did she! I realized her job was right up the street from the house I grew up in. Which was odd. She had already been working there for almost a year. I told her of my adventures around the United States and showed her who I was traveling with. Once she realized who I was traveling with she told me she had met that same girl in San Francisco one weakened when she went to visit her friend. She said she met her on the Muni line and they were both wasted, and she had an image with her. She ended up showing me the image. “What a small world!” I thought. I also took this as a massive sign, that this woman was meant to be in my life.

We were inseparable after meeting. I went home one day after being with her for an entire weekend. The moment I got home I missed her. She told me to come back over and that we never had to be apart again. Shortly after that we became girlfriends.

She knew of my adventurous soul and how I wanted to keep traveling. We talked about moving abroad to Thailand and planned on staying in the states a little longer to plan things and save up money. We decided to move to Kansas City, Missouri.

There were many red flags, which I completely ignored during the beginning of our relationship. One of them being an incident that occurred that had many stories that were left untold. My father had an accident at work where acid fell on his leg and he was hospitalized. My aunt and I drove to LA to be with him in the hospital and to make sure everything was okay. During this weekend it was also my girlfriend’s birthday, which she ended up being upset with me for not being there with her, which I found out once I returned home from LA.

The clock was ticking, and it was getting closer to us moving across the country to Kansas City, Missouri. My girlfriend was starting to get nervous about this. We didn’t have jobs lined up or a place to live yet. She was also worried about moving with me when we weren’t tied to each other in any way. She started to second guess the move and second guess our relationship. At this point I was still blind sighted by my overall feelings for her. When she told me, she was scared to move I panicked. She told me she was unsure because we weren’t even married and what if I left her and she had nowhere to go. I told her that wasn’t going to happen, but she wanted something more solid. Without even fully thinking about it I asked her to marry me. She asked me if I was being serious and I told her yes. I figured if I said yes it would be a while before we would even get married anyways. She was ecstatic and said yes that she would marry me. At this point we had only been together for eight months! She started planning a wedding right away for the following week. “WHAT!! The following week?!” was screaming in my mind. I told her maybe we should wait and plan something. She said no she wanted to get it done before we made the move. In that moment my stomach turned, and I felt sick. So sick. Was I making a mistake?! And of course, I ignored it. I let her plan all the details. She wasn’t even out to her family yet and she came out a week before we got married. Let’s just say, that it didn’t go very well.

A few days before our wedding some secrets from her birthday weekend came out. Our roommates at the time were threatening to tell me if she didn’t. She confessed to me. She told me that our roommates at the time kept telling her that she made out with some guy when she was really drunk. She told me she doesn’t remember that ever happening, but she was also black out drunk. She felt like they were making up this story and that they left her downtown alone. She couldn’t find them when she was leaving to go home. So, she ended up calling this girl that she was dating while dating me at first to come and pick her up. I asked her why she did that and why she just didn’t call a taxi. She couldn’t give me an actual answer. She promised me that nothing happened, and she was just dropped off at home. At this point I was so upset and had no idea what to do. Things were already in motion and we were getting married in a couple of days. I didn’t understand why she didn’t tell me about it before, but I found it in myself to forgive her and move on. Another red flag.

It was done. We were married, and I did not feel like I dreamt of feeling as a child when I would lay in my bed looking up at my ceiling thinking “I wonder what the person is doing right now that I am meant to be with.” I felt like nothing had changed. We just had this label of being married and a new Facebook status. She was now my wife, not my girlfriend. After we got married we decided we weren’t going to move to Kansas City but San Diego instead. We wanted to be closer to family. Las Vegas was a short drive away and her family was in California. She needed to work on repairing her relationship with her family and well, I needed to work on getting accepted into the family.

Nothing was easy once we were in San Diego. It took us a couple of months to get stable with jobs and an apartment. Her rebuilding her relationship with her family took an even longer time and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s still some issues with her dating women. In the mix of all these lows there was lots of depression in the house, lots of negative vibes, lots of fighting, no romance, no love, etc. I won’t get too in depth. But I got to the point where I was completely unhappy in my marriage because I turned into a person that I am not. My dreams of traveling to different countries vanished. I started working this corporate job that at first, I was happy in, but it slowly started sucking the life out of me. There was zero communication between my wife and I. When we had arguments, we would ignore each other till the issue was forgotten about. Talk of children was a main topic and our life together was constantly being compared to the lives of others on YouTube or her sisters. I didn’t understand how she wanted children when we weren’t even happy together. Behind closed doors it was dark and negative but on social media and around people it was smiles and laughter.

I felt so alone. I knew I wasn’t meant to be with her, but I also felt the need to try to make this relationship work since she was my wife. I recommend going to counseling, reading books on marriage together, talking about our issues, etc. She was not interested in anything I had attempt to do. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so unhappy with myself, who I was, what I became, how I felt. I started taking matters into my own hands. I started to mediate daily. I started to read books. I picked up another job on the weekends, just so I didn’t have to be near her. My family and friends kept asking me when I was going to leave her and why I was even doing this to myself. I didn’t have the answer. I was scared to leave her. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of being twenty-five and divorced and what others would think of me. And finally, one day, it just happened. I left, and I felt this huge weight lift off my body. I felt free.

It took a while for me to be okay. My ex and I did go back and forth for a little after I left but the result was us completely filing for divorce and my gut telling me “Zena, this is what is meant to happen.”

I ignored all the signs my inner self was giving me. Plain and simple, I got married for all the wrong reasons. Yes, I did love this woman, but she was never supposed to be someone I was meant to marry. I do believe our relationship happened for a reason and I gained so many lessons out of this. I do not regret this choice because I have learned to accept it for what it is. This is a part of who I am, this is a part of my past that has led me into becoming the person I am today.

I would much rather be alone than be miserable in a relationship where I feel alone anyways.

 

Traveling alone

I have traveled to a few places with others such as my United States adventures, Ireland and Thailand. But I have never traveled completely alone, until now. Since the ending of my material chapter I promised myself that I was going to completely focus on loving myself and being okay with being alone. The first step to this was moving out on my own. Last year I moved into my very own first apartment where I lived alone. I was able to walk around naked, not shower for the entire weekend, sleep in, stay up late, have crazy sex and break my bedframe, watch porn without headphones, leave dirty dishes in the sink and whatever things most of us are conscious of when living with others. I was able to just do and not have a worry. It was a beautiful feeling. I learned a lot about myself in the year of living alone but I wasn’t fully satisfied. I still had that corporate job and it was the only tie where I still felt connected to my ex. I was also tired of getting yelled at for things that weren’t my fault. With lots of signs from the Universe and wise words from a special friend, I decided I was going to make the move to Spain and see what came of it.

Traveling to a new place all alone, where you know no one, have no friends and no family is scary. It’s exciting but also very scary. Before I made the transition out here I made a few connections. Which only one of them is someone that I speak with regularly and hang out with. Having to explore a new city and make new friends is an adventure within itself.

When I first got to Spain I was on an all-time high. Excited to be some place a lone. Not having to have to worry about someone else and if they need anything or if they are tired, etc. Last weekend I went to an area of Madrid that is about 20-30 minutes out from the center. My day started off beautiful but towards the afternoon of the trip I felt completely alone. There was a festival going on and there were families and friends all around me. It made me miss my people, my tribe. It finally hit me, I was in a foreign country thousands of miles away from all of the people that actually know me.

When I traveled with others, it always gave me that sense of security of knowing that there was someone nearby. Sure, there were hundreds of people around me, but they were strangers.

I ended up in a bar, where I got coffee and charged up my phone. During my time in the bar I met this eighty-six-year-old woman that lived in London for ten years. She knew some English and was very excited to be able to speak to me in English. We talked about her life in London and in Spain. She told me stories of when she was a little girl, her marriage and divorce, children and the history of Spain she lived through. She asked me my story and I told her bits and pieces of it. She told me I looked very happy and seemed to be doing what I am meant to be doing. Hearing her say that touched me and I knew in that moment she was right. Even though I felt alone, I knew I wasn’t. Sure, there were tons of strangers around but some of those strangers have the best stories and see the most beautiful things in others.

The following day I had another solo day trip planned to Toledo. I woke up feeling very sad still, but I knew I had to push myself to get up and get out of the house and go explore. I was grateful that I did. Toledo was beautiful, and the time spent there was very inspiring.

I came to Spain to find parts of me I’ve been afraid to explore. I am the only thing stopping me from that exploration. Every day that I am here I am pushing myself more and more out of my comfort zone.

 

 

 

It is okay to feel alone and to be alone. During your loneliest points you gain so much knowledge about yourself. In these moments we are allowing ourselves to grow and explore. We cannot keep ourselves confined. We cannot rely on others to always keep us company. When there is an adventure that our soul wants to take, we must listen and explore it. The exploration will lead to other avenues you would have never crossed if you stayed in your box.

Getting the hang of living in Spain.

Within your first few days of being in a completely new country you will experience some difficulties. Hopefully ones that are easy to turn around from. Thankfully none of mine were serious but more so ones that made me chuckle to myself. It’s only been ten days since I’ve been in Madrid but there are a few things I would like to share with people as an FYI in case you are planning on making the trip for a holiday or even looking to make the transition to moving to Madrid.

The first thing that took me a few days to get use to is, Spanish people do things later! They go out later in the night, or maybe I should say more of the early morning. A suggested time to meet up to hit the city for some drinks and fun was 1AM. Normally in Las Vegas, by 1AM I am toasty but am still okay being out. My average head home time was about 4/5AM depending on who I was out with. A new friend in Madrid texted me at 9AM saying they were still out from the night before. Mind blown! Maybe 9AM isn’t the norm but one of the parties I went out to on Friday was over by 6AM.
Breakfast is normally eaten around 10/11AM and earlier if it is a work day. Lunch is 3/4PM. After lunch people will normally take a siesta. In between lunch and dinner there is a light meal called “merienda”. Then Dinner is taken around 10/11PM.

The second thing is the Metro system that is used in Madrid. It is actually very easy to use! If you are here on vacation and plan on taking the Metro all over the city, you should buy a seven-day pass. With the seven-day pass you have unlimited rides. Keep in mind that Madrid has many train lines that go to different areas, so the pass may not work in certain areas. You can also purchase a card that you can reload with rides. The first two rides I went on I purchased as single rides. If you buy ten rides you save money. This is recommended. Now, what I wish I would have known before I got to Madrid is, if you are planning on buying a monthly metro pass there is a process to this. You can’t just walk up to the machine to buy a monthly pass. I am unsure why they make this so difficult, but it is what it is. If you will be staying in Madrid for a month or longer and using the Metro daily, I recommend purchasing the monthly pass.
You have two options to get your monthly pass. One, you can make an appointment on the website to go into the metro office to get your pass. Bring your passport with you and be picture ready. They will be taking an image of you. Make sure you book your appointment in advance. I walked into the Metro office on October 2nd and they told me they had nothing available till October 15th. They also won’t book the appointment for you in the office, you must do it online. Make sure you have someone with you that can read Spanish because this portion of the website does not translate to English. The second option you have is to submit for a monthly pass online and they will mail it to you. When you do the online purchase they only charge you for the card. Once you get the card in the mail you will need to take it to the machine to load it. When applying for the card online they will be asking for a scanned copy of your passport and an image of you that is passport sized.
I ordered my card online and they stated I would be getting it within 7-15 days. Still a long process to order online. I highly recommend getting this done ahead of time so when you get to Madrid you don’t have to worry about it. I’m still waiting on my card to come in the mail and in the mean time I am buying rides. Also, if you are under the age of 26 your monthly metro card is only 20 Euros and your area able to use your card on all the lines! Here is a link to order your Metro card online or make an appointment. This link also goes to the metro website where you can learn more about the Metro system and train lines.
Some other forms of transportation you can use are UBER and MyTaxi to get private rides around the city. If you are planning on traveling to other towns/cities outside of Madrid a cool app that I’ve found useful is GoEuro. You can see bus, train and flight tickets and book them through the app. Some tickets do need to be printed while others can be shown on your mobile device.

I speak Spanish, but North America Spanish is different than Spaniard Spanish. I am sure with time I will be adding more words to this section but for now below are a couple of terms I had to ask what the word meant.
Vale – Literally just means “Okay”. Spanish people use this word so much!
Que Tal – This just means “How are you?”.
Barrio – Neighborhood

The below items may be common practice for most European Countries but as an American I was really thrown off by these things and had to google/call for assistance. I’m sure I will be adding more to this list as time goes on.
• The electric stove top at the house I am staying in won’t turn on unless there is a pan sitting on top of the round placement. The pan also must be the same size or a little bigger than the placement. If the pan is any smaller, it will not turn on. I took about 10 minutes playing with the stove top trying to figure out why it wasn’t turning on, till I finally gave up on trying and googled it. I then watched a YouTube video where someone explains how to use the stop top. I felt silly, but it is a safe feature for kids. Or grown adults that cannot be left alone.
• It’s green over here. As in people are cautious about saving energy and recycling. In the household I am staying in, it is a requirement to turn off the light to a room if you are not in the room. In hotels, to be able to turn the lights on you need to place your room key in the card holder next to the entrance door. When you do this, it allows you to turn on the lights in the room. This is to help save energy, since most people leave lights on or AC running when they are not even in the room. In neighborhoods there are large plastic trash bins in the street that look like boxes. These are recycling bins for people that live in the nearby complexes.
• I noticed a lot of Spanish families have three kids and they have each of their kids dressed very similar. If there are three boys, they will have all three boys in the same exact outfit. If there is a girl mixed in with the two boys, the girl will just be wearing similar colors to the boy’s clothes.

Food!
The food in Spain has been amazing! Each restaurant has their own specialty tapa. Tapas are smaller plates, but I’ve been full off two tapas and a beer and trust me when I say I can eat a lot, I mean I can eat a lot. Restaurants will always serve you bread or potato chips (crisps as the English say). Don’t be surprised if you notice they have charged you for the bread. It’s just something they provide and do. Also, when you ask for water it is never tap water and always a closed water bottle. The water in Madrid is safe to drink. I carry around a metal water jug that keeps my water cold and whenever I can I just fill it up. A lot of the places I have been to use pork a lot in their dishes. The family I am also living with mainly eats meat. These meats consist of salsichao, chorizo, and jamon. I have seen a lot of veggie plates when out at actual restaurants.

I’ve had a wonderful first week and a half in Madrid and am looking forward to more exploration around Spain and looking forward to adding more items to these lists!

First Day – Travel to Madrid, Spain

As the days were winding down to my departure off to Madrid, I wanted time to freeze and slow down. Knowing that you are saying goodbye to loved ones is hard. Not fully having an idea on when you will be returning home makes the goodbye more difficult. Life is also unpredictable. Every breath we take is a blessing and we do not know when our last breath will be. Knock on wood that nothing will happen to anyone I care about, but you still never know what is next to come.

My aunt picked me up at 4AM and drove me to the airport. There we chatted for an hour and had breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. My aunt has always been super supportive of my adventurous soul. From Las Vegas I departed to LAX. I arrived at LAX at 7:40AM. My flight to Madrid, Spain didn’t depart till 6:40PM.

You will learn a lot sitting in an airport. I’ve never sat in an international terminal for more than three hours. Since I was sitting for ten hours I was able to experience a lot. Watching loved ones saying good bye to their family members that live in different countries really pulled on my heart strings. Who knows when they will see them again. Who knows when life will shake their worlds. Be thankful for the family you have around you every single day. Even if they aren’t blood relatives but close friends, they are still family.

I also loved sitting in a space with so many different types of people. Different skin tones, different dialects/accents, different fashions and styles, religious beliefs, etc. It’s such a beautiful thing to sit back and watch everyone interacting with each other.

This new chapter in my life hadn’t hit me until I was sitting at my gate waiting to board. When I first arrived at Gate 150 I was one of the first people sitting down. Slowly people started to trickle in sitting all around me and out of nowhere I noticed everyone was speaking Spanish. Then BAM, it smacked me. Holy shit, I’m on the way to Madrid, Spain right now. As of now I don’t have a visa, so I’ll only be staying for the 90 days that I’m allowed to stay. Plan is, if I truly love it, I will find a way to stay even longer. Shortly after everything hit me my grandpa called me. I thought “shit, I’m about to speak Spanish around all of these people and feel so weird.” Weird, because I’m not confident in the way I speak Spanish. Once I picked up and started speaking a woman to the left of me looked at me surprised, in that moment I built some confidence and totally killed my conversation with my grandpa and didn’t even stutter on words.

From Los Angles, California to Madrid, Spain I flew with Norwegian. It was my first time flying with the airline, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard that the airline itself wasn’t so bad, but it was your cheaper international airline. Which I can see the cheap part. My one-way ticket to Madrid from LA only costed me around $180. I then bought a ticket from Las Vegas to LAX, which was another $40. So, all together it costed me $220 to get to Madrid. That price of course does not include my baggage. Which for my first airline costed me $75 (which would have only costed me $25 originally but my luggage was overweight by 15 pounds and I was too lazy to change anything around in my bag). Don’t be lazy like me and change stuff around if you are able to. Might as well save the extra cash. Once I walked over to Norwegian to see if I was able to check in they told me my back was going to cost $180. WHAT?! The representative told me it was $80 originally and $100 since it was overweight. I still had about 7 hours till I could check my bags in anyways. So, I decided to jump on their website and see what their weight restrictions were. I noticed they only charge 40 Euros for a check in bag if you do it online and 6 hours before your flight. So, I purchased it and in American dollars it came out to $47. I then started to rearrange my bag. Per Norwegians website you can take 1 carry on for free and one personal bag for under the seat. So, I took two pairs of boots, a big coat, my tripod out of my suitcase and put it in my backpack. Then I had a personal bag that I added some books I brought with me. This really lightened up the load on my suitcase.

The previous representative told me to go back over at 1PM to check my bags in. So, I walked back over to the Norwegian front desk at 1PM and started getting my items checked in. There was a new woman at the desk. I asked her if she could weigh my bag to make sure it was the right weight, so I won’t be overcharged. She said it was over by two pounds, but she would just let it slide and then realized that the Madrid bag check in wasn’t until 2:40PM. I patiently walked back over to the sitting area and continued people watching. Finally, soooo ready to be at my gate so I can find food and relax, I walked up to the desk once again at 2:40PM. The same representative was standing behind the desk and I went directly to her since she was already previously helping me. We are getting the passport verification portion taken care of. I ask her if it’s still cool for her to let my little overweight bag slide and she looked at me confused and slightly annoyed but answered “yeah that’s fine.” Her and her twin sister were working the front desk and I noticed how beautiful they both were. I figured it was only appropriate to tell her since she seemed slightly annoyed with me and I just wanted to put a smile on her face. I ended up asking her if her and her sister modeled because they were beautiful, and she got excited by my question and told me yes, they do and started rambling on about modeling. She then had me put my carry on bag on the scale to make sure it was on their 10-pound limit. Of course, it was over, but she looked at me and smiled and said she would also let it slide.

So, all together my one way to Madrid was about $342. I still saved money by breaking up my flight myself, but I don’t think I would ever fly Norwegian again. The 10-hour flight to Madrid wasn’t the most comfortable flight. I haven’t flown out of the country a lot but the few flights that I have done were better experiences than flying with Norwegian. Right when we got onto the flight to board I noticed that the seats had less space in them. The moment the little girl in front of me put down her chair, it was literally inches away from sitting on my lap. I would not have been able to comfortably move out of my seat if I needed to. The staff wasn’t the fuzziest staff. Each of them had resting bitch face the entire flight. I am used to airlines providing meals for international flights. Norwegian does not include meals or drinks. You literally have to pay for everything and a bottle of water was $4. They did not provide blankets, pillows, or earphones. For such a long flight, I would rather spend the money next time to have all the comfy accommodations. If you are on a budget the airplane was clean and nice. So, it wasn’t all horrible, just not what I am used to for such a long flight.

Take off was delayed an hour but once we landed in Madrid going through customs was a breeze. Normally I would have to fill out an immigration paper, but Spain didn’t have us do one. And when I got to the police officer, he just asked me: Where I was going, how long I was going to be here for, and why I was there? Once I answered his questions he said they were all good reasons and sent me along my way. Seriously a cake walk. Once I grabbed my luggage I felt nervous about meeting the family and kids I will be au pairing. I walked out and scanned the crowed to see if I recognized anyone and then I saw the mom. I walked over and said hello. She greeted me, and all my nerves instantly disappeared. Having spoken to the family a few times already I felt comfortable and like we were long lost relatives.