I’ve been feeling moderately ancient since my birthday last weekend, so I decided to fight back by reminding myself of the most terrible time in my life – the two years we lived in Barcelona during our MBA.
Now don’t get me wrong. That period in time had all the makings of an idyllic fantasy. An alluring and lively European city. A young couple, recently married. No work or other family responsibilities to worry about. Just us, our studies, and Europe.
And my anxiety.
And no money.
Oh yes, and a miscarriage.
I like to tell people that Barcelona would have been amazing if we’d been rich enough to enjoy it, but I think what really kept me from living the city to the fullest was the fact that I was constantly focused on my anxiety. That and I was so busy chasing the next moment that I didn’t really take the time to enjoy the one I was in.
When we first landed in Barcelona, I jumped on just about every chance to explore all the new things around us. I remember being fascinated by the fact that one of the local commuter lines ended at a small town in France, and we could hop over the border on that commuter train and pay something like 5 EUR to visit a different country, just for the day.
Somehow I convinced my husband – who, to put it mildly, isn’t exactly as big a fan of spontaneous border crossings into unknown villages as I am – to jump on this train with me and spend our day in Middle of Nowhere, France.
We had NO idea what we would find in Latour de Carol – the village just on the other side of the border – and while I remembered the trip being relatively short, in looking at commuter line schedules so I could write about it more accurately, I now realize we traveled over two hours on a train designed for short range travel to get to a destination we knew nothing about.
What we found in Latour de Carol really surprised me.
The village was kind of a letdown, to tell you the absolute truth. I was expecting a really quaint French town with gorgeous architecture and breathtaking scenery, and what we got was a sleepy little Podunk that was little more than a train station, a couple of restaurants and a dusty town square.
So needless to say, my expectations of the restaurant we ended up choosing for lunch (and there weren’t a lot of choices, really) were not extraordinarily high, although I perked up significantly once we walked in and caught a glimpse of the unexpected rustic yet sophisticated charm that Chez Whatever It Was had to offer.
The Entrecote we scarfed down in that restaurant – at one of the square, wooden tables near the brick fireplace in the wide open dining hall – still haunts me to this day, nearly ten year later. It was one of the most surprisingly spectacular meals I’ve ever been fortunate enough to enjoy.
Things deteriorated significantly a few months after that in terms of our enjoyment of life in Europe. My panic attacks began, and it took every ounce of my effort to get out the door and go a mile down the road to my classes, much less hop on an errant train to destinations unknown in Spain and beyond.
Save for a handful of bright spots, I remember Barcelona as an anvil tied around my neck as I moved underwater toward a glimmer of hope on the horizon – the chance that I would one day be that girl again, finding unexpected treasures in the unlikeliest of places.
I’m not a girl anymore (errr – not that I was when these picture were taken, either, but I was closer to thirty than to forty back then), but I think at some point in the last couple of years I really came back with a vengeance.
My family and my job keep me from stowing away to Canada on passing freight trains, but I do adventure a slightly different way now. Yoga is one adventure I’ve embarked on recently, but I’ve also replaced the extemporaneous exploratory trips with pre-programmed, annual trips to exotic destinations with my sister (this year we even brought our mom along).
With all the hard work I’ve put into my career, the good news is now I have enough money to do these things properly. And I’ve gotten much, MUCH better at finding unexpected treasures in the unlikeliest of places (the orange leaves on the trees outside my office window… or the hues around us on the golf course… the drive home from yoga on an exercise high).
So I guess it’s not so terrible, getting older. I know it in my head and I know it in my heart, and maybe next week I’ll be over it. In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous picture from my sister (and mom) trip this summer. I picked this one because I look fabulous – and it was only six months ago, so I can’t possibly look as old as I feel right now.
Comments and messages about how amazing I look will be most appreciated (PS: Of the three hotties, I’m the one in the middle).