Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Support System

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One of the absolute most critical keys to my personal achievements and happiness that I felt at The College of New Jersey was the phenomenal circle of support that I had cheering me on there. Outside of friends I met some of the greatest mentors in the form of fantastic, knowledgable, personable and available professors (great gift of TCNJ’s size), bosses/managers who ended up guiding my work habits, teaching me organization, informing me of professional opportunities, my internship colleagues/mentors who offered me a wide array of perspective (alongside the clients I worked with), spiritual guidance from a name that goes without saying, and all the employees of the college who offered anecdotes on life that were priceless. This is the unique character that TCNJ possesses and I feel very blessed to have benefited from that. Yes, I will be receiving a small sum from The College for my salesmanship! This just in…blog name soon to change to “The Public Ivy.”

A very difficult aspect of planting yourself in a new country is seeking out a good group of people with various experiences, education, and opinions (I think diversity of thought is so so so important). You start out your experience really naiive, vulnerable and unsure of just about everything. This fact might lead you to latching onto help too readily or denying assistance when it is much needed. I have done both. Outside of that, there is an adjustment from becoming student to professional, from being within a culture and understanding its subtle details of communication to being on the outside, and much more. Finally, life is not YOU-centered after college. That has been a healthy wake-up call that I am slowly adapting to. University life is very much a bubble in that sense.

8 months later and I have a few good, older people here who have definitely shaped up my experiences. It took some time, I made some mistakes, but I feel very grateful to have an understanding with some people whom I have a lot of respect for. I hope to learn from them and see what guidance and direction they will contribute to my life! Of course, peers of the same age are great because you are more or less in the same spot in life (although the 20s and 30s place people in sooo many different positions  that age really is relative), and they are your crew to have youthful fun with. It’s important to have a mix of people in your life, obviously enough.

With a support system in development I am very happy that I will be here for another year. So much of my first 8 months here has just been getting a feel for it all, meeting people and developing strong relationships, improving my working abilities, getting  a grip on the language, and extending my social life (much improved since moving to the city). With a year 2 I am in a much better position to make greater contributions to my projects here and ideally I will leave a meaningful impact. I try to make ‘micro-impacts’ – smiles, cheerfulness, etc. – but let’s see if that granddaddy ‘macro-impact’ on life can swing down his hammer.

I was in Chinchon yesterday and it is a very typical Spanish town with castle ruins and an enormous plaza. Fun fact: the 1987 film The Falling was shot here. Interestingly enough, another film was being made during our visit. It is a Venezuelan/Spanish joint effort about Simon Bolivar. You just might catch my shadow in one of the scenes! The plaza had a really cool market set up filled with clothes, bags, etc, there is a nice running fountain there which traditionally was used to wash clothes, and there is a gigantic church overlooking the plaza. It made for a very nice effect. I had lunch on a balcony overlooking the plaza and it consisted of an egg dish with meat through it yum, and a nicely prepared leg of lamb, and then flan to keep the sweet tooth happy. After that I saw the First Communion of the 3rd Grade students of my school and that was  very pleasant. The students get very excited for these events and it is a nice feeling to come to support them for these things. As it is, maybe, just maybe I make up some small part of their support system!

The Only Constant is….Change

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So the saying goes. It is an entirely other matter for us to be able to accept this facet of life. Something that I think we all instinctively resist at times. Survival mechanism? The familiar is more comfortable? I used to idealize a sense of permanence about my earthly station here. To collect a set number of ‘always-there’ friends, to have a good sense of what it all means, to figure it all out, to have a complete sense of security, to have all the answers, to be a constant Conor…pffft, this ain’t happening ANY time soon. What liberty we receive when we reach this understanding. 

I say this because I found out this week that the gorgeous, God-send of a house that I JUST moved into is being sold. What a shame, eh? It’s about as good as it gets here. On top of that, so much of my next few months are undecided. It’s crazy! Aspects of this situation add a bit of pressure to one’s living, but I kind of love it…it is exciting, it’s exhilirating. All we can do is ‘ride the waves’ (Tom P) and see where they take us. There are five of us as housemates here. One housemate has just bought a house in Sevilla where he is from and is going to set up what I know will be an excellent life for himself there. Another companion goes to a new apartment in Madrid so they will be near by. The remaining three of us would like to stick together. We will see if that shall come to pass. I am meeting a lot of people now that I am here in Madrid and have been very, very busy. I can’t complain. Here’s to the unknown future! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

PS: The only constants I can really think of off my head would be my family (the absolute people whom we must must must give our all to. I am still learning this.)…God….ourselves…maybe our best friends…in general it’s all so unpredictable. We could lose everything we have in a minute. I think this is an important thing to always keep in the back of the mind. 

Family Matters

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It’s been an appreciation 22 years in the making, but I am one hundred percent confident in the obvious conclusion that it gets no better than your family. I am privileged to come from the stable, supportive family that I have and it would seem intuitive for me to understand just how lucky I am, but it’s something that deepens with my years of life ( life in general seems to strike you more and more with the years, always revealing new things, we’re always learning, it’s fantastic).

Anyway, Mom and Dad were here this week and they brought me the greatest comfort and peace of mind that I could have asked for. I am having a blast in this country. I think the blog is a testament to that. BUT, that isn’t to say that it doesn’t come with it’s difficulties. From the outside it’s easy to think that it’s the most idyllic life in the world, but it doesn’t come with it’s own struggles. If homesickness was the one and only difficulty in this journey (and it certainly isn’t), that in and of itself would be tough. No more details on that as those pangs only hit from time to time, but the result of the parents visit was excellent. They are the most down-to-earth, good-living people that I know and it was so much fun to be able to laugh with them in the way that I can not with anybody else in the world.

We saw Toledo (my third time there!), Madrid, and Aranjuez (the former summer residence of the King). A nice new revelation in Toledo was that I was able to see the Jewish corridor. We went inside a temple that is now owned by a movement of nuns that seek to bridge hurts that exist between the Jewish and Catholic community. She was from Belgium, spoke at least 4 different languages, and presented such peace. She was surrounded by all a ton of impressionist paintings depicting the mission of the movement. It was a fantastic, inspiring conversation. We visited Aranjuez with my boss (is he not the coolest??) and it was a nice pleasant day trip.

Outside of the travelling and site-seeing, it was the fact that I was with the people who have given me everything that I have: my education, my health, my morals, my faith, my humor…for me they are like representatives of God on earth. An interesting way to put it, huh? I truly feel like that captures it though. I love them very much and the things that had been stressing me out prior to their visit seem like pocket change now. I was laughing with them this whole week and although I am sad that they are gone, I am laughing a whole lot again…and it’s just that natural kind that comes from within…sincere and real. I love it!!! God bless them. I will always make sure to bridge any physical distance between my family and I.

Other life news: I am more or less a retired runner now. I had been debating this for the past 10 months (running has been my sport for 12 + years now), but it’s just too stressful for my body unfortunately. Swimming has replaced it and oh how much fun! It feels great to glide through the water and I am actually giving my body a much more complete work-out. I don’t think there are competitions in the way that the running world has 5ks or marathons, but I’ll figure it out. Anyway, I can still participate in the odd running competition.

What else? Ah yes I walked right past Jaime de Marichalar today. Twice just to verify it. He is the former husband of Rey (King) Juan Carlos’s eldest daughter. He was sitting at a cafe off of Serrano Street sipping coffee. Sooo crazy! I love this city!