It’s the 31st of October, and tomorrow is Todos los Santos (All Saint’s Day). I have the day off, a puente, or long weekend, but I am not doing anything because once again, I’m sitting here wondering when I will be paid.
I’ve hesitated on writing this entry. I try to keep negativity off of this blog. However, there are a few things that are bubbling up inside of me that need to come out. This entry is going to be English-only for a few reasons, mainly because I’m a bit worried about potential backlash and being sued by la ley Mordaza, Spain’s gag law that reduces freedom of speech rights. I don’t think it should cause ANY problems at all the way I’m writing it, but considering I’m waiting anxiously to be able to purchase the domain “setmeravelles” for the year by receiving my first monthly stipend, I’d rather not have to worry about any fines.
That said…worrying about when I’m going to be paid is an annual event for me. In the year 2010, my first time in Valencia, they were a month late in paying me. Then two months late in paying me the second time around. And it’s not like I’m making a fortune when I do get paid either. I’m make just above Spanish minimum wage. If it weren’t for private lessons, which I do teach a lot of, I wouldn’t be able to survive. I was also paid a few weeks late once in Bilbao, in 2014. In summer 2015, I was paid over a month late and had to all together cancel my Camino de Santiago plans because there was no one around to click “transfer” so I could get paid. I’m on pins and needles now waiting to find out if they were telling the truth when they said we would be paid between the 1st and the 5th. Woo hoo!
This morning, I picked up my new Spanish ID card that was literally five months in the making. Every time I have to renew my NIE and later TIE, it brings about a series of panic attacks due to the treatment from the people who work in the offices. Sometimes they are friendly, but usually they are bullies who make you feel like mierda for even wanting to live out your dream of living in Spain. One time, I was nearly arrested (not naming the city) after their yelling at me triggered a panic attack.
I suffer from anxiety, depression and a bit of social anxiety. I’m extremely introverted. My insurance this year explicitly states that they will not cover anything related to anything with mental health. Gee, great way to handle the stigma of mental illness, eh? Part of the reason for the move to Valencia from Bilbao was because of how much Bilbao’s grey skies affected my mental health. The sunny of skies help a lot, but I still have bad days, especially when I have to deal with Spanish bureaucracy.
I am desperate for a permanent job, for a better teaching job instead of being an auxiliar de conversación. Even better, I would love to be able to live from my writing or work as a writer. As I have been in Spain for more than three years, all I would need to modify my visa to a full work visa would be a contract for one year. (Or a Spanish husband, but…) I’ve had various interviews and some close calls, but in the end, they always go with someone from the UK or Ireland who may be lesser qualified (may be better qualified too!) but they don’t have to deal with the visa mess. I have spoken with lawyers, but it’s such an uphill and expensive battle that doing it on my own merit is completely out of the question.
There is also the question of loneliness. As an introvert, I relate to people differently than some. My drummer marches to a beat unheard of by many. It takes a while for me to open up to people and to trust them. My past is littered with explanations why I am so distrusting.
Through all of this, though, I am growing. There has been so much growth since leaving Bilbao…so much I am learning about myself, about others and about life. I still dream of a career writing, a house on the Valencian or Catalán coast in decent proximity of either Valencia or Barcelona, with an amazing husband by my side and a family of two golden retrievers and a German Shepherd dog, I haven’t given up on that dream despite seeing it as a very remote possibility.
I could give up and go back to the US, but I didn’t feel at home there. I certainly don’t recognise the US as a place I was born and lived for 26 years after this election cycle. I’m more than frustrated with Spain’s corrupt politicians and every single thing the Partido Popular has done since 2012 and will continue to do now that they’ve conned their way into keeping power despite 70% of the Spanish population voting for a different party in not one but two elections. I said last year I would go back to the US to do a master and Ph.D in Hispanic Studies should the PP win and Hillary win. I looked at GRE, an entrance exam for US American graduate schools, and it costs literally a third of my monthly salary. Add in the cost of just three or four schools, and you have my monthly salary gone.
Still…I perservere. Most days I wake up grateful and loving my adopted country despite the PP, despite the loneliness, despite the bureaucracy, despite no stability whatsoever. And for that, I use every single chance and penny I have to travel and explore. I arrived in 2008 for what was supposed to be one year. Every year it’s been possible to have the rug swept out of me. Every year I am still standing proud of my adoptive country, la roja y amarillo, viva España, visca Catalunya eta Gora Euskadi.
I don’t know what the future holds. I know I struggle to stay optimistic and upbeat. I struggle with purpose and feeling wanted on this planet. I struggle with finding meaning in my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Spain and am so grateful to stay here. However, I just wanted to be honest and let people know that not everything always smells of roses. I have to deal with a lot of BS thorns with the Spanish roses.