The Routine

16 January 2008

The Cheat's Routine Breaker

The Cheat waxes philo about The Routine that can set in, even in Spain, even as an expat, without tall drinks and perfect, uh, sunsets.

It was marvelous when we first got here, wasn’t it?  My first week in Spain as a resident was a continuous high, wafting as I did across the ancient stone pavements of the Gothic Quarter and taking in everything with gusto.  Man, those were sweet times.  There are a lot of websites and books and writings about the expat life, and the one thread they all have in common is the escape sensation.  We come from somewhere, some home, and we like it because it will always be home, but deep down we all want to live a life less ordinary.  We watched Magnum P.I. or Baywatch or some movie like The Beach and all wanted to live in paradise.

Here we are in Spain.  Like me, you decided to act instead of merely dream, and at some point I guess you settled in and found your thrill.  Good for you.  Like me, you probably also found to your consternation that a lot of the time life here is pretty stressful, so that our perfectly imagined TV paradise can be tarnished somewhat.  No problem buddy, it’s the same all over.  Your old life was pretty stressful too, remember?  The one you’ve built here is just all new.  It’ll shake itself out.

Feeling good?  Good.  Now that the self-congratulation is over, lets get down to cases.  Are you making the most of it here or have you succumbed to a kind of ambivalent day-in, day-out life.  Sure we all need to wash the sheets, pick up the groceries, hit the gym (the kids, the dog, the road…) but its so important to stop once and a while (and I can’t believe I am going to say this) to smell the roses, as it were. 

It’s so easy to let the Routine set in and become oblivious to the merits of the Spain expat life.  I do it all the time, but fortunately my day job requires me to travel a lot, something that allows me to pull back and see my life from a fresh perspective.  The Routine is a path to the Dark Side, because it becomes a high-walled tunnel with few exits and at the end of it is the dreaded Bitter Expat (see Spanorama 1), the guy who sees only the bad, incompatible and draining sides of living abroad and none of the goofy, fun, or good.

The solution as I see it is to break The Routine as often as possible, and that means being irresponsible.  Face it buddy, selling the house, dumping your job, friends, etc., and moving out here was not smart.  It was potentially the best thing to happen to you, but it sure made life complicated.  But so what?  You’re here now, and if you are not going to enjoy it, then you lose.  Time then to get to work and have some irresponsible fun.

This is the country of the living night, so when you go home tonight instead of sitting on the sofa watching The Cosby Show in Catalan, go to a bar and talk to someone you don’t know.  Maybe start a fight.  Stay out late, ignore the dishes, drink way too much on a Tuesday night and have some churro’s for breakfast as you saunter into the office in the same clothes you had on yesterday.  Your work colleagues will know immediately, but guess what buddy, if they’re locals they’ll be just as likely to have done the same and want to hear your story at the coffee break.  They may even invite you to join them next time.

We came here to live a life less ordinary, to laugh at our ingenuity at being able to build a life of perfect sunsets, tall drinks and long nights.  It’s our solemn duty to make that happen and it’s going to take some effort.  So I’ll get the ice, you get on your coat. 

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