Before you get your panties in a bunch (what a strangely graphic expression), I still live in Spain. I’m sure there will be at least 3 people who read the title, then pick up their torches and march on (to the rhythmic beat of privilege with a nice dubstep remix of messiah complex aka self-appointed champion) for all the wanderlust-filled souls who would love to have an opportunity such as this, and how dare I waste a passport stamp. Simmer, dear readers, I’m writing to you from my office in sunny Madrid, Spain. Just rock with me.
Now, what was I saying? I don’t quit. Ever. It’s a blessing and a curse. I would be the girl holding onto to the last piece of the relationship like an over-enthusiastic Wal-Mart shopper grips that 55-inch flat screen on Black Friday. I was an 18-year-old Girl Scout. Let that sink in. Like, a real, live, post-pubescent, darn near adult, Girl Scout. Knee-high socks, and my sash—with way too many badges—never ever laid flat, because well, you get the idea. I “sang” in a choir for five years until the choir finally called it quits naturally. Meanwhile, the choir has probably joined the witness protection program, cause they know I’d still be with them to this day.
Overall, my stubbornness, perseverance and hopeless optimism have served me well both academically and professionally. This year, I started working at an academy here in Spain. No, you nosey Nancy, I’m not about to put all their business on blast. The work environment, while hectic at times was positive and my colleagues were extremely qualified, and professional. However my boss, radiated stress and tension from her every pore. Nevertheless, we got on fairly well. Until I started paying attention to the tone, and underlining meanings of her comments and questions. This was my first time working this closely with my Spanish boss, but not my first rodeo working in Spain, traveling or living abroad.
Mind you, I don’t look for problems, nor do I wake up everyday and put on my fancy x-ray racism goggles and try to lure people into racism traps then catch them with a Cheshire grin plastered on my face while shouting: “Got ‘Em!”. Without going into details, I noticed things, and I no longer felt comfortable in a place where I was not just different, but different and judged, where my face was scrutinized constantly as if it were a mood ring and could tell onlookers my every wish and whim, and work became just that: work, tedious, long, tiring, and draining. It was very apparent that I was held to a different standard than my colleagues and it wasn’t my work ethic, punctuality, qualifications or performance that came under scrutiny by my employer, but my face, my warmth towards children (I know, harsh, right?) and of course, the frequency of my smiles—and all in front of my peers, in passing and nonchalantly.
Long story short, I chose myself for the first time ever. I chose my happiness. Was I scared, absolutely. Have you seen the statistics on the Spanish employment crisis recently? Was I terrified of confrontation? You better believe it. So, I did it in the most respectful way possible, and with plenty of notice. I even offered to train the new person, help with the search and all in my free time.
So, after a few days of practicing in the mirror and getting myself ready, it happened. I expressed that I didn’t feel comfortable in that environment and that frankly, I was unhappy. I apologized (for what exactly, I still don’t know, breathing?) and I offered my help to make the transition as smooth as possible. I was met with bargaining: just stay, there’s only 4 more months. (But, I’m unhappy, and it shows). I was met with disbelief: this is really inconvenient for me, and extremely irresponsible. (But, I don’t feel respected, or valued here or part of any team). I was met with blatant indignation: you’re young, you’ll regret this. You don’t know how things work in España, but you’ll learn the hard way. I think you’re making a huge mistake. But it’s ok, I knew you weren’t the profile for this academy (Say, what, lady? Cue Chicago: Listen ma’am, you don’t know the first thing about me, yet take every chance you get to label, judge and make assumptions about my character. I’m not here as a show-pony for your viewing pleasure. I’m loyal, hard-working and a great teacher. My kids adore me, and their parents respect me. As grand as you think this establishment is, it’s simply a lesson learned (a hiccup) on my journey as a whole, here let me pass you a seat, do with it as you may.)
I quit. I did it. Life went on. I went through an awkward couple of weeks after the announcement, but I’m happy to say that I’ve found another job where I am happy, and challenged, and valued and included. And there are great Spanish bosses. I’ve left that area of the English teaching world, and well, now it’s to infinity and beyond. Choose your sanity and your health and your happiness. Value yourself and know your worth. And don’t stay in a place where you don’t feel like your best self because you may as well sit in your pee pants for hours on end. Exactly: not fun at all. Don’t run at the drop of a dime, or scoff at hard work, but know your limits and stick to them.
Danni, Community Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.