I was just eating breakfast when I had to hold myself back from crying. This minor fact can be interpreted in a number of ways. One, I can be seen as overly emotional, bordering on reckless. Two, is someone back home hurt? Three, is someone back home hurting me?
I'm lucky enough that none of those are it, with the exception that number one has been true in moments preceding self-discovery. So, why did I nearly cry like a little wimp at breakfast time?
It was the two types of jelly on my bread. Yes. That.
But let's word it differently. On my long slice of bread sat four "glop's" of jelly. Two were strawberry red, the other two a pear green. These colors. The way they sat beside each other. The way they bounced off each other over the duller shades of wheat. They were so vibrant! At this point, my breakfast had overcome me completely.
With two shaky fingers I picked up the bread and held it close to my eyes. Even from a "profile" view the colors were illuminating. They were powerful; they were shelving, rearranging the chaos in my daily mind to one simplified center- the beauty, the intensity that lives and stirs in the humble silence of ordinary things.
So, you might be wondering what this has to do with studying abroad in Spain.
I'll start with this- Madrid is a startling place at times. It vibrates with the commotion that only long living cultures can do. Sometimes, it can be easy to get lost in it. Sometimes, we even get afraid of it. All the people on the streets, all of it so different from the still island at home? Sometimes, we might find it easier to stay in bed and stare at the familiarity of Facebook all day. (Or if you're like me, read poetry, Nabakov and Salinger.)
In these moments, though, it's important to learn to keep still. Stop in your tracks. Literally. If you're walking to class, cease those footsteps! Take a moment and look up at the sky. Look at your hands, your fingertips, the way details in your skin make patterns that resemble valleys as great as the grand canyon. If you have the time, take a seat at a coffee shop. Sit outside. Focus on the old man with his granddaughter. He's wearing a long coat the color of the black coffee you're drinking. (I like my coffee black.) His granddaughter is riding a bicycle with a tall flag at the end. You can't help but think how much of a cliche this is. But you realize that this is life and sometimes it can be a series of cliches.
Life. It is happening. It is intense; it is passionate; it is everything that both startles you when studying - in the shape of Spanish cars honking outside your balcony - and sways you into a sweet slumber - in the form of humming Spanish air.
Keep still, my fellow traveler. Be transparent for a small moment and let it all swim through you. Breathe it in and accept it. Life's beauty, whether you're in Madrid or Honolulu, comes in surprising forms.
Sometimes, it comes in the form of your breakfast, the vibrancy of strawberry red against pear green. From there it grows into the crumbs left on the plate, seated in perfect disarray. Eventually, the beauty of it all wraps the entire table, the entire room and apartment, finally becoming you.
In this you become the intensity that might frighten you. And when you become the intensity, you are more than able to handle the intensity.