Is It Time To Give Up My Dream? 

After a summer of rural living, coming back to the city has been a shock. Despite my last post, in which I spoke positively about living with uncertainity, the realities of my uncertain life situation upon returning to Madrid have shaken my confidence some what.

After talking and blogging about my dream of leaving the city to embark on a earth-centred life in the countryside for a few years now, I have begun to ask myself: is it time to give up my dream?

The Yorkshire Dales National Park. Views from my evening walks, summer 2022.

After 3 months working and catching up with family and friends in the UK, I have finally returned to Madrid. To say that this long anticipated return has been smooth would be a lie. Crash landing would be more of an accurate description! 

I had felt such huge inspiration and vision when I was working in a small village in Cumbria, close to the Lake District over the summer. Returning to the city centre has been tough. From the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales National park to my street with no trees and house with no outdoor space, the reality check since returning has been harsh. 

My street as it currently is. Is it time to give up my dream?

This crash landing was not what I had been expecting. I had been very much looking forward to returning to my life here and picking up where I had left off three months before. I was eager to start creating this new chapter of my life, post-pandemic. As far as I was concerned it was all systems go. With no job holding me back in the city, I was raring to search for our place in the Spanish countryside

However, life doesn’t always go the way you want it to go, does it? 

Death of the old

Back in 2021, when I was preparing to take the leap and quit my 9-5 teaching job in favour of the flexibility of online classes, I wrote about how I was feeling as though I was going through the death of the old. My previous life in the city as I had known it pre-covid was dying, and it was as invigorating as it was disorientating. 

I had thought that I had been through this spiritual winter already, and was happily anticipating the spring of new possibilities and connections. So it took me unawares when I returned to Madrid, amid the treacherous August heat and felt the ring of the death knell once more. 

I felt as though I had absolutely nothing here for me. I felt the cold reality of not having a job and the fear that that brings. I looked around at our warehouse-flat, and wondered what the hell I was doing there. After living in ‘normal’ houses over the summer, our alternative space felt unhomely and unwelcoming.  Also, I felt there was nowhere I wanted to go in the city; I had seen it all a thousand times already and I felt bored by it. 

The summer winds of inspiration and possibility had dropped me down from where they had had me flying, and I landed slap bang in the middle of (what felt like) the harsh reality of my life situation. 

Reality Check 

Now, instead of possibility, I saw precarity. Whereas before I had felt freedom, I now felt lost. Whereas once had existed hope and vision, now was only despondency and depression. I saw my life as others may see it from the outside: going nowhere fast. 

Then there was the other poison we humans like to torture ourselves with: socal comparison.

Having been away from my friends and family for the past 2 and half years, it has been easy to exist within my alternative bubble. I have been  leading a very different lifestyle, making different choices and aligning with different beliefs. Going back and experiencing the level of material comfort that my friends and family have attained, led me to doubt myself and my choices.

“What the hell am I doing with my life?”, I wondered. The contrast between these two worlds felt painfully sharp, and I could see the distance between the two ever growing.

Reunion Small Talk

When people would ask about my plans for where/when/how we were going to make the move from the city, I wanted to be able to give them an impressive and fool-proof answer, something that would get the social nod of approval and keep us both feeling comfortable. Instead, I had no other option than to give a vague response about ‘seeing how it plays out once I return to Madrid” and that we had “some ideas up our sleeves”. And whilst that is true, there is still a very large part of me that has absolutely no clue. And that felt very uncomfortable in these small-talk situations. 

It felt like everyone had their life figured out and were on the one way road to everlasting happiness and material riches. And here I was, age 34, no job, no house, no car…is this craziness or freedom? Am I mad-inspired or just plain mad? 

The fact is, that I am of an age where having a house, two cars, a successful career and a young family is the norm. This is what most people have been working towards since graduating or leaving school. Whilst I was travelling around the world, working in different countries and learning to speak a foreign language, everyone else was busy building their nests. 

Trekking through the mountains for Albania, 2013.

What did I expect? Every choice made leads to an outcome or consequence, and we have to take responsibility for the decisions we have made. Whilst I have no doubts whatsoever about the choices I have made in my life, I would be lying  if I told you that clammy shiver of insecurity didn’t creep up my spine now and again. 

However, once back in Madrid, with the noise of the building work outside our house, the sweaty summer heat and the overwhelm of having to begin to build my life back up again, that clammy shiver threatened to engulf me entirely in a swamp of doubt and sense of hopelessness.

is it time to give up my dream?
View from my front door

Identity Crisis  

Indeed, the contrast of these different worlds created a vicious conflict inside me. Who was I, in all of this? On one hand, the previous decade of my life has shown me that I am a wandering bohemian; a travelling free spirit who feels most at home in a diverse, multicultural, creative environment with little desire for the material trappings of normal society.

On the other hand, I have come from a normal background of hardworking people who have built careers for themselves and through this, have given me the opportunities I have enjoyed in my life.

The Azores 2015

Since returning to the UK, this conflict has become more intense since have realised how different my friends and family lives are to mine. They live in a different culture, speak a different language in their day to day life, have a different frame of reference for what is ‘normal’ and what isn’t. We are guided by different ideas, different philosophies, different dreams. 

The fact that they can’t relate to my life in any way brings me sadness at times. The inner child in me wants to make my family and friends proud with socially acceptable life choices and worldly success. It wants to fit in, be like them in every way, so we all find comfort and oneness in our similarities.

Time to give up my dream?

In the midst of this crisis of confidence, I considered the possibility of giving it all up. Maybe it would just be more sensible to move back to the UK and get a partner who is from my own culture who can impress my family with his witty one liners and his anecdotes of corporate success. We could have a more stable life, with more certainty, be able to plan years in advance and go through the usual rites of passage together as bride and groom. 

“Wouldn’t life be so much easier and straightforward?”, I asked myself. 

My family would feel better that I have my life all figured out and that everything is in order, present and correct. Everyone would feel relieved that Olivia is living a life that everyone can understand and relate to, and together, we can all enjoy the fact that our life choices validate one another’s. 

Houses in Manchester.
Truth be told, the only thing I really desire in this photo is the flower garden

Fear talking 

Please understand dear reader, that in reality, this is no way a real reflection of how my family actually feels. It is just my own triggered insecurity. I am sure my family knows full well who I am by now, and will probably be nodding along in agreement as they read this (testament to this are all the supportive comments from my mum, dad and other friends on this blog).

This is nothing but the voice of my own niggling insecurity that I thought had been irradiated long ago. Indeed, being different isn’t easy. It can be very inconvenient. My ego would prefer to fit in, to do things as everyone else does, to think the way everyone else thinks. The ease of swimming downstream feels tempting…could I not just give that a go instead? 

Yet I know deep down that this is all just old insecurities coming up to be healed more deeply, as I further embrace who I really am. It is also just the voice of fear whispering in my ear, trying to keep me from living in my fullest expression. I know deep in my heart that my path is upstream, against the currents, boulders, and obstacles. 

Authenticity 

Deep down I know that if I really wanted to live a normal life, I would have chosen that back when I was 21 and fresh out of university. But instead, I took my first leap of faith to the other side of the world, and never looked back. I feel immensely grateful for all that I have learnt since then and I am grateful to have found a direction in life that feels meaningful and purposeful to me. That doesn’t make it easy, but then again, life isn’t supposed to be easy is it? 

living my dream in Hong Kong
Flash back! Me exploring Hong Kong’s parks, 2010.

As much as we might resist it, it is the challenges and difficulties that we go through that really make this life worth living. They help us  build the muscle of our character and the fibre of our being. In my case, I don’t find it easy being on a different path to my family and friends, but I value the opportunity it is giving me to strengthen my courage and understand the  lessons in authenticity that this path is teaching me.

Relaxing Control 

As I have settled into life in the city, I have come to see that the thing that was causing the most suffering when I returned, was my resistance to what is. I was resisting my life situation as it is now, refusing to accept the reality of where I live and where I am in this process of seeking a different way of life close to nature. Yet no amount of desperate longing is going to change where I am right now and I have needed to accept that.

What you resist, persists, as the saying goes. So I have decided to simply surrender my resistance and embrace my life as it is right now. After all, no matter how much I try to impose my will on the world and speed everything up, it doesn’t mean that it is going to yield to my desires. Trying to force my way was causing me too much pain and stress. My soul felt contracted and tense. What good can possibly come from living in such a way? 

As Sadhguru says, first being, then doing, then having.

Following this sage advice, I stepped into a more graceful way of being and gave up trying to control everything and come up with all the answers. I am done with pushing and rushing to make my dream a reality. I started going to some group meditations here in the city and focused on getting my inner world in shape.

Since then, I have felt a lot lighter, more joyful and more expansive. My sense of possibility has returned and I feel excited to see how this new chapter of my life plays out. Whilst I can’t tell you that I am finding this moment in my life easy, what I can say is that it feels exciting and adventurous to be having to forge my own path outside of what I have known so far. I definitely don’t regret my choice to leave my job, and regardless of any difficulty, I feel like I am on the right track.

Back in the community garden

Going Forward 

Going forward now that I am back in Madrid, I am going to concentrate on getting my online teaching business going. This has to be the priority for now and an important step in getting myself in a position where I can support myself from anywhere in the world. 

It is a steep learning curve but at least I am learning and growing, and that has to be a good thing, hasn’t it? I just need to keep my eye on ball and remember the reason why I started this self-employment journey: to create the rainbow bridge that will help take me from the city to the countryside.

Taking my Vows

At the beginning of this blog in one of my first posts, I vowed to dedicate my life to this path.

I still am loyal to those words I wrote back in 2020.  My dream is far much greater than simply having a small house and a garden somewhere in the suburbs. And in order to accomplish great things, we need a strong foundation and lots of preparation. Rome wasn’t built in a day; for this we need patience and perseverance.

I am not one to give up when the going gets tough. So in this way, why the rush? 

Vow to the earth
With you as my witness, I hereby renew my vows

Sharing the Journey

I also want to dedicate more time to this blog. I am sure that in the coming years there are going to be more and more people desiring a different way of life closer to nature, and the more we can support each other’s journeys, share information and accompany each other in the process, the easier the transition will be. 

Everything feels better in community. 

Thank you, dear reader, for being part of mine.

Together, let’s co-create a more beautiful world.

dream of moving from the city to the countryside
Let’s bring a new world into being.

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Olivia Grundy

Join me as I transition from the city to the country, following my hearts desire for a more sustainable life based on respect for the Earth and all the creatures in it.

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