“But we’re absolute beginners
With eyes completely open
But nervous all the same”
David Bowie, Absolute Beginners
It’s May 2018 and I’m sitting with Tony on the beach just outside Barcelona in Montgat. We’ve just had a dip in the Med and we’re nearing the end of our family two-year sabbatical.
I couldn’t be happier because the temperature is sunny and around 23 degrees, the kids are in school until 5pm and we have a whole weekend stretching out ahead of us; long lunches with friends that we know will turn into night, beach walks and dips in the pool and maybe a trip out with cava and pica pica on our friends’ boat.
We lie under our umbrella and read and talk and do that thing where we drift off into our own thoughts mid-sentence when the kids aren’t around; the sun makes us forget conversations as we go but it doesn’t matter, the silence is peaceful and is only punctuated by the foamy waves licking our feet and teasing them with pebbles just a few centimetres away.
Nearby, people are chattering, in Catalan mostly, of course. People are naked, relaxed, tanned and the air smells of sun-screen and the day’s rice dishes being cooked in the kitchens of the beachside restaurants.
The canvas sides of the nearby chiringuito flap casually in the wind.
“Mojito?” asks the guy selling cocktails and we decline politely.
We’re listening to music on our phones and this song comes on. We smile. It was the song we chose for our band to play for our first dance at our wedding.
I love the feeling of being a beginner. Now and forever.
We laugh and talk idly about the past couple of years, over seven hundred days we’ve now been here in Barcelona, and what parts of the sabbatical we’ve really loved.
“I love feeling like a beginner. I think that’s the thing I’ve loved most about being here” I say quietly to Tony.
I’m not sure if he’s heard me over the wave that just landed on our feet but he laughs. We start to reminisce about some of the ways we’ve bumbled through the act of moving abroad with the life admin and communication challenges and medical emergencies that have filled our days.
Then it hits me. This kaleidoscope cornucopia of colour right in front of me, as I look at the bright sea and sky and Catalan sunshine, is just like how I feel inside; from the depths of darkness to stepping into the brightest secret garden imaginable.
That’s what a sabbatical does to you.
I reflect on this, as I silently make notes of the situations we’ve overcome, the way I’ve learned to speak decent Spanish through being good at being a beginner who’s determined to learn.
I look at how the kids have integrated. Our incredible group of friends. And I think back to the person I was and the person I want to be.
It strikes me that this period has opened me up to start the reinvention process. I had to pick up the pieces of my broken heart before I could be who I wanted. That feeling that you’re only just beginning, when you’re 16? It can happen at anytime during your life. We all deserve to feel expansive and excited, otherwise what’s the point?
Yet here we are. Just a few weeks away from heading off on a last trip around Europe, in our yellow campervan Annie, for four months before heading home.
I’ve started working with a creative coach, listening to podcasts and beginning the voyage of self-reinvention once.
There’s so much to say about our incredible time here in Barcelona but that’s a different story, but what is relevant to here, now, and you, is that changing our situation, despite all the risks, pulled down a lifetime of “should-do’s.”
During these last few months in Spain, I start to create a new business, one that protects my energy, one that I can do from literally anywhere, one where I can help other people who are also building businesses. One where I don’t have to use any marketing talk, just real talk and genuine, intuitive help.
I look up into the sky and smile. I know that mum’s there, smiling, watching, grinning from ear to ear to see me happy. And I know she’s there, wherever I am in the world, cheering me on with that gentle smile.