Guest Author Oliver Allen is running from the predator that is the real world, all the while chasing the delicious feast that is the manifestation of his dreams, which is currently in Madrid.
I am a Mutant
I’m by no means an unlucky man. I have had the fortune to be raised by multicultural polyglots who took me from Asia, to Europe, to North America. I didn’t catch the travel bug; in my family, it is a genetic mutation. But as with every family, mine isn’t completely functional. To me, however, that is the brilliance of diversity. If everything functioned perfectly, there would be no reason to exist. Our purpose is to create harmony, and to do that, one needs to find balance; an inevitably lifelong work. But I digress, because I’m going to talk about luck.
The Universe decides
Two weeks ago, I began an online portion for the nine month Master’s program I had been so excited to start. It would be a nice change from teaching English, I’d be in a setting I prefer, and I could spend another year in my beloved Madrid. But, alas, Spanish bureaucracy and culture wanted to have its dirty way with me, and I would be on bottom.
Last June, my international student coordinator assured me that everything would be done correctly and in a timely manner. She wanted oversight so that she could personally handle any issue that might arise. This was after I begged her to let me renew my student visa that I had been on the last two years by myself, just like I had done in the past.
At the beginning of August, I checked my renewal status online (one of the rare cases in which government-related functions are online capable), and noticed that I was rejected. I immediately began emailing and calling my contact at the school to notify her of this status. When I heard nothing back, my worries and stresses simply melted into the 50 year old couch I was wasting my day-long Madrileño desert summer siestas in like it was no sweat. August, you see, is the annual Sabbath. More precisely, Spaniards have an eleventh commandment. It states that “thou shalt pass thy summer on the beach, drinking gin & tonics, and completely ignoring any and all sense of responsibility for a job.” So, although I didn’t have a beach, I had time and gin & tonics, and I followed the rules.
I knew that I would eventually have to return to Minnesota to sort out whatever paperwork or bureaucratic bullshit via the Chicago consulate. Fortunately, my mother missed me, and decided to buy a ticket for me. Unfortunately, after a few weeks in Minnesota my kind and caring contact at the university didn’t let me know until 4 days before my flight back to Madrid that my visa renewal was rejected because I couldn’t study with the same type of student visa that I had been teaching with. I would, one week before classes started, have to start the visa application process from scratch. That takes six to eight weeks, a few hundred dollars, and a personal trip to the Chicago consulate. I didn’t get an apology from her, not even instructions. Nothing but ice at the bottom of my glass.
So here I am, in a bit of a conundrum. I have a girlfriend I love in California, family in Minneapolis, and dear friends and a band in Madrid. I don’t have a job. Emotional and nervous breakdowns arrive as frequently as that stinging midnight autumn breeze. I am losing hair faster than the trees are losing their leaves, although that may also be genetic. I am at my own personal rock bottom, or at least of this specific valley of the many I will visit in life, and I can’t help but feel unfortunate. Self-pity is definitely not my anti-drug, though smoke clouds just seem to redirect it so it rains later.
While I constantly search for clarity, the sun never truly shines a light until I am at bottom. Of course! I’m on my back, looking up, and everything is in sight. All the people I know, everywhere I have been, is in front of my eyes. There are thousands of doors I have been through and thousands more waiting for me to walk through, and luck is waiting for me behind every one.
But how do I choose the right door? It seems that Madrid’s door is locked and I am frantically grabbing every paper clip and hair pin I can find to pick it. Why can’t I just accept that this door is shut for good, for now?
Because it’s not. No door is ever truly shut or open. Every door is an opportunity. And every person I know is a key. That’s the secret to the magic of luck. I don’t need to pick locks. I need to talk to the right people, and fortunately, I know a lot of people. That genetic mutation I was born with; it has led me to meet folk from all over the world, with so many different perspectives and connections, that I depend on them to help me open doors. Someone out there is the key to the Madrileño door, or that TV show development job door, or that sailing crew gig door. It’s up to me to play the game and sift through the set (ironically called “game of keys” in Spanish) to find the right one.
Getting lucky is only attainable by being vulnerable. I have to be honest and open with everyone I know, because only then do they know how to help. It’s funny how Spaniards often part by saying ‘Suerte.’ Although the phrases “good luck” and “bad luck” exist, they simply use ‘Luck,’ as if to imply that there is no variance. Every goodbye is a reminder that you just need to turn around and say ‘hello’ again to find fortune.
Man with outstretched hands image is courtesy of Shutterstock