I want to talk about a city that changed my life.
Well, all the places and spaces that we flow through have a sort of influence on ourselves, our behaviours, our hobbies. Lancaster helped me develop as a student and set the stepping stones into adulthood. Manchester was the bridge between a life in a small town to a cosmopolitan one. Hah. I suppose size does matter… when it comes to the space you’re living in, of course. Bigger cities mean less time to do basically anything because of the endless possibilities to do everything.
Barcelona is all the personalities you could think of in one. Its saturation and complexity surprise you on a daily basis – you feel something new every day. The more you interact with the city, the infinity of smells, the pollution, the colours, the thieves, the heavy, humid breath, the love… the more you want. Barcelona lures you into its charms and hugs you in its strong arms. It wants you to know that whatever you need, it’s there for you – from technological advancements to creative flares and fresh tans.
Barcelona sings with the never-ending international and local chatter, the piercing motorbike exhaust pipes, the rattle of cutlery and plates, the sound of the waves, the squeaky or husky barks, the muffled techno bass in the background… At night it dozes off in a dreamless sleep, perpetually interrupted by groups of loud drunk party-goers and garbage trucks. In the morning, it breathes in combinations of sea salt, exhaust fumes, olive oil and garlic (sometimes dog shit or pee as well because not everything is dreamy).
Barcelona is social, you’re in constant communication with either people, the sun, buildings, narrow streets or marble floors. The good and the bad of the city merge together to create a conflicted relationship within yourself. So many of the people I’ve met told me they’re in awe every day: ‘I can’t believe I live in Barcelona’, ‘It’s amazing to be here all the time’. I smile and nod, thinking that as true as that is, as amazing, inspiring, and breath-taking this city is, it can often make you feel lonely. You’re surrounded by people and interactions, yet rarely do they become substantial enough to be meaningful. This is a result of an industrialised, commercial lifestyle. Never before have we felt so alone in a sea of people.
It’s impossible to feel like that for a long time – when you have an infinity of options regarding activities, work, and play, how could one? Barcelona is your parent, sibling, and friend, it can guide you through its narrow romantic streets or through its wide modern boulevards towards old or new passions and achievements. It nurtures you as you worship its godly self. Unfortunately, as with most things humans tend to love and admire, we start to destroy what matters most to us.
Barcelona is scared. Its sense of identity is shifting and it cries out in pain for all the theft, abuse, pollution, and illegality tainting its walls. During hot summer days, its concrete pavement suffocates from all the petrol and human waste while the flustered sea brings countless bits of trash to the shore. Its neighbourhoods are often disturbed by intensified screams and creepy stares. Barcelona is hurt, yet it constantly strives to BE better, to achieve MORE.
Barcelona is my mentor. Its complexity, visual aesthetics, and strength inspire me while the way it loves and celebrates life fills me with a constant desire to enjoy every moment of it. Maybe in a few years, it won’t feel like that anymore. Maybe in a few years, I will move on to new spaces. Yet, its beauty will forever remind me of how it helped me grow and frame my identity.
I am Barcelona. We all are.