Barcelona

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 the best city
Barcelona rooftops

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.

belong, be part of, fit in, exist, reside

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who accessed, skimmed through, or even read my previous post. It looks like over 170 of you saw the post, and I really appreciate your interest (much love, many hearts). I will definitely tackle on the topic of relationships, ghosting, dating etc. in the future, as these are aspects that every single one of us goes through, and they often become part of our identity.

And speaking of identity, it’s a topic that will be discussed today. I spent a lot of time thinking what to write about next. There are so many thoughts and opinions that go through my mind, or that I listen to, that sometimes I wish I’d have a ‘pensieve’ (like in Harry Potter), where I could take all my memories and put them in a bucket and then sink into the bucket of abyss (well I’m just blabbering now so let’s get down to business).

A couple of years ago, in my third year of university, I remember taking a course on nations and migration, as well as intercultural identities. One of the many interesting subjects we debated then was a ‘sense of belonging’, or what we mean when we talk about ‘home’. I recollect how a lot of us wanted to make the differentiation between ‘home’, as in where our family lives, and ‘home’, as in our student accommodation at the time. A home doesn’t only refer to a physical space where you grew up in, but also to your country, culture, understanding of the world. I believe that the most important aspects of making a ‘home’ is culture and… objects. Things. The realm of the physical.

We are so attached to things that it came to a point where we are characterised by them. We don’t feel comfortable in a new space unless we fill out that space with bits and pieces that we think represent our selves. When we move into a new house, it does not become a home until we’ve spread around our personal photographs, clothes, books, computer, decorations… everything that we hold dear. Time also plays an important part of this house-home transition. The more time we spend in a place, the more comfortable we feel there.

Of course, there are people that have left all these physical and material objects behind. And they feel so much better. They are free from the physical constraints of space and can do whatever they want. They are backpackers, travellers, adventurers, or minimalists, people who are content with who they are and what they have (or don’t). People who grew tired with all the clutter in their lives, and wanted to belong anywhere and nowhere at the same time. Or just people that realised value shouldn’t reside in things, but experiences, memories, or other unquantifiable and spiritual/ emotional aspects. But are we strong, determined, or willing enough to let go? To lose our sense of ‘belonging’, in order to live freely and assess a new identity of… ‘not belonging’?

Culture, or rather a sense of national identity, is another aspect of making us ‘belong’. I believe that culture came before nations, even though today, one is more transparent than the other. I spent quite a bit of my teen life traveling through Europe, thanks to my beloved mother and her job. The division between ‘us and them’ stroke me every time I would land or take off in or from a foreign country. And after moving to the UK for my studies, I started to feel a bit weird when I’d come back to Romania for the holidays, and all of a sudden everyone was speaking, behaving, and looking… Romanian.

But then, I remembered Benedict Anderson’s notion of ‘imagined communities’ (throwback to uni, once again). Anderson claimed that nations are alive only because our minds imagined and socially created them. He talks quite a lot about how the printed press (his book was published in 1983 so the internet wasn’t really a thing back then) helps in delimiting this boundary of ‘nationess’, by also creating a division between the local and global, the ‘us and them’. This for me became extremely clear during Daily Mail’s campaign against Romanians and Bulgarians, after the work restrictions had been lifted. One would think that ‘divide and conquer’ is not the norm anymore, but in a present where break-ups are the norm (be them political or romantical), maybe we were wrong to assume that.

After living in the U.K for 4 years, I ended up doubting to whom my loyalties lay. I was born and raised in a culture, yet I don’t identify with it anymore. I spent 4 years in the other, where my acculturation process went quite well, but despite taking over some of the characteristics of that culture, I still don’t identify with it. At the moment, I am in limbo. Or maybe I just lost my ability to imagine… communities. But in the end, there’s nothing wrong with being on the grey line, instead of the black/ white one. Things shouldn’t always be definitive, deterministic, and other D words. We shouldn’t be defined just by ONE culture, but by every bit that we’ve experienced. Or maybe we shouldn’t be defined at all.

So, the next time someone asks you, ‘where are you from?’, think for a second. Are you a backpacker, traveler, an adventurer, or something completely off the books? Where do you really belong?

P.S Thank you Dan, for helping me sort this post out!