Last Sunday, I needed some air. Not everything is sunshine and Flamenco living here in Spain. I was honestly having a really tough time last week dealing with the stress of exams, feeling homesick, and the aftermath of fighting with a loved one.
It was a crisp and sunny fall day, so I figured why not read or take a stroll around the beautiful park to clear my head a little, so I did just that (which was pretty therapeutic in its own way). I read the book Mindfulness for a little bit, felt cold, then moved into a sunnier spot where I could hear a man playing “Despacito” on a saxophone. I put down my book and just gazed at the world around me, taking it all in. And then an old Spanish man approached me with a magazine in his hand, asking: “cuál es tu signo zodiacal?”
I replied with Libra, and he proceeded to tell me that, according to the horoscope, I should be aware that the circulation in my legs will be bad for the next few days and that I should avoid spending large sums of money.
And then something cool (for lack of a better word) happened. This old man and I began sharing stories and jokes and facts with each other. He told me about his children and grandchildren, about the history of the park we were in, and a silly joke. I told him why I was in Spain, a little about my family, and how I was having a tough time.
It was refreshing for me to just be able to converse in a language that was foreign to me with someone so patient and interested in what I was saying. And I was interested in what this man had to say, too! It was an encounter than could’ve gone several different ways, but it ended in this man sharing a few pieces of advice with me that I found particularly relevant to my life.
The first piece of advice was about education.
“It does not matter when you finish your studies, but if you finish.”
As someone who’s constantly crunching the credits to make sure I graduate on time and don’t have to take out any more loans, this piece of advice resonated with me. It’s about taking your time, enjoying your studies, and focusing on doing the best you can.
I’m frequently reminded about how it’s fun in college and a time to discover yourself, because once you get into the real world, jobs and rent and other adult things just don’t come near the niceness of being a student.
The second piece of advice was about money.
“Money can never buy happiness, that you know. But money can solve certain problems.”
I asked him to expand on this by giving an example of what kind of problems money can solve. He responded with the story of how he was once very thirsty while he was visiting the south of Spain, and in order to quench his thirst, he needed money to buy a bottle of water. Problems revolving around things so basic in life like food and water and shelter can be solved by money, but it’s still vital to realize that happiness can’t be bought.
The third piece of advice was about love.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together six weeks or six years, true love will always feel new and fresh.”
This piece of advice came after I told him about how my parents got engaged after six weeks of dating and are still happily in love. There are those days where everything can be perfect and happy with your significant other and other days where you fight. But in the end, if you’re still giddy and excited to see them after a day of work or a weekend away, that’s when you know it’s real; that love never wanes.
And the fourth piece of advice was about life in general
“Enjoy your life as much as you can because one day, you’ll wake up and be old like me.”
I think for me, this was the most influential piece of advice given. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in things that are happening in our lives and forget to enjoy.
After our chat, the old man left me to ponder the advice he had given me. They all sound like clichés, but it was interesting for me to hear what this man said because of two things. One, he’s way older than I am, which means he must have an idea of what he’s talking about (even a little bit) due to his experiences. And two, he’s from a completely different culture than I am, yet the life advice he gave was universal.
This chance encounter enabled me to think about my choices in life and how I pursue the path of life. I hope you can also ponder what this old man had to say.2
Also published on Medium.