What happened to me was what usually happens in fairy tales: I went out into the world and I found myself. I did fall in love too, but love is just a motor. Of course, at first it wasn’t easy. There were failed attempts to get published, earning almost nothing as a barmaid and a dancer, which didn’t spare me from hunger, feeling like a stranger and coming to terms with that knowledge. On top of everything, your country of origin, your appearance, and your accent are something that automatically pin all kinds of suspicions on you in the eyes of the locals. Well, alright then! You just have to start building yourself and your identity up from scratch again.
I was planning on staying quiet for the whole dinner, to stay silent and smile. That way nothing could go wrong. I did succeed in that, partly, but after the seafood paella and a few liters of beer and wine that the dinner company inhaled without batting an eye, I couldn’t escape the cross-examination: my mother-in-law made herself comfortable in the seat across from mine to find out exactly who I am, where I’m from, and what I do.
And so I told her, red in the face, sweat running down my back, because outside it was the stifling heat of August. I stammered, stuttered, talked with an accent in my broken Spanish, but at least I was honest. And I spoke for a long time. I told her everything from the beginning. How I had handed in my resignation, because I wasn’t happy – how courageous, right? – so that I could look around the world and find my true calling. Pretty romantic in today’s world that revolves around money, don’t you think? I told her I wanted to write, to do something more creative, work freelance, and to be free of the limitations and the demands of others. To my surprise and pleasure, I found that as I said all this out loud, my situation seemed even more exciting and I was almost ready to paraphrase a famous Estonian song, and add that every woman is the finder of her own destiny and the maker of her own happiness, when I was interrupted.
“Wait, wait, what do you mean you don’t work? You’re 24 years old! Surely you work?” my mother-in-law asked, squinting her eyes.