I am a strong proponent of having at least a few “happy places” anywhere you live. Places where you can decompress, feel at ease, and escape to in times of stress. For me, these places haven’t always been what I would have expected. For example, while in college, I considered one of my happy places to be the mailroom, where I worked from freshman to senior year. Although, yeah, it was a job, and it wasn’t always fun, it was one of the first places at college where I “belonged” and where I felt at home within a group of people. As an introvert, my happy places are usually quiet, uncrowded, clean spaces, and the mailroom was (usually, excluding high-frequency mail holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween) all of these things. I never felt uncomfortable or out of place, and therefore going there was almost therapeutic.
My happy places in Geneseo were many. Intimidated by the masses of hushed, anxious students in the library (file Milne under the list of “sad places”), I often opted for more tranquil areas of study. An armchair in Starbucks late in the evening or, when I really needed to concentrate, a table in the lobby of Bailey under the towering ceiling.
Gyms, anywhere I have lived, have also always been happy places. Although for the most part I usually dread going, when if I get myself there, there’s a feeling of immediate release associated with the atmosphere. The bigger and emptier the space, the more I feel like I can lose myself in the vacancy of it.
While in Seville, I have discovered a few happy places that I find myself gravitating towards during times of stress or anxiety. One of the initial places was the park near my first apartment, big enough to get lost in and home to some of the few patches of grass in the city. There, I could sit by the fountain and read along to the white noise of the water.
After moving, that happy place transitioned into another body of water–namely, the Guadalquivir river. I wish I had discovered sooner the small patch of grass next to the Triana bridge where, even on nice days, it is never very crowded. I can lay out my tapestry underneath the overgrown willow tree and sit beneath the sun until every inch of me is warmed by the sunlight. On the other side of the bridge is a charming view of Calle Betis, a great place to go during sunset and dangle your feet over the concrete walls as the tour boats float along the river. Although coming to these places with friends is nice, it’s almost equally as satisfying to sit with only the company of my headphones.
Museums are almost always automatic happy places. There is something about the uncluttered walls and pensive silence that promotes an aura of serenity. Not only is the art healing, but the space is as well. I recently (and shamelessly, considering I have been living in Seville for over 9 months in total) visited Seville’s largest art museum, Museo Bellas Artes, for the first time. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the art itself (you can only see Jesus on the crucifix painted in so many ways), the building in itself was a work of art. And with almost no people touring the museum at the time of my visit, it was as if the silence and space was magnified–the grandiosity of it swallowing me whole.
I notice I also tend to form strong connections with cafés or restaurants where the atmosphere allows me relax and think. One of my favorites is located on the street that extends between my neighborhood and the neighborhood where I work. Very atypical of Seville, it’s equipped with eclectic, comfy sofas and kitschy furnishings that altogether make me feel like I’m back in my hometown. Not a week passes that I don’t stop in with my laptop to do some writing with a cerveza, café descafeinado, or té.
I think the reason I miss home so much is that my entire town is a happy place for me. Despite having been a place of hardship at times, ultimately it is a town so closely tailored to my personality that I doubt I could have designed a better place to live. Although I have found many happy places here in Seville, I am looking forward to returning to my happy places back home…or better yet, finding even more happy places somewhere new.