Dear friends and family,
To be honest, part of my not writing since my last post was because the silence I received about an issue I care deeply about made me pretty sad. It’s ironic that the time I move away is when I am most passionate about the politics in the country I left. I don’t WANT to be making political posts on facebook and sharing about the inequality and unfairness I continue to see, but I feel like I have to. Just like I have always felt the need to stand up against the kids at school who make fun of the underdogs, against the foul words flung at friends who are different than others, against the bullying towards my mother from my little brother, against the slurs I hear from colleagues towards strangers, against the hurtful comments I hear from family and friends. I WILL NOT be quiet about my feelings, and even if I’m not the voice that all others agree with, I will always let my voice be heard, and I will always listen to other’s voices–And I hope that through these interactions that there will be growth and that kindness, empathy, and compassion will be the result.
This isn’t going to turn into another post from a soapbox, as I guess my last one must’ve come across when you’re all expecting to hear about my adventures and growth, but the lack of reaction made me continue thinking a lot about where I am in this life of mine. Life abroad has been a wildly exciting adventure….but it has also come with so many challenges, ones I never expected but am trying to overcome with a bit of grace. Here’s a deeper look into my life in the big city, three and a half months into my two year commitment.
Going from being a fairly competent adult on her own two feet, someone who feels absolutely comfortable doing things on her own (from completing basic tasks like cooking, to enjoying privileges of a single adult without children like going to dinner and a movie alone, and absolutely adoring my time and my own company) to feeling like a child again (in SO MANY WAYS) has shaken me. In fact, I was not only
comfortable with this lifestyle, peppered with an occasional lunch date with an old roommate, dinners with friends and family, and nights hanging with my niblings, but I was learning to really love it. Take a few days off work to go on a trip to NYC for a Broadway show? Hell yes! Hop on a place to fly to see my sister’s family on the west coast? Of course! Treat myself and little sister to a jazz show, enjoy a few martinis, then bacon maple donuts the next morning? Absolutely! Drive an hour for a dinner party with people I’ve never met–why not?!
Life was finally, and peacefully, totally in my control (aside from having a full-time job and real-life adult responsibilities, too, of course 🙂 )
Then all of that stops. Suddenly– though decisively and through a series of carefully considered alternatives–I’m in a brand new place. Those friends, whose availability, and that family, whose proximity, were a great comfort, are suddenly no longer there. My ability to navigate anything from a neighborhood to a grocery store to my way around a museum, a mall, whatever—–all gone–right out the window along with my basic ability to communicate more than “good morning” (bom dia), “Is everything okay?” (tudo bem?), and “Everything is fine” (tudo bem.)
There have been COUNTLESS situations where I’ve had to depend on those around me to communicate for me here. Do you know how frustrating that is? To not be able to SPEAK for yourself? Order food/drinks for yourself, go to the doctor by yourself, ask for a prescription by yourself? After spending the last two weeks quite ill from a virus and sinus infection, and having to be taken to the doctor’s office more than once by people pulled from their jobs to translate for me, I am more determined than ever to learn the local language. Despite classes two days a week, daily Duolingo lessons, and Brazilian TV on in the background, learning portuguese is not happening as fast as I’d like, which must mean I’m not doing enough. Despite the challenge, I know it will be worth it. The ability to communicate is something I will never again take for granted.
I am so grateful for all the people who have stepped up to help, but it is challenging to have people always doing you favors, I think. I know that makes me sound like a privileged white person (oh yeah, I am). It’s easier when it comes from friends, but when the people going out of their way to thank you hardly know you, it feels like I’m a burden, and it makes me feel like a child.
And onto the ever important topic of friends…..having to make new ones as an adult isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a lot like trying to make friends when you’re an adolescent, only stranger. I’m not talking about making A new friend occasionally as an adult–You meet a new person and click and soon you’re having coffee and he or she fits right in with your group of friends who go out from time to time when schedules aline–I’m talking about forming a new group of friends, new friendS to spend your time with, because when you can’t so easily do things you enjoyed doing on your own any more, having people around can be an excellent way to deal. A security blanket. A comfort shield. And when you learn that the people who you first formed your blanket with don’t end up having the same values as you, it’s hard to make that shift again to realize that company is great and all, but it’s never OK to change yourself to fit in–not as a kids, a teen, or an adult. We must be who we are. I am amazed at the pressure I felt to fit in, when back home I was finally confident being me.
I want to get more comfortable being on my own again. I’ve taken baby steps–like to the mall, the grocery store……but when I mentioned going on a small trip by myself, something I’ve been doing since I was 16 years old………a colleague looked at me like I was crazy and continued to tell me that I wouldn’t be safe doing that. Uncomfortable? For sure. Challenging? Oh hell yes it will be. But when have people ever grown by sticking to what they know and taking the easy road? Safety precautions are a must–but living in fear didn’t get me here, and it’s not going to keep me here.
And that’s not it with my list of challenges! Have you ever been on a date with someone who doesn’t speak your language…literally? The dating world I had only just gotten a taste of, filled with deep intellectual conversations about literature and theology and politics and world travel, etc. etc. is now ever more important to me, and something I long to have again. In my current dating world, conversation is kept to a much more elementary level: What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite fruit? Do you like to cook? What do you like to cook? It’s no one’s fault. When you are attracted to someone and speak a little bit of each other’s language, I think it’s exciting and fun to put in the effort to communicate what you are able–but I certainly don’t want to be stuck in some strange 3rd grade dating world when you call a person, ask them how their day was, then breath on the phone together. OK–I better get back to my portuguese lessons! Haha.
Love to you all!