It is quite possible that Brazil saved my life.
If I hadn’t come here in such a moldable state, I might have stayed on the hamster wheel forever. Brazil forced me to slow down and relax, gently working out the knots of some anger issues that went unresolved for a long time. Rio de Janeiro, specifically, has a way of doing this to you. There is a city-wide culture of slow living. It’s too hot so we go to the beach. The traffic is a mess, so we show up late. The rain is too hard and fast, so we stay a little longer wherever we are. The beer is cheap so we make more reasons to get together with friends. This life lesson in relaxation comes slowly in daily doses. Sometimes it is hard to weed it out among the sea of frustrations that are thrown into the mix.
For example, when I first moved here and needed to get downtown from where I lived, I considered how long it would reasonably take to get there. But Rio de Janeiro traffic does not listen to reason. I would ride the bus sometimes for two straight hours while standing up and it killed me. I got home exhausted, defeated. I was so impatient, holding Brazilian transportation to the same standards as that in the U.S. Slowly, I trained myself to allow for twice the amount of time to get from Point A to Point B and even better, I taught myself to enjoy this time to myself (well, shared of course with another 50 or so passengers sweating next to me). I read more books than ever before and learned to watch the scenery passing by.
Every Brazilian I have ever met has asked me the same question, “E porque você veio ao Brasil?” (Why did you come to Brasil?). Sometimes I don’t know if they ask because they actually want to know or if they already think I’m crazy for being here. And I’ve never been able to truthfully say what actually comes to mind in this moment. Maybe I came to Brazil because I was running away.
After college, the floor dropped out. What was I supposed to be pursuing now? I felt like I was waiting for someone to tell me but the answer never materialized. For someone so dedicated and studious, this felt like a harsh failure. Didn’t I do everything right? Didn’t I study hard and apply like crazy for jobs in my field? The U.S. job market in May of 2010 when I graduated from college, was ugly. I didn’t see many opportunities to work in positions related to International Relations so I did what I felt was right for me at the time. I came to Brazil to teach English in a small NGO in the Rocinha favela (slum). I couldn’t bare to think of hiding myself in a cubicle and working the 9-5 grind. I knew that every extra dollar would have to go towards paying off student loans and I couldn’t accept that yet.
When I first got here, I felt that everything was going to be ok. But as the months passed I thought I was being irresponsible. When was I going back to face reality? But what is the point of reality if it isn’t my own? Maybe I’m not supposed to follow the cookie cutter lifestyle and definitions of success that everybody else does. I’m starting to reassess what success means. There is a certain timeline of what your life “should” look like. It’s the format that we have grown up following: school–>high paying job–>building a family–>acquisition of goods and property. It just doesn’t fit me. But reinventing the process is scary because few people know how to help you, they’ve never lived that or yearned for something different. Slowly I’m beginning to find others that are looking for their own story and that gives me hope that it’s going to work out ok.
I like living abroad, studying other cultures. I like sitting in a sea of words that I don’t know and still be able to understand. I wanted to observe and study people that lead a completely different life than my own and I feel like I’m doing that. Some days I think I’m starting to settle into this place which is scary. The feeling fights with my inner desire to keep moving and discovering new places. I might be waiting for the next wind to blow me somewhere else.
I’m not afraid of going into the unknown but rather, curious and excited. Sometimes a tinge of doubt creeps in when I lay awake at night but in the morning it has been washed away. Much like how the sea, in a kind effort to grant fresh beginnings, wipes clean the shore.