Wow, isn’t that a scary title? A whole year since my time in Rio ended! It’s honestly felt like a blink. This year has brought so many different surprises I’ve barely been able to keep my head on straight! Since last April, I have either moved locations or moved jobs every three months up until now, June 2019, and the fast pace life is starting to catch up with me.
Lets start from the beginning; I left Rio. That was… hard but something I felt very ready for. Knowing when large change is coming into your life is easier because you have time to mentally prepare yourself for it. For weeks leading up to my last day I thought about leaving and I constantly checked in with myself about how I was feeling. I externally processed with my friends as they also got ready to go, and by the time my very last day came, I was ready. I spent that morning walking along the beach for the very last time, something that I had made a habit of doing while I lived there. I thought about my goodbye dinner I had the night before at my favorite restaurant. All my important people I met there came and we shut the place down at 1 am and still didn’t want to go home. That dinner made me feel so incredibly cared for. It was tangible proof of all the love I had curated while there. I got my last acai, I soaked in my last views of the beach, got sand in my toes and sun in my hair.
That afternoon my best friend and I went to one of the most popular monuments in Rio that I had yet gone to, Pao de Azucar, which was quite symbolic for a few reasons. One, because I looked at the city from the complete opposite side as Christ the Redeemer (which is something I went to one of my very first days in Rio) as if I had bridged over the entire thing, beginning to end. And two; I watched the sun set up there. Let me tell you, nothing feels more like closure than a sunset. I could actually feel the final sentences of the chapter being written, the portion of my life in Rio ending. By the time I stepped foot off the mountain I emotionally had already boarded the plane home.
My time in Rio is talked about pretty extensively on this blog, and rightfully so, but there are so many life lessons I learned that I only begun to realize after I left. Once the page had turned and a new chapter had begun, it was easier for me to look back and see the things that had changed. I understood just how deep my language barrier inhibited my overall experience, and how no matter how hard I tried I would never be fully accepted there. I lived in constant discomfort, struggling everyday trying to communicate and after a while being brave and putting myself out there just wasn’t worth the effort. I still beat myself up about my inability to absorb the language, even though becoming fluent was never on my list of things to do. Now, living in comfort has whole new meaning to me. To be in a place where I am known so well inside and out, where my cultural viewpoints perfectly align with those around me, where language yields absolutely no barriers, that is a gift I didn’t even know I left.
Over the arch of three years I’ve been learning about the meaning of home but Rio has acutely impacted my impression of it. I without a doubt know that I have the ability to make a home wherever I chose. I can make deep, meaningful connections with people and form a consistent weekly schedule. I can find my favorite places, and favorite foods. I can find something to appreciate in the place I’m in no matter what. But, it just so happens that the more I leave and try to make mini homes in other places, the more my heart points me back to Minnesota. It’s my natural comparison to everything! Minne provides me with everything I need, including the friends and family that have known me my entire life. For the first time, I feel like I’m appreciating proximity to the familiar. I’m embracing the comfort that for so long I perceived as boring.
Traveling Europe right after I left was a mini transition inside a larger transition, and one that I’m still very thankful for. Europe was the fulfillment of a dream I had wanted for so long. Living out of nothing but a bag for a month, traveling where I wanted with who I wanted at my own leisure, seeing places I had heard about my whole life, it was simply amazing. I am beyond blessed to have so many connections to Europe, and now so many memories. For a 23 year old American to have already visited Europe three separate times and seen 8 different countries there, it’s almost unheard of amongst my community here. It makes me feel like a rare gem.
I learned that I’m a good traveler, and that in a pinch I can absolutely rely on myself in order to make it through. I also know that I don’t need others to have a good time, sometimes being alone on a trip is better. I can do things specifically for my own enjoyment, and that I can selfishly set my own agenda. I learned living out of a bag is hard, and that sometimes when your on the road you don’t always want to do stuff, but that’s okay. Coming home is so sweet and sometimes distance really can make the heart grow fonder.
Now, my post-graduation transition was melded together with my post-study abroad transition, which made for a really weird ten months following my homecoming. After college graduation, we are all told that by then, we’ll have our poop in a group. We’ll know what we want to do in our careers, we’ll have a good grip on who we are as a person, we’ll maybe even have found a partner to marry, or great friends to do the rest of life with. The “after” stage sounds great when you’re in college, but actually getting to it is incredibly scary! All of a sudden the entire world is open to you, but you have no idea where to start moving. The options are so big and vast, they’re crippling. You arrive at said “after” stage and you find you don’t actually have all your poop in a group, that you have no idea who you are, and therefore have no idea what you want in a partner or even if you want a partner at all! It’s intimidating and rough and you find out that the entire “happily ever after” story is a lie. You will always continue to struggle with identity, always be challenge with new things, always face uncomfortable situations. It doesn’t end! Our cornerstone image of life is all fantasy, and that feels cheap.
In my stumble to begin my career, I realized that even though I have a hazy idea of where I want to end up, the path I take to get there can be very different. I can’t expect myself to hop into a high-level job without experience and do well, or try and be an expert in something I’m not trained for. For now, I need to embrace the fact that I’m young, test a lot of different paths and accept the fact that I may need to go sideways or backwards in order to again move in the direction that I want to go. It’s been humbling these first few months in the working world and I’ve acknowledged I’ve needed to check my pride at the door.
I’d be lying if I said money hasn’t been on my mind more. The average American millennial has about $50,000 of debt to deal with as soon as they graduate, and that doesn’t include the cost of buying a home or getting married. The sheer thought of trying to pay things off is so daunting, most people don’t know where to start, including myself. Is it more important to pay off my loans or my car? When is the appropriate time to move out? Should I think about getting my own phone plan, health insurance, and 401k before I finish paying other things off, therefore prolonging the amount of time I’m actually in debt? I feel so confused by this all and what’s ironic is I’m technically making the most money I’ve ever made in my life! Even though I’m making more, my anxieties about money have elevated with my increased paychecks.
What’s slightly comforting is the fact that I know I’m not alone in this. It’s literally a generational challenge and so, theoretically, it could change. Thanks to good old Democracy I can hope for an elected official to recognize this struggle and help combat it in any way the American People agree upon. Theoretically.
I also feel that I’ve been learning more and more what it means to be from the United States. Since meeting people from all over the world, I was able to better understand the American perception, and how I did or did not fit into that mold. I also pondered how my American perception influenced my view on other cultures as well. Regardless if we recognize it or not, our culture impacts us far more deeply than many of us realize. By me leaving the States I feel like I was better able to understand it. I wrote a bit more about this in Cultural Notes from an American Perspective.
I honestly could go on for days about all the ways in which I was changed, but I’ve probably already begun to bore you by ranting this long. If you’ve made it here, thanks!
You all already know this but I’ll say it again, going to Rio for a year was the best decision of my life. It dramatically shifted my perspective on the world, and on myself. It fulfilled a dream I had harbored for a very long time and taught me so so much.
I cannot stress this enough; if you have any desire at all to travel, DO IT. Just go. Travel has a power that I simply can’t explain. It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Thanks all, love ya.