I began writing this post from Terminal E of Atlanta-Jackson International Airport, awaiting a two hour layover to catch my next flight out of the U.S...
Destination: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
My new home for the next few months.
A beautiful, vibrant, exotic city with breathtaking views and a true melting pot of culture.
Also the land of armed robbery, mosquito-borne illness, and a foreign language I had not yet mastered.
Truth be told, I never made it past the first sentence of this post.
I had made the decision to drop everything in my life to pursue a greater adventure,
one that called to my heart. Against all reason, against all logic.
Without having a clue of what life would look like once I got there.
I chose to leave the people I love, resign from a promising teaching job that I liked, and sell my things, for the chance to pursue something greater.
Something to light my soul on fire. Something that would allow me to wake up each morning with a life that was more than just "good"...but rather, a life that felt "fulfilled".
It was time to take my own advice and lead a life by faith rather than fear.
In this case, I was challenged to live out the very sense of what faith means... to take the first step without seeing the whole staircase before me.
I had visited Rio only once before and was only in the city for about 3 days.
I saw the city as a tourist sees the city.
Beach. Big Jesus. Sugarloaf Mountain. All of the iconic things you imagine when you think of Rio.
But this time around, I intended to see Rio in a different way.
I wanted to experience Rio as the Cariocas experience their city.
Initially, I didn't truly grasp what this would mean. I had traveled around the world to various places, but never stayed in any one place for longer than 2 weeks.
This adventure would call upon me to completely resettle myself.
New place to live. New way to get around. New routines to make. New food to learn. New life to begin.
Now, after taking nearly a month to settle into my new city, I've finally come back to this post to finish it.
Thinking back to when my journey started,
I am not the same girl who typed the beginning words of this post.
That girl had no idea of the rollercoaster she was getting on.
An internal rollercoaster that is, with the most soul-bursting of highs and the most desperate of lows.
Upon arriving, I was completely thrown off balance. I felt completely lost.
What was I planning to do? Where was I planning to go? Who would be there with me to catch me if I fell?
Truth be told, I couldn't have guessed just how disoriented I would become once
officially out in the world on my own.
But I discovered this quickly.
Forced out of my comfort zone, on a daily basis.
Confronted with a completely foreign language, all around me, everywhere, everyday.
Not having familiarity to return to after a particularly trying day.
Familiar home. Familiar things. Familiar people.
I've had to learn to rely on myself.
At the same time, I've learned just how important relationships with other people are.
At home, you can easily stay inside your bubble, take care of you and yours, and take little notice of the people outside of your circle.
But here, everyone is outside of my circle.
I've had to seek people, and rely on strangers, in a way I never had to before.
And do you know what happened?
I came back to me.
I stopped overstressing, overplanning, overthinking (okay, still working on this last one).
I shifted my focus inward. I began to get to know me.
My strengths, my weaknesses. My tendencies. My desires.
In the silence of my solitude, I was confronted with the inner self I had kept buried away.
My mistakes. My fears. My flaws.
And at the same time, I began to acknowledge and take notice of the things I found joy in.
The small things, like sitting on a beach and watching a mother and father play with their son in the water. Or stopping for ice cream, just because.
Or attempting to converse with a little old lady on the metro, who even though knew I couldn't speak Portuguese, still talked to me the entire 30 minute train ride home.
Because a friendly smile and listening ear is enough to keep the conversation going.
It's little moments like these, speckled throughout our day, that fill our joy tank.
And its moments like these that I began to learn to notice and appreciate.
Because its moments like these that got me through each day.
This is a constant work in progress.
Every day I get a little bit stronger, a little bit more aligned with the path I am taking.
A little bit more at peace with myself.
I know the waves of highs and lows will continue to confront me as I press on, but now I make an effort to stop to ask myself, is this a wave worth riding?
If not, get out of the water.
At this point, I can’t imagine returning home yet.
Even considering the personal turbulence of my journey and all of the unknown I am confronted with every single day, I’ve never felt more at peace or more at home than I do in this moment.
Even considering the times when I find myself questioning my purpose and where my path is leading,
I've never felt more alive, or more destined to be anywhere other than right where I am.
And I've never felt so connected to humanity.
Every day my belief that we are more alike than different is reaffirmed.
As I make the choice to prolong my stay, there are bound to be plenty of challenges that arise as I continue my journey.
The Cariocas have a saying, descascar o abacaxi.
This means, to peel the pineapple. When confronted with a difficult problem, descascar o abacaxi.
Stay calm, fique tranquilo… and descascar o abacaxi.
At this point in my life, this is the outlook I have adopted.
No matter the problem which will surely arise, no matter the challenge before me,
no matter the wave I am riding,
I must remind myself, fique tranquilo. It’s time to peel the pineapple.