4 days. Not even, I have LESS than 4 days left in this amazing country. It’s the time where everything you do is the last of its kind. The last Sunday. The last time you visit the city park. The last time you see some friends because they have jobs or planes to catch before you do. Everything is a countdown. Every hour is an hour that I’m almost home. Home is such a strange concept at this point. It is so incredibly bizarre to feel this way. How can I be leaving?
My emotions would be registering at a 9.5 on the Richter scale. I’m all over the place. It’s a completely different sensation than how I felt 4 days before leaving the States. Back then it was this mixture of adrenaline and worry. There was a sense of adventure and intrigue. I was venturing into the (semi) unknown and had no idea what could be waiting for me. I was also terrified, terrified of everything.
Now it’s sort of a disappointed excitement. I kind of know EXACTLY what’s waiting for me and that’s what making me insanely excited yet terribly sad at the same time.
I can’t think straight. My days are filled with running around the city gathering souvenirs for friends and family back home. They’re also punctuated with moments of me reflecting on how in 4 days my life will completely change. Again.
I can’t help but daydream about a life where I don’t have to leave. I would continue to live here in Belo Horizonte and my friendships won’t skip a beat. I won’t have to take a leave of absence from this life. I would continue on to school or work and build upon the surprisingly brilliant relationships I’ve started with the people and this city.
But life rarely gives us exactly what we want, exactly when we want it. That’s the whole point of it, I think.
Don’t get me wrong, I am also incredibly excited to get back to the United States. I can’t wait to see the faces I’ve been missing this entire time. I can’t wait to not really be surprised by anything. I can’t wait to drive my car. I can’t wait to eat the southern meal I have been craving since the first week I was here.
I can’t wait to feel like I’ve come home.
I will most likely be on a roller-coaster of emotions the day I leave. I am feeling so many opposite feelings at the same time, I fear I might burst from it. And even though I am feeling down about leaving, I have to also feel glad because everything I’m feeling is the product of me loving my experience and also loving who I have back home.
Can you get a better reason than that?
I’m going to throw some knowledge at you people. There are a few things that keep coming up that I think everyone needs to know and learn about living in Brazil. Here’s the first one:
1. Don’t walk like a dejected teenager.
You know that little shuffle? That walk where you barely pick up your feet? We all do it. Hell, if you ask my father he’d tell you I was a professional at it. I think I heard “PICK UP YOUR FEET” almost as many times as “I love you” back in the days of my youth.
Well, guess what? Don’t walk like that in Brazil. Why? Because you’ll break your skull open. The sidewalks are a war-zone of broken cement and loose cobblestones. The city planners had better things to do than to oversee the trees being planted in the middle of sidewalks only 1 ft underground.
I learned, very quickly, that if I don’t pay close attention to the road in front of me I will trip 90% of the time. Those trips will lead to me falling on my face in front of people, which is an unpleasant experience. Let’s add in that little feet-dont-leave-the-ground shuffle to the inattentiveness we all have from perfectly paved walkways in the United States. You know what that creates? A perfect storm that ends with you making a trip to the hospital.
You know why it seemed like everyone had their head down and wouldn’t make eye contact when walking? Because they were too busy trying to not break every bone in their bodies.
Well, the time is passing quickly now as friends back home start their countdown to when I’ll be back on US soil. 3 weeks until I’m home again. It’s almost too cliché to use that old adage of “in the blink of an eye”, but it truly seemed that time passed that quickly.
It was 5 months and 1 week ago that I came into this strange, yet familiar country wanting to know everything and nothing all at once. I was a different person then and I think that’s my favorite thing about this entire escapade.
Throughout life we keep constantly shedding the old versions of ourselves, unveiling what we can only hope is a better version of us. But obstacles and rituals will act like weeds instead of the roots of a tree and sometimes smother the good underneath.
Brazil helped me shed a lot of that unnecessary and heavy weight that was growing like mold on who I wanted to be. I’m coming out of this experience figuring out that maybe 80% of the decisions I make (we make), I make out of fear or shame or selfishness. But I also come out of this knowing that it isn’t that bad if we do. I am easier on myself now and I can forgive myself with greater ease than before. I find that so incredibly important.
We are all so marvelously human and fallible. We are all so impossibly hard on each other and ourselves. At 27 years old I feel like an idiot for only now coming to that conclusion. How LONG have I, and others, suffered by constantly hating things, people or ourselves? Though I know I will constantly be a work in progress, I finally feel like I’m on the right track. And while I hope with every hope my body and soul can muster that I’ll return here to grow further, I know that it isn’t the place that defined me. Brazil, though truly spectacular, was just the stage of my most important act (so far).
I’m glad I got this chance to grow and learn. I have met some of the most amazing people I may ever meet and am a better person for knowing them.
When you sit down and think about how lucky we are to have this, this time together, it’s almost startling. Every single choice we made led us to this moment, led us to signing up for this trip, led us to purchasing that ticket to get us here. Every choice we made, however small, let us have this fragment of time together. We can never have these moments again and therein lies the heartbreak of an exchange student. You may cross paths with some good friends you made on your journey again somewhere down the line, but this exact formula? No, you can’t recreate it.
This perfect formula of time and place and people can never occur again. Though it might sound slightly depressing, I find it so incredibly beautiful.
We are so lucky.