There is so much space between dreaming about what you want to do and actually doing it that many people never make it. Some dreams when unachieved will haunt our hearts forever. There is nothing quite so unproductively embittering as what ifs. But some dreams change or are replaced by others, and the original dream becomes something to laugh about over drinks with good friends. I once dreamed of being a ballerina and although I still love to dance, I veer more towards salsa and freestyle booty shakin’ than pirouettes and pliés. Then there are the dreams that depend on other circumstances, dreams that I would like to achieve, like living in Paris and getting my Master’s in TESOL or English, but if they don’t happen, it hopefully means I’ve done something else equally meaningful. But there are some dreams which have stayed more or less at the forefront of my consciousness for over a decade now, putting pressure on my heart at the most unexpected moments, like little barbed whispers that say psssstt… get going already! These are the dreams which I predict will wilt slowly if unfulfilled, darkening but never disappearing, murmuring what if as they fade away into impossibilities. One of them is a cross-country road trip, which was further fueled by reading Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon. Another is teaching English as a Second Language in a new and foreign country. It’s this latter one which I have decided to nurture after years of telling myself later, later, and so it’s here, finally, where the point in time when I began to dream and the moment when I actually set out to achieve it meet, and guess what? After all this time, I am. So. Ready.
Here’s the deal: In 4 days I will be on my way to Cartagena, Colombia with two of my friends. If our past travels together show anything, it’s going to be a trip we’ll talk about for years to come. We are a force to be reckoned with when we’re together. I am nothing but excited for this trip. But where my feelings get a little more complicated is when I think about my friends leaving. After about 3 1/2 weeks, they’ll be on a plane back to California, and I’ll suddenly find myself alone in Bogotá. You see, I’m not coming back, not for a long while. Not everyone is supportive of this decision. People have said things to me like “You’re going to South America? Alone? Aren’t you scared? Don’t people get kidnapped there?” or even “Are you just putting off finding a career?” I’m not worried. I am a cautious and intelligent urban citizen and traveler. What people who don’t travel seem unable or unwilling to understand is that there are just as many horrible things that can happen to you in your own backyard as in a foreign city; the threats just look different. So no, I’m not scared. I’m not worried. I’m realistic. I know anything can happen, and I’m as prepared for anything as I can be. And as for that last question, no, I’m not putting anything off.
I am comfortable saying that I have only moved forward since I moved out of my parents’ houses at 17 and left Orange County for San Francisco. I’m 26 years old, I have two Bachelor’s Degrees, I’ve lived in Paris (admittedly, only for a month) and Mexico (a year), I’ve had a few dead end relationships, I’ve worked in all sorts of jobs, from Joe’s Crab Shack (where, yes, I had to dance every 45 minutes and ask people if they were ready for a “crab facial”) to being a personal assistant/maid/secretary to a well-known fine press publisher who, in his own words, told me he wanted me “silent, but cheerful”, and I’ve been 99.9% financially independent for the last few years. I am confident in who I am and what I’ve accomplished and I believe my dreams are as valid as anybody’s. Plus I’m hoping that, just maybe, teaching English as a Second Language is the career I’ve been searching for.
Eventually, the plan is to end up in Santiago, Chile (via Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia), and there get a job teaching English and see what happens. But first, I have to get there. I have only the vaguest outline of a plan, less money than I would like, and only the confidence in my own resourcefulness and instinct for survival (and a handy Spanish fluency) to help me along. It’s like I’ve been on a river my whole life till now, a relatively steady river, with only a couple of serious rapids and hidden dangers, and now ahead of me all I see is the horizon. I’m steps away from a cataract of unknown height and ferocity, but I desire with my whole heart to see what’s at the bottom, and I will embrace it, for better or worse, but hopefully for better. I think that’s enough of the Pocahontas-esque visuals, though.
The last few months leading up to this jumping off point have been a chaotically fun bacchanal of eating all my favorite foods, stuffing myself on corn tortillas and IPAs (which an inside source told me are scarce in South America), spending as much time as possible with the people that I love, and pretty much just enjoying the fruits of my life thus far. To the people I’m leaving behind (for a while!) I want to emphasize how much your support and love and friendship has meant to me. Each one of you has made me the person I am today and I don’t know where I would be without you. You have all brought so many amazing things to my life, and I am so, so grateful. It is because of you I have the courage to do what I’m doing. There’s nothing quite like leaving to make you appreciate the things and people who are staying behind.
As this has turned into quite a lengthy post, I will wrap it up with my hopes for the next couple years of my life. I hope to push myself further than I ever have before in order to find out just what I am capable of. I hope to see things that previously only dreams were made of, to meet people and form relationships that seem predetermined in their serendipity, to eat guinea pigs on sticks, pet the resident llamas of Machu Picchu, fall in and out of love with people and places, burn my feet on the sands of the Atacama Desert, and discover whether or not ESL is something I want to pursue further. The long and the short of it, my friends, is that I want to continue finding out who I am and what I want from this life. I don’t believe in destiny. I believe we create a destiny for ourselves by the choices we make; we mold ourselves out of the primordial clay. If you thought the title of this entry was arrogant, I can see why. But it’s not arrogance you felt, it’s power. I’m on the edge of something and I am not afraid. I feel fucking powerful. I have absolutely no idea what might happen in the next 18 months, but I promise you it will change my world.