As almost all of my friends were applying to colleges, I was fairly done with the whole school thing. This isn't to say that I don't highly value education, because I do...and I will talk about that more in later posts. So, with college not on my agenda, high school behind me and a whole world in front of me, I packed my bags and moved to Venezuela.
Now, if you're wondering why I chose a random country like Venezuela to be my home for my first year out of high school---you would be one of many. Here's the short version: I needed to speak Spanish. And I mean fluently. Over half of my family speaks Spanish--not English... and just because one has Hispanic ethnicity, doesn't mean that you automatically speak Spanish growing up in America. Outside of "buenos dias" "gracias" and the ABC's...I was far from fluent. And while I have hundreds of relatives living in Colombia, at the time, Colombia was considered to be the second most dangerous country to visit...so naturally, I chose Venezuela as the next best place!
Venezuela was new, thrilling and gorgeous. If you ever desire to effortlessly live in the present moment, go travel somewhere!! Seriously. It invigorates senses you might have not even known exist in you!
Everywhere I went people seemed to be inherently giving and loving...and it began to show me another side to the human existence. When I would come across people who had close to nothing, it seemed as though it was their second nature to give me what little they had. This, I might add, is a very humbling experience...because turning down their gift of love would only offend them.
I enrolled in a spanish class and began teaching English at an elementary school to make a little money. I travelled all over the country experiencing everything from the sand dunes of Coro, the beautiful mountains of Merida, Angel Falls in the jungles of Canaima, to exquisite beaches with warm, picture perfect Caribbean water; all the while making lifelong friendships that I maintain to this day. Life was definitely looking up...and I was capitalizing on every minute of it.
After a year of being single, I found myself a new latin boyfriend. I had taken a year off from the dating world--and time did me a lot of good. Dubious at first, I soon found myself in a relationship where I could simply be me. For the first time I experienced that it was possible to be loved and respected. This allowed me the freedom to love with a reckless abandon...become open and vulnerable...all the while discovering new and valuable things about myself.
We dated for a year and a half--I moved back to the U.S. and it became apparent that neither of us wanted to permanently move to the other persons home country. He thought it best to end our relationship and I found myself again with a broken heart.
Quite often an externally difficult situation will bestow the human spirit the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond oneself. You can triumph out of those experiences, turning life into an inner victory and personal success, or you can ignore the challenge and simply vegetate. I had vegetated intermittently throughout my life and this one wasn't to be the last of them. My heart hurt so bad I thought I might die. However, you don't die when you have a broken heart... You continue living, breathing and eating...in a state of numbness. The world just seems to keep on turning and you become a silent backdrop to life. Through the process of healing, this numbness can be a mandatory visitor as you make your way back into the land of the living. But I would recommend not to let this particular visitor stay for too long. It does not do one good to wallow in a state of misery and self pity. However that being said, I don't believe that you should deny yourself the reality of the situation either. Simply remember that you ALWAYS have a choice. A choice to live. A choice to forgive. A choice to let go. A choice to be grateful for the plethora of miracles that constantly emit light and love.
If nothing more, keep in mind what the great German philosopher Nietzsche said, (also made popular by the talented Kelly Clarkson): "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker." What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
My cousin sent this picture to me yesterday and I thought it was perfectly symbolic for the subject of this post. Yes, it is a picture of poop with a morning glory rising out of it....the incredible reminder that out of the muck and mire rises glory and beauty.
I was nineteen. The world was filled with pits of despair, cliffs of insanity, peaceful meadows, blissful mountain views and an ever blossoming perspective. What's more is as I gained perspective, I began to see that all of my stumbling was simply part of the intricate dance of life...