“I can’t do this anymore.”
Reality checks are funny things. They can hit at 11:00 Brunch with your friends, when your card is declined and payday isn’t for another 9 days. They can hit when you’re knee deep in cold creek water, holding an empty leash and looking for a dog you know isn’t coming back. They can hit when you’re holding a tiny, wrinkly potato looking thing and realizing that it’s your child. And they can most certainly hit when you’re sitting in your office, crying over a person/your job/your car/your stolen lunch. They don’t come quietly, and they usually aren’t too subtle. That’s why they’re reality checks, and not reality snuggles.
My biggest reality check (to date) came when I was ugly crying in an empty classroom at my job over two equally distressing things — a guy (more on that later) and my overwhelming feelings of stagnation, self-doubt, and claustrophobia. Everything was the same, nothing was changing, and nothing was getting better.
Like nearly every other gringa on the planet, I had fallen absolutely in love with the first Brazilian I had really ever met; fallen in love with the first Brazilian who said Oi como vai? to me. Like I said before, this is going to be explored at another time, but needless to say it just wasn’t meant to be. This rejection, this absolute shame drove me to an empty classroom, where I sat at a desk and cried. I cried about him. I cried about my lunch that had been stolen from the fridge. I cried about the fact that although I was working in a place that I found interesting, I wasn’t really going anywhere. I cried about living the same routine day after day, and having nothing to show for it. And I most certainly cried about absolutely hating myself. Loathing. I was so predictable — fall in love with the person who doesn’t feel the same way, Meredith…it’s a really good idea, just like every other time you’ve done it! — and I was so disappointed in my predictability.
And then there was that reality check: I can’t do this anymore. I need something different. I can’t be here.
“Honestly, you’re just going because you think you have a chance with him.”
Let’s call The Brazilian Pastel for the time being. The one thing that I can remember about Pastel without cringing out of embarrassment is his warmth. He just made everyone around him smile, and it was honestly amazing, because people in Washington DC can be some of the most jaded and cold people out there. And as I fell in love with that, I started learning about where Pastel came from, his language, and his people in an effort to try to connect with him.
Yes. I fully admit that the (arguably) biggest journey of my lifetime was borne out of a pathetic desire to impress a Brazilian with my nerdy knowledge of his country. Obviously this worked out really well.
But as the Worst Emotional Year of My Life dragged on, and I began to fall in and out of a depressive, dark place, I listened to Brazilian music. And connected with the Portuguese teachers at school. And cooked feijoada with a teacher who would end up being one of my absolute favorite people. I watched Brazilian movies, read Brazilian news, joined apps that gave me friends and contacts in Brazil, and began to study Portuguese. What began as a desperate desire to hold on to Pastel turned into a desperate desire to experience the place where Pastel came from. Most were supportive. Some were not. One comment that still stings was “Honestly, you’re just going because you think you have a chance with him.”
I’m not going to bother trying to argue with this. People see what they want to see. And although I didn’t see Pastel when I came to Brazil the first time, and although we haven’t spoken in nearly a year, there will always be people who will accuse me of coming here purely to see or speak to him.
But this is the truth, as plain as I can speak it: At first I fell in love with a Brazilian, but then I fell in love with Brazil.
Procurar minha felicidade
Brazil is, in one word, breathtaking. In all senses, positive and negative, of the word, Brazil is breathtaking. Descriptions are for another post, but believe me when I say that Brazil leaves no one untouched. It is a force to be reckoned with.
I was looking for something different — something that would challenge me on all levels. I wanted to find something that would seem insurmountable and conquer it. I missed believing in myself. I missed being proud of myself.
I wasn’t challenged in the US. Before everyone starts raising their pitchforks, I know that this comes from an EXTREME place of privilege. I know that there are people who are desperate to get to the place that I was so desperate to leave. I struggle with this knowledge every day, and often wonder if it invalidates my being here. But I’ve also realized that I’m allowed to want this. I’m allowed to love this. And I’m allowed to be here.
I realize that for most, a change of pace is starting dance classes or speed dating. But I wanted to conquer something. I wanted to drop myself in a place where I didn’t speak the language and not just survive, but thrive. As I became more and more infatuated with everything that I had seen and experienced the first time I was in Brazil, I became infatuated with the idea of bettering myself through Brazil. Physically, mentally, emotionally, culinarily, etc. I wanted to conquer the hills in BH, I wanted to have smooth conversations, I wanted to immerse myself in a culture that was not my own to see what it taught me. I wanted to do all this because, simply put, I wanted to believe in myself again.
Ultimately, as one of my friends helped me to realize, I decided to move to Brazil to procurar minha felicidade.
Oh My God Meredith, Get On With It Already
I promise that my future posts will not be this long, nor (usually) this sappy. But I wanted to give everyone a good, detailed background as to why I decided to move here. Hopefully, it doesn’t seem so out of the blue now.
I hope that these posts will be humorous, eye-opening, and personal — I really want everyone to be able to experience this with me. The good and the bad.