There are things that I reflect on in my life that I really have to question the validity of such events. Things that are so out of my character that I am almost convinced I dreamt it up in a vivid, emotion-charged dream that has left the feeling of phantom success. Success that I don’t quite own, because I’m not sure that it actually happened.
- The relay triathlon that I did with my friend Kathleen is one of those things. I am comfortable referring to this event as an empathetic recall if someone is describing what it is like to be in a line of 500 people. I own that piece of this puzzle, the standing in line, because that’s something commonly done. Training, wearing the ankle timer, jumping into the open lake with 500 other people, and the exhaustion felt at the end of the 500 meters…those are the things that I actually forget happened in my life. Did I really compete with several hundred of Nashville’s most competitive and athletic men and women? Amazingly enough, I did (in sorts, anyways).
- Dancing is something that I love but am terrible at. Just once though, at a wedding (a Church of Christ wedding, too, shocker of shock) where there was a large dance floor. It was dominated by children enjoying themselves far more than the stodgy adults sitting at the tables. I decided I wanted to dance (as this was in fact the first wedding I had ever been to with dancing), and I did. I danced. I was the only person above the age of 12, but I let myself be unafraid of opinions from the bystanders, I was having fun…and most importantly I wasn’t afraid to look like a fool. Which, of course, if I watched the video, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would in fact look like a fool. Other’s eventually join in with me, and I didn’t look quite so foolish, but that moment where I was almost by myself dancing was such a freeing moment in my psyche. Yet this important event is so often forgotten that I cling to the memory when it doesn’t evade me. Did I really dance like no one was watching in front of hundreds of people? Yes, and it was so empowering.
- Eu falo o portugues, mas somente um pouco, e nao muito bem. This is one of the few sentences in Portuguese that I remember from my time in Brazil. It means: I speak Portuguese, but only a little, and not very well. I remember this, because in the month that I lived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil I said this statement a thousand times, mostly as a stall as I frantically searched my English-Portuguese dictionary. By the end of the 20 some-odd days that I spent there, I was still saying it, but it was out of habit as I could then fly into a conversation (and by fly I obviously mean struggle to hold my slow head above the waters and keep up without my conservationist having to repeat themselves), in Portuguese.
- On my last night, I sat down to dinner with my Portuguese host in her brilliant home, and we had an intelligent, back and forth conversation about how Brazilian people are risking their lives just to get to America, that they will give their life’s fortunes to people who promise to take them across the border, only to abandon them in the Amazon, so then if they make it through that, they swim up the Amazon river. (Can you imagine such?) This elderly lady who was one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met, weaved a sad tale of desperation, ignorance, abandonment, and death…all in Portuguese, and I understood it. This is probably one of my proudest moments in my life, and if you’ve ever spent an extended period of time in a country that doesn’t speak your native language, you know that beating the mental exhaustion to achieve this alone is something to be proud of. So I hold on to that moment dearly, and rarely forget it.
- In my time there I also made friends with the coin taker on my bus route, we happened to bond on a particularly full bus ride where my frustration and exhaustion were obviously clearly displayed on my face, and knowing that, at this point, I did not speak Portuguese well, just patted my hand, smiled an amazing smile and laughed to lighten my mood. Sometimes I forget this friendship, it was too short and perhaps too shallow, but it was so amazing.
- Did I really fly a 20 hour flight with only one friend in tow? Did I really learn a foreign language well enough to hold my own in an intelligent conversation about a country’s struggle to achieve what I’ve already been handed? Did I really make friends with someone who I had no connection with other than the daily path I took, despite language barrier? Did I learn to navigate the bustling city streets, with names I couldn’t pronounce (and traffic that I had to dodge)? Did I really live in Brazil for a month? Astonishingly so.
The thing about these three events, that may or may not be interesting, are that they are so far out of my character that I have trouble taking ownership of them. Yet, they are my greatest life moments. From this reflection I have noted that I must force myself to do things like these more often. Being so full of joy that social value won’t stop me from dancing like no one is watching. Being swept up in inspiration of a triathlon that one is actually completed. Being caught by a whim, that turns into a desire, turning into a passion, that results in amazing travel and an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Things that will in the future make me seriously wonder “Did I really do that??”