On my drive west to my new, temporary home of West Texas, I began to notice the subtle changes; the drastic differences between the place that had always been my home and where I was headed somehow refrained from swallowing me whole. Pulling into town with the remaining distance on my GPS creeping slowly toward my final destination, surely there is much more still to go, I thought. Everything looks deserted. Homes, stores, gas stations. People coming in and out of stores and driving on roads that need maintenance; life is here, it just doesn’t display it the same way Nashville does.
Regret, loneliness, and fear struck with the intensity that they always do when one is weak. The beauty of all that I had left flooded my consciousness: friendships, family, trees, the color green, non-white people. Through a series of unfortunate events upon arrival (which seems to be the standard starting out in Abilene story), I had the unique experience of both meeting insanely nice people, who let me stay with them when my apartment didn’t have power or water as it was supposed to, and feeling the intense isolation that comes from culture shock.
As I was explaining/crying on the phone to a good friend about what I was dealing with she gently reminded me to give myself some credit, and that culture shock is not easy. Culture shock. Oh yeah, that’s what I’m experiencing. It helped just to identify why this transition is so challenging and to give it a name.
A friend who didn’t regard it to be in the best interest of my life path to come to Texas, pointed out a couple months ago that Texas, and all it entails for me, is Brazil. I brushed it off initially and was later struck with the comparison that he made, it has since been in the back of my mind. Arriving here and dealing with the culture shock has lent itself to that comparison. The landscape, the people, and even the language, in ways, are all starkly different.
Brazil, you see, has probably been one of the more defining words in my recent past. There are still people out there who haven’t talked to me in years who think that I am either in Brazil or recently returned from my years of service as a missionary there. I didn’t go though, instead I lost faith in God. Instead, I spent those two years steeped in a dark time or wrestling with my faith, my God, and my religion. It had to happen, and I’m better for it, but the word Brazil has come to mean so much more than a country. It represents all that I love, and was sad about not returning to, about the country: the people, the food, the passion, the beauty. It represents who I was and who I became, and choosing what was honest over what was easy and dealing with the very challenging fallout.
Last night, as I was at an outdoor house church, I glanced down at my dusty flipflopped feet (the desert really is dusty, folks) and then up and the cloudy, dark sky and realized that this is my Brazil. Este e o meu Brasil. In many, many ways it is my Brazil. It’s as if the universe deemed it appropriate for me to take this part of the journey now; to be faced with the trials that can only be faced when one is thrown into a place that is not home, be it Abilene, TX or Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
This is my Brazil. It’s time to learn and grow, a process that is often hard. I’m just trying to have enough grace and kindness with myself and my surroundings to make it as peaceful an experience as possible. Realizing that it’s okay to lean on people, even if you don’t know them well. Understanding that everyone is just as (or at least almost) as weird as you are, and if you have the guts to let it out it can lead to genuine laughter with temporary strangers, soon to be close friends. Embracing the fact that sometimes we are unraveled, and perhaps a complete mess, likely to have a breakdown at any moment. Accepting the simple, but challenging fact that your burden is not too big for someone else to help you carry.
I’ve struggled a bit this week with trying to work through whether or not this is really where I am supposed to be at the point in life. Yesterday, though, I realized that it is where I’m supposed to be because there are things to learn here, and to put it simply, it’s where I am at the moment. And if nothing else, it’ll be an interesting story.