Monday, May 30, 2011

"why is this so important to you?"

Look. Anyone who's come into contact with me within the last months has no doubt become aware of my upcoming move.
my travel partner. no, really.

By "move", I mean "not a visit."

...as in, I am not pinpointing a return date.

...as in, I don't know "how long [I] plan to be there."

...as in, stop asking me "What's gonna happen after you get back?"

...because I don't know.

I'm not taking this leap with "and then what?" in mind. I plan to go to spend as much time in Panamá (or elsewhere) as I can. Similarly, I moved to Los Angeles sight unseen, and have managed to avoid perishing in a gang war or picking up a gnarly coke habit, so I figure Panamá won't be so bad either.

Yes, it's the great unknown, a big ass question mark, but that's part of the adventure. In short: my fear is not great enough to affect my excitement.

When you ask, "What are you going to do there?" I will invariably tell you that I want to do EVERYTHING. My one-way ticket means that I don't want to put a time limit on the possibilities. As my trip nears, I've been meeting world travelers with inspiring stories and perspectives, and Panamanians both here and there. It's Through Twitter and people who find this blog, my network is growing. Not to get super preachy, but I truly believe that if you/I put ourselves behind an idea 100%, the universe will conspire to realize it with/for you if that is truly what you are supposed to do.

Yes, I have received a few writing job offers here in Los Angeles recently. But I am up against the prospect of discovering branches and roots of my family's past that are presently unknown to me.

Sure, my college has some awesome new dance classes lined up for the Fall semester. But I will soon be able to continue my ballet training in a foreign country, taking me miles outside of my comfort zone.

Naturally, I was being groomed for management roles at the restaurant, but I would rather do worth that matters. Like teaching English to Spanish-speaking kids. Or volunteering abroad. Sure there are more question marks that certainties about this next chapter, but I can't grow without risk.

It's all coming together.

I hate goodbyes. I like to think I'll keep it together when the time comes to depart, but now I can't be so sure. My mother innocently asked me today, "So, where do you think you'll settle after Panamá?" I had to be honest with her: "Please don't ask me that. I don't know, Mom."

The disappointment in her response was clear. ".......oh."

sigh.

She'll cry, but she must understand. I still don't think she and Dad grasp the magnitude of what's to come. I really am looking forward to being gone for a long time. I welcome the inevitable culture shock and awkward adjustment phase. I want to see the slums in Colón, Panamá. I want to see the geigh-friendly nightlife in Costa Rica. Iguazu falls in Brazil and Argentina. My friend Saphira's family's land in Livingston, Guatemala. And so on...

A friend "joked" that it's as if I'm 'walking away from my Blackness and becoming Che Guevera or some shit.'

........aside from being culturally incorrect and insensitive, I can kinda see where he's coming from.

A place of ignorance. That's where. Look, I've been Black my whole damn life. But who's to say I can't care about the other side? My mother never spoke Spanish to me as a child. I didn't get really interested in Spanish until I grew curious about what my Mom and Grandma were saying when they obviously didn't want us kids to understand them. I'm the only one who's taking an active interest in discovering our past and heritage. Me digging back to 1862 on my Dad's side didn't excite anyone but me. Sure, empanadas, calypso, and fried rice at Grandma's was great, but there's more to us than that.

And I want to know it all.

I don't expect everyone to understand. I've never been particularly apologetic about my actions, whether it's uprooting from VA for NY, jetting here to Los Angeles, growing dreads (mama was not thrilled), liking the menfolk (Dad still has hope), and whatever else. Actually, I get it. Safe = normal. We go to school to get a job with benefits, work 40+ hours a week, spend 30 years paying off a mortgage, and use what's left to enjoy our repetitive lives. Have some babies and do the same shit year in, year out until we die of some avoidable illness. I don't want an annual vacation to Myrtle Beach with moms and pops to be the highlight of my existence. A hair color change should not be my one 'big, exciting, dramatic change" for the year. Why can't I want more for myself than that? A handful of times, in defense of this move, I've had to justify:


Look, someone has to answer the phone in the call center when my T-mobile service is shitty. Someone has to ring folks up in the grocery store. Someone has to dig ditches and pave roads. Someone has to 
count clothes in the dressing room. But it doesn't have to be me.

I just ask that you respect my choices and support me anyway you can. Because I'll need all the well-wishes and positivity you can dish out, my friend.

Here's my plea to you: figure out what matters to YOU, be it losing 50 pounds, relocating across the country, learning to play guitar, having four babies by six men, picking up a foreign language. And damn anyone to hell who tries to get in your way or diminish the shine of your prize. Don't let your mother's/father's/best friend's/husband's/best friend's fear or inability to see YOUR vision shake you. Nobody will feel the pain of failure or regret in your heart as strongly as you. Push them aside and handle your shit.


It works wonders.

Stay tuned...

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