On August 15, 2014 I came home for the first time in 25 months. A year in Japan, a year in Brazil, and a month backpacking South America from Brazil to Panama.
One of the reasons I did this was because when I was a teenager, my father told me,
"If I would've never met your mother, I would've gone down to Panama and opened up an English School. I was always fascinated by the canal ... "
Perhaps I felt slightly responsible for my father never accomplishing his dreams? I'm not sure. I was sure that I wanted to go to Panama on my way home. Ever since I left Los Angeles for Japan I thought I wanted to one day end up in Panama. When I did, I wrote Gina a letter that I started in Panama and finished shortly after I got home, a year ago, today, when I came home for the first time in 25 months. This is what I wrote her.
Visions of Panama
They're real. I'm here. I made it. I sit here, practically in disbelief. This is what Panama feels like. By the time you read this I'll have already told you about the dump I was/am staying in. I was bound to have a bad couchsurfing experience eventually.
I digress though. I don't want to talk about bad experiences or my host. I want to talk about Panama. I want to talk about how I got here. I want to talk about how I feel, because I've already given you my thoughts on you (In a letter dated on June 10th) and my thoughts on us (In a letter dated on June 12th). Pull up a chair boo. I got a story to tell you.
New York, New York. Summer 2003. One of the most vivid and significant memories of my life, followed by one of the ugliest memories in my life. I'm pretty sure I told you about it. My parents took my brothers, and Johnny to New York (what a treat) on vacation. Johnny was complaining about my parents the whole time. He said they were awkward and didn't know how to talk to people. To prove his point, he showed me how unawkward he was by slapping hands and fist bumping a dude walking out of the mall.
Later that day we got into a "physical altercation". I wouldn't say it was a fight because no one threw any punches. We were really just pushing each other while my dad tried to break us up. That's when, hotel security got involved. They gave my pops a warning and the rest of that trip was really bitter for me.
I learned two important things from these events. One I learned instantly and it was the moment Johnny slapped hands with that guy. I learned the world was mine if I wanted it. It's a hand slap and a fist bump away. Seriously, Johnny didn't want to be awkward. He wanted to meet people and he did. Paulo Coelho (Brazil's favorite author) said, "Once you decide you want something, the whole universe conspires with you to go get it." Johnny proved it to me that day.
The second thing I learned, I didn't realize till years later. The physical altercation afterwards taught me about the price one pays. Johnny was so anti-awkward that he was willing to try and fight me and disrespect my parents because we represented "awkward". Nothing is free baby. Looking back, I know now, what I learned then. There's always a price to pay.
I believe that's why having a goal is so damn important. The more I think about it, the clearer things get. It's not the most ambitious thing to want to go to the World Cup in Brazil, but to live and work in two different (opposite) countries to get there is pretty damn cool (for lack of a better word).
Was the World Cup worth it? Well, yes and no. I'll never forget watching the final on Copacabana Beach, but the build up to get there was worth so much more.
[Copacabana during the World Cup Final]
I lived in Japan. I moved to Brasil. It sounds absolutely ridiculous. I'm home now and when people ask, " How was your trip?" I have no honest answer for them.
Trip? What Trip? I was there. I wasn't gone for two weeks, it was two years! I lived. I was high, I was low, I made money, I lost money, I ate well, I got sick from eating, I loved, I lost, and I loved again. Trip? I say I have no honest answer because it's an invalid question. From now on, I'll tell them about my month backpacking. That was a trip.
In two years I did what I said I was going to do. I had help. I met countless people along the way who helped. I met people who wanted to be a part of my life, no matter for how long or little. I built a life. I created a narrative for people to be apart of. The strange gringo story.
I believe that's where I found the most happiness. In creating a life.
I want you to know, I'll always believe in education in its truest form.
I've learned to find happiness before success. Happiness is in the journey love, not the goal.
I'll always evaluate how things have gone after a period of time because I believe that we grow by stepping out of the comfort zone we create. It's not that comfort is the enemy, it's just that its purpose needs to be evaluated.
The last thing I want you to know, is that I will always try to create a life (not a baby, that's still a while off. We can practice though ;-)) A life where my friends and loved ones can enter and become enveloped in love and safety and entertainment. A life where they feel important and loved.
I believe it is my purpose, Gina. To live this way and do these things. I can't say where you belong in my purpose. However, your love and support will always be welcome in my life. Know that I want your love. Know that I'm grateful for your support and know that I love you back.
After all this time, it's nice to know that I have purpose. Gina, I belive in your ability to do whatever you want. I believe in my ability to do whatever I want. I guess that means, we can do whatever we want.