I’d like to take you for a walk (in my shoes).
It’s now been 10 years that I’ve made the personal choice of moving to the USA. Being that I am 41 years old, you can easily do the math to figure that I was 31 years old when I moved. That is 31 years full of life, lived in my home country Brazil, more specifically by the borderline between São Paulo and the Minas Gerais States, but also with strong influences of São Paulo’s south shoreline, and São Paulo city (all of those places easily Googled). Actually, for full disclosure purposes, four years I spent in Ribeirão Preto, also São Paulo state, and almost a full one in a city known as Campinas.
I came to the USA because of love. I came so my guy and I could be together for real. I didn’t come here looking for a better life. I didn’t come here running away from violence, oppression, or famine. I walked through the front door, fluent in English, with diplomas in hand, books in my suitcase, and savings to rely on. I am here because I chose to live with the person I love, to whom I respect, and am committed to. And to who I have sworn loyalty to as a partner and companion.
Back in Brazil, I left my parents, my three siblings, and the others they brought into my life. Which includes three nieces and one nephew. Three born while I was already in America, and are growing up far from me.
I left my friends, the ones who know me all the way – child Gabi, teenager Gabi, young adult Gabi, drunk Gabi, stoned Gabi, pissed Gabi, heartbroken Gabi, proud Gabi, successful Gabi, etc. Gabi. I left my career. I left my professional and social network. You get it…
But I left it all because I chose to.
As you know, ten years is a long time. And the past 10 for me were dedicated to understand and become to my choices.
Before I moved, I was in São Paulo city, a wild and chaotic Brazilian urban beauty, with over 12 million habitants. Now I live in the middle of the woods, in a village with around 2500 habitants.
I once spoke fast pace Portuguese, and didn’t have to think much before saying anything; I also wrote – a lot – without the need of a spelling check tool or much of a grammar correction; now I speak English, I write in English, and sometimes a simple casual conversation can drain my head for hours. Not to mention how long it takes to write and then be confident enough to release it out in public. And, if I’m stressed, all can turn to the worse, because the notion of “think before you speak” just doesn’t happen. I also hate speaking on the telephone.
And lets not even mention the climate. Never ever, in 31 years of life, had I dealt with temperatures lower than 31 degrees. And now, it’s two entire months of my life every year.
“Thanksgiving”.. sorry to break it to you, but it’s an American holiday. And one of the most challenging traditions for me to get into. To be very honest, November and December are still my torture months. It’s psychological warfare in my head. It is all too personal, to family-oriented (when all my family is far away), to commercial, and sometimes almost too fake for me, who’ve had only witnessed a “white Christmas” as a movie prop up till I was 31.
I’ve also never done Halloween. My Summer vacations were during December and January, and spent at the beach, Atlantic ocean kind. Also, the new year, as school and business is concerned, starts in February below the Equador.
Please, don’t see this as a complaint. Because it isn’t. I’m only trying to point out a little of my reality. In case you want to give it a little thought.
In the past 10 years, I built a home with my guy. I became an American resident, and then a Citizen. I gave birth to a boy who, at this point, already reads, writes, rides bicycles, and is bilingual. My skin color changed (due to my much-reduced exposure to the sun). My accent changed, and most meaningful, the way I look, feel, listen, and experience the world expanded immensely.
I once looked to myself as a white girl, the daughter of a Dentist, and from a well known local family; whose parents were (and still are) a strong united force. They provided me with all the love, comfort, and tools to grow into a “put together” adult. I had access to education, health care, food, shelter, even a summer home. But not always, did I get to pick the sneakers I wanted, the brand pair of jeans I dreamed of, or a whole bar of candy. To sum it up, my only job, for my first 20 years of life, was to keep up my grades, not to “screw up.” and follow the rules, the best I could.
Making America my home gave a whole new meaning to my story. And to add to that aspect, the past five years have even changed the way I approach the implications of being female, “privileged,” and “white.”
After all, remember: here, I am an immigrant.
So, I now rely on the internet a lot, as I also rely on my phone, and it’s social apps. Because, well, that’s how I can keep my other country close. It goes beyond just getting in touch with my loved ones. I am still a Journalist, I want better and more in-depth information on stuff that is going on, which – let me break to you again – is more than war, walls, stock market, and new iPhones.
But I won’t lie to you that this very particular fact sometimes can take my sleep away in a manner of “just imagine how would it be if…”
Anyways, there is a word in Portuguese which has no translation in any other language. The word is “Saudade.” Saudade could maybe be translated as the “heartache” we get when something we love, or care, or crave, is far from our reach.
As 10 years went by, I learned to manage my Saudade. But I’m no fool to think it will ever go away. Sometimes it hurts more, sometimes it is just an itch. Sometimes it leaks out of my eyes, and sometimes it brings me a big smile out of the blue.
Saudade can put me in a mood. To avoid it, for a while, I tried to ignore my experiences and beliefs. Another 10-year lesson: it doesn’t work. Because I can’t just change my essence.
What I am trying to say is that I believe we are our experiences, dreams, hopes, disappointments. We are “a bit” of our families, a pinch of the people we get inspiration from, seasoned with the books, movies, and songs we like. And that sometimes makes us very, very different from each other. Like water and oil. Two liquids that will not mix, which doesn’t particularly mean they won’t get along just fine. For example, biphasic body oils.
Alright, so to end this. I am not going to apologize for being me.
I also won’t feel bad because of my choices. I take full responsibility for my life, for being here, for being who I am.
I love my husband, who is also my best friend, my business partner, and my riding buddy. I share parenthood with him. And together, we take full responsibility for our child’s behavior, actions, and nutrition up to when he reaches a certain age.
I save money because life is not just a “Y.O.L.O” kind of thing. I respect the elderly because they lived more than I did. I will always greet people as they come into my home, and I will always say bye when they leave. As a good Brazilian, I’m a hugger, and I speak with my hands. I will never understand boxed mashed potatoes or American carrot cake.
I like parties, but they require a lot of work, and time I don’t have. So, for now, I’m putting energy and savings into the business I just started, and one day, I’ll be making enough money to hire catering services to take care of the work, while I can enjoy as much as my guests.
To finish up: I plan to enjoy every little bit of the short Summers we have in this cold area of the globe. And you are welcome to join, as far as we can both agree to respect our differences.