Feeling Fine with Time on the Mind

Avery Ashwill - Brazil


April 23, 2013

You learn a lot in a school year, but I’ve learned more about myself in the last seven months than I ever did sitting in any one of my high school classes. (Sorry, teachers everywhere.)

Over the summer of 2012 I has all these great plans for my future. I’m going to go to Brazil, then I’m going to Pitzer, where I already have so much credit thanks to AP tests, I don’t even have to stay for four years! And I’ll study abroad, obviously, and get a job at the student union and go to parties and national parks on the weekends and have a wonderful time! I’ll be on the fast track for life!! It was my dream. Graduate in three years, get a cool job somewhere, start a career, you know, things an 18 year old should be preoccupied with according to me back then.

Then I lived in Brazil for a little while and adopted, though admittedly reluctantly, a slower, more relaxed way of doing things. I found out last month that I want to go to college for four years. (This is probably new to Mom and Dad. Hey, Mom and Dad!) Because I want to take my time with all the cool things that are laid out in front of me. I want to study abroad, not once, but twice, and if possible, why not three times? I don’t need to plan every moment of my life, but I do want to take the extra classes that I’m interested in, even if it means hanging around campus for a little longer. There are so many things to do in this world that rushing through them and forgetting to enjoy them is an unfortunate habit.

I was a victim of an American mentality. I was raised to believe that faster is always better and scoffed at The Turtle and the Hare. I mean, like, who the hell is that Aesop dude anyway–am I right?

Turns out Aesop knows his stuff and so do Brazilians.

After a long Sunday night conversation with a Dutch and a German ex-pat, I began to understand two things. One: we should all be proud of our accents, because it’s a piece of our home culture that we’ll be reminded of every time we open our mouths. And two: Bahia will teach you that every day is a present to be opened and shared and thankful for. The Dutch man had arrived in Brazil in 1984, the German 7 years ago, and I just 7 months, but we could all agree that we’ve seen misery and hardship here in Bahia. We could also agree that Bahia taught us how to live our lives in a more fulfilling way. It taught us to slow down, accept what the day has brought us and tackle it at our own pace.

This all ties back to the idea of taking a gap year. A gap year forces you to be present. There are no days off. There is no skipping class or sleeping in the nurse’s office. There is only presence in front of your presents. You must wake up every day and have breakfast in a foreign language. You then walk/bus/horse to your job where you are counted on for this or that and must be responsible and professional (in a foreign language). Only to return home and do something that you’ve never done before because that’s what is happening in your world right now. You’ve got to put yourself out there and attempt to be yourself in this unfamiliar setting.

Your brain is constantly turning. You are always learning a more specific way to say something like: I have pain in my neck. And you are learning more about yourself and the people around you than you can possibly process in the moment and you don’t even realize it because you aren’t stressing about writing a 10-page research paper about it or whether you’re going to pass the class.

So this is an ode to taking a deep breath and spending four years in high school, one year abroad, and four years in college. Taking my time is the best decision I made this year, and as you may have read in my last post, the only con to taking your time is feeling like there may not be enough, which is easily solved by counting your blessings and thanking whoever you see fit for another beautiful, 24 hour day.

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On a completely unrelated note, here’s a video I made about where I live for a project I was assigned by Global Citizen Year.

Avery Ashwill