As I watch my friends go off to college, I find myself heading into new territory. Yes, I do live in a freshman dorm right now. Yes, I do have a roommate. But my roommate is about to spend the next year working with little girls in a foster home in Madrid, Spain; my dorm life is temporary. In less than a week I will fly to Curitiba, Brazil, where I will attend language and cultural classes. I will also move in with my very first host family. Although I do not know who they will be yet, I am very excited to meet the remarkable people who agreed to welcome a foreign American teenager into their home. From Curitiba, I will join my second host family near Florianopolis, Brazil, and begin my volunteer work working with a wildlife preservation group.
Although I do not have any set expectations for the next year, I do have one personal goal. I want to live here: build on the past, look to the future, but live in the present. I want to be present. I want to be present because right now I am stumbling.
Right now I am stumbling my way through the trees.
I am filled with questions about my future, I am still in the early stages of my Portuguese, and I am not quite sure what my work or life will entail for the next year. I could fill the ocean with all of my questions. For me, being present means being engaged with every minute of my day. That focus and that desire to live intentionally are helping me learn to love the unknown. Every minute of my wayward wander through the woods is an opportunity to try something new or ask a question. Not knowing all of the answers gives me new territory to explore. For one of the first times in my life, I have the space to fully explore my personal range; for one of the first times in my life, I have the chance to engage deeply with another culture; for one of the first times in my life, I have the time to commit myself to extended service. I want to be here – right now – because I don’t want to a thing.
It is both terrifying and electrifying to imagine all of the ways I will both impact my communities in Brazil and the way they will impact me. Even though I know the girl who is leaving for Brazil, I have never met the girl who will fly home in eight months. I can’t wait to meet her in April.
This next year will be a hike, often with only pieces of a map. I will make wrong turns and have to double back or ask for directions. But ultimately there is no right way to hike up a mountain. Sometimes getting lost is the best way to learn. So, as I learn to walk these new trails, I hope to find a way to step back from all the trees to enjoy the view
of the forest.