To my friends and family,
In thinking about leaving for Brazil, I have thought a lot about running away. Running away from Oakland, from the tough persona I developed in high school. Running from parts of my life that I didn’t know how to process or sit in. I thought I didn’t know how to reconcile with the beauty and kindness and love I grew up in. I didn’t know how to reconcile with how complicated and sometimes disappointing these spaces had become as I’d grown up.
In the Bay, I am from Berkeley, educated in Oakland, from a Jewish community but very much shaped by downtown’s artists and youth. I am from Tilden and Lake Merritt and Albany Bulb and Cesar Chaves Park and Ocean beach and Telegraph ave and uneven asphalt and Yosemite and biking at night and Mendocino county. I am strewn about, my history is complicated and fraught with the tension of loving nuanced places and the pain of losing myself in being from so many things.
I thought I was leaving because I was so tired of living between worlds all the time. But this isn’t true. I underestimated my own love for where I come from, I underestimated my ability to carry my stories as wholes that make up a greater whole. Only now do I realize that being from so many worlds is a privilege rather than a burden.
In Brazil, when asked where I am from, I will not have the words to say I am from this and that place, or born here and raised there. In Portuguese I am from a few clumsy phrases. Who I am becomes who I am outside of language. It becomes how my face lights up or how I laugh or dance or use my hands to compensate for not knowing how to say your eyes are so pretty. I will be stripped down to who I am there, then. And this person, who motions her hands to say thank you is not Ariella born in Berkeley or Ariella from Oakland Hebrew Day School or Oakland School for the Arts, but the culmination of all her worlds and histories in one sweep of an arm.
I am not running away. I am leaving to return. I am leaving to gain some perspective, to learn and grow in ways I told myself I could not in the Bay Area. To shed the toughness and reclaim a fierce desire for vulnerability. To live audaciously and take up the space I am learning I deserve. To learn how to live with a love ethic, receiving from others and giving in a self sustaining way. To be goofy and young in all the ways I often did not feel I could be as a teenager. I am learning to mess up, to not hold myself to such a high standard. I am leaving so I can come home the person I want to be. I am leaving to change back to who I have always been but somehow lost along the way. I am writing little about Brazil as a place because I have little idea of what my actual circumstance will be, only how I hope to be within them.
Much love, thank you so so much for reading, and see you in April!
Ari Aya Ariella 😉