Hello all. I've got some big blog posts in the works recapping the holidays with my host family and my independent travel time on the coast and in the Amazon – and all the learning that came with it – but the next few weeks are crazy busy, and I might not get to those for a little while. However, I just did some journaling and felt those thoughts, while sleepy, incoherent, and a bit delirious, might be worthy of a small post to fill the gap between my previous and next posts. So here we go…

I'm 19 years old now. It doesn't quite feel all that momentous, but I'm happy about that. After all, birthdays represent the passage of time, which used to overwhelm me. When I was little, the night before a birthday was always melancholic; I felt that my life was leaving me in the dust before I had a chance to process it, much less live it. But now I see the two sides of it. The first is the novelty and opportunity that arrives with each moment. As each second approaches, I get the chance to do what I please with it. To aprovechar de cada momento. The second side (no pun intended) of the passage of time is the past. I've learned to find gratitude or the moments behind me rather than longing to relive them. The idea is simple: as time marches on, I'm adding to the mental library of memories – memories, both positive and negative, which I can look upon fondly and connect the dots to where I am now. Rather than feeling regret or fear that I'm not making the most of my life, I appreciate my memories and how they have let to this moment, which keeps me connected back to the present. All of this puts the control in my hands – instead of life passing me by, I am passing through my life with deliberate indifference to the notion of a clock counting down. This is paired with an understanding that I've only scratched the surface of what this world has to offer – including the physical space on this planet (and, I suppose, beyond the planet, too), the people that reside upon it, and the wisdom to be gained from it – the paradoxically ever-expanding awareness of what I have yet to discover as I continue to dive deeper.
In addition to being lost in these thoughts for the past couple of hours, I had a really nice day. It was mellow, yet productive. When I got home from working on scholarship essays at a cafe and having a meeting with my team leader (shout out to Laurel, she's awesome), my host family surprised me with a huge chocolate cake, a birthday card, more chocolate, and my own zampoña (pan flute) to show off my skills back home. They're so sweet. Finally, I finished the night with a video chat with my parents, brother, and puppers back home. I love and miss them big time.
Somewhere in this post (hopefully below?) should be a photo of the birthday surprise. Pablo was ready to get intimate with that chocolate cake.
Also, big thanks for all of the happy birthday wishes from everybody. I love and appreciate you all.