For the past seven months, when someone’s asked how long I’ll be here, I simply reply with “No tengo planes fijos.” I don’t know! I don’t have any fixed plans! Being able to say that has felt wonderfully free and I’ve loved the notion of coming here and just going with the flow without knowing.
Well, a week ago, that changed. I bought a flight back to the States. I will arrive in Colorado on October 1st, the day before my 25th birthday.
Now that there is a foreseeable end to my time here, my “plan” isn’t the only thing that’s changed, by becoming more defined. I have found myself shifting my mental priorities to the future, dwelling on the timeline and focusing on then. What will I do when I go home? How will I pack all of the stuff I have accumulated? What will I leave behind?
I’m kicking myself and reminding myself to stay in the present moment. It is six months away, almost as long as I’ve been here. It is way too far away to be focusing my energy on. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that plans change and the future is unpredictable. Yet I still find myself thinking in future tense. Why is it that as soon as I have my life planned for half a year out, I am worrying about what will come next?
At the very least, it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one in this mindset. I recently read Eat Pray Love, which I loved, and it sticks out that Elizabeth mentioned a friend who, when seeing a new place, would always say “This is so beautiful! I can’t wait to come back here!” and she would think, why not just enjoy it now? I have a friend who is going home for the summer and thinking about coming back in the fall. Similarly, she said, “I can’t wait until I come back.” We all have a tendency to think ahead, and to always be looking forward to something. I believe it is important to make plans and have things to look forward to, so that we may avoid monotony in our lives. Spontaneity is thrilling, but there’s something cathartic about an exciting experience that we have been building our energy up for. However, we should not be focusing all of our energy on the future, but rather on today and what this present moment can provide for us. As always, finding a balance is key.
I’m working on letting go of this inclination to look forward, as well as the need to always know what’s coming next. Maybe my eagerness is amplified by my recent feelings of missing home while I’ve been uprooted throughout the past month. After seven months away from my home and my family, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have felt homesick, especially recently. It’s natural, and the diagram about culture shock that looks just like a rollercoaster seems pretty accurate. Usually when I’ve felt a twinge of homesickness, I pose myself a question: do you actually want to be there right now? Most times the answer is no, I want to be just where I am. But lately sometimes the gauge has moved more towards yes. I miss the Colorado sunshine. I miss my family and friends. I miss my beautiful grandmother whom, out of all the amazingly inspiring women in my life, I look up to the most. I miss my car. I miss the convenience of all the healthy goods at Whole Foods, and even those that are not so healthy. I miss the changing of seasons. I miss my dogs and I miss riding horses. I miss my yoga studio. I miss seeing live music that gives me goose bumps and fills me with love.
I close my eyes on the bus with that music in my ears and I think of these things. I open my eyes, take a centering deep breath, and take in my surroundings – the beautiful countryside and the Nicaraguan women with their babies smiling back at me, my reflection in the window – and I smile to myself. I arrive in Matagalpa and saunter home with a bounce in my step, breathing in the amazing sunset and taking comfort in the fact that I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I am instantly reminded of all the reasons I love living abroad, as I clarify the protocol for ordering a burrito with the locals sitting next to me. I go to the supermarket and awkwardly excuse myself from the line to exchange my whole beans for ground coffee before smiling with the checker as I correct his written version of my passport number on the receipt. I pick up fresh avocados and onions from the vendors on the street after being instructed by a passing taxi to go to the next block, where I’m quickly stuffed into a cab that is full of other women with their groceries, smiling to myself as we zoom up and down the hills because these are the simple joys and challenges of living abroad.
I’ve moved into my new house, which I am in love with for many reasons. It has a cute patio, which I’ve filled with cute plants, and it has a view of the city, where I can sit with my coffee in the mornings or a cup of tea in the evenings and watch for little details like the colors of a house or the headlights of a car winding up a hill across the way. My bedroom has a window that lets in the sunlight and a cool breeze, and the only sound I wake up to in the morning is that of the birds chirping. It has a mango tree that provides fresh mangos for a snack or superfood smoothie. It’s situated on a hill, so that I have to hike home just enough to get my heart beating, and so that I must start off for work at a contained run full of excitement for my day.
I love my job, my city and my home, and I’m feeling more settled than ever down here in Nicaragua. I’m so grateful that I’m appreciating the importance of staying present now, when I still have so much more time to enjoy being here for what it is, and also for the roots I’ve created here that hold me back from fleeing home as soon as I face a challenge. Colorado will always be there. Right now, I am here. I am home, because home is where the heart is. And my heart is full here.
besos ~ chels
P.S. To fellow Spanish speakers: I am grappling with which verb to use for “to be” in the title of this post. “Ser” is used for permanent situations, “estar” for things that are more temporary. I guess it depends on the way you look at it: being present as a way of life, as a constant state of mind, versus being present as something that comes and goes like an emotion. I’d like to think it should be the former, but as being mindful is a practice that requires discipline, for now it will remain as the latter form.