I left Philadelphia to travel 3,945 miles. I left believing I loved myself. I left feeling confident.
Staring out the tiny airplane window, I thought of all the new things I wanted to try. My motto for the trip was, “Por que no?” Why not? Why not try every new possibility that came my way? Why not force myself to eat seafood even though the scent secretly grossed me out? Why not speak a language for three months that was not actually my native tongue? Why the hell not? Why the hell not enjoy my study abroad experience?
My “por que no?” motto insistently got me into adventures. Every weekend consisted of something new. Learning to surf, snorkeling off a boat, climbing coconut trees, walking across a country border, waterfall hiking, driving my first ATV, flipping the ATV, having bonfires on the beach, not moving from the bonfire even after a 6.5 earthquake hit, and of course, eating seafood.
All the new adventures I could have predicted. If someone had asked me, “What do you think you will do while abroad?” I could have told them off the bat a list of things I wanted to try. What I could not have told them is that I would fall in love. I fell in love with who I am, and I had the eyes of someone else to help me. I had an international study abroad love. I had a Danny and Sandy kind of love. I found a love that made me question whether or not to return to the reality I had put on pause for three months. I found a love that challenged my very core of empowerment and independence. I found a Carlos.
A Carlos is someone who is native to the land. They grab your attention with unforgettable eye contact at a bar. They make you go crazy thinking about their artistic abilities. They lock you in with their kiss. For those who have had a Carlos, they understand the intensity of this kind of passion. I didn’t think passion could develop so quickly. But when you are living off the “Por que no?” motto? Well, you allow yourself to fall. And fall you do.
A Carlos sees the truth behind your thick skin. He sees the wounds that you so carefully bandaged up. He sees them, and he heals them. No more bandages. He sees the strength and fire that guide your soul. He challenges that with his own light. He will push you to see all the pain in the world and help you understand that human beings should feel.
We should feel the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. We are not living if we are not feeling. We cannot grow and improve if we do not allow ourselves to feel the bad and the ugly. The good and the beautiful are our comfort zones. A Carlos comes in and forces you to take the leap from comfort to discomfort.
I thought I was living. I thought because I was saying yes to every opportunity that presented itself that I had discovered what it meant to love life. I thought my “Por que no?” motto was setting me up for a lifetime of love. Man, was I wrong. My motto was giving me one hell of a good time, creating memories and a relationship that I will never forget. But I was loving the fun and the freedom and the few responsibilities. That’s not real life. That is a three-month vacation. Carlos forced me out of my vacation. He brought back the reality and showed me I could keep my “Por que no?” motto, I just had to tone it down. He guided me to a balanced life of saying yes to opportunities while still having responsibilities. He saw my strengths and weakness and strung them together, all the way along explaining me to me. I learned to love myself and my life with the guidance of his eyes.
I walked away from study abroad. From Carlos. It all ended just like that. My three-month vacation of “Por que no?” My Danny and Sandy relationship. It all closed as that chapter of my life ended.
The truth is that while an unforgettable chapter of my life ended and my heart ached from leaving Carlos, I had grown in unimaginable ways. A motto is a motto. A Carlos is a Carlos. Those things always exist. What changed was my willingness to open up to the world. To allow myself to experience the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. To take it all, string it together, and love it.