I looked at my hands nervously, there was that anxiety in the pit of my stomach that I knew so well: fear. Fear of losing money, fear of things going wrong, fear of getting in trouble for being late at work. Just, fear.
A man sat next to me. I kept waiting, waiting for the store to open, waiting for my dress to get fixed, waiting for the end of that life and the new one to begin.
I was about to get married. About to move to Brazil. About to change everything.
I had bought a dress two sizes too large and had no idea how I was going to get the sneaky sales woman, who told me it was an easy fix to bring it down to my size, to either take the dress back or fix it. Even at a heavily discounted price, the dress wasn’t cheap. The minutes rolled in and the man next to me started getting anxious as well.
He was also waiting. What I didn’t know until then was for how long. Then, he shared his story: his daughter was also getting married and he had a bone to pick with the same lady at the yet-to-open store in front of us. As we commiserated on the dubious ways of the sales staff at the store, he started to open up about himself and his family. Suddenly, as if struck by the evident fact that we’d never see each other again and soothed by the comfort that comes from anonymity, he opened up to me more. Told me about his wife and divorce, about his family not speaking to him and the next chapter in his life. And then I knew…I knew how long he had been waiting.
He was 56 years old and his youngest daughter had just graduated and was about to get married. He was excited not only because it was a joyous occasion for the family but also because it meant he was “finally free”.
He was a mechanical engineer and worked at a prestigious company in the country, and now he was ready to quit. After 40 years of living the life he was told he was supposed to live: go to school, get a job, get married, start a family and apparently then grow old and die, he had decided he was finally brave enough to pursue his true passion –pastry confectionery… in France.
He had known for a very long time what he really wanted to do but had been first too afraid to admit it, too scared to try and then too tied down to do so.
He hadn’t been able to do that before because his family had shunned him at the thought of him being potentially gay, when he first talked about it. He wasn’t, but that put a stop to it right there and then. He seemed at once so happy and sad that I knew this man at this point in my life was a sign.
Although it took me a long time to understand why and how, that man’s story stuck with me for a while: he had lived a life full of regrets and what ifs, that was also an unexpectedly happy one -or at least filled with happy moments. It was not that he was miserable, it was just that he felt he had had to wait until almost the end of his life to do what he wanted. To be true to himself and be really happy.
That’s a lesson in life we don’t hear about enough:
It’s ok to be a little selfish. It’s ok to pursue the life that YOU want.
Even before that day, I had written an essay in college about how I wanted to be 40 one day -that seemed so old at the time- and be able to look back and have no unsolved what-ifs. No regrets.
At the time I took it as a sign that I was doing the right thing: marrying a man I loved, moving out of the country to an exciting new one, starting a new life. What I didn’t consider then was just how far that life was from what I had originally wanted for myself.
There had always been just one thing that I knew I wanted: I wanted to travel and see the world.
As a Venezuelan, living out of the country was as much a dream as a matter of necessity; there’s only so many guns a person can have pointed to their faces before they say, if they can, “enough“. It’s not easy to just *up and leave* in Latin America. I never wanted to be illegally anywhere and there was always the issue of money and saving up for the right kinds of things -like a house or a car or life insurance.
I always knew I wanted to travel but I had never truly been able to afford it and if I had, I was always too caught up in doing the “right” thing than the things I truly wanted. Sure, I had jumped at employment opportunities off shore and had done my share of in-country traveling but in my heart it was not enough, to my brain alas – it had to be. I would settle for a trip once a year to a place I didn’t know and that should be enough.
When my marriage went up in cinders and I was suddenly off the path I realized there was still only one thing I wanted: to travel. See the things I had read about, dreamed about, talked about.
Fast-forward two years a -now- happy divorce and some work opportunities in NY and voilà -accidental wanderer!
After doing my own version the “right path” according to society (details of which I shall not bore you with), I am now living the life I always wanted. A wandering lifestyle, that allows me to travel like a local, live like a nomad and experience the world in all its glory.
Sure, it’s not easy all the times and sounds more glamorous than it is at times; it can take a toll on your heart this “not having a home” thing, you can encounter odd toilets not apt for the weak heart and get kicked out for random reasons *true stories*, but it can also be immensely rewarding. I’ve met so many wonderful people, seen so many breath taking sunsets, tasted so many weird wonders that I truly cannot complain. I may not be able to keep it up for ever, but for now, it’s pretty damn great.
As I start to log these journeys and travels, I thought this story was the perfect way to get us started. I hope if leave you with one thing and one thing only after you leave this blog, that you take this: find out what it is that makes you happy and do that. As cliche as that sounds, love yourself enough to think that you’re worth it.
Live for you with no regrets!
PS: I do believe it is better to regret something you did than something you didn’t.