Pinch Me: Looking Back to Look Forward

You know what the best feeling is? Getting a much needed reality check in which you realize you’re a completely different person from who you were five years ago, three years ago, even one year ago. I don’t know about you but sometimes I get antsy and caught all up in my present day life thinking, you know, I’m not doing enough. Am I really on track to accomplishing all I want to accomplish by 30? Am I successful? Am I where I want to be? Then suddenly I get a nice reality check that puts it all into perspective. First of all, no one has it together by 30. I don’t care who you are – late twenties and early thirties still seem like growing up time to me. In fact, maybe we keep growing up forever? Maybe we’re never actually adults, how about that? I had a nice reality check last night that reminded me of where I was 5 years ago and for the sake of reflection slash  nice dose of humility, here’s a snapshot. Five years ago to the date I was:

  • UCSC grada month into living in Santa Barbara, CA
  • living with my boyfriend I had met in Brazil who was from So-Cal (hence the move)
  • working at Citrix Online as an assistant in the purchasing department, not even in Santa Barbara but in a part of town called Goleta across the way from UCSB
  • commuting 2o minutes to work each day on the freeway
  • working in a cubicle amid hundreds of other people, taking lunch breaks to chain restaurants in strip malls or escaping to the wild preserve by hiking down the freeway to walk around, making phone calls to all my friends in the Bay I missed so much
  • joining Rotary Club in SB because I was so lonely and yearned for connecting with people I could relate to and share interests with
  • considering getting an evening cocktail waitress job at Wildcat (locally coined the Shitty Kitty, seriously the name speaks for itself) because it would be a fun way to meet people and occupy my time while my boyfriend worked at a neighboring bar
  • planning lots of visits to SF and LA where I was comforted by diversity, culture and familiar city sights and sounds

Needless to say I didn’t stay in Santa Barbara for much longer. I was there for about 6 months total, during which time I actually did make some great friends while also acquiring some valuable work experience. Mostly I finally got courage to LA In and Out, per usualmake a move for myself, once and for all. At first I made a list of all the grad schools I wanted to go to – thinking I’d apply ASAP for a MPP or MPA since I was no longer interested in pursuing law. To my surprise all the schools with my desired program were in NYC with the exception of one in Chicago (sorry Windy City, wasn’t feeling it).

I thought, maybe I should move to NYC first to see if I like it before going ahead and applying to school. So I gave myself a month to sublease my apartment, bought a one way flight to NYC and started hustling to get a job and apartment for when I’d touch down December 1st, 2010. And everything worked out better than I could have possibly planned or imagined. There’s no way I would have believed you if five years ago you told me my life would look like it does today. I don’t regret anything that’s happened along the way, its all, for better or for worse, experience that’s made me more into the person I am supposed to be. But I have to remember where I came from, even just a few years ago – first touching down in NYC with no idea what was in store for me. When I get caught up in the here and now wondering if anything is off since I don’t yet have my own multi-million dollar company, haven’t been on the cover of any magazines and haven’t yet invented a product or idea that has single handedly changed the entire world, I can remember to take it easy. No one has saved the world over night. These things take time and work, and the work isn’t always obvious. And from what I can tell so far, the hardest work of all usually starts within.

SF

Pura Vida: My Dream Came True

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My life changed forever the first time I ventured out on a one-week solo expedition to Costa Rica. I bought the plane ticket pretty impulsively after noticing a sweet deal on one of the many travel deal sites I stalk. I knew I always wanted to travel somewhere alone but at first I thought I might convince a good girlfriend or maybe a group to come with me on this one. Deep down I knew I would go this alone and see if I had what it takes to survive an absolutely out of this world solo adventure.

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I didn’t prepare as much as some people might have suggested. I perused tourism sites and trusted the country was more developed than where I lived in Brazil in 2009. I figured I’d know more once I got on the ground. At least it would be nice and warm so I could pack light: bathing suits and shorts every day! One of the first places I looked up was Monteverde, a huge area of forest and mountains settled in the mid section of the country. I know I was researching locales in June because it was then that I set my Facebook cover photo to a picture of Monteverde’s famed hanging rainforest bridges (this post’s headline picture). I knew I had to make it to that exact spot even if I didn’t make a plan for how I’d arrive–there was something waiting for me there.

I could barely sleep the night before I was set to leave. I was far too excited. I packed everything I had into a backpack and woke up when it was still dark out, wide awake with anticipation. All I had planned was my bus trip from the Liberia airport to the Pura Vida Hostel in Tamarindo, where I’d spend my first night. When I arrived at the hostel it finally started to really sink in: I was alone in a foreign country and I could do whatever I wanted with a week to spare. I went to enjoy some lunch at the restaurant next door, amazed at how comfortable I felt as soon as I sat down. My waiter started speaking English and even accepted my US dollars all while an American news broadcast was playing in the background.

ImageEventually I met a couple character mainstays at my hostel, Eddy and James. Eddy was from Chicago taking a prolonged break from his start-up whereas James was a surfer from New Jersey who was chasing the waves for as long as he could steer clear of returning stateside. After a few adventures with Eddy as well as some other travelers that would join our escapades here and there, he offered to drive me to Monteverde. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse, especially since I didn’t have any other plans and purposefully left my schedule open so I could see what might come up. I didn’t know it then but this was the trip I had been waiting for.

ImageAfter a bumpy ride through the country side, we made it to Santa Elena where we found an amazing bed and breakfast to call home–Camino Verde. The day we arrived we went zip-lining through the trees and even ventured to try bungee jump ing while we were at it. Eddy would only stay one day, enough to get a feel for the mountains and Santa Elena’s quiet change of pace. My first day waking up alone there I struck up a conversation with the inn keeper and asked if there was one thing I absolutely had to do while in Monteverde–what was it? He said it was my lucky day and if I was game I could hop in a van coming by in 10 minutes to take me on my next adventure.

Trusting my guide’s recommendation, I hopped into the van filled with Spanish tourists eager to explore. We stopped after a 30 minute drive up a big hill into what seemed like an epicBridge expanse of rain forest. It was really a nature preserve filled with canopies, gardens, natural sights, wildlife and trails throughout perfect for self-guided walking tours. I started out on my own while purposefully trying to walk slowly to make sure I would remember every moment. I suddenly felt grateful to be alone to savor this experience.

After walking a bit, snapping pictures of beautiful plants and butterflies along the way, I arrived to a critical stopping point where something suddenly clicked and I was overcome with emotion. There in front of me was the exact same hanging bridge I had come across when first researching Monteverde many months before. Without a concrete plan to reach this place, the symbol of my solo Costa Rican adventure, I made it there–perhaps the universe was guiding me. Before my eyes, my dream became a reality and I continued my tour with a renewed sense of purpose, abundance, and gratitude that I was delivered to the place my imagination had conjured up all this time. Sometimes I get what I want and sometimes I don’t, but no matter what happens, I am always taken care of. Perhaps the same is true for us all. The rest is pura vida.

 

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Professional Urban Hiking

Bernal Hill

Whenever I come home to visit SF my parents and I always make a point to take at least one day together to do an epic city hike. I don’t know if other families do this but we always have and likely always will. It’s just become a family tradition we almost expect of one another whenever we’re together for at least a weekend. I always expect one of my parents to suggest that either Saturday or Sunday we take a long walk, grab lunch and enjoy a fantastic vista from atop a super steep hill. All that walking makes the lunch taste that much better and the view look that much more magical.

I’m not sure if getting older has made me appreciate my parents more or if it’s just something that naturally happens to everyone once they finally move out of their parents’ home. I just know that I can’t believe my parents had me when they were my age. The thought of having a kid right now scares the life out of me and I can’t fathom them doing it way back in the late 80s when it was just a whole different world, with no internet or cell phones. How did they do it? I’m so thankful my parents raised me the way they did. They always encouraged me to try things that I was interested in, no matter if they were just purely creative ventures without a particularly clear end goal. They always encouraged me to seek things off the beaten path and welcome diversity in people, places and experiences. These nostalgic moments of gratitude always hit me when we’re walking around the city together, sometimes for lengthy hours of trudging from the city center to the far ends of Bernal Heights, all the way up the hill, or other times down to Aquatic Park and Pier 39 to see the bustling tourism and seals.

Today we went to a concert at the Knockout Room, which I hadn’t been to in years and certainly never with my parents or in the middle of the afternoon. It dawned on me how cool they really are and how I must have derived some (maybe all) of my coolness–or whatever it is that I derive confidence from–from them. I used to be so embarrassed by them! I remember leaving the house to go somewhere all together when I was around 4th or 5th grade and I wouldn’t let my dad leave the house until he changed his shoes because the way he looked bothered me so much. I’m glad my parents were able to laugh at me (and hopefully less at me and more along with me) during the awkward years called adolescence. Thank god we all grow up eventually.

Someday I’ll probably move back to SF and live in the Mission, Potrero Hill or around Duboce Park and when I do I hope my parents and I will be able to take long weekend urban hikes to new parts of the city we never typically included in our quests. Maybe to Clement Street or out to Stern Grove or even to the Zoo. Maybe to the Presidio and down to Chrissy Field to walk beneath the Bridge. We always have the best talks during our walks and I’m always surprised at how much more I have to learn from them. In the mean time I hope they come visit me in Brooklyn to take long walks around my neck of the woods. It will be beautiful and feel historic and perhaps we’ll manage to walk more because of the more even elevation. Maybe the food tastes better and the views look more beautiful not just because of the effort we’ve put in by walking, but because of the special company we share.