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Where did a year go?! It’s a bit mind-boggling to think of all the life that has happened, on both continents, since I’ve been gone. Simultaneously, I miss everyone and love the life I’m in. I miss my city yet I love walking down the now familiar streets of Santiago. Naturally, this milestone led me to some reflection during my walks home at night or long bike rides between work. The first thing I thought about was all the difficulties that have come from being so far away from my support system. This post relates to those while I’ll post one in the next day or two on the ecstatic joys that have resulted from this wild endeavor.

Some of the struggles

In all honesty, in those first few months, I thought about coming home earlier and wondered if this job was for me. I was missing knowing where to go for amazing music any night of the week, craving the laughs that my friends are so good for ensuring, feeling the naturalness of my career in MKE, breathing the energy of being involved in my community though ART Milwaukee and NEWaukee, the ability to pick up the phone and call a friend/family that actually “knew” me… the list is endless. Hands down, home is a great place. Luckily, this phase just took introspection and dedication, telling myself that nothing is easy and all that’s good takes time. Thankfully, I was right and I’m so excited to still be here.

Unexpectedly, a couple of times when I saw a photo or was skyping with someone, I found myself mesmerized by the background of their house. I was stuck remembering times when we were sitting on that couch together or looking at the kitchen and almost literally being able to feel its familiarity.

Its powerful to think about how many experiences and memories a space holds.

In a matter of milliseconds, I was flooded with the awareness of my little room that lacked my touch, the apartment I shared with 3 others who were strangers (but now are friends), and that I really don’t have anything that’s mine minus the same 2 suitcases of clothes I’ve been wearing the last 365 days. The first time it happened, I immediately grasped what “a home” is and, concurrently, the beauty of that concept. Luckily, this subconscious hole for a home’s comfort and love quickly faded and the next moment would quickly pick up, but it definitely was a spontaneous and powerful pull.

To help with this, I added a lovely little collage of pics my parents sent me and that friends/family have sent me of their adorable little kiddos. Also, I’ve picked up some art from local painters to add to my collection at home and bring some life to my walls.

Some of the hardest days have been Saturday or Sunday mornings when I’d normally be chilling on the couch with one of my friends, having brunch at someone’s house, meeting someone for a coffee, or relaxing at my mom’s or aunt’s. I did, and still do, long for those moments. Truth be told, on those days I become an internet troll, emailing, Facebooking, and skype calling like a madwoman, haha. Truly, there is nothing better than when the video finishes flickering and I can see you on the other end.

Similarly, one time I specifically remember being at a disco, dancing until 5/6 in the morning (that’s normal!), and a fun, catchy American pop song came on. I don’t remember the song but I remember I didn’t really even like it that much. Anyways, everyone loved it and I felt so happy to have it blaring in the background. It was like a 3 minute time warp back to WI, and I remember for a couple seconds looking around and looking for/wishing that the people dancing at my side were the smiling, laughing, happy faces of my girl/guy friends. Words cannot describe how much I wish I could transport you here. I miss you!!!

I think the most trying times over the last year, however, have come from not being able to support family and friends as they were going through rough patches, and not being able to stand right alongside as they were proud of a certain accomplishment. I’ve missed weddings, births, birthdays, celebrations, holidays, and deaths…. I’m a hugger by nature, so the inability for human contact during these times results in a huge void. I will never, ever again take for granted the ability to share emotion through touch.

Gimme things, things, things…

So, those 2 suitcases…. a hard-learned side note, it was NOT a smart idea to only pack my least favorite to “okay” clothes. The thought that I didn’t know anyone and I could leave them here sounded good… but was impractical. As my mom used to say, “HE-LLO.” South America or MKE, you still want to look good, you meet people, and, if you don’t like the clothes, you just don’t like them. Doesn’t matter where you are. You know the feeling when you put on something you really don’t like? Well, imagine having to wear it anyways… It is like having “fat days” that won’t go away. After a while, I just couldn’t do it anymore. So now, of the two suitcases of clothes, I brought, its pretty much down to one. The other clothes lie dormant. And, now that I’ve nonstop worn that small quantity of “okay” clothes, sometimes I struggle to open my drawers. During those moments, I try to just tell myself it’s building my character and I’m lucky that’s my problem. Sigh.

I cannot deny I randomly find myself craving “things.” One time, after Vicente got a new job, we went to the mall to buy him some new work shirts. Anyways, as we rose up on the escalator, I was literally overwhelmed inch by inch with an itch to buy everything. I truly wanted the mall itself! I was so fixated on the clothes I had at home, how I didn’t like what I was wearing, and how I wanted something new… at one point Vicente said “why are you looking in the (store) mirrors so much?” Ummm, Busted.

But, it made me realize that what I was missing was variety; the way to express myself through style whether it be clothes, jewelry, or the pieces of my apartment that represent “me.” After that I really focused on reminding myself that it’s me, my actions and interactions, that represent who I am, not my things. Considering I am very low-touch with possessions at home, and that, besides art and other things I’ve accumulated while travelling, most of my actual belongings are familial hand-me-downs, this was a surprise, but real, challenge. That said, I have broken down and (reasonably) hit the streets to help me out during a “desperate, ugly day” pinch 🙂

Nothing but growth moments

When it comes down to it, our life scuffles are just opportunities to reaffirm our belief in ourselves. I can honestly say that I’m learning and growing every day, at times it is because I’m presented with something new and at times it’s because I’m faced with looking at something familiar at a different angle. That definitely makes the struggles worth it. Sometimes I find myself walking down the road, iPod plugged in my ears, and overwhelmed with this emotion of pure happiness. I’m beaming like a child with an ice cream cone and people passing by can’t help but stare and wonder what I’m on. Unbeknownst to them, I’m just so filled with gratitude for my life.