What happens when you follow your heart, your dreams or your passion and find that you are second guessing yourself and starting to think that perhaps it wasn’t the right decision or even the best idea?The main aspect to worry will be dread itself. In any case, you are aware there is a certain thing inside you that is greater than where you exist, your desk area, your home, your office. You realize your thought is great. Yet, you can’t assemble the mettle to pursue the fantasy and check this hyperlink. That maybe when everyone said you were crazy or doing it for the wrong reasons or naive to think it would work, you start to think that maybe, just maybe they had a point.
I remember when my family kept asking me “what if it isn’t what you expect?” My response every time, “I don’t have any expectations. I am going to go, work a school year and see where it takes me.” Even though I said that about 500 times between the months of May and August, I secretly remember thinking, if all else fails, at least I have the beach to throw my thoughts onto.
Nothing else was predicted, hoped for or even planned. I just remember being so sure that this was something I had to do. When the opportunity came to me, there was absolutely no way I was going to turn it down. I don’t ignore things like this. When someone offers for me things like live in a new culture, go skydiving, drive a 1960 Opel (unaware of how to actually drive stick) or hit a strip club in Mexico – I say yes, it’s just the kind of person I am. Mostly I just want to satisfy my curiosity.
I had a job lined up and apartment waiting for me when I arrived to Costa Rica. I considered that a huge one up on most spontaneous decisions. When I traveled through Australia, I met people who came on a whim, living in hostels and drinking wine out of a box at the communal kitchen every night. They had no plan for where they were going to be the next day, week or month from then. I actually had a place that I was expected to be at everyday and was fortunate enough to meet someone through facebook (thanks to my sister!) before I had even stepped foot in Costa Rica. Since then, it has been a rollercoaster ride of self realization and zero regret, but not without a few bumps in the dirt road.
I am going to be completely honest and tell you that this entire time here has not always consisted of the easiest or the happiest moments of my life. Finally, after 9 months, 3 weeks and 5 days since I uttered my first “como se llama”, I can look back and say that it was about 6 weeks ago when I started to feel like I belong where I am and I don’t need to get the hell out of here once school ends. I don’t need to look at people with flames bursting out of my ears when they tell me that I am living in paradise anymore.
When I first got to Costa Rica, I was thrown into a situation at work that was unbearable for me. The children didn’t speak English and didn’t know anything past “hola” and “adios”. I was living out of a suitcase and a carry on in an apartment with ants that would make their way into my bed which was planted wall to wall in my studio apartment. I had landed in Costa Rica right in the middle of their rainy season, fell in love the moment I walked off the plane and was planted into someone’s life as the new girlfriend who was learning Spanish but didn’t know s**t. Living in a town where people come to visit, but not many who take the plunge and live year-round in and to top it all off I had royally pissed off pretty much everyone in my family. To say the least, it was impossible to get anywhere near the word comfortable right away.
Being here was not easy for a really long time. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize unhappiness until you are content enough to look back and realize that wasn’t a reflection of enjoyment or pleasure, it was a reflection of survival.
My life was not horrible for the first 6 months here, but there definitely weren’t stars of appreciation shining in my eyes when people would tell me that I am living in paradise while they ordered another beer and heading out to the nightclub on a Tuesday night. I would think, yeah right! You’re the one on vacation. I have to get up at 6am and make my way through a day of astounding disorganization and then come home to boredom hoping that I could be entertained by the 3 channels of English on tv and a bag of Doritos, the closest thing I had to remind me of home and the most exciting thing for me to do at the time.
It is hard to explain, but taking yourself away from all the stimulations and conveniences of a place like NYC and moving to a place where my only way out is on a bus that doesn’t have a schedule of arrival or departure, is a real adjustment. I don’t think there is more of a polar opposite. With that being said, I would not have traded this experience for anything.
About 6 months in, I didn’t want to leave Costa Rica, but I needed something to fulfill the need of desire. Work wasn’t enough of a distracter anymore and the weekends became time spent alone. I had read all of my books twice, written pages of poetry and got sick of looking at my email inbox. I started to realize that sitting in my apartment feeling like I wanted to go out on the porch and scream at the top of my lungs just to see what would happen did nothing for me. Talking my sister’s ear off about all of my plans for my return did nothing for me. Sitting on the beach only led my mind to thinking about what I could do once I left because there is no way I can sit here for another 5 minutes without a book, someone to talk to or something! One very important thing I learned from being in a place that doesn’t offer me much more than a job, a beach and people is that I need to search deep inside myself for those things that challenge and excite me. I don’t own a car, so I literally was stuck.
It’s really hard to explain, but something inside me clicked and my life here has become enjoyable in a lot of ways. I made an effort to meet people who had just moved here or who have been living here that I didn’t know very well.
I decided to go back to surfing. I started with learning how to surf, to adjusting to it, to fighting with it on a weekly basis to finally, now, being in love with it. To be able to look back and see the sunset falling into the ocean while pushing my way to the top of a wave has become a new form of enlightenment for me. That alone makes me want to extend my life here.
- Finally, finally, finally I am able to engage in conversations in Spanish and do not feel like a complete idiot when someone addresses me without prior knowledge of the conversation.
- I come home from school and exercise, write, listen to music or read. I make plans with people to see other parts of this beautiful country.
- I consciously feel thankful every day.
- It actually was a really great experience to look at my raw self and decide what I really want. What makes me want to wake up in the morning if there aren’t any stores, games, movies, books, universities, family, best friends, gardens, or a favorite restaurant in town? It was a really interesting learning experience for me to literally be in a place with just myself and nothing else.
In the end, I think it is extremely important for us to make sure that when our hearts call on us to fulfill a dream or a want or a curious notion, we need to go for it and not be discouraged it if doesn’t turn out exactly as needed at exactly the time that we do it. There is a reason your heart tells you what it wants. If you are smart you will listen, if you are even smarter, you will wait it out to see what that reason was.
My name is Julia and I decided last year to move to Costa Rica after an opportunity to teach was offered to me. I am learning all about Costa Rican culture, the Spanish language and more about myself than I ever imagined – another lesson learned to follow my heart and go with my instinct.