Tic-tac tic-toc. It’s not your watch, but your mind that sings along these non-stop unwanted notes.
In this life parenthesis called the Atlas Corps Fellowship, where everything stops for twelve or eighteen months, the concept of time bedazzles me. Especially now, when we are in full summer, when some fellows are graduating and leaving, and others are about to come.
The sun is out, bright and shiny and I can’t help but think: “I should be OUT THERE!” Instead I am typing these words sitting on the couch of my living room, as if it was another random day from a more boring season. Maybe it’s because I am from Panama, a tropical country where there is pretty much summer all year long. Maybe that’s why I am more looking forward to the autumn leaves falling or the winter snow.
“You have to take advantage and go out when it’s summer in New York!” My fellow Fellow Tarika had said. “Winter is horrible and you will miss the warm weather”. I know she is right. I have heard that many times about the winter in New York. My inspiration and desire to write is stronger though and I can’t help but to stay indoors. I have a thought in my head and need to get it out, the sun rays burning my cheeks won’t be enough.
I think to myself, what is the rush? Why does time feel overrated now that we live abroad? Have the seconds turned into gold all of a sudden? Am I wasting my life by being on my own?
The feeling of needing to go out just “because it’s summer” is a simple example. Don’t get me wrong I love the sun and the blue sky like no other, but why do I have to feel guilty if on a sunny day I don’t toast the freckles of my nose? I mean, at the end, what’s the rush? Time, and summers, and other seasons will pass by, year after year, and that doesn’t mean we get to be less happy if we choose to do something “seasonally rare” like staying indoors.
The same happens, with our time as fellows. We get so focused on visiting new places, meeting new people and worn out working like crazy as if the fellowship was a time bomb. We start getting anxious about time when people ask us about when we arrived or how long we will be here for.
You feel like these questions are your friendly reminders that this “life parenthesis” is just that, a parenthesis, a temporary stage in your life with a beginning and an ending. Many times we see this as a bad thing as we focus on the ending. How much sense does it make to meet new people and start a friendship, a relationship, a sports team or even a music band, if eventually we will have to go? The point I want to reflect on today is exactly the beauty that lies when we realize this fellowship is not that time bomb. We are living a stage of our lives that will end, yes, but at the end we will still keep living and becoming better human beings every day all the way long.
Sometimes you might feel this Fellowship experience is now your life but not really your “real life”. I say it’s not real because like a dream it will “poof” and fade away in any moment. However, exactly like in a dream, sometimes you also get to control it. In dreams if you want to fly, you can fly. If you want to hug your whole family at the same time you can. In your Fellowship maybe you won’t be able to do that, but (and here is where the value of this “time parenthesis” lies): YOU get to be whoever you want to be.
You get to reinvent yourself a million of times if you want to. No one will judge you, no one will mind and no one will care. In this twelve month parenthesis you get to be whoever you want to be because you are as free as you have never been.
And if it’s sunny outside but you prefer to stay indoors, stay. There will be another sunny day, maybe not tomorrow, but maybe the next day. Maybe not in D.C, or New York or Michigan or Texas or wherever you are but if writing, or learning how to cook, or drawing in the living room of your apartment will feed your soul then DO SO. At the end, everything will go away from you, or better said, you will go away from everything in twelve months! The only one you are left with is YOU, so don’t forget to take the time to do what you love and to see this life parenthesis as your time to grow. It’s a blessing that we have the opportunity to experience something like a “pause button” for our lives. How many people wouldn’t love to do so?
Live the moment and enjoy what you have, but more importantly enjoy who you are and the time shaping who you want to become. Believe me the city and the cultural shock will do its part, but it’s up to you to expose yourself to the unknown. Learn to cook, to play the guitar, speak up if you used to be shy, mingle with strangers, make friends in the subway, become vegetarian, and write a book or your first song. Test yourself and what you are capable of (in a good way of course). 😉
Dare to live the way you have always wanted and don’t rush. Time is just that, time. It’s what you make out of it that really matters and how much you grow. There is no sun that’s worth missing out on your self-discovery, remember at the end a clock is just a clock.
*This blog post is dedicated to three amazing fellows whose growth journey will take a new path the upcoming months: Lucia, Nico and Eugenia. I love you and will miss you a lot!