I lived in Argentina on and off for one year. To say that it affected me is an understatement. It profoundly changed my life.
For a long time before I visited South America I was tired of living the life that was expected of me. Trust me, I understand how self-indulgent and possibly arrogant this might sound, but everything a person was supposed to accomplish I had, sans children. Yet I felt empty. Don’t get me wrong, even during that time I was still capable of appreciating my life. I understood, and still understand how fortunate and blessed my life has been.
There was just something missing. I guess I would call it first world problems. I found that people in North America were overly concerned with being “busy”, and if they weren’t, the only alternative after a long day at work was to sit in front of the television avoiding the harsh winter.
I am not an image obsessed person, meaning I try not to spend too much time trying to convince people that I am this or that, because I don’t think that I have anything to prove. I don’t really need recognition, and I am not one of those people who identify as something, like a writer, or whatever my occupation or vocation might be. I’m just okay being me, and that’s enough.
After some time, I was tired of late night drinking binges and gossiping about work. I don’t know how to explain it in a way that people will understand, but I felt there was so much energy lost if my only purpose was to get up in the morning to work and socialize. I needed more spiritual fulfillment.
So enter South America. I had never been interested in the southern hemisphere before, and then one day, I made a harrowing 14 hour plane trip to Buenos Aires.
Argentina was not an easy time for me. Trust me, you can read some of the posts I wrote from my year there and I sound like a lunatic. Everything was so slow, and the tiniest tasks seemed overly complicated. I also missed my dog, who while I was gone, grew sick.
Sometimes I still look back at my experiences in Argentina and have to shake my head, like the time when I had to wait in three separate lines just to buy a nose hair trimmer. Yes, you read that correctly. As some men age their hair stops growing in some places and pops up elsewhere. It’s weird. The joys of growing older.
The lesson that I took from my Argentina experience was simple: Relax. In fact, one of the things I constantly heard from Argentines was how much I needed to calm down. I was so caught up in being entertained all the time that I didn’t know how to sit and enjoy my own company. In Canada I was always on the go, filling my days just because I thought that that was what I was supposed to do.
I also came to realize how angry I was. At so many things. Mostly at how vapid our society can seem and how what we value blinds us from accepting our insecurities and moving forward. I was angry at how little we cared about each other, and at the animal cruelty so many of us ignore with apathy.
I’ve been back in Toronto for two months but I still remember Argentina fondly. One evening in Mendoza the rain clouds hovered above, like a blanket bleached by the setting sun. I stood in the field as the wind (how I love the wind) kissed my back, and in that moment I felt well. All of life’s silly problems peeled off of me.
Upon arriving in Toronto I spoke with a neighbour of mine and confessed to her my fears of returning to a rat race to no where. After she listened to my concerns for a long time she said to me that what I found in Argentina can be found in Toronto. I just have to keep looking.
So every day when life gets hairy and things begin to bother me I value silence. In it I think of that early evening in Mendoza before the rain came, and how comforting the environment was to me. I remember how lucky I am to be here, to complain, to cry and to laugh. At 33 I am so grateful to have made it this far in good health. I hope to make it 33 more.