If you know me or follow me on social media, then you know how much my family means to me and you know how much I love to travel. Many pegged 2016 as the worst year ever, but for me, it was a year of recovery from 2015. Travelling to Argentina with my family was a huge turning point in my life because everything just seemed to come to a blistering head… and I’ve never really gone into too much detail about it.
The summer of 2015, my husband and I were afforded to go on the trip of a lifetime with a group of my cousins and their significant others. All of us got along so well and had so much fun together at family functions that we were motivated to travel to Argentina together… literally picking the location out of thin air. At that point, we had struggled with so much in our marriage, but there was still love between us. He was someone I would defend to the ends of the earth. I could come up with an excuse for anything, but there was honestly so much I did not know. There were so many questions I did not ask. That relationship taught me its possible to love someone unconditionally without being in love with them. We bought our tickets, paid for lodging and set aside money to spend while there. By Thanksgiving, it was time to go, but we had a huge blow out the day before we were to leave and the relationship began to take its final nosedive. After a band-aid resolution, the energy sort of turned into a cordial anxiety and it carried on into the trip. It felt like everyone in the group knew and at the same time, it felt like only I did.
The house we stayed in had the most quaint courtyard with 15 foot doors and beautiful ironwork. The courtyard was the heart of the house, connecting from 3 different areas and bringing us altogether each day to go over plans or reflect on the days passed. In the bustling neighborhood of Palermo-Soho, we found where we belonged. The buildings felt copied and pasted from Italy or Paris and then beaten down with graffiti. There were enormous ancient trees lining every street, locals on their bikes, lovers holding hands, beautiful girls strutting in their flatform shoes and again, so much graffiti. It was as if the Wynwood Walls had had a baby with Parisian architecture and then we became like best friends with the baby. The city didn’t stir until around noon and didn’t stop stirring until seven in the morning. A little sunrise doesn’t stop an Argentine party!
My husband and I barely interacted with each other, we were rarely alone with one another and most of the pictures I took were of myself or with others. As much fun as I was having being around my family in the “Paris of the South,” I was timid, brooding and more quiet than usual. Surrounded by such strong personalities during a time that I was so emotionally low, it woke me up. Like “HEY! Who have you become?! This is not you!” There was so much sensory coming at me all at once, but all I could do was sit back and watch.
There were men juggling for money on unicycles at intersections where the anxious cars were being held back by red lights like carnivorous beasts. Just beyond Casa Rosada (like the White House, but the Pink House), there was Puerto Madero. We opted for the “subte” that day, for $.50, to find little girls in crop tops and make-up singing for change, staring blankly at a spot on the wall. On our 4th day in Soho, we split up. Three of us wanted to venture into Paraguay, the other half of us wanted to walk through the city’s neighborhoods until we reached downtown. You could not only see the integrity of the neighborhoods change as we progressed block by block through the city, but you could see the color of the locals change as well. “We finally found the brown people, you guys!” It was a joke that we were the only black people in the city, but clearly the black people didnt live in our artsy affluent part of town. The cars, buses and cabs swirled together on the lineless city streets. I still dont know how the drivers made sense of it all.
All six of us were back together again in Palermo and we stumbled upon a couple things: 1) We were visiting in the middle of a heated election, 2) Argentines are very strict about not serving alcohol on election day, NONE! We did a quick search of the candidates and began to root for who we wanted to win. After finding what felt like this oasis of a panadaria and purchasing probably 5 lbs of pastries for $20, we picked up tickets to a small local theatre to watch a two-woman drama. I’m unsure of what I watched, but I know the character’s name was “Monica! Monica!” For the longest, I thought one of them was pretending to be a dog.
There was one morning, I decided to go out early at breakfast for one. It was exhilarating to be alone on the foreign sidewalks, taking in the sights that were now 6 days familiar. I felt little pieces of myself like my quiet confidence creep back into my shoulders. The clouds parted knowingly over my favorite estate with wrought-iron gates conquered by vines and balconies at each bedroom on the second floor. I paused to take a picture and wondered about what the residents were like. I continued on my path for South American coffee, pastries and eggs. I was so honored to have breathed the air. I was so honored to have spoken with the people and danced with them until I was sweaty. I was happy to have observed how freely and publicly they loved each other. I relished in their pace of life and that dinners were meant for talking for hours over Malbec and tapas. The confidence of the women, who walked in five inch flatform shoes over old cobblestone, was so charming and intoxicating. They kept commenting on my hair and I just wanted to hear them speak with their gentle voices and “sh-sh” accents. The magical sway in their hips as they danced to the drum circles in the squares or tangoed for a crowd downtown.
Argentina took the harsh spotlight away from the burdens of my reality. It reminded how much more there is to live for than just your relationship. It reminded there are people doing far worse and people with far less that are doing far better. It opened my heart to adventure, it made me brave again. There is no confidence without bravery first. I had cocooned myself in so much fakery, I was an onion of lies. It was the beginning of peeling all of that away.
The first order of business when I returned home was a career change. I hadn’t even known at that point that my marriage was over. For years, I had been trying to fix us, fix the situation, pray it away, smoke it away, sex it away, talk it away. This time, I focused within. I wanted to improve myself instead. I prayed for me. I rested more. I spoke things in existence that I was bold enough to actually believe would unfold for me. I had the full strength of my family’s prayers lifting me up. I was diligent and I was persistent. I wasnt quite there, but I could see myself at the end of the tunnel. I got my first interview in New York, which I was so nervous and underprepared for. I cried in front of the young woman interviewing me when she asked me how I deal with difficult situations. HAHAHA!!! “Um no thank you! Here’s a tissue. Please go home!” She was so kind to me and she listened when I told her the honest truth about my rough year. She was the first person I talked to about any of it other than my parents. Go figure! It was then that I knew I had to let go of a lot more than my old career.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of ARGENTINA: How Buenos Aires Changed My Life
Thank you for joining me!
(All photos belong to the author)