After crying in front of a stranger who was supposed to employ me, I flew back home 0-1. I allowed myself to feel defeated for the rest of the day and then bits of the trip began to return to me. I remembered why I felt compelled to change my life in the first place. I remembered that I am not a wilting flower, but sprouting bud. Then I remembered the layover we had in Bogota, Columbia on our way back from Buenos Aires. The intense pride of those people for their country rivaled that of a Trump supporter for America. They did not think our broken Spanish was cute for a minute, but no one wished us harm. After a scenic ride around Bogota, we returned to the airport for our flight. We had enough time to eat, nap and witness a gaggle of wild teenagers welcome a Colombian heartthrob arriving for his concert.
Once it was almost time to board, I went to the restroom to refresh. Upon returning, my husband was on his feet and wide eyed. “We missed our flight.” He was dead serious. My heart stopped.
“How is that possible?! We’ve been here for hours, waiting!”
“They changed the gate, but only announced it in Spanish.” WHAT?! After negotiating with at least 5 different personnel, the consensus was that we needed to talk to customer service for the airline on the other side of security to rebook our flight. But I didnt want to go to the other side of security. Going there meant, one step further away from America and one step closer to being homeless in a Colombian airport. Regardless, we had no other options, so we went.
At the customer service counter, they heard our story in as much Spanish as I could speak and they begin typing furiously on their keyboards. One person made several calls. The verdict was, “I’m sorry, our agents said the gate was not changed. You have to pay $400 to rebook.” The blood left my body and pumped into my face.
“No! You’re lying!” My husband whipped around surprised by my rage and hugged me from behind to pull me away from the counter. I became louder, “You’re lying!” He pulled harder, nearly dragging me away, so I shouted, “you know they changed the gate! You’re lying!” The drama was in full effect for everyone to witness. Angry tears streaming down my face, I yanked away from my husband’s grip, furious. What now?! We walked to a seating area and he began making calls while I sat convinced that there was someone here I needed to talk to.
“Please dont go back over there,” he told me.
I nodded and said I was going to the restroom to wash my face. I pulled my curls out of its bun and tried to make myself look less deranged. The girl in the mirror knew it was up to me to fix this. I walked out of the restroom determined. I asked another uniformed official where was the manager on duty and she pointed me to a woman with a frown line and a pursed lip. She was not the one to be played with, but today I wasnt afraid. As I began, she already knew who I was. The word had spread (HAHAHA!). I apologized for my terrible Spanish and told her we needed to go home. “Lo siento, por favor. Mi espanol es muy malo pero necasitamos ir a la America.” I told her we didn’t understand the announcements in Spanish and they changed the gate.
“You have to pay the $400,” she said in perfect Spanish without looking at me. I told her we had no money and that we had spent everything on vacation. She typed hard and fast for several minutes without a word to me and she made no calls. She was the 8th person I had pleaded with in the last 3 hours since our flight. She was my last chance. I pressed my palms together, praying, and I began to cry. All the frustration I felt, all the exhaustion, all the pressure I felt to always be the responsible one came pouring out onto her counter. She rolled her eyes at me and I cried harder.
“Senorita, por favor!” Before I even knew what was happening, she was telling me I had 20 minutes to leave and she handed me two tickets home. I thanked her and in a flash I was running through the terminal, jumping over small children throwing tantrums and swerving around luggage. “LETS GOOOO!!!!!” And then we were both running breathlessly to security. I stared at the same ticket stub that I had kept since that day in my wallet as a reminder that I can push through.
I prayed for reinforments. It was time let go, trust my gut and develop a real plan of attack. So, I went back to my old company, but demoted myself to a part-time employee, relieving any pressures of my previous position. I took up a second job as a part time receptionist to make up for the loss of wages and went home in the evenings to a familiar silence that I now welcomed. My perspective was changing. I no longer felt hostage to my circumstances. I began to share bits and pieces of my story with a few people at work, trusting them not to judge me and they did not disappoint. There was some relief in finding that others shared my struggles almost verbatim. My vunerability made me feel alive again opposed to the hard shell that I had decorated everyday with mascara and a smile.
New Years came around and we got a surprise visit from one of my cousins that went on the trip. It was such a treat to have seen him 3 times in one year when I’m used to going almost a full decade. I look at all of my cousins in awe of who they are and what awesome adults they aspire to be. Each one having something different that I can learn from. He’s one of those boy cousins, we’ll call him Ted, that gave me insight to what it would be like to have a brother. When Ted speaks, people listen, but my voice has always been admittedly small. He has confidence in his own quirky skin which always gave me a little less fear of being myself. Ted wasnt just showing up for a surprise visit, he was following through on his word to quit his career, pack up his car and move to California to go back to school. Of course, I was inspired! Who wouldn’t be??! Hearing him talk about it in Argentina gave me goosebumps. When I saw his mom, she had so many concerns of him driving cross country alone. I told her I was proud of him and tried to be optimistic for her. He was pursuing happiness, anew. And maybe he didnt even think of it that way, but I did and I soaked it all in, allowing it to fuel my journey even further.
Observing his sister while we were away, we’ll call her Lydia, was another sight indeed. I had never witnessed a woman so headstrong. All of the women in my life have their own version of getting their way, via persuasion, planting seeds, or flattery, but I specifically enjoyed watching Lydia’s style. She had an intangible force, brewed within, that demanded your allegiance or else be pummeled over by her will. It was like watching Xenia the warrior princess dressed in skinny jeans, a button-up and long ringlet curly hair. And then I asked myself, well, why the hell am I so timid? I had to address my weaknesses quickly around Lydia while also marveling at her deliberate defiance. Go Lydia! Thats right, you tell those men what we’re doing today! There’s so many times I could’ve used a set of huevos like that! There were so many times I diminished my light, or tried to be what I thought a wife was supposed to be instead of being myself. Lydia was Lydia 100% of the time whether you liked it or not. Although I didnt adopt her skills right away, but she is a constant reminder that a squeaky wheel will be oiled.
The people of Argentina were very vocal with us as well, but never overbearing. As the six of us passed by, they stared out of sheer curiousity. We were a welcomed rarity, a range of tan skin amongst a sea of olive colored locals. We paraded heaps of curly hair and our cell phones were always in hand. People smiled congenially when we addressed them or spoke in our broken Spanish. They wanted to help us, protect us. “Dont go near the stadium while you’re here. Trust me.” Others wanted to make us aware of our own privilege. “You guys from the US are always so afraid of everything. You believe anything your media and your government tells you. You think the world wants to attack you.” This revelation came from a local I was dancing with, alongside another girl in our group, in the balcony of a crowded nightclub about 3miles from our Palermo house. I laughed anxiously and cha-cha’d a little closer to my friend, not really knowing how to explain to him that he was right and wrong. The mainstream media definitely has a chokehold on our society, but not everyone adheres to its standards or beliefs. As beautiful and honest as the men were, it was the women I was so transfixed with. The deep arches in their backs, how easily they flirted with people, the gentleness of their eye contact. Their sexiness felt organic and innocent. It wasnt demonized, manufactured, or made to feel unsophisticated. Why was I so afraid to be sexy? Why was I hiding?
Ask yourself: What are you hiding? For whom do you put on a brave face? From 2013 to early 2016, I was hiding the fact that I was not happily married. That unhappiness spread to every other part of my life, but no one knew. I put on a smile for everyone including myself. So why bring it up now? Why not just move on? Because we repeat what we do not repair. Its not that easy to give up on what you’d hoped would be your forever. And guess how many people talk about divorce? NO ONE! There was a laundry list of reasons why I did not want to end my marriage and it took almost a year of internal feuding to come to the decision. The last thing I had to get over was the shame of it all. I was so ashamed of ending my first marriage and becoming a divorcee. I had worn my mother’s wedding dress, “mommy, did I taint your dress?” I knew in a way I had, but she assured me otherwise. I understand fully why it is so hush-hush because talking about your relationship feels like gossip, but those are not my intentions. I’m not interested in slander, however it made no sense for me to have saved myself from ripping apart only to allow the festering wounds to kill me in the end.
So for the past year, I have pursued healing through writing and travel. I tend to run away or hold things in, but when people say my desire to travel is enabling either habit, I always think back to this trip. I think of the confidence and growth it triggered inside of me, what it took to get there, and how it strengthened the relationships with my family, God and with myself. Sometimes you’re caught up sooo deep in your own mess that you lose sight of yourself. You’re sooo deep that a walk around the block or a trip to the beach just won’t shake you free. It sounds crazy but going halfway around the world for 10 days and being in that experience with exactly the right people changed my life. Good and bad, it was the snowflake that snowballed.
Its in moments of difficulty or in complete silence that we see Him the clearest and hear Him the loudest. These are the times we are likely to seek him out more ravenously and listen more intently. He was breaking me down to build me back up, molding me into a woman. For so long, I felt myself just powering through each cycle of 24 hours. For so long, I felt burdened. Looking back, I still dont know how I commuted 4 hours a day, worked 40 hours a week, cooked, cleaned and barely slept at night. I earned the right to feel convicted in my strength. Deep down, I just knew there was more for me. I had seen it with my own eyes, tasted it and danced with it. I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I had already changed. I didnt know it at the time but Buenos Aires was my Eat. Pray. Love.
Buenos Aires will always be special.
Since going to Argentina in 2015, I have visited five more countries and counting! Learning to be myself again, trusting my gut and no longer hiding from the inevitable led me on a road to healing and travel. Going forward, I plan to make the journal I’ve carried around for the past year a little more public, here. I know I am not the only one struggling with divorce, among other things, and I know there is comradary to be gained through this journey.
Thank you for joining me!
(All photos in this post belong to the author)