My mother has said that the most important thing in life is to be open to possibilities.
For years, it was easy to follow her words. When she told me to be polite, I would always place my napkin on my lap before picking up my fork. When she lectured me on the importance of responsibility, I made an effort to complete my homework before the due date. When she told me to be nice to everyone, I had a diverse group of friends. So when she encouraged me to be open to my possibilities, I willingly followed. When I was fourteen, I decided to go to a special art school. I was following my possibilities and my plans to be a dancer.
But when my mother told me we were moving to Mexico right before I started this art school, I did not feel open to those new possibilities. All I could think was, “What about art school? Prom? How was I going to graduate? Suddenly the idea of being open to my possibilities was accompanied by way too much uncertainty. Wasn’t it important to have goals?”
Things didn’t get much better once we moved. I was placed in a private Mexican high school where no one spoke English. Since my knowledge of Spanish was limited to vegetable vocabulary, I didn’t understand the teachers or students, so I just fumbled my way through class. I desperately wanted to just blend in with my classmates, but this was not easy to do as a blond, blue-eyed American. The language and cultural barriers made my life extremely stressful. I craved the ease and familiarity of my old life. But then things started to shift. I started making friends and learning the language. I was even nominated for Spring Queen. Suddenly I was doing things I never thought possible.
My family and I then moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to continue our grand adventure. More mayhem followed, but my confidence had grown and I felt more prepared to tackle my new challenges. I’m fluent in Spanish and have many international friends. Instead of attending high school everyday, I meet with passionate tutors who teach me a wide range of subjects. I still want to be a dancer, but I’m exploring other options as well. I feel I can live anywhere, speak any language, and be anything I want to be.
I now believe as my mom said that the most important thing in life is to be open to possibilities. But not just those that fit into a neat 4-year plan. Those that take me off the normal track and remind me that I am capable of achieving anything. Living in a state of uncertainty can be frightening, but I have more space for creativity and life adventures. I can begin each day with an intention to learn and discover more about myself. I now know that it’s okay to leave my future ahead of me, where it belongs.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.