I have decided to take the path of unknowing > > > > > > >
Two weeks ago, I was standing in Manna’s community center talking to my coworker when the ground started literally shaking. I felt like I had lost my balance, until I realized that I couldn’t set myself right again–the whole earth had lost its balance. We stood there for about twenty seconds, mouths agape and staring at each other like idiots, until the ground finally returned to its rest. The intelligent thing to do would have been to run outside, or at least take shelter in a doorway or under a desk, but I couldn’t think logically as I tried to wrap my mind around what was happening.
Earthquakes aren’t an uncommon occurrence here. Ecuador lies on the fault line known as the Ring of Fire, the same fault line that famously rocks Chile every so often to devastating effects. When I visited Chile in 2012, I saw massive cracks rippling up the side of colonial buildings all around the city, and part of the old opera house had been closed for repairs. Hopefully they fix it before the next one comes, muttered a decidedly apathetic passerby. The earth quakes, things happen.
But to me, the earthquake didn’t make for just another day. As I stood there paralyzed, trying to wrap my mind around what was occurring, I was reminded that even the most seemingly stable of things–the very Earth itself!– is in a constant flux. Nothing is permanent; nothing stays the same forever. The earthquake jolted me into awareness that my own life is, in a sense, shaking and quaking and permanently changing, only two months into a thirteen-month adventure in living cross-culturally.
I have changed so much since living here, even more than I’m probably aware of. And its not just lessons that living cross-culturally has taught me…I am starting to learn lessons that real adults learn. As I dive into a normal, adult work week I am discovering that making my bed in the morning is an investment in my future happiness, that there can be joy in waking up early [ oh the shock, oh the awe! ] and spending some “me” time before starting a long day, that finding community isn’t as easy as meeting up with someone in the library or at Starbucks between classes. I am also learning that everything takes so much more intentionality than I ever thought they would.
Intentionality. I am here intentionally and that’s all I know right now. I am here to experience new things, which means I will inevitably learn and grow and be changed, deeply and permanently. I’ve always been a fan of stability… perhaps a strange affinity for someone that has lived in four different countries in the past two years…but I am beginning to learn that there is beauty in the shifting landscapes that life presents us. I am learning to embrace the process of changing, not just the change itself; I am learning to leave room for change.
Since the first earthquake there have been about ten aftershocks, not all of them perceptible, but all just as earth-shaking. To me, nothing can compare to the first one. Life seems to be moving at a mile a minute, and I’m growing like a weed as I dive into new experiences and situations. For as much as my planning, forethinking self wants to know what I’m going to be doing next year, next month, even tomorrow, no amount of foresight can account for all that I’m experiencing here, and how its shaping me in ways I never expected. Maybe in the next few months I’ll realize that I want to stay in Ecuador for more than just this year, or maybe I’ll finally give in more permanently to my ever-present love for Buenos Aires and settle down on the other side of the South American continent. Or maybe I’ll make the move back home to New York City, my glorious and frenetic beacon of light that daily knocks on the door of my heart in the way that only she can. I don’t know, I don’t have even a clue, and for the first time in my life I’m seeing the beauty in all of that.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth may tremble
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging…
God is within her, she will not be moved