Stopping to smell the roses in South America
Six years ago when I was studying abroad in Argentina, I fell in love with both the country and the greater South American continent. Now that I've come back for a visit, I remember why.
Some of it is admittedly nostalgia, the strings of miscellaneous memories with old friends tugging on my heart when walking by a familiar cafe or night time hangout. Other things are more subliminal and much less tangible; vibes, feelings and cultural appreciations that don't exist anywhere else in the world.
Ironically, this became most apparent to me when I was sitting at place I had never been before, La Catedral de Tango, which I decided to visit at the recommendation of a local tour guide.
Sidenote: La Catedral de Tango is a warehouse that has been converted into a bar/(vegan) restaurant/Tango venue and it's a genuinely cool place. If you're ever passing through Buenos Aires, make sure to check it out. Starting in the early evening, up until 11pm, you can go and for a small fee (2-3USD), take some tango lessons that are very beginner friendly and due to their kinesthetic nature don't require fluency in the spanish language. Then, after 11pm, the dance floor is open for dancing, for anyone who wants to test out their freshly learned tango skills to a variety of tango-style music.
I didn't personally dance, but I had a genuinely fun time watching other people try. There was something heartwarming about watching people--strangers--move awkwardly (and sometimes gracefully) across the floor with no other intention than to simply enjoy themselves.
It's always in the most unexpected moments that I have "epiphanies" about the act of living and this was one of them. I had no real intention behind going to La Catedral, other than to enjoy myself and surround myself with the tango culture, and everyone else there was doing exactly the same thing; simply enjoying themselves, literally dancing their way through the night, and even if for only a few brief moments, without a care in the world. If only more of life could be lived this way...
A few days later I went to visit the Pepperdine House where I spent a lot of my time when I was studying abroad down here to say hi to some of the staff. My brief visit extended into the evening and at the weekly Monday night convocation I gave an impromptu speech to the current students about the past year that I have spent traveling and all of the twists and turns life has taken since I graduated from Pepperdine in 2012. Of course it was after I finished speaking that I realized what it was that I really wanted to say:
We don't have to rush through life. We spend so much time figuring out how we are going to get from one place to the next (physically or in a more metaphorical sense). And sometimes we get there, so stressed and exhausted from the hurried journey, that we either a) miss the desired destination in the first place or b) can't enjoy it once we arrive. If we aren't careful, each step becomes nothing more than a check box on the life to-do list before it's on to the next thing. Sometimes this is ok...we all come to this life with an intention and a goal we want to accomplish. What we don't come to Earth with is the anxiety we all suffer from feeling that we have to accomplish it right away.
Even though it almost always feels like it, no one is rushing us. Life is meant to be experienced, not merely existed through. Sometimes it's ok not to know which fork in the road to take and to spend some time standing at that fork, listening to the chirping birds around us and smelling the blossoming flowers that are sitting their patiently just waiting for us to notice them.