By: Jenni Taylor
I skipped out of my last semester of college in order to teach in Peru. I loved my college. We had hookah club and quidditch club, interpretive dancers with ribbons waving their arms in the trees, and you could talk about vagina power over cigarettes and imported beer every weekend if you wanted. Leaving sucked. I took my first grown up job in South America, took out my piercings, and even stopped dying my hair- huge sacrifices for a girl like me. I had to let go of this whole image of myself I had built up and put on a uniform instead.
While it wasn’t easy, I entered this amazing jungle world with cold showers, pit stains, and kids throwing markers at you or hugging your neck alternately. I loved it and hated it in turns probably every day. Sometimes I would just curl up and cry in my big empty bed, and sometimes I would sit in a rocking chair talking Spanish with grandmothers and feel like I never wanted to leave.
I say all that because growth is slow. I always felt a little jipped because of leaving college early, and yet I find myself in a pretty similar environment now. I find myself wanting to get weird piercings and dye my hair all over again, because I don’t know who I am in this kind of world without those things.
Peru was straightforward. Poverty was straight forward. Kids throwing up on you was pretty straightforward, too. I miss the simplicity, the latin bass thumping from down the street and the stars speckled over the mango trees outside my window. Now I’m a city girl, a Shanghai girl, where the taxi lights and the high rises stretch on forever and everyone you see has crazy shoes and looks a little bit lonely. I’m finding my place still, where the jungle part of me can put on heels, be sophisticated, and be real about it. That’s the key, really, to not getting lost. Being real. Being you.
The funny part about that is it only happens when you stop trying. I can stand on a street in a city of 20 odd million people and feel lonely or lost and wonder who the hell I am, or I can look at the people surrounding me and see their place in the world, see their connectedness, their loneliness, their joys, their heartaches. When I stop being me, I can become them. I can see myself reflected in the humanity around me and realize it’s not about me at all, it’s about us, all of us, all of us together.
Then things don’t feel so lonely after all.