I knew from the moment I first heard of this show that I wanted to play a part. I rehearsed for months, years even. I watched others perform this role and I learned from their mistakes and their successes. I invested in the right costumes and I publicized that I would hit the stage Fall 2014.
Leading up to opening night, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Some nights, my excitement prevented me from falling asleep while my mind was plagued with regret and self-doubt on others. I wondered what I had gotten myself into and looked forward to taking that final bow. My show consumed my thoughts and my conversations, and I constantly imagined myself performing my heart out to a baffled, rose-throwing crowd.
Opening night was last Monday. The plane landed, the curtain flew up and I meekly stared into the blinding light that engulfed me, wondering if anyone was actually out there.
A couple seconds later, I realized it didn’t matter.
I’ve had this whole analogy thing all wrong. Spending four months in Argentina isn’t a performance.
I don’t have to count sheep at night wondering how many stars I’ll count in the paper the next morning. The pictures I’ll post and the stories I’ll tell will not be validated by notifications that my friends pushed buttons of approval on the internet. I’m not here to spark untamable fires of jealousy in my stateside friends or tell people that I had a super awesome time and I super awesomed the super awesome out of Spanish. I’m here to grow, taste, see and learn how to live in the present, all of which are deeply personal and will certainly not be attained by seeing heart-eyes emojis underneath my Instagram pictures.
I must follow a rough script, yes, but the script only accounts for a few hours a week. My responsibilities include staying alive, completing a part-time internship and going to class for seven hoursish. The rest of my time is precisely that: my time. I can travel, pick up yoga, read Argentine newspapers, eavesdrop on conversations at local cafés, nap, take the time to prepare a decent meal, do the dishes, etc. etc. etc. I can’t remember a season of life when my free time’s etcetera’s had etcetera’s, and I need to take advantage of the fact that the Land of Free Time is also the Land of the Unknown and Easily Explored.
I don’t want to be the only character in the spotlight. Three incredible Mizzou students are sailing down this path with me, and I have a ton to learn from them. I’m in a city of 15 million people, most of whom have the Spanish fluency level that I am desperately seeking. A ridiculous percentage of those 15 million also could use a hand in some way; many struggle with hunger, literacy, living in unclean areas. I know I can somehow make a positive contribution to this community while still remaining safe and completing my studies; it just takes a matter of surmounting my own laziness and finding a reasonable outlet to serve.
Finally, I don’t have an understudy to pick up the slack when I want a night off. Days of disappointment, lack of motivation and omg-is-it-December-6th-yet will come, and through those I must endure. I know I don’t have to fight these battles alone, and that they’re a part of this experience as much as Patagonia mountains and the tango, but I can’t fly home to take a breather while my alter ego Collette With Two L’s does Argentina.
Five days down, four months to go, three day weekend ahead, two eggs waiting to be scrambled in the fridge and one vastly unexplored city to be tackled.
Let’s get this not show on the road.