Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fly Brother to Brazil -or- Cure for the Twitching Eye

Photo by conras
Warning: This post kind of rambles, it go anyway. Maybe you folks'll glean some meaning from it.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about uncertainty and life choices. Monday, I chose to let my school know that I'm not coming back, and that I'm leaving academia, at least temporarily, to concentrate on writing and photography. As poet Robert Bruce said on Chris Guillebeau's phenomenally inspiring The Art of Non-Conformity blog, “If you have a fall back plan, you will, inevitably, fall back onto it.”

Financial Security v. Personal Fulfillment
Part of the problem with deciding whether or not to renew my contract was the idea that I had to choose between financial security and personal fulfillment. My current job pays very well, and I've just paid off about 80% of my old credit card debts from the States. My plan was originally to remain here in Colombia for another academic year, stacking the bills while taking some exotic trips before finally heading down to São Paulo to write. The serious flaw in that plan: the sheer exhaustion caused by wrangling a hundred upper-class adolescents into submission for eight hours every day. I'd leave work with headaches, a twitching eyeball, general malaise, or in a bad mood, having restless nights and sometimes even nightmares. I'd barely have enough energy to bang out a blog post, let alone hit the gym, revise a novel, study my Spanish subjunctive, watch a movie in its entirety, or, Heaven forbid, get laid. In addition, the bedroom community that is Barranquilla doesn't offer much in the way of cultural amenities and is often a harsh reminder of what life would be like in the American South had there never been a Civil Rights Movement. This week, I chose personal fulfillment.

"You seem so happy, sir."
The first thing my senior English class said to me after I submitted my notice to the school's administration was, "You seem so happy, sir." I didn't tell them what I had done - they'll find out soon enough - but being on the cusp of adulthood and an overall good group of kids (my favorite), they've known for a while that I've been generally unhappy this year. Bless their hearts, they even tried to hook me up as a model in the big annual fashion show ("You're hot, sir," they say) just to make me feel better. Fact is, I've been trying to put on a game face and do a job in which I'm not emotionally or intellectually invested; high school teaching is just not for me. My friends have all told me they think I've made the right decision. They said I seem happy as well.

Foregoing or Postponing
To think that moving to Brazil now means giving up on travel plans and financial security makes for a false choice. Over the summer, I was scheduled to do my first round-the-world trip for about $3500, making stops in Montreal, New York, DC, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Istanbul, London, Madrid, and Algiers. In December, I would go to Mumbai for two weeks, hitting Mexico City and Tokyo on the way over, and Paris on the way back. February would mean Carnival in Trinidad ($357 round-trip from Barranquilla). Summer 2010 would be a third circumnavigation, culminating in the move to Sampa. Yes, on my current salary, it is possible to travel like this and still save $700-$1000 a month, and what others may consider frivolous travel, I consider contributing to my own education and personal development, as well as that of the people I encounter. But if the days between these mega-exploits are exasperating and intolerable to the point of needing an entire week of rest and solitude (like the week that just ended) just to recover a basic sense of motivation and momentum, isn't the cost greater than the benefit? Wouldn't I be spending unnecessary amounts of money in an attempt to "get away" from the tedium of the job and the vapidity of the place? But who says I can't do that same type of traveling from Brazil? Who says I can't find a way to make enough money there to do the things that I want to do? Who says I can't do whatever I want to do?

Mama, I Wanna Write!

What I want to do now, more than ever, is write. I want to finish the re-write of my first novel and prep it for publication. I want to begin a new novel set in Brazil. I want to broaden my travel writing portfolio. I want to try my hand at literary translation. I want to get paid for all that. And there's no better time to go all-in, establishing myself in a new home and launching a new stage in my career; I'm single, childless, relatively good-looking, with above-average intelligence, and decent writing skills. It's time to capitalize on those qualities before I no longer have them, or before a cadre of Fly Babies hits the scene.

So, write I shall. And take photos. And I'll set up housekeeping in São Paulo, which will be Fly Brother's new hub for both round-the-world treks to SydneySingaporeCapeTownDakar, and weekend road trips over to Rio. And I'll find new and improved ways than babysitting children to get paid. And I'll do other great things that I can't even fathom yet. Because it's written. Because my mama said so.

Now to prepare my annual review, a few months early (or here for more on gettin' your life right), minimize my expenses, wrap up these last two months of school, then I'm off into the unknown: anxious, excited, committed, open, free.

Fly Brother
welcomes your views. If this post hit the spot, please comment below and/or click


Anonymous said...

Amen and amen.
Don't you just love clarity?
I'm very excited for you, you're an inspiration and there is no doubt in my that indeed you can do whatever you want to do.


Felicia, This Time Now

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you!

If you are in Brasil in March, we will see you for spring break.

muchos besos


Brandie said...

Wow!!! I don't even know you and I'm proud of you!

You have an exciting future lined up. I can't wait to continue reading about it!

Nikita said...

Speak on it, brother! Speak on it.

Hit me up when you make it to Hong Kong.
And I will do the same when I get to Brazil, because I will- soon.

Stacy said...

SOO glad to hear this!! Kudos to you for making the tough decision to forgo the money to follow your dream! Can't wait to read about your next adventure in Brazil :o)

iKensington said...'re a real inspiration. Goal setting, as this annual review encourages, does work! It feels so good to check off things that one has been able to fulfill/complete/attain.

As for your future, buena suerte hermano! I do believe that if your heart and soul is speaking to you, then all of the Universe will conspire in your favor, just like it goes in The Alchemist. You ever get that feeling in grade school that even though you were not nearly the most athletic or physically coordinated, that your team would always wiin? Or that your research project was sure to blow the class away?

Yep, I think that you're onto something with your decision to follow the path that you that you will be able to follow even when the pavement ends and the gravel starts.

Fly Brother said...

Wow...I appreciate the comments and positive energy; they provide needed confirmation that I'm indeed making the right decision. Right now, it's all just one foot in front of the other.

Again, I'm sincerely grateful for the support, motivation, inspiration.

-Fly Bro

Ali la Loca said...

Hey Fly Brother!

I found you via Brandie at Out and About in Africa.

I'm on a similar wavelength at the moment, getting ready to walk away from my job as a self-employed economic development consultant in Mozambique (i.e. making great money, good lifestlye, but my heart's totally not in it and I'm about to be drowned by cynicism about the "development" field) and take a stab at a career as a jewelry designer!

BTW, I lived in Paraná when I was a teenager, then went to business school in Rio, bought a house there (despite not living in the city at the time - totally was following a dream!), and now am married to a carioca.

I look forward to coming back here more often to follow your writing adventures in São Paulo.

Boa sorte. :)

Ali la Loca said...

Hey, just saw your comment over at my blog.

Moz is fabulous, despite my current cynical perspective. You should definitely check out Maputo if you get the chance.

If you are interested, email me your CV (rosa_brazil at If you in any way have business analysis, agribusiness/agriculture or general development consulting experience, I might be able to hook you up with a 1-2 months internship/volunteer consultancy at the place where I'm currently consulting.

Not sure what your timeline is like, but it might be worth a shot.


Idara said...

Very inspiring- continued best wishes as you live your truth!

Cynthia said...

FlyBro -

I can't believe I have stumbled onto your blog but I'm glad that I did. I am on the same path as you but not as fearless (I have brief glimpses, though). It's like I'm standing on the precipice of something and I can feel it but I won't allow myself to fall over the cliff.

It's always, "not enough time, I own a house, I have bills, etc.", so I feel I can't get up and leave but I guess you are proving me wrong, eh?

You are very inspiring. I'll have to read over your blog in more depth and perhaps get my head out of the stand and learn to "do the damn thing".

Good luck to you and your endeavors. :)