16 May 2011

Adaptability's True Test

Chile still has more to teach me, it seems. My experience here is a bottomless pit of (often infuriating) life lessons and (more or less inevitable) changes of attitude. The lessons feel less like a gently leading me to a new world view like one leads a horse to water and more like Chile is slapping me across the face with them or hiding them in places I don't expect, so that they startle me when I pull back the covers to get in bed or jump out at me when I turn a corner in the streets. 

In my interview for this position, I went on and on about how flexible I am and how adaptable I can be. I was sitting in the October sunlight in the hallway of the new Center for Community on Campus, on my one-hour lunch break from advising university students longing to go abroad. I felt compelled to prove how adaptable I can be. 

"Put me anywhere there is a position," I remember myself saying. "I can adapt to anything." 

It's been a ride so far. And I have proved to myself that the statement I made in my interview was true. Especially since lately I have felt a bit like my living situation had transformed into a telenovela. 

The lesson that Chile appears to be slapping me with this week: too much attachment is just not worth it. Attachment to things, people, ideologies, customs, personal space...lo che sea. If it is more like grasping and clinging, it will only bring pain. Everything changes, and we cannot change that.

What a second. Did Chile just teach me to become a Buddha? Holy shit, huevón. 

I have been clinging too much to my things. To my customs. To my language. To the extremely high expectations I have for myself and my students. To my friends and acquaintances. And all that I have accomplished by worrying and stressing is to make myself feel like crap, no más.

If I let go of my desire to control and allow things to be how they are, without stressing, what will I lose? Maybe my frustration, exhaustion, and nervous stomach. I can't change everything. Maybe, just maybe, I can't change ANYthing. I hope that the reality is somehwere in the middle, but it remains to be seen. And given how much my students appear to like chucking gigantic spitwads at my butt and how little English they appear to be learning...we might be leaning toward no change in the world from my time here. Awesome.

So, this week I am practicing detachment. Not disinterest. Not disillusionment. Not giving up. Calm detachment that gives me a bit of space to breathe. 

And who knows? Maybe the point is not to try to change the world, or even to try to change my students. Maybe the point is to let it all change me. And if I am changing, the goal is already reached. The game is already won. 


  1. one of my favorite philosophies is from the Greek, "Everything in moderation," with the emphasis on *everything* . You CAN change some things, and should take great pleasure in those. How does the pray go: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." Great advice...

  2. Find your path and don't lose heart!