Life is not always easy. It’s messy. It is a balance of ups and downs and everything in between.
Sure, it seems obvious, but I sometimes think it’s worth stating the obvious.
Throughout this journey, this journey of living abroad and this journey of living life, I think it’s just as important — maybe more important — to share the pieces that are tougher than tough. Because while I’ve had my fair share of exciting and inspiring adventures since moving to Argentina and traveling in South America, the moments I’ve shared on social media are not my everyday life. They’re pieces of my life; they’re a fraction of my life. They’re moments I chose to share, and they’re part of a much greater story.
I choose to share moments and thoughts with those around me — whether that’s in live conversations, in emails, on social media or somewhere else entirely. We all do. They’re often my better moments.
But don’t be fooled. Those moments are not my entire life. They’re a piece of it. I don’t spend every day adventuring around South America. I rarely spend my weekends adventuring around Buenos Aires. In fact, between Spanish classes and work, most weeks I’m wrapped in a busier — and probably more exhausting — routine than I was in California. There are days when I really miss my California routine. There are days when I miss the ease and familiarity of life in the United States. And my cat. There are days when I really miss my cat.
Sure, I’ve had my share of moments that have dug deep and swept me off my feet in the best ways. I’ve shared a few of them. But there’s so much more to this adventure, to this life than a few photos and captions on social media, and I’ve definitely also had my share of moments that have broken me. Moments that are still breaking me. The moments and stories I’ve shared thus far are real and honest, but there’s so much more to all of this than just those moments and stories.
Life is a series of ups and downs, and while we don’t share all of them, I definitely think we’re all inclined to share more of the ups. But the downs are just as real — sometimes crushingly real — and I think it can be just as important to acknowledge them. So that’s what this is. An acknowledgement that life is tough. It knocks you down in unexpected ways and can actually keep you pinned for quite a while.
But in those moments, we have a choice. We can choose to stay down, or we can choose to work and fight our way out. I realize that’s much easier said than done. That fight isn’t easy — I know that fight isn’t easy — and I’ve found that fight is sometimes a test of patiently persevering. But getting to the other side is what keeps us moving forward. The hope of that breakthrough moment, or series of moments, when life starts to feel “normal” again, whatever that means, however that looks. Knowing that the pain is temporary — so long as we choose to work toward something more. Sometimes slower and less enthusiastically than we’d like. But as cheesy and cliche as it is, it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other.
I recently read these words from Hannah Brencher, and I feel as though they are oh-so fitting for so many things in life, especially the pain and the conflict and the struggle we so often want to hit “fast forward” on: “I am right in the middle of this thing. I am trying to cut myself out of it with simple routes but I am realizing I just have to walk through the damn thing. I have to dig and dig until I reach the end of myself and trust I am going to like who I end up being when this is done.”
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a fraction of the answers. Life is messy. It is far — far — from perfect. But it is ours. The ups, the downs and everything in between. Our lives are uniquely ours.
So this is a reminder for me, and perhaps you, that there are ups and downs. They’re real. We know this, but this truth can also be so easily forgotten, especially in our interactions with others, especially on social media. It’s not lost on me that there’s something to be learned from all of it — the ups and the downs — and that those lessons don’t always reveal themselves in the moment. But in order to get to those learning moments, it’s also mighty important to keep moving forward.
These days, I’m often reminded of my college swim coach’s motto “sempre avanti,” Latin for “always forward.” Through thick and thin, I think those are some pretty key words to live by. Keep moving forward.