On Sunday, February 14, 2021, I was baptized at Kensington Church in Traverse City, Michigan. That morning, I shared the following words – my testimony – with my family, friends and members of the church.
I grew up going to First Presbyterian Church of Northville with my family. I was baptized as a baby and confirmed as a freshman in high school. In high school, I joined youth and adults from my church on two mission trips to Mexico. Those were transformative experiences for me, and looking back, I can see how they played a role in shaping who I am today and planted a seed for the life I’m living now.
Growing up, church was always something I did with my family. My faith and relationship with God didn’t come to feel like my own until I was 23 years old and living and working in Berkeley, California.
On Sunday, March 8, I took off on a five-day road trip from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, my home base, to Pucón, Chile with a family of four friends from Traverse City, Michigan, who are in their third month of a three-month sabbatical in Argentina. Now, a week later, I look back on photos and videos from our day crossing over to Chile—and also me launching a crowdfunding campaign for a short documentary I’m directing and producing—and feel as though that was a lifetime ago. It’s amazing how time altogether sped up and slowed down this week. The world is certainly different than it was a week ago.
My friends and I were all aware of Covid-19 and, more or less, how and where it was spreading, but the reality of what this strain of coronavirus is and how quickly and easily it has and can spread hadn’t hit home yet. Wednesday evening, our last night in Chile before crossing back to Argentina, that all changed.
Last year, on an early-November night, my mom and I drove down a dark and near-empty U.S. 31 from Traverse City to Frankfort. A few days prior, my grandpa had undergone surgery on his aortic valve. That evening, after a day at the hospital — the surgery was successful and my grandpa was recovering well — my mom, grandma, uncle, aunt and I went out to dinner in Traverse City.
Wanting to spend time with me before I moved south to Argentina in two days, my mom came home for the night instead of staying in Traverse City. With an uninterrupted chunk of time together and country music as our soundtrack, my mom and I talked about a number of things, including my upcoming move to South America.
“I’m really going to miss you, Em,” she said.
When I was in college, my swim coach often told me and my teammates to swim our own race. “You need to swim your race in your own lane,” he’d say. “You need to swim with blinders on.”
Back then, I didn’t understand the significance of those words beyond competitive swimming. I didn’t think of them as being applicable to life in general. But the metaphor is there — and I’m so grateful for it.
In swimming, it’s important to stick to your own race plan and pace. Looking from one lane to the next is an inefficient way to swim and an easy way to lose sight of your race and fall apart. There’s a time and place, usually toward the end of the race, for letting those around you motivate you and your race. There’s also a time and place, typically the majority of the race, for swimming with blinders on. For swimming your race in your lane. Yes, others can push you, but really, your pace and your push should come from within; they should come from you. It’s a strategic balance between swimming your own race and racing those in the lanes surrounding you.
To do that, you’ve got to be clear on your goals and how you’re going to pace your race — and train to be able to swim the race you want and need to swim — to achieve those goals.
This lesson and its relevance to life in general is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Today is a Nuquí day. A reminder that travel, and life, does not always go according to plan.
I woke up at 5:20 a.m. today to catch a 7:00 a.m. bus to Osorno, Chile. (I need to cross the border to renew my passport.) I brushed my teeth, washed my face, got dressed, packed my backpack and then walked to the neighborhood bus stop to catch the local bus to the terminal in town. It was 5:50 a.m. Mornings are slow, still and silent in Argentina, especially 12 kilometers out from Bariloche.
At the bus stop, I stood in the little shelter as rain drizzled outside. I waited 40 minutes for any bus heading into town to appear. I counted four or five buses heading in the opposite direction, but there was nothing coming my way. For 40 minutes. Nada.
At 6:30, a bus came into view. It wouldn’t take me directly to the terminal, but it was the first bus to show up in the direction I needed to go and I figured it would get me close.