By Luke Petrosky
Before I embarked on this gap year journey, I received advice from others telling me to come into this experience without expectations.
This advice was not meant to prevent me from establishing goals for myself or looking forward to aspects of the new culture; rather, it was a mindset intended to inspire me to go with the flow and live in the present. Nevertheless, I had my own preconceived notions about what these nine months would entail. I envisioned bonding immediately with my host family, navigating the city with ease, and finding a rhythm in a matter of days.
Then, I arrived, and I quickly realized how idealistic these initial expectations were. Coming from a small town in western Massachusetts and suddenly finding myself in a bustling city was overwhelming. Here I was, plunged into this foreign space in a new home with people I had just met speaking a language I was still learning.
I remember sitting down on my bed those first days, feeling quite alone. I remember riding the bus for the first time, panicking that I would wind up completely lost. I remember saying “no puedo entender” in seemingly every single conversation I had. In this transitory period I felt lost.
Time went on and slowly, reassuringly I began to find a rhythm. By coming in with all of these grand expectations, I realized that I was neglecting to appreciate all of those small moments that defined and shaped each day. By looking toward my end-goal, I was ignoring all of those little memories, each saturated with emotion and meaning, that were the stepping stones along the way.
I have come to appreciate the little things in everyday. It is eating Pipas in the park with my host siblings, the sharp lemon flavor biting my tongue as I am taught the proper method for spitting out the shells. It is having spontaneous singing sessions—“Recuérdame” on repeat—with me chiming in every few words. It is boarding the bus, everyone squished together in one big jumble and witnessing the incomparable energy that emanates from the people, each with their own unique story. It is the unconditional love of my host mom, the light that dapples the curtain in the morning, the saludos that I share with my host siblings. All of these beautiful little intricacies are moments to be treasured.
As I continue on with this journey, I will undoubtedly face many more challenges. But by embracing the little things, those beautiful triumphs found in each day, I know that I will live purposefully and presently.