Engineering your Environment-Gearing the world to you
BORN IN THE WRONG COUNTRY? : Societal dictations of acceptance (Ever think that, read this then)
Besides the fact that everyone at some point in their life, preferably earlier, should visit and/or live in another country I have constantly contemplated this question. Was I born in the wrong country? Is there something wrong with me because I am not like everyone else? For what felt like an eternity I thought yes to both of these, until Bob Marley showed me the light.
You know it is insanely hot out when one of the locals says, “Boi, you crazy white boi.” We were a few miles outside of the touristic city of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. If you are looking how to really have unique experiences read, How to bring nothing to a knife fight, and win. So after running around the local soccer pitch in scorching 115 degree heat, what else do you do? We drank beers. Probably not the smartest decision because the hospital used the game Operation as there guidelines, please don’t buzz, please don’t buzz. As we sat and bantered with the locals about their perceived lifestyle of laziness something dawned on me. That I need new home furnishings, well not really but thanks Bradley. As two girls walked by, one local hollered out to her commenting on the fine work she did on that sexy body. The first girl turned around and what happened next caught me by surprise, and it was not anything she said. The local shouted, “Not you girl, keep eating, I like the Ms.mama next to you”. Wham, that hit me in the face more than Julia Roberts’ love of herself. I was constantly berated with a society that demanded you to be skinny, perfect, a machine. Not only was this not what they wanted, it was not seen as attractive. It baffled me at first, but soon tickled my curiosity about that question, Could we actually be born in the wrong country? So I inspected even further.
I was travelling with friends and since the men play sports, the women were out shopping. I had an easy way to test this hypothesis, and make more friends along the way. So we took our new local friends back to where the women were. Before they meet I will have to pretext this situation. One of my friends, we will call her “A” is of the plus size, which includes her heart and her generosity. She comes from a house of god. With parents, brothers, them all working as the disciples of god. It is safe to say her outlook on life would cause any devout catholic to pray for her soul. This causes a lot of isolation and questioning of whether she should transform to fit her surroundings. One of my other friends, we will call her “M”, is more along the petite “normal and ideal” American body type. Nothing more you need to know about her. So as I introduce the group exactly what I was hoping happened. Immediately all the locals flocked to my friend A. The afternoon was drawn around her raising glasses in cheers, and singing her heart out like a stadium of fans cheered her along. What she was once revered for now became the reason for her acceptance. Observing her in such ecstasy in just being herself struck a chord in me. It also resonated in her as she ended up engaged to a local, and from there on out I never saw a photo of her without a beaming smile. Instead of hampering the real A and conforming to her environment, she found the environment that accepted her for exactly what she wanted to be. Her pure happiness was enough evidence for her family to accept her lifestyle and the power it took to find that place of true happiness.
Taking this new found theory I tried to apply to my own life and see what kind of results I could find. I am a moderately attractive, tall and lanky guy. The perception I carried of me was somewhat wimpy, somewhat scrawny. The environment around me seemed to drive in this idea of the perfect physique, how size dictates everything. Now I am a huge advocate of physical fitness and an active lifestyle. But not to the degree that I took it to. It enveloped my life, from missing social experiences to workout, to turning eating into a full time job. And even if the weight was adding on, the time consuming efforts necessary for it were destroying my psyche. What is the purpose of sacrificing our lives to transformation, when that transformation sacrifices living? I was coming to a breaking point with this, and I knew I needed some sort of separation. A roommate at the time was going on vacation to visit family and asked me if I wanted to go to Colombia. When someone says they are going to visit family I think Florida retirement communities. Colombia, you say? I was in. I saw this opportunity as a great reprieve from the perception that was infecting me. I knew this was going to be another great experience, but life altering was not what I thought was on the agenda.
I was soon to learn his family was in Medellin, Colombia. What was the cocaine capital, Pablo Escobar, “Real Sin City”, area of Colombia. Talk about having pre-conceived notions about something before you see it, I was soon to learn not to judge. A beautiful country with extremely beautiful people, where you can learn why everyone is beautiful in; when the populous is wrong, the popular is wrong. Every person should head there in August for the annual, Feria de Flores (Festival of Flowers). Talk about pride in your work and heritage. There were no mechanic floats with blown up icons of pseudo-celebrities. There were only people, people carrying massive displays of beautifully arranged flowers on their backs. I saw grandmothers truly emasculate me as they hauled these wreaths for miles with appreciation and gratitude. This was eye opening, but what truly rearranged my priorities in life happened, while simply walking through a mall.
As I walked down the mall floors I was accompanying my friends’ aunt, who was beautiful of course. As we came up the stairs I turned the bend to find a double barreled shotgun aimed dead between my eyes. I froze, locked up in tension and lost every thought. Its direction soon turned from me, to only bring the rest of life back into focus. An armed guard was carrying a deposit bag of money. He was only doing his job. What he said next had almost as much power over me as the shotgun did. He said, Está su guardaespaldas? And in my best effort to not sound like an ignorant American I said, Que? After her laughter subsided my friends aunt told me that he asked me if I was her bodyguard. Her bodyguard? I had never seen any shotgun wielding comedians before, but what did I know about life. But she said he was serious, he thought that I was hired to be her bodyguard. I was abnormally tall for their fair city and that was seen as someone of great stature, someone of great power. I could not comprehend this conversation. It debunked a perception that I vested every waking moment trying to fulfill. I was seen as being powerful? Changing nothing about my aesthetic appearance, but changing the world around me gave me piece of mind. It gave me my sanity back. The trip was highly eventful passed this moment but, I would carry this thought back home with me and know that the world does not dictate my acceptance.
Would you rather lose time trying to fit in, or start living today? The exception can always become the rule.