Hello and happy Saturday. I interrupt whatever you were doing to bring you massive news: yes, I’m back in Colombia. As I’m typing this, it’s been a week since I came back home, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I’m not going to justify myself here, and I’m not going to try and get your approval or your pity, but I feel that throughout these months I’ve opened up so much about my personal life beyond the makeup, the books, and the teaching, that I sort of *have* to tell you what happened.
Let me backtrack a little bit and give you some context because if you’re new to this blog, you probably are super lost right now. My name is Camila and I’m a school teacher. If all goes right, I’ll soon start my third year. I was born in the States but have lived my entire life in Colombia because that’s where my family is from. In December 2017 I got the news that I’d been selected into a program to get certified as a teacher in Baltimore City. You see, it had been a plan of mine to move to the US in the year 2018. And here I was, making it true.
I quit an awesome job in March of 2018 because although the program wouldn’t start until late June, I had to attend an event in March and then another one in late May. Besides that, I wanted to spend time with my family and best friends, and start getting ready for my big move. I was excited, and I had great expectations for what was to come. I always pictured myself as a happier person living this amazing life, abroad.
Spoiler alert: I wasn’t happy and my life wasn’t amazing.
Now, to some it might be crazy that it only took me ten days to realize that whatever was going on wasn’t really my thing. To some, I might’ve seen like a spoiled brat, or a coward. I truly don’t give a sh*t what people thought (or still think) of my decision. Here’s why: I made a decision in favor of my mental health, and that’s something I will never regret.
On June 26th I got to my Airbnb, a room with a private bathroom in a house located in a pretty odd neighborhood. I say it’s pretty odd because you had this super modern school in front of a nice park, and the cutest houses, and then you walked a block and found that the houses were in horrible conditions, that there was trash in the streets, and that the people stared at you as you walked.
My room was always cold and I could never get to fix the temperature, so instead I slept with two blankets and a sweater. I sort of got used to that; I mean, I was going to stay at that same room for six weeks until I found my own place, so I guess my body adjusted to the low temperature. And yes, that meant the headaches subsided after the second or third day.
The day after I got to Baltimore, I went to a Price Rite (?) and bought what would be the food for at least the first couple of weeks. The food situation was also dreadful. I mean, at school I had free lunches and then at home I either ate whatever my mom bought or made, and at least once a week I’d go out with my best friend. Now here I was, eating peanut butter toast for breakfast, a bagel with cream cheese for lunch, and half a glass of almond milk for dinner. For days I considered just eating at a restaurant, or buying stuff to go, but I had nothing close by. No McDonald’s, no Five Guys, no nothing.
I only had proper meals three days out of the ten I was in Baltimore: one was the lunch I had at the Cheesecake Factory by the Inner Harbor, another was the dinner and lunch my mother’s best friend (who lives in DC) provided me, and the last one was brunch, the one that led me to my decision of going home.
Many little things led me to quit and come back. One was my mom telling me that on her birthday, which she spent alone because my sister was in Europe with my dad and his family, she was walking our dogs and fell down and scratched her face. I immediately thought that nothing would’ve happened had I been there, with her. Another one was the fact that one day a friend’s husband drove me home, and as I was getting out of the car he told me “don’t go out at night.” I wasn’t planning to, but having someone from Baltimore warn me about my home for the summer was plain scary. Then there was that Saturday.
That Saturday I washed my hair because even though I hadn’t been very strict about my beauty routine, I was still only washing my hair on the weekends. I noticed a lot of hair by the drain. Like, a lot of MY hair. I’d just gotten a haircut a few weeks back and knew that my hair was healthy, but I thought “well, maybe it’s because I’m washing it after so many days.” I got out of the shower and brushed it with my Tangle Teezer, and found the brush, again filled with my hair. My. Hair. Was. Falling. Off.
I really tried to ignore that horrible fact, while also trying to justify it. I was under stress due to the program I was in. I was eating badly and not getting the amount of protein I needed. Those were pretty solid reasons, and they were also pretty scary ones. They all led to this even scarier conclusion: I was pretty close to getting ill.
Just like the previous weekend, I went Downtown. I had to send my university transcripts over to an evaluation agency. After that, I went to this cafe called David & Dad’s for brunch. It was around noon and I was eating for the first time that day. It’s not that I hadn’t been hungry, but eating at home was sort of stressing me out. It was not something I enjoyed doing, if I’m being honest, especially not when there was bread for toast, bagels, peanut butter or cream cheese. I’d even ran out of almond milk and was basically stealing from my host, half a glass at a time.
I sat in that cafe and got a huge waffle that tasted like eggs, with salty butter and a jar of Aunt Jemima’s (seriously? That’s what I paid $4?), accompanied by a gross glass mug of hot chocolate. I felt dumb for asking for a hot chocolate and knew I’d regret it as soon as I stepped out onto the street. I also felt overwhelmingly alone. I made a list of my certainties at the moment and realized I only had one: that thing my father had told me about the possibility of coming back.
He’d said it because he sort of had to, but I don’t think he actually thought I’d do it. Hell, I always thought I would go to the States and have this wonderful life and only come back to Colombia for the holidays. But the truth was I missed that home in Colombia more than ever. I missed seeing my parents and grandparents, I missed hanging out with my friends and snuggling with my dogs. I missed speaking my language and I missed the job I’d left behind (which I’m not getting back). I had nothing but a lot of prospects, a lot of hypotheses and what if’s: I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have a permanent home, and I didn’t have any real friends with whom to hang out during the weekends.
So I texted my mom, half of my disgusting hot chocolate still in that gross glass mug. I texted her “I think I’m going back home in a few weeks.” Then it dawned of me. No, my hair was falling off, and I was very close to being ill, to being depressed. I wasn’t coming home in a few weeks. So I gulped the disgusting thing and added. “Maybe I’m coming home sooner.”
Just remembering that moment makes me want to cry, but if you ask me for the reason, I can’t explain it. Maybe I’m still sad about everything I went through, about everything that went through my mind. Maybe I’m relieved about the way things unfolded afterwards. I just know that for ten days I was in emotional hell and I don’t wish that upon anyone.
I’m a crier, but I’m a private crier. I cry watching TV or movies, and sometimes I cry while my best friends or my family are around. But I don’t cry in the middle of the street, and I don’t cry on a bus, at least I didn’t before that Saturday. I paid for my breakfast and then walked to the bus stop, and I was crying. I was wearing sunglasses but I knew some tears slipped. I knew some people noticed but pretended not to. Welcome to America. Welcome to Charm City. Yeah, right.
“I’m going home tomorrow,” I texted my mom. She told me she was out running errands and could she call me later. I told her sure because what else was left to do or say? I got to the house, my room colder than ever, and I just full on cried. I went into the Delta app and found seats for the following day, and I thought “tomorrow this time I’ll be on my way home.”
I talked to my mom, and cried throughout our entire talk. I talked to my dad, and my sister. I talked to my best friend. I made an announcement on Facebook because I wasn’t going to tell the same story to 200 people every time someone asked me what was going on. This is the message I posted:
Ugh, this is awkward and I really don’t *have* to do it but I just don’t want to answer a ton of separate questions and give a whole lot of explanations. Here goes nothing.
I’d been talking about leaving to the States for years, and I had planned this trip for months. I even quit an awesome job and spent a whole lot of money on it. This was my dream.
Now ten days after living “the dream,” I decided to go back home. By that I mean I already bought the ticket and will be in Bogota by tomorrow. Why? Because for ten days I’ve cried every time I’m by myself and I’m very close to being depressed and I’m scared. For ten days I’ve had more anxiety than I’d had in my lifetime and I’m just not about sticking around to see if I’ll pull through.
I’d rather be a happy quitter than a messed up winner, and I’d rather go back to the comfort of my home with the people I love the most than try to be an adventurer all by myself.
I always thought living in the States was for me, but after that taste I got, I know at least for now, that’s not true.
I made arrangements, packed my bags, and fell asleep. The following day, I woke up at 6 a.m, watched a whole lot of Younger (yes, there’s a post coming), and then got an Uber and left for the airport. I regret nothing.
In the comments below, tell me about a decision you made that you think changed your life for the better.
Love, Miss Camila