Living abroad is really cool, but sometimes I think that it seems effortless. Living abroad is the hardest, but best thing you’ll ever do. It starts off being super cool. There’s so many sights to see and everything is so new. But then you realize that you’re not in Kansas anymore. You end up getting on the wrong bus. Twice. You spend an hour and a half on said bus, too scared to get off in the middle of nowhere. You end up getting food poisoning and spending three days in bed with your roommate contemplating if you have a tumor, a tapeworm, or if you’re generally dying. You step into pot holes and almost break your ankle (so maybe that isn’t Costa Rica’s fault. Mom always said she should have named me Grace). You stay in a hostel that’s $11 a night at the beach and get eaten alive by mosquitos when the Zika virus is going around in Central America. You see your friends that are still in college living it up during the last semester of their senior year and the FOMO is SO BAD. It means choosing a 3 mile walk home to save on bus fare because you’ve blown your budget to pieces. Butttttt with all of the rough and difficult moments, there are beautiful moments. You wake up at the beach and see both sunrise and sunset that day. You make two amazing friends that will group-hug-it-out in the street with you because you need emotional support. You dance the night away with your friends. One day you realize that you finally understand what everyone is saying in Spanish. One day you embrace the change, soak in the sun, and experience the Pura Vida.
She passed away at 2:42 pm on January 25, 2016. On this day, I witnessed death for the first time. She was 84 years old. It almost seems unreal that you can see the life leave another’s eyes. In one moment they are in this world and in the next they are glassy stares into another place. It also hits me; I was the last person she spoke to. I was the last human face she looked into before taking her last breath. I carry the burden and the honor to have been with her in her last days of life. I was there for her in ever struggle until the end. I was there for the daily routine of feeding, changing, diapers, and medicine. And I was there at the end, working for thirty minutes to keep her heart beating. I was there as the other nurses rushed in and insisted they could let me rest. But I was stubborn and insisted that I would keep going. I would keep her heart beating. I was with her as her last three heart beats turned into a flat lined beep. This was my first goodbye. Shocking, I know. I’ve somehow managed to scathe through 21 years of life without personally feeling the sting of death (and for that I am incredibly lucky). I am honored to have been by her side. I am honored to have been her caretaker, even in the end. And I am thankful for the lessons that I have learned. This is proof that anytime can be your time. Cherish life. Do something nice for a random stranger, call your parents and tell them you love them, read a book, travel often, eat well, love yourself, love others, and live your life, because it could be your last day to live it.
We’re given roughly 70 years to walk this earth. Some are blessed with more and others are not so lucky. So with this information, I challenge you. I challenge you to live in the sweet spot of life. You may ask, what exactly does this mean? The sweet spot is the place where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort. In baseball, it results in a pitch sent straight for the outfield fences. In life, it results in a life worth living. So I challenge you. Buy a plane ticket that has a one way stamp. Go out with your friends on a Tuesday and dance the night away even when you have work the next day. Call your parents and tell them how much you love them. Visit other cultures and immerse yourself in their beauty. Ask that person you’ve been crushing on to go on a date. Wake up one morning and drive to the beach on a whim. You have 70 years. But in those years you have the sweet spot of time. It is the time where you are old enough to make your own decisions and be responsible, but you are young enough to hike the mountain and laugh and scream as you stand through the sunroof of your best friends car going down the road. Life is full of beautiful, wonderful, spontaneous moments. Don’t forget to live in those moments. Put down your phone. Focus on the people and places in front of you. Stop worrying about your 9-5. Stop worrying about “meeting the one”. Stop worrying about having your perfect family and white picket fence. And for God’s sake, stop worrying about doing what everyone else thinks you should do. Be politically incorrect, have opinions, travel often, eat well, love yourself, love others, and live your life in the sweet spot.
This photo is curtesy of a beach trip on a whim, staying in a hostel that was also a tree house, waking up and doing yoga with a new British friend I met at the hotel, and almost missing my bus with a new Australian friend because snacks were more important.
Phoning home to the land of sweet tea, English speakers, and deep-fried, cheese covered food. I’ve now spent my first official week in Costa Rica and man oh man has it been one packed week. I received my placement while here and I work in a nursing home in Cartago (a small village about 30 minutes outside of San Jose. My days at the nursing home are really long but so rewarding. Warning alert for squeamish individuals. The day typically starts by making our rounds in the incapacitated wing of the nursing home. It is there that we begin the long and arduous task of cleaning, packing, and wrapping bed sores for the patients. This typically takes about 2 hours to do since quite a few residence have them. I then typically make my rounds and feed the patients with feeding tubes. At that point it is time to assist with the feeding of semi-incapacitated residence. Little by little, I spoon feed the residence their lunch while I watch their eyes stare out to a time gone long ago. Following lunch is medicine time. We crush the patients pills and mix them with a little bit of coffee and once again spoon feed the patients. From there we change diapers, change cloths, bathe, and check patients for injuries. On Friday I was even given the opportunity to (successfully I might add) start an IV for one of our residence. You really begin to have a new perspective on life when you spend your day helping others live theirs. These people, who are well into their 80s and 90s, cannot function at even the most basic of levels. Watching this reminds me of how blessed I am to have my health and ability to be self-suffiient. My Spanish is also improving everyday. I’m moving closer to being fluent everyday which is great. My Tico Papa laughs at me every time I struggle to find the correct Spanish word or phrase and reminds me that it comes “poco a poco” or “little by little”. And I think that’s true of my new adventure here in Costa Rica. I’m learning everything little by little. I’ve also finally learned the bus system here, which is arguably my greatest feat. And once I completed a long, stressful, meaningful week at the nursing home, I was able to sneak away to Jacó beach where I was able to take in the sun and embrace the Pura Vida.
“I don’t know. I like to travel. Can I make that my job?” I remember asking my advisor (The lovely Dr. Guynes) only three short months ago. I had been called in for the dreaded senior “What are you going to do post-grad” meeting. In that meeting life really smacked me in the face. Let me just tell you, the realization that you have to be a real adult in three months is NOT COOL. Student debt? Adult “career”? REAL PANTS EVERY DAY? Insert personal crisis
So after a glass of wine, a mild panic attack, and deep breathing, I was finally able to calm down enough to sit down and consult Google. I really wish that I could say I’ve always known what I wanted to do, but unfortunately my life was shotgun planned in one night with a Google search. That night I researched internships abroad and jobs abroad. I first landed on the Peace Corps. The light bulb went off. Yeah. Peace Corps. I can totally do this. The application for a June departure was due in a short two days. In true “Megan Planning” form, I spent the afternoon applying to the Peace Corps. So after the Peace Corps application was done, I thought to myself, “Okay now time to find an internship.” So once again I consulted the expertise of Google and found an organization called Maximo Nivel. They have medical internships in Costa Rica, as well as other Central American countries. So that day I made another snap life decision.
So here I am, sitting at gate A20 waiting to board my flight in an hour or so. Tomorrow I begin my internship in San Jose, Costa Rica. I’m flying in blind but it should surely be in adventure.
Here, I’ll post about my travels and general life. (I’ll do my absolute best) (Now that I some how have the next three years of my life planned out and what not.) Special shout out to my family and their abounding amounts of understanding, my best friends that have supported my decisions, Lynchburg College for my bomb education and support, and everyone else for their well wishes and prayers! I’ll be using the hashtag #FollowTheRedChair on social media so you can keep up with photos, posts, and life updates! THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR MAKING TRAVELING MY JOB.