by Trevor Hall
Bleach is for clothes. Not for hair.
At least this is what I thought until today. As I rest my body against this hard bus seat, I reek of bleach. My hands are stained in the best way they have ever been before. Thirty minutes ago, I dyed my hair for the first time. Exhilaration runs through my body because I have checked another box off my bucket list. I am not even sure if I am on the right bus right now, but I don’t care. 10:08 reads across my red Lacoste watch. It’s peaceful, and as I look outside the window the dense shadows blend in with the darkness. Usually, I’m super stressed out on the bus, always checking my surroundings and GPS to ensure I am not on track for getting lost. Tonight, though, is a different night. On this evening in southern Brazil, I have forgotten all the negative possibilities. I have embraced my bleached hands and open my memory to backflips a week ago.
The water around me is covered in divots from the rain. The heavy clouds and the lagoinha (a small lake) that surrounds me are postcard-perfect. The paddleboard below me nudges me forward. As my mind wanders off into nothingness, I think about how I don’t know how to execute a backflip. But I figure it is a phenomenal time to learn—in the rain while paddleboarding. I am already soaked like a soggy sponge from the rain. And even if I don’t land it, the lake water would brace my landing. Hopefully…
Eventually, I conjure up the courage to push off.
The skyline-silver water fills in around me and I float around for a few minutes. After enjoying the peaceful water, I swim back to my board for another five flips.
Spontaneity like this has been underrated for the short time I’ve been in a foreign country. Honestly, I have been too self-conscious during my first month here. I care too much about how much I mess up words in Portuguese; how I don’t say the right phrase even after preparing a solid minute to express it. I worry too much about how “perfect” my next VSCO picture has to be. The exposure. The filter. The content. My audience. I am too meticulous about it all. I worry so much that I notice myself slipping back into old habits. I’m relying on instant results when the results are not instant. It’s a long hike, a long bus ride (figuratively and literally) that I have in front of me. Stressing is unnecessary. There’s no use for worrying about how I don’t have the best connection with my host family. Or how I did not talk to that one coworker at work. Or how I missed out on that one opportunity with friends. Or even how I lost over four pairs of contacts in over a month. There’s no perfect family. No perfect friendship. No perfect experience. And there’s no perfect photo that can accurately capture the captivation and adventure of the best moments I have.
The seats and windows rattle with every bump on the pavement, jostling all the passengers around me back and forth. As my reflection comes to a close, so has the day of most working Brazilians. My mind is my new camera, a lens where I am open to experience all kinds of sporadic decisions. And through these decisions, I have discovered there is so much to learn about Brazil. My bleached hands and backflips stand for a bigger lesson: to learn about new things and try new things. From this spontaneity, I have learned that I do not need to base my opinions off of other’s conclusions. Personal growth manifests from within yourself, not anyone else. And as long as I am growing by learning, I no longer need to fret about the small things because those things are not going to break my experience. Wherever this road leads is unknown, but it’s invigorating not knowing what’s going to happen next and enjoying the ride.