It would be an understatement to say that last year’s trip to Panama changed my life. I struggled with overcoming the language barrier when three years of Spanish classes proved to be of no help to me here. I felt discouraged and frustrated when I lost the attention of a class while trying to teach Bachata. I laughed more in one week than I had my entire first year in college, and without a doubt, I cried every single day. Anyone who has been a part of the exchange in Panama knows all about the flow of emotions and the profound affect it has on your life every single day after. So, when I decided to return for a second year, I worried about how the two trips would compare. I was scared that I wouldn’t have the same moving experience, or that all the progress I made with the Malambo girls would be forgotten.
I worried and worried, and it kept me up at night.
And then I got on the plane and I realized I needed to make a decision.
If I could give one piece of advice to all dance diplomats, newcomers and returners alike, it would be this: let go of your expectations. I promise it will bring you so much freedom. When you let go of the hope that every day will bring you a life-changing experience, you start to notice how profound simple day-to-day experiences can be. Let yourself truly live in the moment, and with that let yourself feel every emotion fully. Understand the frustration of not being able to fluently communicate in Spanish, but don’t let it apprehend you from practicing the language every chance you get. Acknowledge the fact that your class did not go as planned, but don’t let that disappointment turn into defeat. We spend our entire lives chasing happiness which leaves us with a lot of less-than-happy days we just rush through in hopes of a “better” tomorrow. However, if you truly stop to listen, and observe the experiences and accompanying emotions of each day, I promise that happiness will find you. I have only been back for two days but I already feel as if I have been here for ten because this time, I enjoy each moment for what it teaches me. To those who are reading this, I challenge you to wake up tomorrow and experience the day without any expectations for what is to come. I guarantee that you will end the day with a smile on your face.