Nothing takes you out of your comfort zone like living abroad – far away from your main support system – and traveling can. Over the past few weeks, there have been several days where I’ve questioned my time here, what my goals are, why I’ve felt like I’ve been extremely inefficient, and what the point of living in Madrid is if I don’t travel at least once a month. Though my trip to Salamanca was a good 2-day breather from Madrid, by this time last year, I had visited several new cities (and countries), with a much anticipated trip home in store for the Christmas break. This year, it’s been the opposite – while I haven’t done as much traveling within Europe this time around, I’ve managed to secure one exciting and adventurous trip for my 2-week break soon. Rather than spending my time in Canada, the US, or Spain, I’ll be hauling myself to Germany (more details later) for 2 weeks. From the Christmas markets, castles, and sights to seeing familiar (literally) faces and meeting my parents’ cousins and extended family, this is a trip I know I won’t forget. The excitement’s compounded, and I find myself feeling normal again – adventurous, ready for new challenges, and here for a reason: to travel, meet as many people as possible, and not let the insignificant things get in the way.
The timing of all of this has been, in some part, intertwined with the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. Mandela was released from prison around the time I was born, with his legacy already on its way to being what it is today. He was a man of character, strength, intelligence, and most of all: humanity. I’ve lived with some of his most famous words embedded in my mind, and have never considered any other political figure to influence me the way he has. The desire for justice has always been a huge part of me, sometimes (annoyingly) so – I’ve never been known to back down from an argument or my need for the truth, with my favourite teacher dubbing me the “lawyer” in high school. While I haven’t gone down the law route (yet?), I still find that personality trait in me, and continue to attribute that in part to Mandela’s life pursuits. There have only been a handful of “famous” people I’ve had any need to meet, with him being at the top of my list. To hear of his passing hasn’t just saddened me, it’s broken my heart. It’s also made me realize that while he was fighting for his life, I was wasting some of mine on trivial issues, forgetting the things that mattered most to me. While it’s never my intention to stray off the path of what’s important to me, we all come at a point where all we need is a (figurative) slap in the face. Mandela’s life and death had nothing to do with me, and yet everything he’s done has shaped me. I don’t believe in idols, but I do believe in heroes. To say “it’s always impossible until it’s done” is to live a life of high caliber, constant challenges, and justice. So, while I still mourn his death, I also remember to live as he did – in a way that is only worthy of greatness, to which I still strive towards.
You may not have known me, Madiba, but I’ll never forget you. Rest in peace.