I can’t remember why I was wandering around downtown late Friday night – I do so on occasion, feeling like I’m searching for something that I can’t really pinpoint. Is it food? Is it love? Is it a human connection? I like peering into peoples’ stories as I pass by – a couple on a date; a family having dinner; a group of girlfriends on their 3rd round of martinis. On my second lap around town, I got distracted from my soul searching by the overwhelming stench of dog shit, which had been smeared down the sidewalk for half a block. As I dodged the poo and fellow pedestrians, I caught myself saying “Ew” aloud. This is where I totally diverged from whatever cookie or love story I’d been fantasizing over, as I began to consider how quickly we adapt to our surroundings.
My mind flashed back to August 1, 2007 – I remember the date because it was my first day of classes in Buenos Aires and I had decided to walk home to familiarize myself with the huge metropolis. The second block from my university, I squished down into a huge pile of dog poo; my newly lubricated shoes carried me sliding into the intersection where I stopped a few inches shy of the broad side of a taxi. These little land mines were a normal aspect of Argentine life; I didn’t bother with being grossed out, but simply learned to maneuver around them. In Mexico, although droppings from every kind of animal littered the roads like fiesta confetti, we quickly realized that sidestepping poo mounds was not as crucial as learning to evade the wild dogs that dropped them. Carrying a rock and the air of a beast-tamer became a part of our daily commute.
So here I am walking down the sidewalk in this amazing city in a very privileged country and I say “ew” to dog crap. Has my identity changed from the girl who stepped off the plane and marveled at her hotel’s shiny toilet seats? When I get dressed for work, my boots remain in the corner; my fingernails stay clean (and sometimes even pink); and the sun doesn’t shine into my cubicle to beat down on my neck. My calluses have worn away, my new phone can Google your mom, and though cutting the lawn with the push-mower seems to be only a small step up from the dull machete I still boast about, it is a step forward nonetheless. How quickly we adapt to our surroundings to find ourselves comfortable and necessitating what we have within our grasp. I was totally content surviving on beans and tortillas for two weeks straight. Now I find myself perusing the farmer’s market considering spiced pumpkin ravioli and sprouted nut butter for $12/jar.
Does our identity change as we transition to new chapters, or do we carry the past chapters with us and build on them? I’ve always had this theory that we swap little bits of our souls with the people and places we encounter as we move through life. Perhaps this is why I feel perpetually unsettled – because I have parts of me everywhere; a chunk of my identity is still in the campo with the dog poo and amazing neighbors, Mayan ruins, pot holes, beggars and horses in pickup trucks.
I guess I’m in a matrix – always adapting to the present elements, but eternally trying to get my soul whole as I leave its droppings around the globe. That's deep shit.