In the last ten days, the number of groups of Brazilians I’ve run into — at Queen’s Park, Bloor Street, Younge Street, restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, various places on campus — must have surpassed 20. I say groups, because if I were to count individuals, the number would probably be close to a hundred. Some are families with kids, some are young people college age, and some look like they can’t be older than 15, and go around in groups of 10-15, with name tags hanging from their necks.
Reason? It’s July. That’s when Brazilians get their winter break from school. Brazilian economy is doing well — as mentioned by the New York Times on Monday, and on Yahoo! main page on Tuesday. And earlier today Yahoo! Brazil presented a little note on why “studying abroad rules.”
Now, when I first when saw these 15-year-old Brazilian boys and girls walking around St. Michael’s College last week, I thought to myself — “ah, July. School break. But gosh, these kids look awfully young to be here all by themselves!” But I then immediately censured myself: “Ester, what are you talking about? You really have turned into a regular grown-up, with all this but-they’re-too-young-for-that talk. When you first left Brazil, you were 14 years old yourself, you were completely alone, and you did not think it was a big deal at all.”
That was in July 1994. I left Brazil on the very same day they introduced the current currency, “Real”, and a period of unprecedented financial stability started. I had been studying English for about a year, and 30 days in England did wonders to it. The family I stayed with was absolutely fantastic, and we’re still friends to this day. If that experience hadn’t been so positive, maybe I would have never made the decision to go abroad for university — and stay abroad for as long as I have.
An awful lot of things happened in those thirty days, and I can still remember the sequence of events, as if it had been last year. My learning curve back them was simply unbelievable. And this thought then gave rise to the following realization:
In July 1994, I was 14 years old. This was 14 years ago. I am now 28. So that trip marks the current mid-point of my life. Now, if we further break this span of 28 years into 4 times 7 years, we find the following:
- 0-7 years old: tons of things happened in my life. I arrived in the world. Learned to walk, to talk, to read, and many other fantastic things. The world went from the 1970’s into the 1980’s. Esterical learning curve: extremely steep.
- 7-14 years old: tons of things happened again. The whole passage from childhood to puberty to adolescence. First boyfriends. Starting to learn a foreign language. Going abroad for the first time. Starting to learn how to play the guitar. The 1990’s. Learning curve still quite steep.
- 14-21: again, tons of things. At 14 I hadn’t even started high school; seven years later I had already graduated from undergrad. Travelled some more. Learned some more languages. Moved to a different country. Started graduate school. Into the new millenium. Learning curve: still steep.
- 21-28: not much has happened. No new decade, no new millenium. I was in a PhD program at 21; I am still in a PhD program at 28, albeit not the same one. Living in North America then, still living in North America now. Sure, I’ve moved around a bit. Sure I’ve changed programs. But what baffles me is that for the past seven years — that is, most of my adult life and 25% of my entire life –I have been introducing myself as an international doctoral student. That’s a long time. Time to stop either being international or being a student, maybe both. Learning curve: seems to have gone completely flat.
The coincidences do not end here. July is the 7th month of the year. I was born on the 14th day of the month. It took me 3.5 years to do my undergraduate: half of the time I’ve already spent in graduate school. I think I really need to graduate before I turn 29 and disturb this lovely pattern. But will I be able to? I wish I could tell…
What baffles me that in the same period of seven years people who did even think of existing have managed not only to make their ways into existence, but also to walk and to read. And some others have gone from childhood through puberty through adolescence, and have started to learn a foreign language, and play the guitar and travel abroad; they have had their first kiss or their first child (or second, or third); they have got married and divorced; they have started and finished high school; they have started and finished university. As a matter of fact, someone I met in my first year as a graduate student at Massey College has gone from being a high school student to being a fellow graduate student at Massey College. And I’m still here! Esterical learning curve: completely stagnant.
So maybe I am growing old after all, displaying all that kind of begrudging envy that adults often display towards the younger generation. I have crossed the line from trying to act older than my age, to trying to act younger than my age. I wonder how old I’ll have to become to learn to be wise and patient? Obviously, I still have a long way to go before reaching that age yet. And part of me says “yeay!” to that, while the other part goes “bummer!.” Interesting creatures human beings are.