Purpose is the reason why we are who we are, do what we do, create what we love. It is the reason we exist…
What Led Me to That Place
So, when I admit that in that particular snapshot of time I didn’t have any idea what my purpose was, trust and believe that it was a fact. I was in need of a revelation. I was flat out desperate need of direction and in the meantime, a purpose stand-in, at least until could get it figured out. Sometimes the purpose or point of it all, is to be confident and true to who we are. More like the picture we have in our head and heart, than the reflection we are faced with in the mirror. Motivated to do more than just represent the values or vision of others and to freely be, even aimlessly, but usually intentionally, freely be.
When I decided to travel to Peru, I had less than a clue about what I would be doing while there and every motivation to make it work because I needed to be there. I had already quit my job, traveled to Europe twice, made a ton of friends, had some crazy fun adventures and had all of my money stolen in Venice.
Yes, every single penny was methodically and diabolically drained from my bank account in some elaborate international fraud scheme. Bogus charges were made to my bank card through a non-existent company, likely operated by some underworld organization, or so I was told. By the time I even realized my card had been stolen, some black market operation was already laid back basking in the glow of their treachery, while spending my hard earned ducats.
As one can imagine, I was crushed. I was angry and I felt violated. I tried to be so careful while traveling, but the second I let my weariness get the best of me, I fell victim. I tried desperately to get some help with this matter but the language barrier and low priority of my victimization didn’t rate much more than a “sorry and be more careful next time” from the authorities.
So, while licking my emotional wounds, I made my way back to my original home, New York City. I didn’t exactly know what would happen next, but I was trying to be patient and optimistic. Trying instead, to focus on the lesson that was emanating from this terrible occurrence. Trying to figure out how to be me, without any money. Trying to focus on what I had and not what I had lost.
Enter my new friend, I had met him while traveling in Portugal. It just so happened that he was doing an internship in Pimentel of all places. It is a small and somewhat unremarkable seaside town not far from Chiclayo, Peru’s fourth largest city. So there he was, missing the comfort of something he knew and chatting with me on Facebook. He happened to mention to the powers that be at his organization, that he had a friend who was a Social Worker and loved to write, they figured I could be of some use and they invited me to join their team.
Why Not Give it a Shot
So, with little more than a few pictures I could find online, a YouTube video of the boardwalk, and word of mouth from my friend, I booked a one way ticket to paradise. At least, I had hoped that it would be. I was, for all intents and purposes, broke and all that I knew for sure was that I would be able to eat lunch on weekdays and would have a place to stay during my time there.
I was so very grateful that the exchange rate between U.S. Dollars and Peruvian Nuevo Soles was pretty good at that time because I had to be extremely careful with my cash. I usually spent less than $25 a week on food and essentials. I had so little and it had to last me the 3 plus months I had planned to be there. Not like I was starving or anything, I just had to make wise choices and splurge less. There is definitely something to be said for living more simply and being grateful for the little things which actually turn out to be the most important ones.
Well, back to my purpose… Over time, I really had come to accept that I had attached my worth, to how much money I had. So when it was gone, I sort of saw myself as less than. Less than the woman I thought I had fought to become, less than the so-called “educated” person I had grown to be so proud of. Now, I was just regular. Not to knock regular, okay maybe knocking it a bit, but as the proud Brooklyn girl that I am, I never wanted to see myself as some basic chick. It’s just not who I’d planned to be.
The Thrill of it All
Pimentel was open to those of us foreigners who dared to stay for a while to learn the language and the culture, but just days after I arrived to hangout with my friend, he was sent on an assignment to Ecuador. So there I was on my own. After Spanish classes in the morning and the work day was done, I had where I would just stand on the rooftop of the residence and look longingly at the waves crashing onto the shore and butting up against the pier. This place was turning out to be a more than okay quaint beach town. Where I got lots of smiles from friendly Pimenteleños and visiting Chiclayanos coming in by the van load on the weeknds to enjoy the vibrant sun, strong surf and stroll along the beautifully restored muelle (boardwalk). It was my new home and it welcomed me to explore it and myself.
Initially I was so sick, that I could barely enjoy the November summertime weather. the heat, the sun, the mosquitoes, it was all quite tropical. Even though I didn’t drink the tap water, organisms were obviously entering my body by other means and making it painfully clear that I was not in charge. I had started thinking that the constant purging was part of my initiation or penance, or something akin to rehabilitation.
Whatever the case, the end result of living from bed to toilet, was that I slowed down enough to focus on how important good health is, including my healthy state of mind. Like many, I took for granted that as time passed all would be restored, but the truth of the matter is that assumptions are costly. There is no amount of money that could ever buy good health, and being down for so long reminded me that I was not as poor as I had been consumed with believing. Maybe there was also purpose in me being ill.
I was making friends, working on SEO copy, and learning about this new place that already felt somewhat like an old friend. I would enjoy street food, empanadas and chicken burgers, washed down with cold bottles of Cusqueña beer. Life was pretty darn good. As people left, new ones would arrive, and I regularly found myself in the company of people often half my age who had the same rambler spirit.
The Student Has Purpose
Pimentel was my teacher and my classroom. Every time the power went out, the water pump stopped working or I got a little bit of a shock in the “suicide shower”, I was learning about what I really needed. Which things were necessary for survival and which ones solely contributed to my elitist leanings. I remember the day I got my mosquito net and electric fan. You would have thought that I had hit the lottery. I had joy in my heart and gratitude indelibly etched in my brain. I posted them both proudly on Facebook, not as a boast, but more as a testament to who I was becoming.
Day by day, week by week, month by month. I had morphed into a totally different person. I still had a no nonsense edge that was evident to everyone, but I was feeling freer and in less of a rush to judge myself or anyone else, for that matter. I had forgiven my need to be right all of the time and I was beginning to see that even in my financially challenged state, I was still rich beyond measure. Rich because I was loved by new people in Pimentel, missed by loved ones back in the United States, and for the first time ever, I truly enjoyed being alone in my own company.
When it was all said and done, I had learned many lessons, on life and purpose. I had had an adventure or two, connected to like-minded souls, cried many tears and graciously made my exit. It was kind of, all of a sudden, almost overdue, and yet, somehow right on time. The purpose of all I had been going through was never hidden, but I had to get clear to see it and appreciate that the only thing of value I could truly possess was my own sense of intention and gratitude. Those are the things that upped my worth and made me special.
Lightning Strikes Again
Never did I imagine that I would find myself back in the place of therapeutic learning, peace and slowed pace. But obviously it is where I needed to be. Maybe divine intervention has created spaces and places like Pimentel to remind lost souls like me of what really matters, who I am, what gives me purpose and that gratitude is the attitude of success. But maybe that is a story for another day…