When I first came to Costa Rica, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a 42 year black woman studying abroad for the first time, I was really hesitant to connect with people. The fear of being judged was over whelming. Black. Woman. Older. Not to mention being a lesbian in a very catholic domineering country.
Meeting with the students from my program wasn’t easy. All of them under the age of 24. All of them ready to get their party on. All of them white, with the exception on one other than myself. When I told them my age noone believed me. The phrase “black don’t crack” really does apply to me and sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I am 42. 42. Wow!
Studying abroad as a 42 year old black woman is a big deal. A lot of women who have decided to attend college at an older age do not have the opportunity to study abroad. A lot of women who attend college right after high school don’t have the opportunity to study abroad, truth be told. But here I sit, in Costa Rica. Enjoying the sound of birds and howling monkeys and water falls and the occasional sound of a car driving by. I am enjoying the food and the tico’s and over coming the struggle/fear to speak Spanish. I am enjoying the view and the rain and the radiant sun and the feel of black sand between my feet. I am enjoying life, pure and simple.
It’s not easy. Sometimes I wish I could be around other people around my age. Hanging out with 20 something year olds can be a little mind boggling. But I roll with them when I can. Enjoy a cigar on the beach of Jaco with the guys, go zip lining in Monteverde with the girls, laughing while riding a speed boat for the first time with a crew who was just as happy for me as I was for myself. I roll with them and they roll with me. And when I feel the need to be a lone, I take the time for me. I say my prayers and give thanks.
This may not be for everyone. I know being an adult, living on your own, not depending on the help of mom and dad but of self and self/wife/husband puts a lot of things into perspective and picking up to leave for 3 to 5 months maybe even a year is not feasible let alone trying to go somewhere for two weeks. So having this opportunity at this time with these people with a loving wife in New York and a family in Chicago that supports my decision to be here makes being here a lot easier.
But I will say this, if you have a chance to see the world, do it. If you have a chance to step out of your comfort zone and experience something you have never experienced before, do it. I don’t mean doing something that it harmful to your body but something that is good for your soul.
When we first arrived here, we were told in orientation that we will have to “get a little uncomfortable.” Things in Costa Rica are different and if we don’t open our minds and learn to be more flexible, being here can be torture. Life is like that. Get a little uncomfortable! Don’t let age slow you down. Don’t use age as an excuse. Use it as a weapon! Experience is one of our greatest teachers.