Sometimes I feel I’m living very intensely, but mostly in my head.
I’m almost 32 and I’ve called 25 places in 7 countries “home”. I had to live off a suitcase as I moved around desperately trying to settle somewhere, to have stability. I once left Brazil as a tourist, ready to enjoy a nice August as a tourist in Spain, then I was stuck in France without my passport while I waited for a visa to go to China. Meanwhile, my mother started to get sick and, before I was able to see her, I found out she had cancer and that she was beyond saving. She was my best friend, my emotional safety net, she was the most important person in my life. I left Brazil to see a bit of the world in August 2013, 2 months later my whole life changed.
I then went to China, because the only thing I could do was to move forward. For years I’d had this goal of learning Mandarin and becoming a translator/sinologist, I didn’t have time to mourn the loss of my mother because I was completely untethered, I had to survive. I was scammed by the agency that invited me to go to the other side of the planet. I didn’t have the right visa and the local police wanted money after they confiscated my passport, so I had to flee the country. I returned to my hometown and visited my old house, it wasn’t a home anymore. I left and when my mother was there, she had been the last person I saw before I left. We cried at the airport and I told her that I loved her and that she was the most important person in my life. and then, when I returned, she didn’t exist anywhere else other than my memory.
A space will only become a place as we build a connection with it through our experiences, memories, and people we meet. When I returned to Brazil I had to figure out what I’d do with my life, I didn’t want to have anything to do with China or Mandarin anymore. I started teaching again, but I was 25 and thought to myself: is this it? Will I be teaching the same lessons here forever in this city where I don’t want to live? There’s more to the world, if I am to feel out of place, at least I’d rather have that where I’m actually a foreigner, where I’m a stranger. I was uprooted when my mother passed.
After a few months, a close friend told me to learn French, so that I could study in France. I then went through the hurdles of learning a new language, saving money, and applying to move abroad, this time as a student. I moved to Lille, but I didn’t like the new degree I’d chosen, so I was once again feeling lost, I felt the time was ticking and I had to find a way of extending my time out of Brazil, as I was in Europe as a Brazilian, it was very bureaucratic and costly to remain here and the sticker on my passport reminded me constantly that I had to leave one day. I started to look for a lot of documents to see if I could get a second citizenship. I saw a second passport as a key to a world where I’d have different possibilities. I had a lot of anxiety and resentment because I was fully aware that a piece of paper, which was taken for granted by many who didn’t have to worry about it, was what would make me live a bit more of the life I wanted to live.
After feeling a bit more confident about my French, I applied for an Erasmus Mundus master’s scholarship, my classes began in France, then I came to Belgium, moved to Ireland, and then returned to Belgium. Meanwhile, I was waiting for my citizenship process, by then it had been 4 years of uncertainty and anxiety, it was still ongoing and I wouldn’t stop thinking about it, I was forced to return to Brazil for 8 months so, even before leaving Europe, I started to eat my emotions, which made me gain 35 kg in a year. I went back to my father’s place, I was isolated in the middle of the Brazilian countryside, my whole future depended on a judge saying that my dead mother was indeed my mother and, therefore, I was entitled to Italian citizenship, which would give me a way back to Europe. Even though I am thankful that my father gave me financial and material support during my struggles, I don’t feel he ever got to know me. I grew up under his roof, but I’ve always felt like a burden. To this day, when he talks to me, or about me, I feel he’s talking about someone else. Not even the fact that we’re both gay serves as a bonding topic to bridge the emotional gap there was as I was growing up. I feel like I’m an orphan of a father who’s alive.
When I got the positive results of my citizenship, I went to Italy to get my papers, then returned to Belgium, and then realized that I couldn’t work as a teacher here without having to revalidate my diplomas, and I didn’t feel my master was solid enough for me to follow an academic path, and I just didn’t feel I had any emotional or mental energy anymore to keep on struggling, I just wanted peace, I wanted stability, I wanted to have roots, to love, to have a place to call mine, someone who’d care about me and whom I’d care about. I’ve been tired of being resilient, of hurting, of pushing my way through, I want a comfort zone, a cocoon, a home, love. Now I am here, I’m surrounded by my plants, I have my space, I can finally express myself, I finally have the means to start processing the emotions I had to leave aside as I was surviving. I can finally live one day at a time knowing that it’ll be alright, the worst is behind me.
What does a naked photoshoot have to do with anything? I’ve learned over the years that it’s healthier for me to just be an open book, to just let my emotions flow, or else I’d drown. I have many insecurities with my fluctuating weight and appearance, not that it was ever a struggle to date or hook up when I was obese or slim, but it’s always more about the way I see myself than the way others see my body. Still, my body shows the results of when I can’t control myself when I just let myself go and eat my feelings, it’s the comfort I’d seek because often it was the only thing I had available. I’ve learned over time to like who I am much more and to be more honest with myself. Having this done is a way of seeing myself from outside, to be literally naked, heart and body. The past hurts, but it’s what made me who I am, so I need to accept who I am so that I can be who I can/want to be.