It was exactly ten years ago. I remember clearly the moment I received a call with an urgent offer to move to São Paulo for a one-year USAID contract. I said yes. Immediately. Without thinking twice. I had just gotten a very reputable position at the World Bank, living a very prestigious comfortable life in Washington. But there was something inside of was pulling, calling me viscerally, to Brazil.
At the time, I didn’t understand my own decision rationally. I recalled the wave I first dove into in Bahia and the blissful feeling of being one with nature. Then I closed my eyes, took a deep plunge, and said good-bye. The Isabella I had created was gone. And the new Bella was about to be born.
Though Brazil was foreign, it felt like coming back home; to the space and time of being one with the endless pulsating rhythm of life, with genuine compassion, eternal sunshine, life-giving Amazonian virgin nature, the juicy taste of tropics, endless party spirit. Those were a magnet to my inner yearning for completeness, for self-acceptance, and for the right to let go.
First-born, straight A student, a point of reference needed a break. And a break she got.
I was 28 when I arrived, but it was the first year I started living my teenage years. The undiscovered unknown, full of thrilling possibilities, the bustling life, the thrill of nightlife, endless dancing, music pulsating through my veins. It was inebriating to finally live, without worries, without trying, without having to be ANYONE. Just being, surrendering to life.
From the first day I arrived and for the next 10 years, Brazil has been a life-force of pure energy and light. Layer by later, I started shedding my inhibitions and fears that I had hidden behind the picture-perfect rational independent woman I had become. In there, deep inside, I found the vulnerable, love-seeking, creative being hungry for more.
I dropped my career once and for all, made my first documentary, wrote my first blogs, creating my first start-up, gave my first speech, recording my first album. All my creations, that had waited for so long to be uncovered, starting pouring out…
Brazil allowed things to be, without judgements, without having to define, without structure. The fluidity, and people’s welcoming embraces allowed me to find my voice, come back to myself, and for the first time, allowed my vulnerability to be heard loud and unshakably: exposed without titles, unframed by positions, unsupported by structures. Just the bare me.
Brazil was the place I found love, became a mother, had a miscarriage, created a beautiful community, started two business, learned to accept my hearing loss as a different way of perceiving the world. People that merged with or even crossed my path always opened a door to a part of me I had forgotten. Somehow, each one in a different way, they felt my true energy, the real light I emanated; and by perceiving it, they allowed me to evolve into a more authentic version of myself.
The time has come to take the next step. I attempted to leave many times already, but something kept me in place, Brazil still having a strong grip on me.
No matter where I go from here, the people that have been my guides, my healers, holding my hand through the dark times, inviting me to join them to dance to celebrate, are forever part of who I am. The seeds they planted, have grown into a green powerful interweaving I will carry with me everywhere I go. Brazil is a not a country — it’s a way of being. Its welcoming embrace, so beautifully represented by Christ the Redeemer, inconspicuously invites you to give all of yourself to the present moment; grab on to each fleeting instant and ride its wave to become part of life’s movement.
Whether I come back or not, I’ll always carry you inside of me, Brazil, as a compass illuminating the way. No rules, societal structures, institutions will ever incarcerate me again. I am free, and I will always thank you for giving me my freedom back.