Dear Self of August 2015,
Congratulations on the move you made today!
You may expect to find total clarity regarding your career goals and a better perspective on all of the challenging circumstances of your past within the next two months. I am not found those yet, but am closer than I was when I was your age.
I can give you some survival tips, but you will soon learn how adept you are at avoiding disasters. You have skills and smarts you don’t know about yet. In fact, you don’t really need my advice. Just go with your gut when it guides you and you will be alive and well by this time. I had to cut down on lifting weights and switched to more running and yoga for exercise, but the shoulder problem will heal with rest. Other than that, things are on track, so I won’t bother with the preaching.
There are some understandings you will reach in your time away from life as you knew it. However, the life lessons and understandings you accumulated over the previous 32 years will only become more true in slightly different ways. You already know most of what you will come to further understand about yourself, life and other human beings while you are in Costa Rica.
To start, you will learn that cannot put your values on hold just because you are in a foreign country. You will feel like compromising at times, because the consequences may not include disappointing old friends or family members. You are the only person who is sure to find out about any faulty decisions you make here. You will learn, however, that most of your values are aligned with what is best for you, so stay true to them. Acting in compromise to your values will negatively affect your relationship with yourself, which is enough not to do it.
Second, you resigned to temporarily make less money than you did in your stable life back home. However, you need to make a certain amount to put your best foot forward. Unexpected opportunities may arise when you least expect them, so you have to be ready at all times. Spend money on clothes, gym memberships, and other things that make you presentable. Looking and feeling your best is as important as ever, so spend as needed.
Because you need to keep yourself up, it is not overly-materialistic for making money to be a top priority. Do not wait on opportunities to come to you. You will learn that you do not enjoy living off of more money that you make, so earn accordingly.
Additionally, expect to be slightly offended and frustrated when you don’t understand why someone here appears to have mistreated you. 95% of the time, their culture explains their actions. People will be late. People will cancel. People may not show up at all and will not call to tell you why.
There are reasons for customs here. You may not agree with them, but they are not under your control. It will be better to suspend a response or judgment until you fully comprehend the situation. The mostly megalomaniacal bus drivers will love telling your Gringo self to get off the bus or that they are not going your way. Take it in stride. It is not like you have a choice. Accepting the way of life here is not compromising. It is adaptation, which will be useful when faced with the future’s guaranteed unexpected changes.
Go outside. Costa Rica’s exquisite rural areas and coast cannot be overstated. San Jose should be seen, understood and experienced a few times. Once done, move around the country as often as you can. For $20, you can take a day trip from downtown to waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, great hikes and more. You may be nervous about surrounding yourself with total strangers for multi-hour bus rides, but you will thank yourself for doing it every time. The bus rides themselves are enriching for the simple fact that they will make you uncomfortable. You are growing every time you endure an uncomfortable situation. So get out, walk right through the discomfort and see this country. The more you see, the more you know, the more you know, the better you are. Don’t wait. Say yes.
Most importantly, threshold moments will continue after you get on the plane. Often you will have to choose between a comfortable and predictable day and one that includes adventure that may put you in vulnerable situations. Choose the latter every time as long as it does not compromise the values alluded to earlier. You may think that once you arrive here, you will not have to make difficult decisions. You may think that Costa Rica holds no seemingly complex interactions with other people. That’s simply not true. Reality exists here in equally significant ways as it does back home. Threshold moments should be recognized and decisions made carefully.
Overall, you have to make decisions as if this time is another part of your professional story. Act as if everyone will find out everything you do here. You still have to surround yourself with the right people. You still have to mind your health and practice gratitude in the morning. You still have to maintain solid relationships with your family. You are still you here.
I cannot predict exactly where you go after you leave here, but I can predict that your life will then be viewed as before and after Costa Rica (B.C.R. and A.C.R.). The latter will be happier and more fulfilling, because you took the step you did today.
I could go on all day and night, but, again, you have to find out for yourself. I am thrilled for you. Good luck!