Hi, my name is Marie and I have a problem. 

I don’t take people seriously.

This past weekend, DaVinci and I went on a tour of Medellin, learning about Pablo Escobar. I booked it through the hostel in which I take Spanish lessons from, so the tour was comprised of  backpackers and a Colombian National and his gringa girlfriend, moi. I was sensitive to the tour guides thinking we were backpackers and a little jealous that DaVinci was the coolest in the bunch. He is a Colombian. He knows Medellin. He lived through the decades of Pablo Escobar. I was the outsider. I felt privileged to be with him, but it obviously made me compare myself to all the others on the tour.

If anything, Colombia has taught me some brutal lessons about life, but the biggest of all has been an ego check. In Medellin, it’s easy to run into backpackers, short term visitors for business, just foreigners in general. So at the first chance I get, I quickly dismiss whatever their doing, by telling them “oh, I live here.” I’m not interested in talking about the other places I’m backpacking through, the few pieces of clothing I packed, the wild nights out with other transients. It seems as though, I think that it makes me better than these people by pointing out that I am invested here. I am growing a life here. I have more respect for culture and Nationals.

Today I wondered to myself, what about that makes me better? Does it make me different? How so? And why do I think this way?

We all hear about being sensitive while traveling. How to be a good tourist and contribute to a safe and healthy economy rather than fueling the black market. I truly believe we all struggle with making decisions that add to the good side of the scale, but it is always easier to tell yourself you are helping by giving money to beggars or buying chiclets from a child selling things at a red light, possibly feeding a family for a night. We all know there are bigger causes to these disparities we should be looking to change. I think this is the first reason I set myself apart from others quickly. I want to show that I know better, but I also think it goes deeper than that for me.

I have always prided myself on being different. I was one of the only Asian kids growing up in my small rural upstate NY town. I grew up with different circumstances than my friends. Not rich. Single mother raising me. Refugee father. I learned to be proud of my difference. To defy odds and go to a prestigious private college. Again, one of maybe 5 from my high school to attend this particular college. Won a Fulbright scholarship, one of ten. Then, I was introduced to the real world, where I didn’t really matter. Tons of people were Asian. Tons of others rose from poverty and made the most of single parent upbringings. Plenty of others got into prestigious schools and received Fulbrights. I am just a number now.

But for some reason, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I feel the need to set myself apart from others. Even if that means putting them down or making them feel lesser. Obviously it’s more about me than it is whoever I am putting down. I feel this need to prove myself, show my worth, and why I deserve to be in any given place.

Colombia has showed me not to go overboard in this regard. I think that living abroad shows people not to get too confident, in all things.Language is an ever constant check of your knowledge, native or foreign. Life is a constant learning process, teaching you new things each day, whether you choose to recognize the lessons or not. But have no fear, they will catch up to you sooner or later, reminding you of your previous mistakes.

Just because I “live” somewhere doesn’t mean shit. I can be a decrepit depressed hermit in any city. No matter if you are living, traveling, working, whatever, it depends on what you do with the environment you are in.

I do this in many situations: work, travel, friendship and love. The reason why I can’t find lasting love is because I don’t take my suitors seriously. I think of them as good for right now, but…something. They don’t have a serious job, or a job at all. They don’t value education. They have wacky theories about life or God forbid politics. I also don’t take their care and affection seriously. I am quick to give men an out or reason not to invest in a relationship with me. It’s easier for me so I don’t ever have to feel left behind. I dismiss people before they can dismiss me.

Bam. Now that’s called a revelation and how to take the first step: admitting you have a problem.

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