Six Months Out – Why I Left Brazil And What I Have Learned So Far

photo by: stux /

Last week I realised, for the first time, I am forgetting things… Not the way people usually forget. Not “what did I have for lunch yesterday” kind of forgetting. But the kind that feels normal and easy, the kind that translates as healing. Now, I thought, I can begin to talk about it…

Six months ago I left Brazil. It was just two weeks prior to one of the most angry and controversial presidential elections we’ve ever had. Also, my destination was Portugal. Well, if you are a Brazilian yourself, or you know enough about what’s going on in our country, you will immediately paint a picture.

You will sit back and think:

“I know Flávia’s story: she is a writer, which means artist. Artists are, in their majority, opposed to this new president… And Portugal has been, for a while, the preferred destination for them (due to having the same language, very similar culture and historical connections). I bet she even has citizenship, like so many of them do”.

Sorry to disappoint. You are wrong. Wrong. Wrong. About all of it. Well, to be completely honest, not “aaaaaall aaaaall” because, of course, I disapprove of the new guy at the presidency. I mean, come on… Need I really explain? I don’t think so. But other than that, you are completely off point. 

My leaving Brazil had nothing to do with politics. Or economy. Career. Education. Climate. Health. It didn’t even concern my personal life. I left for only one reason: I felt I needed to go. Somewhere. Anywhere. Just go.

photo by: Fotorch /

Ever since I was a child, I had that in me. I remember, as a teenager, looking out the window at night (yeah, because I hated going to parties or other “normal” stuff, so looking out it was!) with this terrible anguish pressing over my chest, just thinking: “I have to go, I have to go”. It was as if being home was terribly small for me, almost like a prison cell, with such a huge world outside…

So, as young as thirteen, I decided I had to find a way to get out into the world. My first idea was to became a diplomat. But then I soon realised… Booooooring, boring, boring and formal (and political) job! I already knew myself to be an artist at that point (though I kept the secrete really well… sometimes even from myself) and I just could not see myself in that position.

Next, I thought of studying abroad. I had an English teacher who seemed to have real faith in me, and she took a lot of time explaining how she managed to get a scholarship in England, when she was in college. Well, that idea didn’t go very far. My family didn’t like that very much and, at that point in my life, being a very shy girl who lived in a world without the internet, my own fears were, I must admit, bigger than my dreams and desires.

Fast-forward a little bit and there you have it: I got caught up, as so many of us do, in… well… life. I went to drama school, I went to college (Journalism), I did internships, I worked two jobs at the same time, I got married, I had a baby girl.

Then… it came back to me. I was almost 30 years-old and now, older and wiser, I had my husband on the same page as me. For some reason (actually, there were many, but I’m not going to tell his story here because well… he is even shier than I was at sixteen), he wanted to get out as much as I did now. We were a team. New possibility? Canada. 

No need for boring details at this point. Obviously we were not able to go through with that. Life sometimes has funny ways to show you that your perfect solution is not so perfect simply because, despite everything being in place, it refuses to happen.

A few more years go by… And then, without that much effort or tension, Portugal appears in our lives. And here I am. Out in the world. Far, far away from the place in which I was born and raised. So… Most people wonder (and many really come to me and ask), is it the way I thought it was going to be? 

Yes. And no. Just like anything else in life. 

When I got here, I expected to find the experience beautiful and interesting. Is it? Absolutely. More so than I dreamed it would be.

Is it perfect in every way and did it solve all my problems in life? Of course not. But I didn’t want it to be that. 

The thing that causes so many problems, for so many people, when they change countries, is that they make this tremendous effort (and make no mistakes, it is hard work, physically and emotionally) in the hope that it will magically solve all things, and that life, from now on, will feel absolutely perfect.

More than that: they put this huge demand on this new place to be, at the same time, everything they loved about their homeland minus everything that bordered them about it. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to know that that math is never going to add up.

Change is difficult. Always. It is uncomfortable. We, humans, like our familiar routines. Even the ones who, like me, think they don’t. Because I love new things. I am addicted to diversity.

But, surprise surprise, once I got here, in Porto city, I found myself feeling blue about not seeing the usual TV shows (that I very much hated) when I turned on the television. And about not seeing people chatting on the sidewalks (people here are a lot more private and quiet). And because of the new strange adds that appeared on my YouTube account (all in Portugal’s Portuguese, all about products I never new existed)… Most of all, the feeling of distance from my family and friends stroke me hard in the first couple of months.

I thought that, because of the internet, I would feel as close as always. I didn’t. It was almost like a spiritual thing. I could feel the whole ocean and thousands of miles between me and Brazil. I could feel it in my body and soul. And it hurt me. I understood , then, what makes people give up and go back. I also understood I would never be one of those people.

What I wanted, since a very early age was, in one simple and very complex word: expansion. And because that is my real goal, everything that happens during the journey fulfils me. The things that make me laugh, the things that make me cry. The parts where I realise somethings are a lot easier here. The parts where small details wound me somehow. For I know that wounds are just a symptom of some aspect of myself that is growing. And that, eventually, the pain will turn to knowledge, the knowledge will turn to freedom, the freedom will turn to joy. Or so I hope…

Last week I realised I am forgetting things. About my life in Brazil. Everyday things. Ugly things. Troubling things. For they were taking a space that is now vacant because of the distance that is changing me so deeply. The wounds are healing. So, I forget… And, I notice, I start to remember more and more about the beauty, the good people, the music, the art, my best memories, my loved ones. I am starting to forget things. But none of the ones that really matter.

Starting Fresh… Is That Really Possible?

Life as a blank piece of paper. Every stupid mistake you’ve ever made erased. All the possibilities in your hand like a brand new, beautiful pen. You can just start writing a new story and this time it will all be just right.

Recognise the fantasy? I bet you do, because we all indulge in it, from time to time.  I, myself, probably began by the age of twelve – for my friends never get tired of telling me how very old I was from the early days and, well, they do have a point!

Well, right now, in my life, I had the opportunity of turning fantasy into reality. I decided to go to another country. I got rid of everything that was old, or broken, or not quite to my taste. I carefully selected my favorite clothes, books, small objects. I even did a complete check-up with my doctor just to make sure I would be turning the page in a perfectly healthy, fresh, perfect way. And then, suddenly, I found myself inside an airplane. Ten hours later, here I was: in my very own “starting fresh dream come true”.

But was I? Really? It never felt completely like that… I mean, the whole new country, new city, new apartment, new everything feeling came over me, of course, and it’s quite overwhelming – in a nice way, I mean, at least for me, a person who does love changes. Getting passed that, what did I really find on my supposed-to-be blank page?Myself. A lot of new things, for sure, but they were just sitting on top, and being shaped by, the same old base that I know so very well and answers by the name of Flávia Ruiz.

Was I suddenly braver or more of an extrovert just because nobody around knows me anyway and who cares?… No! I was all the same in that department. Was I free of my fear of heights? Or birds? Horses? Bees? Basically everything that is found in open air spaces (yes, the list goes on and on….)? Absolutely not. What about cooler or more confident when it comes to my ambitions and my work choices? Oh, yes, you keep dreaming!

The thing is, I quickly found myself dealing with the same things in my own same way. Does that mean I will, from now on, advise people against big changes? Not at all!Much on the contrary. I urge everyone to do it, in any way they want or can. For external change is the thing to always look you in the eye and scream to your face: “you cannot run away”. From life, from weaknesses, from yourself. You cannot. In fact, the opposite happens.

Some strange force of nature pushes you to be more and more of yourself. Sometimes, in an intensely painful way. And the very moment you realize that, is the moment you begin walking the path that leads to what you tried to do in the first place, in a more instantaneous, but not at all real, way: to write a new, not story, but chapter. For the story has started a long time ago. It can never be erased.