A young Ecuadorian considers breaking traditional family bonds to choose a life of her own
As usual, I find myself near the cliff.
When I approach it, I don’t know if I should jump because, after the fall, I may get hurt and so too will some of the people around me, and I hate that feeling. I wish it could be only me.
Let me explain something. I’m not talking about killing myself. I’m talking taking a leap of faith that, for an Ecuadorian, can be very scary. I’m talking about making a decision to break away from my family and the traditional bonds that are very strong in my country.
Last weekend, things changed. I became so overwhelmed with my dilemma I decided to do what I know best: Going to a place that is peaceful and familiar. I got off the bus next to a dirt road where I planned to take a walk. It is a long way from my parents’ house, so I began walking and felt the warm air in my hair and inhaled the rich smell of nature. I loved it.
Finally there was silence; it was God and me. I took a look at my surroundings: the road of dry loose dirt and some cracks, with beautiful flowers and trees on the sides. That’s how my life has been. Exactly like that road.
You see, in the life of an Ecuadorian, choices are often made by chance, not by choice. Family is so important here that you have to consider them when you make big decisions. It can be difficult to live your own life. Let me explain more.
I envy young people from other cultures and countries, including the backpackers and some of the younger expats in Cuenca. Their family bonds are not as rigid as they are for me and other Ecuadorians. They are free to travel, to leave their homes and their families. They miss their families, of course but, when the leave, but they are comfortable with their decisions to travel and even to live somewhere else.
They can jump off the cliff without fears or regrets because they know they can spread their wings and fly. Is it because you are raised in the “Land of the Free”? Is it simply a cultural matter? I don’t know. I want to understand so I can teach my kid that she can make the jump too, that she can fly as high as she wants, without upsetting her mother. But first, I know that I have to teach myself to jump.
I admire so much that capacity to take flight. You can watch it in movies, where the youngest daughter takes her backpack and says, “I’m leaving to another country to be a teacher,” and the family says, “Great! We’ll miss you but we’re proud of you”.
In Ecuador, it is not like that. As a female it is even harder. You are the daughter, you are supposed to be the good sheep of the family, the example kid to be available to help the family when they need it.
And when you are the example kid, your life is difficult and you feel like every step you take is in the wrong direction and you taste bitter disappointment every day. Believe me, it’s hard. You need to have a thick skin so you don’t get hurt by words that are thrown in the air. Here, you have to ask for your parent’s blessing, even if you are almost 30 and don’t live in the same house. I respect our culture but lately I realize that it is keeping me from making my own choices. I’m not able to. Why? Out of respect? Love them too much? And I hate it because I really want to jump. I’m an adult. I should be able to jump from the cliff.
It’s like Andy in Toy Story 3. He leaves his childhood behind, with that amazing song “So Long” by Randy Newman playing in the background. So touching yet so powerful. You need to move on and be happy. And I want to move on. I want to be able to build a new life, in which I’m free but I don’t want to do it by hurting others.
So this is my story and my dilemma. I approach the cliff with trepidation but also with the hope of a new beginning.