Lucky?

IMGP9717 I get really mad when people say that I am lucky: lucky to live in Buenos Aires, lucky to have the life I have, lucky to be able to live my dreams. I can’t help it. It makes my blood boil. I looked up a few definitions of ‘lucky’ this morning: blessed with good fortune, occurring by chance; fortuitous, charmed, jammy. I like that one: jammy.

I guess perhaps my problem is that I don’t really understand what people mean when they say that I am ‘lucky’. And perhaps I do them a disservice in getting a little riled by their remarks.  It is I guess more about me. It is more that I feel that if people say I am ‘lucky’ to be living this life, there is an implication that it is easy, perfect, requires no effort, that circumstances have conspired to provide me with a dream life, on a plate.

Do people really think that the way to live your dreams and have the life you really want involves sitting back and waiting for it to fall into your lap? Believe me, there isn’t anything ‘lucky’ in that sense at least, about it. And I am sure that really, nobody thinks that way… do they? Perhaps I would have been ‘lucky’ if I had won my plane ticket to Buenos Aires in a free lottery, woken up one morning and discovered that God had decided to grant me fluent castellano, oh and in a separate envelope lying on the pillow, magic instructions of the read-once-and-have-it variety, informing me how to integrate without hiccup into the culture of Argentina, how not to miss my family and my home country, and a blank cheque.

If I search my story, I can find some clear examples of  ‘lucky’ moments, yes: the moment my husband decided to leave me and I felt completely devastated and certain that my life was over; the moment he told me he was not coming to Mongolia to ride his motorbike across the Gobi Desert, that he thought I should make the trip alone; the moment that I just happened to be standing next to Carlos in La Glorieta in Belgrano, Buenos Aires.

I believe that these were a few of my moments of opportunity. But behind every one of these significant effort was required. I had to spot the ‘luck’ and USE it to try to create the life I wanted. As I say, when my husband left, I thought my life was over. I can’t tell you how much determination it took for me to drag myself out of tears and the sofa and force myself to get to my first ever tango class. Or how many people I had to try to convince of my wisdom in deciding to follow my subsequent dream and travel to Buenos Aires, where I knew not a soul, on a 12 month ticket. And in the end, how much courage I had to summon to come here anyway in the face of many people’s doubts, including my own. Before I had even danced a step of tango, I had to get on that plane to Mongolia, 43 years old and alone, to face what I expected to be 20 male bikers and a Desert without even a bush to hide behind. If I hadn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have even heard about tango. I wouldn’t be dancing today. The night I met Carlos in La Glorieta was the first night I ventured out to a Milonga alone in Buenos Aires. Beforehand I sat in a café on Santa Fé, trying to persuade myself that I could do it, that I was brave enough, that I wouldn’t just turn around and go back to the hostel. This is what I wrote in my notebook as I sat at that table, one Sunday night, in April 2007:

I am tired. Have just eaten 2 pollo empanadas and carrot salad and drunk a banane licuado. Feel the vitamins entering my system. Will I see J. tonight? I hope so, otherwise I will know no-one. I must be brave and dance well even tho’ I am tired. Cafés are full of men watching Boca Juniors play tonight. I am a brave woman, even if I don’t feel it right this minute.

I convinced myself that I was brave. I went. I saw J. He said hello. He didn’t dance with me. I met Carlos.

I do believe of course, that I have experienced some seriously significant moments of good fortune on my journey, but in every case I have had to put myself in that place, ready and open to receive the ‘luck’, recognise it and do something with it.

Then there is the actual reality of living in Buenos Aires long term. Maybe my life seems attractive to some folks who have a different life. Isn’t it true that the grass often seems more lush from a distance than it is up close. For me right now there is no greener grass anywhere on the planet, but that is not because my life is some kind of charmed dream, some kind of whirl of perfect tango, of endless romantic moments. I get tired, scared, frustrated, pissed off, angry, restless, miserable… but I have learned that I can fight these feelings with a bit of work and I can move on. I have also learned that the more I give out of myself, the more the world gives back to me. If I am terrified of something, but do it anyway, then life improves. If I share myself with the world on this blog, I get wonderful people popping up in my life. If I speak to strangers, I end up with new experiences: the little film my friend Catrin is making of me and Ariel is a perfect example. Am I ‘lucky’ to know Catrin? Maybe. But if I hadn’t spoken to her, a stranger in a shoe shop, I wouldn’t have her as a friend. I believe I make my own ‘luck’. And the more effort I put in, the more ‘luck’ comes my way, then I spot it quicker, use it more often, and my life appears more charmed… on the surface at least.

Then there are the assumptions: ‘You are lucky because you don’t have children, so you can follow your dream’; ‘You are lucky because you had the money to buy your flat’; ‘You are lucky because…’ oh well I don’t need to go on with this one. Maybe I wanted children, maybe I am careful with money or choose to go without other things so that I can have the home I want, maybe I work harder than you think, maybe there are lots of things about me that you don’t know. I know that people who say that I am ‘lucky’, mean well. But it is so easy to think of someone else as being ‘lucky’, when you have no idea of their true story. I have written a little of my recent past on this blog, but there is so much more that only a few precious souls in this world know. Every human on the planet has their story, the pain and suffering that has pushed them to the place where they are today, and I am no exception. I can honestly say that I am now living my dream, but my God, I have had to work hard on myself to make it so. And the work never stops.

Now I do want to make it absolutely clear that I know that there are millions of people born into a less financially secure situation than me, who will perhaps never have some of the opportunities I have had, and for whom creating the life that makes up my particular dream might indeed be an impossibility.  But in general it is not these people who tell me that I am ‘lucky’. It is people who on the surface at least, come from lives similar to mine. And I am not judging any of these people either. I believe that each human being’s dream is unique, and of equal value. I am sure that you are all building exactly the lives you want. And if you are then you will feel exactly as ‘lucky’ as you think I am.

Here are some quotes that I like about ‘luck’. I salute all those people before me who felt as I do:

Be ready when opportunity comes…Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.

All of us have bad luck and good luck. The man who persists through the bad luck – who keeps right on going – is the man who is there when the good luck comes – and is ready to receive it.

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

Luck is when opportunity knocks and you answer.

Shallow men believe in luck.  Strong men believe in cause and effect.

Luck has a peculiar habit of favouring those who don’t depend on it.

If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.

And I guess in the end for me, ‘lucky’ or not, the treasure that lies in the greenest grass that I can possibly imagine, is personal freedom, and this is the truth about freedom for me:

He who is brave is free.

Suerte!

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20 Responses

  1. Dear Sally,

    I’ve been reading you a little while and this is the post that has moved me to comment. I loved it, I know exactly what you mean by feeling riled when people call you lucky for the things you know you’ve worked so hard for, that you absolutely deserve.

    Your tenacity and strength are admirable. I enjoy reading about the steps you’ve taken to make your life what it is, joyous and satisfying.

    Suerte!

    Sarah

  2. Sally, I so hear what you’re saying!

    Ever since I began carving out a new life for myself, people have told me I’m “lucky.” And of course I am lucky to have survived 2 cancers among other tragedies. But I think many people see bold lives like ours as a challenge to “safe” lives like theirs where they don’t dare do anything risky.

    Most people I know have some money saved or invested, unlike me, and own real estate, but they are afraid to turn loose of any of it. They say they “can’t.” And i accept that they can’t, because their fear and insecurities won’t let them.

    So people can call us “lucky” out of envy–not because everything comes easy to us, but that we are not afraid to try and risk–and perhaps even lose.

    I want my epitaph to be, “I tried.”
    And you probably do too.

  3. Sarah
    It is always a very special day for me when someone who has been reading my blog for a while, feels moved to comment.
    And when I write honestly about something such as this, it is always a relief to receive a comment from someone who identifies with what I have said.
    Writing this blog has helped me to overcome some of my fears, take some risks and voice who I really am.
    The fact that you take the time to read what I write, and leave a comment means that another connection is made, my world and yours expand a tiny bit, and a little bit more space is made for something good to come of it: tonight, a smile on my face for a start!
    Thank you

    Cherie,
    You are EXACTLY right.
    On my wall I have a scribbled reminder to myself that I look at everyday and it reads:
    I follow in the footsteps of great explorers.
    I follow the bravery of my ancestors.
    I join with the eccentrics, the adventurers who
    FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS!

    And yes I have lost some things along the way because I am not afraid to take risks, but what I have gained is far far greater.
    And in the end, if I lose everything I have, I will still have gained. I will know that I tried, and I will know that however short my life turns out to be, I will have made the most of it from the time I took my first risk and started to follow my heart.
    You keep following yours Cherie.
    I am with you all the way!

    SC

  4. Sally, I totally relate to what you’re saying but on a different parallel. People tell me I’m “lucky” that I can speak despite being deaf. Yeah, 4 hours a day of speech training for 10 years is pure “luck”. F*** that! I worked and cried and suffered and fought like a demon through it all. Luck be damned.
    You worked and took risks and sacrificed for what you got. It didn’t exactly fall into your lap like some manna falling out of heaven. Those who say you are lucky are the ones who envy your courage to go after the life you choose and wish they were you.

  5. Caroline

    Yes, you are a perfect example of someone who has fought for their ‘luck’. You are a continuing inspiration to me.
    I will never forget watching you chatting away to your partners on the dance floors of BA, in castellano, I might add, despite the intense background noise. All the wonderful connections you made here are proof of the worth of taking risks, doing it anyway in the face of fears, fighting for your dreams. I salute you my friend.

    SC

  6. Fantastic post, Sally – anyone who has read your blog would understand that getting where you are right now has not been a walk in the park!
    I agree with you, all of us have encountered opportunities and “lucky” breaks, but it’s really what you do with them that counts. Without the qualities of optimism, persistence, courage and faith to enable you to take advantage of the chances you have been given, how would you be able to attain your heart’s desire?

    Wishing you all the “luck” in the world, and may you never ever miss up on an opportunity,

    Irene

  7. Sally, I know exactly what you mean by this post. People come into my studio and tell me how forturnate, how lucky I am to have that space and to be an artist. I worked my whole life for those things, and gave up many things to live the life of an artist, to live it in my own authentic way. It really gets me mad when people seem to think it just landed on me out of the blue. Like you, I accepted risk, took some chances, followed my heart. Thanks for being there as a kindrid soul.

  8. Irene Ho

    Today I sat in the Fibertel office (Internet) for 2 hours waiting for my number to come up so that I could stop them cutting me off and rendering me unable to write this blog. It’s my third time there (phone calls are completely useless) trying to sort out endless billing problems. I had just waited 45 minutes in a line in the Comiseria to order the Certificado of Domicilio for the DNI. And that was after I had already been and queued in the wrong Comiseria! And that was after I had queued for 45 minutes in Banco Piano to change dollars. With all the walking and subway rides between these places, the day was gone.
    I smiled to myself as I sat in Fibertel, surrounded by some quite angry Argentines with exactly the same frustrating billing problems, at the teeny tiny things I manage to achieve here somedays. I was thinking ‘Me, lucky? Bloody hell!’
    But at the same time I was so proud that I handled all these things alone, and never once had to apologise for my castellano.
    Today this really hit me.
    Today I stopped saying, ‘I’m English, so my Spanish might not be too good.’
    This realisation painted a huge bright stroke of orange into the picture of my dreams today.
    I hope that the picture of your dreams burns brighter every day too.

    Elizabeth
    What delights me about walking the risky path, is that I keep meeting others who are doing the same. It’s one of the things I love most about my life in Buenos Aires. Inevitably the people I meet who come here from afar are the types of people to do ‘go for it’. And you are one of them. And the lovely thing is that I haven’t even met you yet in person. But one day I will, and I will give you a huge kindred soul hug!

    SC

  9. Dear Sallycat,

    This post above all distills all that you have written and shared with us over a long time. I agree with Irene: anyone that has been reading your blog for a while knows that every joy and triumph you experience has everything to do with your conscious choices and not with sheer luck.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to link to this post today. I think it’s really wonderful.

  10. Tangobaby

    Thank you for your words. I would be very happy for you to link to the post. No problem!
    Ah today I have been stuck in doors waiting for the policía to come and verify that I live where I say I do! They have just come and done so, so tomorrow I will be on the quest for the DNI once more…

    Bit by bit… I am getting there! Warms hugs, SC

  11. I am visiting you via my friend Tangobaby. Like you, I have traveled and lived in foreign countries on my own and made my own luck, through a combination of willingness to take risks, sheer effort and maybe a bit of serendipity. I absolutely agree with your words here. There was tremendous effort behind actions ultimately creating situations that other people may view as “lucky.” Living in Paris – lucky? Yes and no. I didn’t plan to be here, but did I deserve to be here? Yes. All the “luck” in my life has come through something I created, through being willing to embrace the unknown and adapt to constant change – to becoming comfortable with uncertainty. You’ve expressed your experiences so eloquently. Thanks for sharing your story. Will be back to visit again! Tara @ Paris Parfait

  12. Sally,

    I found my way to you via Tangobaby. I just wanted to say hello and tell you how I appreciated your post. It really rang true to me. I also get told I am lucky, and it has always irked me. I have been blessed, yes. But, I have worked darn hard, too. As I read I kept thinking, “I know just what you mean.” I will be back soon.

  13. Dear Sally,

    Like Sarah above, I have also been reading your blog for a little while now (and I’m sure there are many others) and feel like I must write to you here and thank you for sharing your adventures/experiences with us. Like you, I’m often told that I am “lucky,” for me because I have chosen to travel extensively and teach English around the world instead of doing the corporate thing after college graduation. I’m now 26 and know very well that none of these “things to be envied” come about without a lot of sacrifice and constant uncertainty that things won’t work out or dreams won’t be achieved. When you reach a high and actually feel lucky for a moment, you know it’s only because so much came before that lead you there.

    I started reading your blog because I went to Buenos Aires for a CELTA course only three months ago and was “lucky” enough to watch some beautiful tango. I say “watch” because the only dancing I did in Buenos Aires was my first ever tango in an open square one Saturday afternoon-a free lesson for anyone who wanted to join. I was so unprepared for being introduced to a tango that I was wearing flip flops. I guess, though, as Sally Potter would say, that the “tango found me” that day, if only for a couple of hours that afternoon.

    I left a man back in Buenos Aires, not a tango partner, not even Argentine, a British man who had taken the CELTA course with me, a person I had this instant connection with, one I thought would stay in touch with me after the month we spent together there. I was on my way back to Tokyo teaching English, to a city I’d already taught in before, to a job I’d already lined up while I’d been back in the States before Argentina. I thought going back to Tokyo again was the best thing, but I question how “lucky” I was to get that job and be here now in Tokyo because I really miss that man and the magic of Buenos Aires. The combination of missing them both has almost been enough to kill me so this “lucky” that people tell me I am for being in Tokyo doesn’t often feel genuine. The man is still in Buenos Aires, but he has written very little. He has, in essence, disappeared into the Argentine night.

    I write all this to say, and I do apologize for the length of this comment, that because of my subsequent lack of connection with this man, which many might call “unlucky,” I decided to start taking proper tango lessons in Tokyo. In fact, I found a place with a gaggle of Argentine instructors and went for my first lesson ten days after arriving in Tokyo. I have now taken six lessons and, while I’m not good, tango is slowly becoming a genuine passion and improving other aspects of my life. I feel from your blog how tango can take you to another place, that feeling in the arms of a good partner (like Carlos, haha), that feeling for me that is the Buenos Aires that I miss, holding me close to its chest. I long to return as soon as possible and I know that I will sooner rather than later. I will, because I will make my own luck and, if I’m lucky, I will find my own Carlos.

    Thanks again, Sally. I really enjoy your posts. I may even be inspired to start my own blog about a neophyte tango dancer’s experiences in Tokyo.

    Sincerely, Becky

    “I have travelled much and afar in recent times and have enjoyed unearthing the secrets of many cities, discovering them through other eyes, for I am blind. Yet in my dreams I am always in Buenos Aires.” –Jorge Luis Borges

  14. Paris Parfait and Relyn
    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. It is a joy to hear your identification with me, from different countries in our world. Fellow risk takers, who work for your ‘luck’, and who read my friend Tangobaby, I send you both warm hugs from Buenos Aires!

    SC

  15. I got to your blog through Tangobaby.
    I agree with your thoughts: we can’t see, when we sum up a person’s life, all that it took for them to get there.
    I’m sure luck comes into it somewhere- there are people who work very hard and somehow never make it but in the end, we’re all struggling to do our best in this world.
    “in every case I have had to put myself in that place, ready and open to receive the ‘luck’, recognise it and do something with it.”
    -That’s so true, and a profound thought to come by.

    I live in the US now; my family in Ireland think I’m “lucky.” But there are things I miss, a lot, and I think that everybody has to see that from another person’s view- nothing is perfect. Ever.

    Great, great post.

  16. Becky

    Thank you so much for reading my blog and for writing, and do not apologise for the long comment.
    To hear your story moved me. What struck me is that you are only 26. It’s taken me a hell of a lot longer to reach a place where I can truly recognise the big ‘unlucky’ moments of life as having perhaps the greatest potential and can take the risks that I need to take in order to fulfil that potential: I now realise that my most ‘unlucky moments’ were the true doors to opportunity and deep personal change.
    I found tango only because my husband left.
    The night that I first saw tango danced, something shifted in me and I saw possibilities for my future that I could never have previously imagined. And tango has led me far, and I suspect that it will you too.
    Just writing this blog has brought so many new and fascinating people into my life. Maybe you will write a blog. And maybe it will open up your world even further.
    I never dreamt that at 44 I would meet a man like Carlos, who loves me for exactly who I am: his ‘inglesa locita’. Now I am 45 and I have love filling my days, as well as all the other amazing and unexpected gifts that my recent choices have brought me.
    I wish many gifts for you, but the main one is in your own power: that you listen to your heart and follow every dream that you have, and will have in the years ahead. Then I truly believe that countless other gifts will come.
    The next time Carlos and I dance together in the Buenos Aires night, we will dance a tango for you.

    SC

  17. The Elementary

    Welcome, via Tangobaby!
    Yes, I know there have been many moments of serendipity, as Paris Parfait described it (above), especially since I started following my heart. And these have been my share of good fortune I reckon. I feel it like the universe sees what I am trying to do, and it tries to help me. That probably sounds a bit crazy, but it is honestly how I see it. I actually feel that all the time I was stuck in my life the universe couldn’t help me. It had to wait for someone else, struggling on their own journey just like you describe, to throw a spanner in my works and shake me up and wake me up a bit. Then I decided to follow my own heart, and now it as if the universe oils my wheels a little. I am grateful for the moments that flow with me… they ease the hard work that making the life you really want, especially in a strange country, is.
    Warmest hugs from a rather exhausted inglesa, on a cold Buenos Aires night, to an irlandesa in the USA!
    (There, I am kind of assuming you are female and so if you are not, I apologise!)

    SC

  18. Well I say you’re downright jammy! Just because I like that word. 😉

  19. Ah, and on a more serious note, I understand what you mean. I get told “lucky” all the time, and I’m like, do these people even know what emotional agony and hard work I went through to create this life for myself? Sure, this time around (staying in Buenos Aires) the planets happened to align for me, but they never would have if I hadn’t worked so hard internally and externally in the past, in other parts of my life. Yes, magic happens. Yes, we are fortunate. But only because we tooks risks, we took the leap, and we committed, doing whatever it took.

  20. Dear Sally,

    Luck falls on those who work hard for it. And as you say, the work never stops. I like the quote:”Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.”

    You are always inspirational.

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