More Than

Illustration for PLANSPONSOR magazine

Illustration for PLANSPONSOR magazine

I’m almost forty years old, and whenever I feel less than, I call home.
I’ve been living in New York now for almost 9 years. 

How fast time has flown. 

I still remember the day I arrived, the moment I was on the highway entering Manhattan with only 2 suitcases. Although I did have more things, I shipped them to my good friend Yuko, who received them for me; they were 5 small boxes filled with books and (self) promotional postcards. 

My family and I moved to Canada when I was very young. We fled from Mozambique, Africa during the mid 1970s because of civil war. I have no memory of living there, but I imagine it was a beautiful place because Bob Dylan wrote a song about it,

“I like to spend some time in Mozambique
The sunny sky is aqua blue
And all the couples dancing cheek to cheek

And when it’s time for leaving Mozambique
Just say goodbye to sand and sea
You turn around to take a final peek
And you see why it’s so unique to be
Among the lovely people living free
Upon the beach of Mozambique.”
(Bob Dylan)

I don’t know when this song written, or what city in Mozambique Bob Dylan was writing about, but it must have been before the revolution because when we left, we never looked back. Most of my family’s possessions were taken from us, and when we finally arrived to Canada via Portugal, we had less than – much less than – almost nothing, if compared to what I have now.

When I was young, I used to be jealous of my friends. I remember going to their houses and seeing how much stuff they had. And then, when I went home, I was confused why we didn’t have those same things too.  I used to feel embarrassed about the house that I lived in, and the car that we didn’t own. I used to wish that things could be different; that we could have more than we did.

My mother and father would always acknowledge to my brother, sister and I, the things we didn’t have, but not in a forceful or negative way, rather they did it graciously because afterwards they would remind us about the importance of family, of having a home, and good health. As a child, I never engaged with these comments much – I didn’t understand, nor did I ever really appreciate their words. But nowadays, as I grow older I’m beginning to find meaning in them.

So much of my life has become wrapped around my career, my ego and my money; all the superficial things that make me feel important, that make me feel like a true New Yorker. Here, currency is currency, but so is knowledge, beauty, one’s social circle, awards, and one’s position in his/her industry. But when things don’t go as planned,  and when cracks begin to form, I call my parents; and then after a few minutes, my anxieties fall away. 

I called my parents today because I was feeling less than. At almost 40 years old, I still have financial woes, I have uncertainty about my career, and I continue to make what I feel are wrong decisions. I have a lot of questions to which I don’t know the answers, and so I call my family when these feelings arise not because I believe they can answer my questions, or solve my problems for me, but because I know they will remind me of our past, and bring into light those things in my life that will help me to feel more than.