To say that I’m easily overwhelmed is an underwhelmingly simplified statement. Finding myself in large bustling crowds, ears ringing with the sound of traffic leaves me tunnel-visioned and grim-faced. I walk through hordes of people with my teeth set on edge.
You’d think becoming easily overwhelmed would make me a terrible candidate for world travel. Every day there are a thousand tiny decisions to be made. Each small decision grows arms and legs, vocal chords, and opinions of their own. Decisions are never one way streets. They come in twos and threes, yes’s and no’s, maybe’s and perhaps’. I’ve rarely met a decision that didn’t grow at least one other head by the time I’ve thought it through.
Sometimes the decisions seem silly. Many times they revolve around food. Where do I want to eat today? Should I stick to the chicken place around the corner, or step, harried and tight-lipped into the bustling city crowd to find a cheap arepa place? And how many arepas are acceptable before I can no longer fit into my jeans?
In supermarkets, the tunnel vision sometimes squeezes itself into a tiny pinprick of light where I can just barely make out prices and the shapeless mass of strolling colors and noise that form the human population.
It’s in these moments that I receive practice in patience and perspective. As I start to breathe again, the shapeless mass become individual people once more. Here is a woman picking out a week’s worth of lunch for her daughter to take with her to school. Here is a man helping his elderly mother pick out the ripest tomatoes. Here is a lover’s quarrel in the soda aisle, or a group of school boys picking out an after-school snack.
In these moments, the tunnel vision widens, draws in all the small life matters that happen in the fruit section of the grocery store in a foreign country, finding yourself holding unidentifiable fruits and trying to remember just what you were so upset about.