first year comes to an end

“Best way to live in California is to be from somewheres else.”
– Cormac McCarthy

It’s been a crazy year.

It’s been so crazy that I haven’t had as much time to regularly post and update this blog as I would have liked to. I’ll admit it – it was part laziness, part being overwhelmed with so many things to do, part being uninspired and feeling like I did not have much to share. I traveled, I work, I studied, I grew a lot (and this can also be interpreted in whatever way you choose to, as my terrible healthy habits have definitely made me grow a couple of sizes). And this blog was always pushed more and more towards the back of my mind, though it was always there, always waiting for the right opportunity for me to catch up.

Throughout the next few weeks I will be updating it with all the the travel notes and photos that I have taken throughout these past months here. In the mean time, on my way back home for a month, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to think back on what this year has been like, a brief reflection written on a 2-hour break from flying. Here we go.

London Heathrow’s terminal 3 departure lounge seems to have become my go-to spot for writing these kinds of reflections. Three-quarters into my trip, waiting for a two-and-a-half-hour connecting flight that will finally get me home after the almost-10-hour trip from San Francisco, I have nothing else to do but sit and stare at the ceiling an wait indefinitely.

The first time I flew home from California back in December, I was relieved to be going back. I never truly admitted it to anyone, but right then I was on the verge of a breaking point. I had had three rough months of adaptation, of being so far away from home and from my loved ones. This wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t felt so inadequate the whole time, if my insecurities hadn’t caught up with me (as they usually do), following me everywhere and making me question everything that I did. I had little support then (or so I felt). I had also had three months of loss, of grieving, when the loss of my last-living grandfather in October came as the strange materialization of distance, as the sudden realization of just where in the world I was and just how impossible it was for me to keep company to the people that probably needed me the most right then. My last memory of my grandfather Henrique will always be how I kissed him goodbye in early September, and how he held me and said “I’ll see you soon, God willing”, and I strangely felt that I would end up never seeing him again. I guess life has a funny of testing you.

Back then, when I first arrived in Lisbon, I was happy to be back in my element, where I could finally breathe and feel relieved. I was received within the warm embrace of my family and friends who, despite my distance and overall inability to participate in their lives’ and keep up with all the things that had been going on, still treated me as if nothing had truly ever changed.

Going back now actually feels somewhat bittersweet. As happy as I am to go back home, it comes with the difficult realization that there is but one year left, and then it’s all done – whatever it is. It also comes with knowing how difficult this upcoming year will be, how challenging it will be for me as an artist and filmmaker and just as an individual.

I turned 24 in the process of this year. I’m still young – people make sure to remind of this everyday whenever the age topic comes along in a conversation – but almost in my mid-20s. If there is such a thing as a quarter-life-crisis (assuming I’ll be living up to 100, which, with the kind of lifestyle that I’ve been leading, actually sounds pretty unlikely), I am definitely having one.

First day filming as a 24 year-old.

The Stanford Documentary Film MFA 2019 cohort presents: final Spring quarter film presentation

This year wouldn’t have been what it was if it hadn’t been for the people I met in this place. The people I met at Stanford and San Francisco most specifically, but all over the United States as well. The people who made what some days felt like an unbearable place slightly more bearable, who introduced me to different ways of thinking and perceiving life, art, cinema, who’ve had a tremendous amount of patience to put up with all my concerns – and names won’t be named for the sake of avoiding public embarrassing and lame moments.

A special shoutout goes, however, to the women filmmakers that I have met this year, whose patience and kindness has been, for the most part, undeniable. Their generosity has known no bounds. The art they have created makes a difference in the world, in their own creatively unique ways. They are fierce ladies, and they know it.

I am still struggling creatively. My technical abilities cannot keep up with all the ideas that I have in my head. This has been my main frustration this year – that my body and my work do not keep up with the extraordinary abilities of my mind. I can only aspire to keep working towards the day when that won’t be a problem anymore (if this is even possible at all): Disappointment is, I guess, to be expected from the whole process. Allow me to rephrase that, then: here’s to the day when I am willing to accept that I’ll just have to be disappointed sometimes, and keep working towards becoming better.

The powerful women documentary filmmakers at Stanford 2018

California is a strange, beautiful place. I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to end up in – the fact that it’s so far ends up not mattering at all. And if you had asked me two years ago, when I first found out I had won a scholarship to the move to America, I never thought I could end up where I ended up today. Stanford was nothing but a dream, a place I knew I had to apply to thinking that I could never get in, but I’d still have to apply anyway.

I’m not done with California yet. I have one more year to go, one more year to let me be surprised by you, and after that, who knows where else I will go.

All I know is right now I’m going home. Yet California already feels like some kind of home as well.

California, you beautiful thing. See you in a month!

– Inês

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