First the magical coincidence—a coincidence possible only in this millennium of connectivity. A few weeks ago, a young woman named Melissa was preparing for a business trip to São Paulo. Seeking some pointers, she checked out a pile of books from public library; Until Brazil was among them. Reading, she discovered that we had attended the same high school. Well, almost. In my era, Abbot Academy was an all-girls prep school; it has since become an integral part of Phillips Academy, Melissa’s alma mater. She was going to Brazil on a business project on August 24th, the very same date that I had embarked on my journey 29 years before! During our first Skype session, we talked non-stop for two hours, like old friends!
For me, the fascinating fun of meeting Melissa was discovering our professional parallels and emotional equality, despite her being forty years my junior. We started our conversation with some tips about doing business with Brazilians—knowing a few phrases in Portuguese, taking time to drink a cafezinho, being prepared to enjoy the unexpected, and having a little jogo de cintura. (You’ll have to read the book to discover what that means.) Soon, however, we were talking about the emotional roller coaster and unique challenges of being a woman in a world that is still often dominated by male counterparts, especially in a foreign country.
In many ways, today’s Melissas have a much stronger platform from which to succeed, especially in international careers. Many educational settings now boast cultural and gender diversity, a reality that was far away when I earned my MBA. The Internet, not yet a transformational force when I went to Brazil, now provides information, communication and connections that open the world to those who tap into their powerful potential.
Today’s young professional is likely to be far more worldly and far less naïve than I was at thirty-five. However, taking the plunge into unknown territory, challenging assumptions you barely know you have, and being willing to fly through windows of opportunity still require self-confidence and courage. In writing Until Brazil, I hoped to inspire others to take “journeys afar for discovery within.” Knowing one such voyager brings me great satisfaction. Thank you, Melissa.
But, just like the heroine Bethania, I am greedy and want more!
“As the speck of yellow paper sank from sight, it carried with it the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ that threatened to entrap me in the good life I had known until Brazil. An exuberant tingling seeped in to replace them. I think it was the same tingling that tells a rosebud that it is time to open its petals.” Excerpt from Until Brazil