Weekly on Wandering Souls, I post the results of an interview with someone met while travelling. In these interviews, I pick the person’s brain about what it has meant to them to be where they’re from and how they feel about where they currently are on this odd bubble of a blue-green planet we’re on.
This week, we meet the USA’s Debbie Pierson.
I saw Debbie reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods on my bus to Puerto de Iguazú and laughed along internally alongside her as she read. Debbie was in Argentina on a work trip and had given herself a few extra days to visit the Iguazú waterfalls (one of the most beautiful sights in the world) as a sort of “to me from me” present. I visited Iguazú the next day with her where we were only two tiny people alongside the tens of thousands of Argentines and Brazilians on school holidays who had also turned out to watch the water a-fallin’. Debbie has a wonderful sense of humor, one which I will be forever grateful for – as it helped us survive our horrific and back-breaking four hours spent in queues at the waterfalls.
How has being from the United States left its mark on you?
I’m really grateful for the chances I’ve had in life, chances which I suppose are because of being born in the place I was. However, it’s often hard, as we’re so ultra-patriotric. I have mixed feelings, as I’m proud of my country but sometimes it’s not easy being a US citizen. I love my country but I’m often horrified at the number of raving patriots or ultra religious types that exist.
What would your 13-year-old self think about you if they met you?
She’d be happy that I lived in a way that was true to myself and that I didn’t compromise my values. I did exactly as I wanted. I think we’d get along smashingly! (laughs) We would be very similar as I still love exactly the same things as I did as a teenager.
If you could meet your 13-year-old self, what would you say to her?
I’d tell her not to be afraid of herself, that the freedom that opens up in your 20s is amazing. “Be true to yourself” sounds like such a cliché but I would tell her to maintain some sense of who she is, and to get that sense early and maintain it. That way, you’ve won half the battle.
How do you make decisions?
I think about it a lot, too much at times. I think about how my decision will impact myself and others. I generally make the decision that’s best for me, but that won’t have a negative impact on others.
Do you think you’re on the right path? How do you know?
I do, absolutely. It’s certainly not a traditional path by any possible stretch of the imagination. It’s my own path. I’ve had an independent and unusual life and I’m proud and happy about that. I hope I’ll keep going the way I am and that I’ll always want to live this way. But time will tell if it continues to serve me. If I suddenly feel like I need the things society tells us to obtain – a family, kids – then we’ll see. So far, I’m happy and I hope I won’t regret not having those things…but I don’t think that I will.
How do you feel when you think about your future?
I kind of expect just to keep going. I usually stumble into the next phase, it just flows naturally. I don’t necessarily plan very much – one thing just leads to another.
What fascinates you about the United States?
The diversity of cultures within the country. It’s so different from the north-west to the east to the mid-west. It’s vast and fascinating country to travel in.
The fact that every single person has a unique story. I don’t care who, they have an individual and interesting perspective and story to tell. I’m always very curious to know people’s tales.
I honestly don’t know! I’m really straight forward. I amuse myself constantly. The best thing about me is that I’m super-easily entertained. I’m never bored. I think the key to a happy life is being easily amused.
What scares you about the United States?
That’s it’s possible to get weaponry so easily. Also, right-wing nutbags! (laughs)
Any sort of “ism.” Also, intolerance or a hatred of others. An inability to understand differences. Most of this is based on the fear of others or of difference. I wish society would understand that it’s based in fear in order to overcome it.
That my memory keeps getting worse and worse and that there are things I’ll forget 10 years from now scares me.