Pinch me. That’s been my motto for the past few months. A little over a year ago I was working at a law firm in New York City. The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps. Destiny for any college grad from New Jersey. I loved it. My parents and their friends always reminisced about “being young in New York”. And I was living it. Full throttle.
In my mind, being young and working/living in the City was a rite of passage. The first step into adulthood. “Now Keenan, my son. You move to New York, you get a job on Wall Street, you meet someone, you get married…..” That’s life. And New York, that’s where you start it. And for a while that was me. That was my blueprint and I was OK with it. A 9-5, white picket fence, suburbia; I enjoyed the thought of it all.
I was, and I am, the recipient of a golden ticket, a product of the Baby Boomers. My parents gave me everything. Told me I could do anything. Dream they said. Work towards those dreams, Set goals. They pushed the dream chasing lifestyle, but secretly, I know they preferred the conservative path. I wrestled with it all. I gave their conservative wishes a shot. But then I visited a friend.
I was still at the law firm when I visited my friend Matteo in Panama. I was New York. He was renegade. When everyone gravitated to DC or NYC, he went south. He was in a foreign country, slaving away and working for himself. He was making beans, and I ate it up. It wasn’t the climate of his newly adopted homeland. Nor was it the cost of living. It was the fact that he was working for himself. He hadn’t received a formal job offer or partaken in any training programs. He left all that. When all of his friends were in major U.S. cities, working at big firms, playing with their newest blackberries — Matteo was trucking away on his website in the land of a canal. His limitations were himself. His dreams, his reality.
Over the course of that visit, Matteo and I rehashed the college days, old friends and new adventures. We visited the tourist stops and we went elsewhere. We drove around aimlessly. A vacation without expectation. It was nice for a change. I saw a lot of Panama in those 6 days. And in returning stateside, one place out-shined the rest. Casco Viejo, or, Casco Antiguo. A slice of Europe transported to Panama. The plazas, fountains, cobble stone roads. A euphoric sensation for those of us that have traversed the Atlantic.
This section of Panama City was and is remarkable. The kind of place where you awaken to the pang of bell towers and pigeon wings flapping in the sunrise. Cut and Paste some chic restaurants and cafes from Miami and there you have it. Casco Viejo. Casco Antiguo. A place growing in popularity, destined for stardom. And for everyone who knows Casco Viejo, a secret garden for the time being.
My short sojourn in Panama had only slightly evaded my nearest memories when Matteo asked me when I was moving down. I was floored. In my dreams I had entertained such a move. But now? Was I ready? Then he threw in Los Cuatro Tulipanes. His friend’s dream. A collection of apartments set in Casco Viejo run like a hotel. Decorated to the T. Nurtured with all the care given to a new born. A gift from god, probably not. A crossroad in the story of my life, yes.
As I sit here in Central Park with the summer’s sun beating down upon me, I still can’t help but pinch myself. I came to a crossroad and I chose Panama. The life I’ve lived and the life my parents wanted for me still lie in the background, but for now, I will stake my claim in my newly adopted homeland. Some may say I’m lost and others might say I’m crazy. Both of these statements reign true with me to some extent, but I have set my goals and I will work at my dreams. I come to this hotel and this country with an open and eager mind. Tough times are guaranteed and a rollercoaster of a ride is what I expect. What I’ve dreamt for myself and where I am going might differ, but what remains constant is passion. A passion for life and a passion for work, both of which I think I have found.