My friend Colin, in a wonderfully honest blog post, writes: “I'm going back to AA. Jesus. Somebody kill me.”
In March I spent a couple weeks in Colombia. Colin (last name omitted by request), who lives in Bogota, saw my tweet about heading down there and reached out asking if I wanted to meet up. His bio on Twitter reads: "Sexually-frustrated, alcoholic gringo in latin america." I was intrigued. I sent him an email asking for more info on his background. It only took a few emails for me to figure out that he was smart and thoughtful and interesting. He said he had been a long-time reader of my blog. We agreed to meet-up on my last night in Bogota.
For me it was an exercise in randomness. His online presence suggested he was unlike me. One of his blogs, Expat Chronicles, contains stories (which probably will offend many readers) about his exploits on the Latin America nightlife scene. In his own words: "This is a blog for Lonely Planet types and chronic travelers, those curious about the world, people who drink too much, guys with Latina fetishes, and filthy degenerates. People like me." Here's a post about going to a brothel. Here's a post titled "Peruanas' Gringo Desire Reaffirmed." His personal blog contains more general musings on the world.
I drink but not a ton, I don't do drugs, I've never been in jail nor have I patronized brothels. Meanwhile, Colin talks about all these things freely on his blog. I saw meeting him as an opportunity to understand the perspective of someone who has accumulated life experiences different from my own. We met over dinner, about which Colin posted a detailed blow-by-blow.
What impressed me most about Colin was his perseverance. He's had a tough life. It started with a grab bag of childhood traumas, followed by unfortunate run-ins with the law and school problems. Chronic alcohol and drug use compounded all of the above. At some point he decided to move to Latin America, leaving friends and family behind, and create a new life for himself. With his recent post on taking control of his alcohol problem, Colin is not just talking the talk when it comes to improving his life — he's taking concrete steps in the right direction
The other striking thing about him is his self-awareness. At dinner he displayed a tremendous ability to analyze himself and his actions, even if his own conclusions proved devastating to his character. Brutal honesty over charitable narratives or excuses: I like this.
People who have overcome real adversity in their life are not only more interesting than their silver-spooned counterparts, but they also seem to be the ones who become the most powerful and inspirational leaders. I expect Colin will be a future star of some kind.
He lives in Bogota and is available for freelance writing and web development. Email me and I’ll connect you with him if you’re interested.
Here's Colin's post on how Latin Americans perceive love and romance more intensely than Americans. Speaking of honesty, my friend Penelope just blogged about being physically and sexually abused as a child. Wow.