Interview by Kristina Horinková, Photos edited by Daniela Morris, interview edited by Amal
Can you tell us about yourself? Where have you lived throughout your life?
My name is Thaïs and I am 20 years old. Feels weird to say, it went by a little fast! Brazilian-French is the way I like to present myself, but I never know how to answer this question properly. So I usually do the very AUC thing of making a list of all the places I’ve lived, but I don’t know what that says about me. I don’t have a home town, but I grew up moving around a lot. Between France and the Netherlands when I was a very small child and recently Portugal, where I did high school.
I don’t say: “Oh I’m going home for Christmas.” Not really.
Did you feel at home in all these places?
Yeah. I think I’ve always made myself at home wherever I am. And to me it’s mostly been about who I’m with. Sometimes I’ve preferred some cities over others, but yeah. I felt at home, I guess the city of Porto for instance, but I didn’t feel at home in my high school because I had pretty different values from the people there. So there’s multiple layers of home I guess. I could go to most cities I’ve lived in and just feel some sort of comfort. But I guess, there’s no distinct place of home. Like I don’t say: “Oh I’m going home for Christmas.” Not really.
What would be the greatest struggle you have overcome?
There have been very intense moments in my life. It’s been like a multitude of layered experiences. I mean, that’s how it goes in life. I think. And maybe when it happened, I was really toning it down. Not necessarily repressing it, but just being like: “Okay. Yeah, No, it’s, it’s fine. I can do this.” But then in retrospect I’m like what?! Maybe I’ve realised that it’s all right to not feel well and to be really crushed by things when they’re very intense and scary. It’s okay to be scared and not feel good for a while, because that’s what life is. It’s not that I necessarily pretend that things are right. But it’s okay to acknowledge things and then feel the emotions, even if they’re very intense and they hurt.
Is there any struggle you would want to share?
My parents divorced when I was kind of young – I was nine or ten. And I love my family very much, but it hasn’t always been very easy with everyone moving around a lot. Moving away from them has definitely given me more perspective. I think it’s something I’ll carry with me in my life. Although they are people that are close to me, I’m glad to have moved away, because it made me realize that I can live independently and have my own life and choose the people I want to be around and also acknowledge that I love my family very much. I think sometimes distance enables you to love people more or appreciate them more, despite certain bad things that happened.
I’ve been very close to people for a couple years and then moved away and life happens in between – and it’s okay if you drift apart. Maybe you’ll never see each other again and sometimes you’ll reconnect and reenter each other’s lives. And that’s very good.
Based on your life, what would you want to pass on to others?
I guess something I’ve learned from my very short time on earth is that nothing’s really permanent. I’ve grown up in different places. I’ve been very close to people for a couple years and then moved away and life happens in between – and that it’s okay if you drift apart. Maybe you’ll never see each other again and sometimes you’ll reconnect and reenter each other’s lives. And that’s very good. Things can happen from that. And yeah…just that nothing’s going to remain forever. Whether that be good things or bad things. It’s just something I’ve touched upon a little bit over the years and it’s sometimes a bit scary, but I think it’s comforting as well. I think that’s just something that’s a good reminder every now and then – for me and maybe for other people.
Is there something you wish everyone knew?
Even if we disagree with a bunch of other people, I think in the end, we’re inherently not all that different from each other. I think we have very similar thoughts and maybe we can be more empathic towards one another. It can be easy sometimes to be so immersed in your own subjectivity that everyone is like a non-playable character in a video game. But in the end deep down, we’re all a little bit the same. Sometimes this makes it a little bit easier to connect or at least understand other people. And I wish everyone knew the capital of Brazil is not Rio or San Paolo. It’s Brasilia, that’s the only other thing.
What’s something that bothers you a lot about the world today?
Definitely how we handle issues that have to do with time. For instance, if I think about climate change, you know it is going to happen whether we like it or not. I feel like we’re handling it a little bit like a college student handles like a final essay. So we’re like, Hmm, yes, this is arriving soon, but I can procrastinate in the meantime. And then suddenly it’s like 11:00 PM and it’s due in an hour and you’re panicking. And then also, I guess in relation to the past, maybe – and this is a little bit idealistic – holding grudges in relations to history or what we’ve done to each other. I think it can definitely fuel more violence. And I don’t mean to say that we should forget or erase things that have been done, or I think it’s very good to remember, and it’s a duty to remember the past and acknowledge it and, you know, to a certain extent hold people or nations accountable. But I think it’s also good to not get into revenge too quickly – but those are very big concepts and I’m just me.
What’s your philosophy in life?
I think I just aim to be content, not happy, not super loaded or there’s no huge goal or inherent meaning to all of it. It’s just kind of there. And I just hope to be content and, you know, whatever happens will happen. I’ll do my best with it. And I think that everyone, you and I, I think we’re a little bit more insignificant than we’d like to think and that that’s okay. I’m 20 years old now… I would love to hear how my 60 year old self would respond to these questions, but I’ll have to wait for that.
Is there something that you think people misunderstand about you?
I’d like to think I don’t appear or present myself very differently from what I actually am like alone…but maybe the idea that I’ve always got shit my together at all times. I don’t think people always think that of me, but you know, inside sometimes I have no clue what’s going on. But I think that doesn’t apply only to me. Maybe we look at other people and we’re like “oh, they know what they’re doing”, but I think no one really does! To some extent, at least. Sometimes I’m just stumbling through things and it’s not always visible.
What are you most thankful for?
There’s a lot of things I’m very thankful for. Being with my sibling, for example. We don’t live together anymore and we definitely did fight a bunch. They threw my favorite plush joy out of the window of the fifth floor when we were toddlers and that was very traumatic… But all jokes aside, I think we have a somewhat closer relationship now and they might be the person that knows me best. Although we’re very different in a lot of aspects, it’s been very nice to have someone that I grew up with consistently next to me, who shares the same family and knows where we’ve both come from. So they’ve been one of the few constants in my life and I’m very thankful that I get along with them today and that, when we go back, even if we haven’t seen each other for even a couple months I know that it’s somewhat the same.
I feel like in a lot of films being courageous is about not having fear anymore and then doing the scary things and that’s what makes you badass. But I think Chihiro is especially badass because she’s still scared, terrified even.
Do you have a favorite book or movie? And why did it speak to you?
Yeah, I think normally I would make kind of a self-deprecating joke about really liking Studio Gibli movies, because it’s a very AUC film student thing to say, but I mean they’re very good. I think it would be Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki. I watched it for the first time when I was maybe like seven.
So what’s the reason that you like it?
I never finished the movie as a kid. I always stopped at that scene with the pigs because it was utterly horrifying, But then I finished it a couple years later when I had the courage to see the entire film. And since then I’ve maybe watched it like six times. And I think I watched it recently on my last birthday actually with some friends and every time I re-watch it, I notice more things.
I really like something about this movie. There’s all the whimsical fantastical elements that are never really explained. They’re just there, there’s no rules specifically for this world. Things just happen. And I really feel like it reflects a little bit on how in life things just happen and sometimes there’s no answer. Like why does this boy turn into a dragon? Why is there a bouncing, like lamp? What of a lag? Why is there a giant baby?
But also, but most importantly for me, I think it’s the fact that Chihiro [the main character of the movie] is super scared in the beginning of the movie, like she’s terrified. And she has to go through this unknown world where people are unkind and sometimes kind. And I very much relate to this. Especially growing up and having to go to different schools, being the new kid and even now, you know, having had to live alone for the first time. And throughout the movie she starts doing the scary things, while she’s still scared. I feel like in a lot of films being courageous is about not having fear anymore and then doing the scary things and that’s what makes you badass. But I think Chihiro is especially badass because she’s still scared, terrified even.
By the end of the film, she’s still uncertain and definitely grown up, but she hasn’t become a fearless warrior. And I think that’s what makes her relatable. That’s why I feel like she’s a very nice protagonist because she’s human and life is scary, but she still does the things that she feels like she needs to do.
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