On my last day in Mexico over the holidays, I spent some time wandering around Mexico City and picking up a few things I love (coffee, mezcal), and grabbed in a quick haircut. I hadn’t had a haircut in about a year, and for some reason it seemed a million times easier to get it done in Condesa (one of Mexico City’s beautiful neighborhoods) than in Arizona. Choice in the US overwhelms me (i.e., which haircut place do you choose!?!?! Recommendations only go so far!), and my neighborhood in Arizona is not particularly walkable, so few options exist for me to grab a haircut while I am out on a walk. Regardless, getting my haircut in Condesa is also an opportunity to practice my level of acceptance for the uncertainty in life, as ridiculous as that sounds. I am fluent in Spanish, but I have no idea how to say certain words related to my hair (cowlick?) and I am certainly not going to translate every word I might need before a pop-in for a haircut. Perhaps because I can’t over explain what I want and thus confuse the stylist, I’ve loved every haircut I’ve ever had in Mexico. However, I haven’t always been particularly laid back about my hair, or anything, and it’s still a work in progress for me to go with the flow sometimes. Only through regularly practicing activities which pushed me outside of my comfort zone (e.g., MOVING TO MEXICO), was I able to relax a little and learn to tolerate some level of uncertainty.
In general, I’ve always appreciated a little novelty in my life, particularly going to new places and eating new things. However, I spent my 20s in a weird space of wanting to see the world and live my best humanitarian life yet being too insecure/afraid/anxious to do so, and having a low-level desire to meet whatever ill-defined expectations for my generation existed at the time. Trying to find a balance between those two desires left me feeling somewhat powerless about my future as a result, further aggravating the problem. As Amy Cuddy explains in Presence (pg. 111):
“[…} powerlessness activates a psychological and behavioral inhibition system, the “equivalent to an alarm-threat system.” We are more attuned to threats than to opportunities. We feel generally anxious and pessimistic, and we’re susceptible to social pressures that inhibit us and make our behavior unrepresentative of our sincere selves.”
I consider my 20s a weird decade; it was fine at the time, there were some things that happened, I went to some places and did some things and battled a tough recession. But that anxiety I was carrying around about trying to meet some ridiculous metrics of American success seriously made it difficult for me to feel like I could in fact live my best life. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I could take a step back and remember that: 1. The first time I had an existential crisis about any version of American Dream, I was 16 and reading too much Camus and Sartre. It was then that I decided I was never going to be happy doing things “the regular American way,” if there was such a thing; 2. Success (and, as an extension, one’s own personal American Dream) is defined by an individual, and not society; and 3. Dreams and success are fluid, and what we want for our lives is likely to change multiple times as we learn and grow into whatever representation exists of our sincere selves in the moment. We don’t have to have everything figured out right away, and definitely not in our 20s. But by playing around with life and experimenting with places and jobs and communities that feel right, even if it is scary, maybe we can get closer to a life that seems good.
Which is why a haircut in Mexico on my last day there seemed much more normal than getting one in Arizona, to me at least, to once again remember how much pushing myself out of my comfort zone can be a good thing. In total, I spent two glorious years living in Mexico, constantly showing up to new places and doing new things that were incredibly scary for me at the time (Live radio interview in Spanish!??! My heart rate was out of control that time. I get so nervous for radio/TV even though my sister always forced me into her productions as a child). Yet despite how nerve-inducing aspects of my life were in Mexico, again, I was also extremely happy and felt like I was constantly surrounded by growth opportunities. Granted, I was also very stressed by aspects of my job while there, but when I had a moment to reflect, I certainly felt like I was doing the work I was meant to do in a context I was truly excited about. And the rewards of those tough growth opportunities have carried through beyond my time there, at least in my desire to explore new places. When given the opportunity to visit Maui at the last minute a few weeks ago, for example, I almost bailed because I was too worried about whatever consequences might happen from me going leaving the computer for a week on short notice, while unemployed and searching for jobs. I went anyway (after a tough inner dialogue) and had a glorious adventure, once again remembering how much I feel like myself in a tropical place with chickens running around. Turns out, I got a job while I was gone, too.
I did a lot of living in my time in Mexico, and the challenge now is to continue that level of energy for growth in both my personal and professional lives. My new position is going to provide ample opportunities for learning about US states and topics I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with, while I’m still trying to hike every trail at South Mountain in my free time. I probably won’t make it before I leave Arizona, but at least I will have tried and embraced whatever uncertainty comes along with getting out there.