I found this quote scribbled into a journal I kept when I first moved to Mazatlán more than 15 years ago:
“To be sure, she was exhausted; obviously she was confused; but she was excited, as well. She felt that she was caught up in some chaotic but grand adventure that was lifting her out of context and placing her beyond the normal constraints of society.”
This quote, from Tom Robbins’ book “Jitterbug Perfume,” made me chuckle; obviously that’s how I felt at the time. And it’s how I often feel even now: If we’re lucky, life is full of surprises. The challenge is to see them as such and go forward happily, enthusiastically, maybe somewhat confidently, even when the unknown and unexpected seem to loom on the horizon.
I don’t think I realized the scope or significance of this passage until now, years into what will perhaps be the biggest adventure of my life. Some have called this — and me — courageous, shaking their heads as they try to imagine doing the same, finding they’re able only to step back and flatten themselves against the strong, solid wall of the known and familiar.
Beyond a certain shadowy point, I find that boring, and I know in my heart that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life — however many precious days remain — making “safe” decisions.
The thing is, the more one steps outside the box, or even looks outside the box, the easier it is to do so again. Consciously or unconsciously, these kinds of decisions affect our entire outlook on life, and it becomes easier to choose the less-traveled path, to arrive at a fork in the road and go the other way despite — or because of — the mysterious chaos that might be ahead.
Personally, I’ve been compelled by curiosity my whole life; my mother used to say I did “too much, too fast.” I don’t want to miss “the grand adventure” if I can help it.
Questions like “What if?” “Can I?” and “Suppose…” haunt me until I take action and head off, preferably toward something new, toward an I-don’t-know-where-or-what odyssey. Other times I’m led by an unconscious desire to explore, to do or know or see something different — “to be lifted out of context and placed beyond the normal constraints of society.”
As I’ve gotten older, I find I have less and less patience with staying on the proverbial fence. I do it (up to a certain point) but am eager to weigh whichever pros and cons I can figure out as quickly as possible and just get on with it.
And if my decision ends up being uncomfortable or — oops! — not what I thought it would be, well, I’m happy to switch directions and try the other way. (Usually.)
But what inevitably happens to all of us — the way life works — is that the unknown becomes familiar more quickly than we think. As expats living in Mexico, we learn some Spanish, maybe deal with tropical heat, make new and different friends, eat new and different foods. What once seemed impossible or unheard of — too “chaotic,” too “grand an adventure” — becomes our own life, our “norm,” how we live day-to-day.
To be sure, we might be exhausted or confused — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.