Monday, June 24, 2024

Searching for my ‘happily ever after’ in Mexico

Lately, I’ve been wondering if, like many, I’m seeking some sort of “happily ever after,” or perfect fairytale life. I was recently accused of precisely that, and it made me consider if it is indeed the case.

But if it is true, so what? Is that a bad thing? I think not. 

To want to be happy is a basic human desire. And if a place makes us happy, then it makes sense that we would want to spend time there, or even for that place to be home. In my case, Mexico has made me so happy, in so many ways, for so many years, that it is indeed my “happy place.” 

In the preface to my book, I used a quote from British author W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Moon and Sixpence” that perfectly captured my feelings about living in Mexico.

“Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.”  

Until now, that’s how I’ve felt about my move to and subsequent life in Mexico. Of late, though, I’ve felt unsettled because despite the aforementioned happiness, I’ve started to wonder if my time in Mexico is coming to an end or if a snowbird lifestyle might suit me better. 

I’ve lived in Mexico, mostly in Mazatlán, for 17 years now. That’s a long time to be in one place, so maybe I’m just ready for a change. 

I also miss my family — three grown kids and their spouses and children — more than ever. Is this just part of getting older? Having never been this age before, I don’t know how I’m “supposed” to feel, or sometimes, even how I do feel. My older friends say this is all “normal,” but it’s new for me and not always a comfortable place to be.

On top of everything else, I’ve had a couple of unexpected serious health issues that catapulted me into an unnerving face-to-face with my mortality and my future, prompting an even deeper look at what really matters. 

These are all worrisome thoughts.

I see myself embarrassed and hesitant to talk about this with friends. To some of them, moving back to the United States is seen as a “failure,” and they have no qualms about saying that. It makes me wonder why we supported each other unconditionally when we moved to Mexico, but now that I’m considering another momentous life transition, it’s hard to find the same support. Why is this a decision they want to judge and the other wasn’t? 

After almost two decades, it stands to reason that my needs and desires are changing; I’m a radically different person than I was when I moved here at age 50. My parameters and priorities have all evolved and changed and will keep evolving and changing as time goes on. That feels “normal” to me.

Mexico isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect and life here isn’t perfect either. There are problems and challenges and difficulties, just like anywhere, but all in all, Mexico has worked out pretty well for me, and I have no regrets about making that decision when I did.

As far as moving back to the United States, it’s hard to imagine ever living there full-time again. (Truth be told, I don’t think I could afford to anyway.) But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to other options, like that pseudo-snowbird life I mentioned earlier (house trade anyone?)

Perhaps I just need to travel somewhere new, in Mexico or elsewhere, to open my mind and re-create myself in a place where I have no history and there are no expectations about who I am or what I might want to do. Judging by the soaring number of people traveling all over the world, I think many of us are feeling that way, especially after the isolation of COVID-19.

For right now, though, I’ll make no decision one way or the other; life will go on as before, and, like I said, for the most part, I’m happy and content. Summer travel, already planned, will take me to visit many of the folks I’ve been missing, and I’ll be looking at life “up there” with different eyes.

This morning, I went for a quick swim at the beach. There was a young American family there, Mom and Dad and two little girls. We chatted and they told me they were from North Carolina, driving around Mexico for a month in their super-outfitted van. They asked where I was from, and when I said I lived here, the woman’s face lit up. 

Eyes sparkling, with a smile from ear to ear, she exclaimed, “Do you absolutely love it?!” 

Without a second’s hesitation, I replied.

“Yes!” I said. “Yes, I do.” 

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.

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