Wealth by Julia Taylor May 21
First Published on Mexico Connect
July 1, 2006
Am I richer or poorer in Mexico? Iâ€™m certainly richer in gratitude. The simple fact that everything is not as easy as it was before makes me better at appreciating what I have.
When I first moved to Mexico I was scared, sad, and very, very angry. At a tippy table in a hot torta shop, I wrote the following poem:
Loss of My Birthright
Though I am a U.S. citizen,
I grieve the loss of my American Dream.
That I believed was my birthright.
The law sent us away from home.
Away from our dreams.
Away from our livelihoods.
â€¦Away from owning a home.
â€¦Away from family joys.
â€¦From starting our own little family.
Tomorrow is no longer ours to aim for
My husband canâ€™t get a visa for 10 years.
We have been cut loose,
So I let the days slide by.
I breathe deeply and let time slip through my fingers
â€¦let go of my dreams
â€¦ignore my sorrow
We are at the age where we see that our youth is almost over.
We wanted to build a home and family
Within the embrace of the larger family,
But now we are floating in a time span too long to catch up to those dreams.
My definition of wealth used to agree exclusively with definition number 1 in my Websterâ€™s College Dictionary â€œWealth n. 1. A great quantity or store of money, property, or other riches.â€Â Now I have to agree with short, simple number 6: â€œhappiness.â€
When will a state of wealth be effortless for me? There should be some point at which I no longer have to console myself with deliberate mental lists of gratitudes. In Mexico, â€œwealthâ€ is almost a verb. It must be mentally reaffirmed daily.
Before, when I washed clothes by hand at the cement washboard outside, I just wanted a washing machine.Â Now I have a washing machine and I just want hot water piped in. If I had hot water what would I want then?
In my memories I feel the freedom of gliding around in my car, going wherever I want to go whenever I want. Now I donâ€™t own a car. I canâ€™t afford the insurance and gas, and besides, the drivers in my town are participating in a free-for-all. I donâ€™t need a car because there is excellent bus service in Mexico, but it takes extra gumption to get out and about on the bus. Once I get myself out, when I step off of the bus Iâ€™m not weighted down by a huge metal possession. Itâ€™s just me and my two powerful feet; Iâ€™m still free.
Our house has only 3 rooms and an attached bathroom. There are no closets or cupboards and the wiring is tacked onto the walls and included only 4 outlets. My husband added two more. There are extension cords snaking everywhere. One night, half asleep, I almost broke my leg and the TV tripping over one.Â But the walls are bright yellow, blue, and green.Â Itâ€™s cozy. When people come into our house they stand in the doorway and smile. â€œI like your house,â€ they say.
Lack and wants can pile up over my head like the column of molecules that make up the atmosphere.Â Would I really feel more secure if I were back in the States and had money going regularly into a retirement fund? Experience seems to suggest that Iâ€™d be insecure about some other detail.
Perhaps the greatest wealth given me by Mexico has been the gift of writing. In elementary school, as soon as I could read well, I began to write. But life in the U.S. took over, filled my head with class assignments, career goals, housework, television. In the loneliness of culture shock my voice came back.
I wrote an e-book telling others how to survive the transition from the United States to Mexico. I put in the nitty-gritty details, pleasing myself with the humor that crackled in the descriptions. Then I made a website to sell the e-book.Â What a joyful feeling to have the experiences of adjusting to a new country and culture have a bigger meaning in my life as well as value to others.Â Itâ€™s wealth.