Voldemort Part II: the “Goodbye”s Begin

Feliz Viaje

I believe in proper greetings and proper goodbyes. They are a respect, an honor and a recognition of the people that you are with. They coincide with proper beginnings and endings of cycles, although beginnings and endings tend to mesh together rather than being black and white apart. I’m at the ending of a cycle, a period in my life of intense self-exploration and discovery here in Mexico; and I’ve had to start to say my goodbyes.

Although I still have about two months here, last Monday I said goodbye to my homeroom students. It was my last class with them, and I started off by thanking them for a wonderful year in which they have taught me just as much as I have taught them, if not more. I told them I would miss them terribly next year. Then I told them that I will miss them so because I won’t be back, that I am leaving. Of course, tears filled my eyes as I really let the feeling of leaving sink in for the first time.

I just had a conversation with my soul sister who has become my rock, my guru, my sage during the past month. She always says exactly what I need to hear and has supported my heart and soul as I work through perfectionism and negative thought patterns. We Skyped, and I burst into tears as I thought of when I will have to Skype with her because I can’t just take a cab over to her house.

Last night, my boyfriend and I talked about how much it is going to hurt when I leave. How he wants to figure out some way for it to hurt less for himself, for both of us.

I have these conversations about Voldemort, about my July 22 departure from this place  in which I have created a life for myself, a place where I call myself home more than I ever have before in my life. This is a place where I have come to know myself at my deepest, most authentic level. This is a place where I have come to know people who are real, honest, loving, compassionate… friends who have transformed my world. This is a place where I have had three transformative relationships, each of which taught me something different and helped me along my personal journey of self-discovery and growth. I don’t want to leave this place because of the people I have met here. Leaving them breaks my heart.

You see…

Those students have become my babies, my group, my community. They have taught me how to treat one another with compassion and love, and have helped keep me young and fresh. It was so hard to say goodbye.

And you see…

My friends are absolute loves. Loves of my life. They have supported and loved me beyond expectations and been my rocks through thick and thin (and boy, have I been through some thick). They want the best for me. They respect my space, my boundaries. They love my weirdness and rejoice in my victories. They are friends for life, and they mean the world to me. I don’t really talk about Voldemort with them because I’m afraid of my heart being completely smashed to pieces.

You see…

I have a boyfriend who is an absolute love, the third Mexican I’ve dated while here, and I feel like I’m finally getting it right this time. He has taught me to love and accept myself unconditionally. He has taught me how to receive love because he genuinely wants to give me love. I don’t want to leave that love, hell no. He wants to give me the world, and I want to take it open-heartedly. But how open-heartedly can I do that when I know I’m about to leave? My heart is already breaking at the thought of leaving him.

So, you see…

I am afraid that upon leaving, I will lose all of myself that I have uncovered, all of the precious diamond that I have been discovering and polishing away at for the past two years. Part of me, a big part of me, is afraid to leave this place. Afraid to leave the people I have come to know, myself included. Leaving is the hard thing to do. Leaving is the reason I stayed for one more year.

But leaving is also the right thing for me to do. Leaving the certain for the unknown is scary. It seems dark. It’s unnerving. It’s terrifying. It’s the kind of thing that gets under your skin and into your heart and can bring you down way low. But it also is the brave thing to do. It takes courage. It takes self-respect enough to honor one’s own decision. It takes strength of the ego and the heart; faith that they will be just fine when this end begins. I feel like I want nothing more than to play hooky and not go to school; simultaneously, I want nothing more than to stop time and stay at school forever. I know I need to leave, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to because I don’t want to say goodbye to these people in my life.

But I know I have to be true to myself. And my true self knows that staying here is not right for me right now, no matter how dearly these people mean to me. Because at the end of the day, it is me. I have my friends. I have my students. I have my boyfriend. But my job is not what I want to do. Not right now. And if I am not happy, how can I stay for the people around me? What if things change? What if they leave? What if things end? Then what am I left with? I have to remind myself that in September of last year, I knew that I didn’t want to be teaching anymore. It doesn’t light my fire, not teaching English. And while I can really see a life for myself here in Mexico someday, I’m not ready to settle down just yet, no matter how much my heart strings pull me to stay. I have to let myself go, I know I do. I have to let myself leave knowing that I will come back; I have to let myself leave doing my best to have faith that everything will be okay on the other side until I do return.

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“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

A Walk Down Study Abroad Lane: an Encounter with Quesadillas

Prayer for Moon Pyramid

I came to study Spanish here in Cuernavaca a short (but seemingly oh-so long) three years ago, and when I was on my way down here, never, not even in a million light years, would I have imagined that I would be living in Mexico three years later, having spent the last two working as an 8th grade English teacher and learning from several not-so-healthy relationships with Mexican men (with the emotional maturity of boys).

But alas, here I have been, and here I am.

Recently, I’ve had conversations with Mexicans in which with there has been discussion about Mexico. Less of a discussion, and more of Mexicans expressing their opinions to me of their native country. I have to say that when I came down here to study, I fell in love with Mexico and if I hadn’t been in love with Mexico, I would not have decided to stay here on my own for a full year after my first break-up. Of course there were aspects of Mexican culture that didn’t quite mesh with me, but the beauty outweighed the beasts in my decision to stay.

As I have these conversations, I find that many Mexicans are resentful of their motherland. One woman stands out as having a glowing perspective of this little-big city of Cuernavaca, calling it a “paradise” and admiring the fact that I didn’t let the violence issues of Mexico impact my decision to stay here for a second year. She has a peaceful, calm demeanor and a positivity and optimism that are comforting, reassuring that Cuernavaca is a beautiful place. She is also 100% gringo blood but born, raised, and life-lived in Mexico. Perhaps that presence and true optimism are part of her gringo roots, and maybe they aren’t.

But as I mentioned, in many of the conversations I’ve had recently with Mexicans about their tierra, there is a disdain and almost a feeling of resentment bordering on apathy in some way in regards to their pais. Obviously, no place is perfect, and there are problems wherever you go (U.S., don’t pretend to be all high and mighty and like you’ve got your shit figured out because it’s not all figured out). And these are just some of the most recent conversations or information-blurbs that come to my mind. As I hear these opinions, which are based on reality, I can’t help but agree with many things that people say, regardless of my love of Mexico’s culture, traditions, and history. Especially as my time as a teacher is coming to a close and I find myself ready to be done with school, I tend to confuse my readiness to be done with school with a readiness to be done with Mexico. But until the day I leave, I won’t be ready to say goodbye to Mexico. And I won’t be done with Mexico, not even when I leave Mexico. I will never be done with Mexico. I just need to move on right now so that later, I can come back to this home that I’ve created here, even if it is just to visit and not to live.

To shake myself of the negative aspects of Mexico so that they don’t add to my confused school/Mexico apathy/readiness for departure (but also not rid myself of the negative aspects  so I can protect myself) and to remind myself of what I fell in love with originally about Mexico, I took a walk down Study Abroad lane to the blog that I wrote while I came to Cuernavaca for the very first time. And here are some things I learned about my 21-year-old self and re-learned about Mexico:

  • My Spanglish is excelente, pero I mean fantástico.
  • Mezcal is: delicious, not the same as tequila, and even more delectable when it’s free.
  • I thought Teotihuacán was an ancient city of Aztec ruins. We even had a tour guide to tell us about Teotihuacán and I still thought it was a city of Aztec ruins.
  • I can survive wearing the exact same clothes for three days (my suitcase got delayed in transit on my way down here).
  • Mexican men are sexy when you’re a foreigner and you’re enticed by this language and country and passion, especially when it’s you’re smoking-hot, exotic-looking grammar professor. But watch out, because they may just have a fiancé living in Brazil that they don’t tell you about (not my own personal Mexican-jerk experience).
  • I love comida, both as it refers to “food” and the main afternoon-time meal in which Mexicans stop time, slow down, and take their time eating and enjoying the company that is brought together by this meal time.
  • I was wildly optimistic and perhaps a bit naive when it came to my perspective of other people down here. The world and the people around you have a way of hardening you, of making you take off your rose-colored glasses and trend toward focusing on the fact that people do what they are doing out of self-preservation and self-interest, and that people’s behaviors don’t go beyond that. Cynicism, they call it.  In one post, I wrote about the most amazing champiñon (mushroom) quesadillas that we ate on San Jeronimo for comida one day. It was literally someone’s garage that opened up to someone’s home, and this impacted me deeply. In the post, I wrote:

“What was the most appealing thing about this place what that is was literally someone’s home that they had opened up so the outside world can discover the deliciousness of their cooking. Everything is open, out in the streets, asking for company and waiting for the human spirit to invigorate life into the air. Things are open, people are open, life is so much more joyful with a constant human presence, even if it’s just a passing smile and greeting of two strangers who both have the same open mind and open heart. I love my weather seasons in the states, but I am coming to realize how much more I love the constant presence of another human spirit.”

This perspective, of the good in people and the openness of the human spirit, this is part of my view of the world, of my (almost too hopeful) optimism about life and the people we encounter on our journeys. I take a taxi up calle San Jeronimo once a week, and I distinctly remember the garage door that people opened up to us so willingly. I always look at that garage door, to see if the quesadillas are there. And it’s not as much that I want to eat those mouth-watering, jaw-dropping, miraculous quesadillas, but more because I want to be reminded of the belief in people and humanity that one little quesadilla experience brought up in me.

Not once has the quesadilla garage been open, but this walk down Study Abroad lane reminds me of what I love perhaps the most about Mexico: it brings up my hope for humanity and the hope I have for myself to continue to view the world realistically, yet simultaneously keeping on my rose-colored lenses and seeing through those, as well.

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“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in the magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl