📝 Editor’s Note: To protect their privacy, some names in this story were changed. The writer is responsible for the accuracy of events, places, and people mentioned in this narrative
I met Renato in Guadalajara. He is 28 years old, fresh from med school, got a nice job in the best hospital in Mexico. He is working 16-hour shifts and barely gets to see his friends for a drink. He doesn’t even have time for Netflix.
“Trisha, I dreamt that I died on my desk and it frightens me.”
Death has always been a word I was not afraid of. For me, it’s like menopause or aging gracefully – you need to embrace it and prepare yourself for it. It will happen at one point because that’s how just life is. It’s just something we don’t have control of.
I’ve lost 3 friends from the same group in a span of a year and this instance made me think: what am I doing in my life? Alex and Mindy passed away in June 2018 which was a mini wake up call.
But when Rachel’s unexpected passing happened two months ago, it changed me a lot. I stopped surfing. I stopped hiking without proper shoes.
I look carefully to the left, right and left again before crossing the road. I’ve become different in many ways I couldn’t imagine.
While I was listening to Renato’s fears, I thought, how do our dreams fit in this busy circle of life? I wanted to tell him to loosen up a bit. I wanted to take him somewhere to enjoy a little.
I even proposed that he travels to Cuba with me. But I know Renato is a person who is actually happy with what he’s doing. Overworking is something that brings a spark to his life. 16-hour days make him happy.
We both chose different paths in life but I am sure he is not regretting his choice. Through the years, I learned not to tell people that the way I choose to live my life is not always the best form.
We admire our friends who left their corporate lives to live simply on some tropical island in Southeast Asia. Some even have high-paying jobs but they didn’t care – they wanted to find their peace.
But does that mean that they (we) lead a life that everyone should follow when we all know we can also be happy with our 9-5?
It’s all about putting it in perspective: no matter what it is that you are doing, are you doing what you want? Do you believe what you are doing is important?
Renato’s bad dream was just a little bump on the road that he can certainly get over with. I definitely did not drag him to the I-am-in-harmony-in-life-because-of-the-way-I-live kind of talk because I do not believe my life is something that fits his style. As always, “to each his own.”
“When I was young, I wanted to be a barber. It always felt right. But people told me it’s not a BIG dream and that I should change it.” he said.
Renato is from a big Mexican household. He grew up with a sister but have lived most of his childhood in a cramped quarter together with his mother’s sisters who have children his age.
Life was hard in the pueblo he grew up in so like many Mexican kids who grew up in a small town, they are raised to get out of that “poverty”.
His dream of being a barber in his village is deemed as small so he dreamed bigger – he went after being a doctor. For years, many people in his village, including his family, laughed at his “small” dream.
My head was somewhere else but in Renato’s childhood setting. I was thinking of my mom’s reaction if I told her the same thing.
In my head, I imagined saying, “Mom, I want to be a manicurist at the local salon.” I’ve seen her throw a flower vase on the floor when I was 17.
My sister joked she’s a lesbian and that she has a girlfriend – a thing we all believed because of her choice of friends and how she dressed up as a teenager.
She did not throw it hard but it was kind of a protest. After that, she said, “it’s okay, darling. You can choose whoever you want to love.”
But when she uttered those words, I heard the disagreement, the whys, the hows, the how-can-I-revert-this, the where-did-I-go-wrong-as-a-mother in her breaking voice.
When I was young, my mother is still not as informed as many single mothers in the world weren’t. The world was still following a sequence and order of life.
I never asked this to my mom friends but I’ll ask now: how would you feel if your child tells you she is a lesbian? Or if the other tells you she wants to be a manicurist? How do your children’s dreams weigh on you?
“How do you feel about people saying your dream was small?” I asked.
Having that environment he grew up in, he felt that was the right path for him and that there’s nothing wrong about it. He told me about their very odd sleeping setting.
He told me how a skinny kid he was as he always had to share his meal with his sister. He told me how they survived years just by eating rice and beans every day.
Best of all, he told me about being happy with that. He had nothing or no one to compare his life with because everyone was living the same way, hence, they were all happy about it. Yet today, he is earning 6-figures and still feels incomplete.
I thought about my happy childhood. I thought about the book I wanted to write about my life. Most books open with very sad chapters which progress to getting out of adversity.
I thought about what a great success story Renato has. But I also thought about me: should I write an introduction where I lived in a big house, went to expensive private schools, had unlimited Barbie purchases, grew up with housekeepers with a single mother for a mom?
Will that be a good opening for a memoir? Will people relate to stories of people who did not grow up the hard way? Should I go Notorious B.I.G. where Biggie wrote a song about growing up poor when it’s not the truth?
Will that make people buy my book more? Will that make them relate to my life more?
I am not even here a year but the series of events that happened when I moved to Mexico has been heartbreaking, life-changing, and exhilarating all at the same time.
And today, I am changing the belief that most of us are taught to believe: we don’t have a destination.
Growing up is a never-ending process and it’s never finite. It’s not that we’ll become something at one point and that’s the end.
So far, in my life, I’ve become a writer, a fashion editor, a travel blogger, a digital media specialist, and now, a 31-year-old single woman.
For the last 10 years, I traveled the world, led different lives, and become the many different versions of myself. Yet, I still keep going back to square one. I’ve lost track of how many times I started over and I know it’s never going to stop.
3 years ago, I was fortunate to grace the stage of a TEDx talk in Manila, Philippines. I’ve been listening to Ted podcasts for years and I couldn’t believe I was invited to speak before young people about “where are you headed?”
I loved what I wrote for this talk and up until today, the words in this speech still speaks to me in many different levels and forms. There are a lot of paragraphs here that I really like but I loved how I closed it with an excerpt from Jack (1996):
“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end none of us has very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me — make your life spectacular.”
How does one make his life spectacular? By realizing there isn’t a destination. By making his life an interesting journey. I used to be so worried about how my life will end up if I keep living the way I do.
I don’t have a house that I own. I sold my car. I am starting over in the oddest country of choice. But I do know I am living life the best way I know how.
Personally, it could be about my age, the development in feminism, or simply breaking the chains my culture has tied me to.
My life setting has always been lush and required me to spend a lot of money that I have. It involves buying brand new cars and leasing huge townhouses.
Now I am no longer scared to be identified by the things that I own or the size of the house that I live in. I still worry about the money in the bank because I have prioritized taking care of my health this year — and that requires money.
But I am not worried about not saving money every month without knowing what it’s for. I will only save for something that will have a purpose in the future and my requirement is identifying that purpose first before putting it in the vault.
This new method of dealing with how I age is intensely clear to me — I feel like consciously living day by day is still my cup of tea.
“It’s about the journey” has become real and true to me. And I mean it. I am no longer affected when people say I have a scattered life.
I’ve lived in 5 different cities with 5 different cultures. I accepted that where I grew up is not home to me anymore. I’ve lived a life according to what society rigidly demanded me to live.
I moved in with four different men who have four different ways of life. I fluently speak four different languages. Strangers opened their doors for me as I carry on to this voyage to life.
Many people in my life cannot find the right ways to support me but they are still trying their best to do so.
I am living the best adventure in life that most people dream of having. And I love every single bit of it. I fulfilled (and still fulfilling) the promise I made to myself: whatever path, wherever I am, whoever I am with, always have an interesting journey.
Making my days different each time is my current life goal and I don’t feel anything wrong about it. I do not feel unstable and I will continue to live in harmony with life.
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