I can remember the first moment when I realized that time was passing faster than it used to. I was 14 years old and I suddenly realized my 13th and 14th birthdays felt closer together than my 13th and 12th or any other pair in my life. Before that, I had waited for birthdays; I often began thinking about them months in advance, counting down to my special day. This time, it felt like my last birthday had just happened–maybe nine months ago at the most, certainly not an entire year.
As the years went by, time kept speeding up on me. The distance between birthdays felt even shorter–not nine months, but six or maybe less. New years crept up and then flew past. Milestones in life came and went faster than I could appreciate them. Now I am 26, but I sometimes get confused. Someone will ask me my age and a random number comes out, ranging from the reasonable slip up of 25 all the way to the stranger instances of 21. 21 was the last big birthday, the last great event to serve as my point of reference for age–in this manner the mistake is somewhat understandable. And it is only about five short years in the past. Five years are not so much, right?
As a child I would think about those milestone moments awaiting me in the future and I would count the years until I would be there. I can date at 15! I can drive at 16! I’ll move out and go to college when I am 18! The years to go would often make me feel defeated. 4 years, 5 years, 7 years: all so far away that they felt almost pointless. Now these events are further in the past than they were in the future when I would work up silly angst over them. Despite this, they still feel very close. When I was in second grade, kindergarten was a lifetime in the past; now, my first year of college is a recent event.
I suppose it makes sense. At 26 1 year or even 4 years are a small portion of my life. So it is obvious that to someone who is, say, 5, that the idea of even a few days seems to be a lifetime. And that to someone who is 12, a year is a daunting time frame to confront. Still, it amazes me each time I think about some past event and realize how long it has been and how fast that time went.
The big anniversary in front of me is 1 year in Mexico. I can still feel the stress as I agonized over what I should bring, what I should just buy once I arrived, and how it was all going to work; this stress is as present to me as something that happened weeks ago. As a 12-year-old, my separation from emotions felt a year ago was significant–if I could even recall the emotions at all. Now, I am looking at arriving nearly a year ago and I often feel like I just stepped off the plane.
A lot of things have happened in this time. Not so much big events, though those have been there, but more simple realizations or steady changes in myself.
- I discovered how to be a partner to my husband in ways that I was unable to learn while I was in the states. Part of this comes from living independently together for the first time as husband and wife. Part of this comes from the role reversal endured as our marriage went from the culture I have always known to the culture he has always known. Part of this comes from truly appreciating having a life with him after being kept apart for 1 1/2 years.
- I learned to relax about things and treat life as an adventure. Getting caught in the rain is not a big deal. The neighbors playing music that I can hear as I work is just a part of life. The neighborhood rock band decides the street in front of my house is a good place for a late night concert, oh well, too much of my life is spent sleeping. Something I have found myself thinking a lot is that little moments that I never would have cherished before are valuable experiences. Tiny interactions matter more than they used to and even the moments that get under my skin are somehow special. Going back to getting caught in the rain: a few weeks back I was walking from my combi stop to my house in an awful rainstorm (common here this time of year) and I discovered how badly the streets of my colonia flood. Rather than getting in a taxi, or even getting upset, I decided this was going to be an adventure, a special experience for me. I turned it into a jumping, hoping, splashing real-life video game. I was soaked despite my umbrella thanks to getting splashed by a combi in a way that I thought only happened on TV, but I was left feeling exhilarated in a way that I had not experienced before. While I will avoid a repeat experience if at all possible, it wasn’t the catastrophe I would have let it be a year ago.
- Friendships have become something important to me, even when they are not meant to be long term. Growing up, it always seemed like if one was to value a friendship, it had to be something that would withstand the test of time. However, outside of childhood, most of my friendships have not lasted more than a few years. There was a variety of culprits: growing apart, changing jobs, changing colleges, changing cities. As each friendship ended, it always felt like a failure on my part. Now I am living in a situation where the majority of people I meet and care for will move on within a few years. I could guard myself from the inevitable loss by distancing myself from others, but I really feel like my own life has been enriched by these people from across the country and across the world.
- Throughout my three years of practicums and student teaching, I would often wonder if I was doing the right thing by becoming a teacher. During my university classes I would sit a listen while the other women (and one man) would share stories about how close they were getting to their kids and how much they loved them. I, on the other hand, would usually only get close with a few children while feeling disconnected from the majority of them. Making the jump to switching cultures and leading my own classroom was incredibly daunting and I walked into my first day of teaching scared to death of failure. Towards the end of the year, my kids remembered their first weeks with me as being very scary; they claim I was very strict and always looked angry. The truth was, I was just nervous and trying to keep it inside. But as the year went on, I relaxed and joked with them. I learned what motivated them to work and to learn. I also found that each of them had something that made me love them, no matter how much irritation they might have given me at one point or another.
- My life feels established and I have settled into it. My home looks like what I think my home should look like. Decor is up and my space feels unified. Routines have been established and give me the comfort that I need. I even added Georgia into the mix, which somehow made everything feel complete. So now I am married with a dog and living in suburbia–something that rings of the life that almost was–while still being in the middle of the biggest adventure of my life.
- Something else I came to understand once getting here is not positive like most other events and discoveries of the past year. Before coming here, I naïvely thought that I would not feel as alienated from others due to my immigration situation as I had back home. While the people I meet are overall more accepting and empathetic than those back home, they still do not get it. It isn’t that I thought I would move to Mexico and everyone would get it–I just didn’t anticipate the ways that this disconnect could come into play. My reason for coming here impacts so much of how I respond to different situations and there is a lot that I can accept or overlook because I didn’t come here to find myself or go off on an adventure–I came here to be with my husband, to restart a life that I had to put on hold. Ultimately, I am still alienated, just in different ways.
And there are many more things, more than I could list.
Soon I will be helping new teachers arrive and get settled into their first year. It is my hope that they will get as much from their year here as I have from mine. And I hope that one year from now–which will likely go faster than my first–I will be as happy as I am now and have learned as much as I did this year.