Mexico - 2019
This Christmas was my third time to Mexico. For those of you who don't know, Fernando is from Mexico and I alternate Christmases between my family in Canada and his in Mexico. It was a year and a half between my visits and this time I realized how much I grow as a person every time we go there.
The first time we went to Mexico I had an old point and shoot camera that died within the first day and then for some reason wouldn't take a charge, which was okay because I had my phone and I wasn't really into photography then; I was happy just to capture snapshots. A couple months later I bought my first DSLR and I started learning as much as I could. The second time we went I was able to capture some great memories for us and I loved it. I even got to take photos of "real mexico" in controlled locations (tourist safe towns, along the beach, etc). All of a sudden i could share my experience with my family through my photos, which was great. I didn't realize it at the time but I was learning to focus on what I considered to be important in my adventures so I could tell a story from them.
Growing as a person
When we are in Canada, Fernando is the one who is unsure of some things and I am ( sometimes overly) confident in those things. Then we go to Mexico and it is a complete reversal. I can't speak Spanish so I have to rely on Fernando to translate for me; which is very restricting. Yes, I can learn Spanish but I honestly just haven't made the effort to do it. I am also very unfamiliar with some of their customs and habits. I am not allowed to wash my own dishes 90% of the time when I'm there, unless the house keeper has a day off. Meals are made for us (except breakfast because we usually eat cereal) and we kind of just hang out like teenagers on summer vacation. Fernando's mom is finally starting to let me help with things but the first couple of trips I wasn't supposed to.
Aside from cultural role differences there are other differences I never would have considered. For example, we were walking down in the dark one night and all of a sudden he wanted to walk on the road. Okay, we've done this before and there's no traffic, no big deal...but this time I decided to ask him why we were walking in the road.
Can you guess his answer? I never would have.
We were walking in the road because it is safer; if someone tries to mug or attack you you're not blocked by wall and have more escape routes. Seriously though, these types of conversations are common for us in Mexico; everything is about keeping me safe. It's probably a protective device of my brain to keep me from getting anxious but I tend to kind of shrug it off and chock it up to him being super cautious. This time I realized he isn't the only one who walks in the road on dark streets, or wears a backpack on his chest so no one can steal from it without him noticing. Instead of making me more scared it made me more confident. I could deal with these things; I just had to pay attention to things I never had to before, and learn from Fernando rather than shrugging it off.
Then I was allowed to go for a run on the boardwalk without Fernando. I had to run 5 miles, so at any point I was up to 2.5kms from Fernando, and possibly anyone who spoke English and would be able and willing to help me. I refused to carry a knife like Fernando wanted because I want to believe in the good of people, but also because I really don't know what I would do if someone tried to attack or mug me. I was more concerned I would just be giving someone a tool to use to benefit them rather than one to protect me. We set a time for me to be back as he cautioned me on walking too close to the trees or the roadway while I ran in case someone came out of the bushes. Seems intense right? I did my run and nothing happened; so far that's been the norm and I am happy to keep it that way. People stared at the girl who was super red (I go red when I exercise and it was +30) but that was it.
All of that thought went into me being able to go for a solo run, so you can imagine that when Fernando agreed to let me take my camera out and do some street photography I was elated! It was like a form of freedom and independence I hadn't experienced in Mexico before. Begin able to go for a run alone was amazing, but now I'm allowed to take my camera out, at sunset/night?! Whhatttt?!
We went to the safer part of town and I tried my hand at street photography. I loved it (photos above); it was such an empowering feeling that I can't even explain. It's like I was free of all pressure to get a result, to see Mexico any way other than the way I wanted to see it, and to explore. I didn't care if people looked at me funny for taking photos, or assumed they thought I was weird. I'm usually fairly insecure because I know I'm quirky, but I don't like when people dismiss me because of it, so I try not to let strangers see that I'm weird, None of that mattered here. No one knew me, no one cared, and I will probably never see anyone that was out that night again, which enabled me to feel free creatively.
Over the next week and a half I brought my camera everywhere I could and documented whatever called to me without fear of being judged, looked at funny, or any of my normal insecurities. I embraced the opportunity and ran with it as much as I could. I really feel as though it helped me grow as a photographer but also a person. It provided me with confidence in a situation I would usually feel self conscious in, and I learned more of what draws me in and why. It also helped me appreciate what I have in more than one aspect. I was appreciative of being able to afford my camera and equipment, of the opportunity I had to use my gear, the patience Fernando has for my photography passion, and the story I am able to tell using those photos.
Opening up to experiences
There is an entire world out there that many of us haven't explored, and I don't mean geographically. Meeting Fernando has improved my level of compassion, empathy, intrigue, and sense of adventure simply because I have been willing to embrace the unknown in a lot of ways. It definitely isn't easy and I still lack in understanding and compassion in many situations. As people we pull from our own experiences and we tend to make friends with those similar to us because it is comfortable, but when I started letting people in who had significantly different life experiences I started to grow as a person. I started to consider that my perspective isn't the only one and that just because something is the way it's always been for me doesn't mean it is the right way or the best way. I honestly believe exploring and meeting new people is the best way to grow as a person.
Even if you can't afford to go on some fancy vacation somewhere exotic, go somewhere and experience new things and meet new people. Think about where you live, where can you go that you've never been? It can be a hike, a boat ride, a camping adventure, anything! As long as you're willing to go with an open mind and heart the smallest adventure can change your life. Look for ways you can improve your perspective of the world. Volunteer in your community, get involved in your kids activities more if you can, join cheap or free groups around town.
Find what makes your soul happy and do it.