Ventanas Mexico

Resources for full- or part-time life in Mexico

Ventanas Mexico provides resources to people considering moving or retiring to Mexico, including a blog, the section It's Cheaper in Mexico, and the books the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," and "If Only I Had a Place' on renting in Mexico.

Moving to Mexico: Becoming the "The Captain of Your Fate

 
Heading towards better climates

Heading towards better climates

Updated August 2017

Sitting on my patio in Mazatlán, looking out over the water trying to spot migrating whales,* it is hard to believe how scared I was at times, especially in the middle of the night, of moving to Mexico by myself.

I was not totally immune to the stories I had read but I had reminded myself that I could probably avoid being killed by a drug lord more easily than I could avoid being in a McDonald's, a marathon or suburban theater at the wrong place and time. 

An occasional “mordida” didn’t concern me that much either. Even with a little Spanish, I'd been able to stand-off a Tijuana traffic cop when I was only 22 years old (telling him that if he was going to take my passport, well then, I guess he'd have to just take me to the police station). But still...

Being from rural Oklahoma, I have always envied my friends from larger cities classical education from private schools. "You took Latin?" I moaned. I missed so much of the poetry and literature that inspires and sustains them their wholes lives. The references they can appreciate because thirty years ago a teacher made them write an essay on Homer's Lliad.

One of those poems that I only recently surfaced and inspired me in my unconventional new life in Mexico was “Invictus."  Sure, I was familiar with the closing lines, but (I’m deeply embarrassed to admit this. I hope my better-educated brethren aren’t reading this blog) I had never read the whole poem until I heard the thundering final stanza in an Xbox commercial of all things.

It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

 

This magnificent poem applies to every single one of us, male and female, at every stage our lives. For those of us in middle age who have weathered life’s storms, I think it's especially powerful (although it was written by William Ernest Henley when he was 26 years-old while recovering from having his leg amputated).  

His captain’s metaphor conjures up images of being on the bow of your own ship, heading majestically towards a new horizon, regardless of the current weather. Moving to another country, even part-time, is much like that.

The poem reminds us that we must forge ahead in creating our lives and determining our own fates in spite of “the bludgeonings of chance.”  It speaks directly to self-mastery and facing fear unflinchingly. 

Part of self-mastery is overcoming fear of change and fear of the unknown. You can't have a dynamic future without elements of change and the unknown. 

The biggest thing to overcome is simply inertia. Just because your life is comfortable now doesn't mean you're in control, that you're mastering your fate.  I could have continued living a comfortable life for a number of years.

Rather than sticking my head in the sand though, I recognized that the American system of healthcare is broken, held hostage by institutionalized greed.  The cost of living has been outpacing income growth in our country for two decades.  

What would that mean to me as a 65 year-old in 10 years? These were the rocky shoals ahead.  Captains of ships don't say, "Let's just wait and see."

When entire systems are broken, they can take decades to fix.  I could wait around until my ship got pulled under, perhaps old and sick, or act while I still had the energy and resources to plot a different course.

What was my quality of life going to be like based on my current assets. Adjusted for inflation, Americans don't make any more money than they did in the seventiesYet prices have gone up in all categories.  

The only remaining havens will be small towns and if that life isn't for you, you are going to continue to see the squeeze in the cost of rent, housing and food.

Will the middle class as we knew it, the wide swath, the majority swath, of people who could afford to purchase homes, educate their children and not lay awake at night worried about the cost if a loved one got sick coming back?  Maybe. Not in my lifetime.

When I got fired from a job once, someone told me that whatever I did, he believed I'd live life on my own terms. I mistook that for saying I'd get what I'd want.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  Being the master of your fate, deciding what you're willing to accept and what you're not has a price. The price can be very bloody high.  

Sometimes it means accepting you're just different and acting on it when it would be so damn easy to sink into everyone's else's lifestyle, adopt their routines.

 It's very hard to move into unfamiliar waters when you are content in the shallow end.  But  as John A. Shedd famously said, "A ship in harbor is safe - but that's not what ships are built for."

Women  in particular need to take the helm of their ships, as scary as that might be, and as tempting as it might be to wait helplessly out to sea and hope that someone or something will come along and tow us ashore. 

People love a forward moving train. I'm proud to say that many of my friends have reinvented themselves, gaining both the satisfaction of being captain and the camaraderie of lively, age-less shipmates to support them in the journey.  

Many of the people I have met in Mexico embody resilience, independence and the spirit of adventure long gone in a majority of middle-age people. They took a look around, swallowed their fear and decided to abandon safe harbors and set out for ports of their own choosing.

 

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me

Black is the pit from pole to pole

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud

Under the bludgeoning of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate

How charged with punishments the scroll

I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.

 

*There are only three places in the world where gray whales give birth to their babies, and all three are in Baja. The whales leave California for the place of their birth for Mexico on the longest migration made my any animal.

Related Links

One of a multitude of articles on how the American system of healthcare and rising housing costs threaten your future - Reuters

"Cost of Living Vs Wage Stagnation - 1975-2016 by Reason.com

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Kerry Baker

Kerry Baker

Hola, I am a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web, linked and organized into lesson plans. 

Get the most out of expat life, stay safe and save money by learning Spanish. Start today!

Check out the new book on renting luxuriously, written for expats "If Only I Had a Place.