I have been living away from home approximately 16 years. I wrote in my post “In the Middle of Americans” how I had a hard time getting used to my new home in the United States, but after some years I became accustomed to the new culture. Where was the old home? Peru. Becoming accustomed does not mean that I agree how my lifestyle was unfolding here, but in order to survive and stop being the victim, I did. I couldn’t change a whole culture, so I changed.
I actually changed quite a bit, and I still fight for some customs. When I travel back home, I really don’t know how to feel. I get so excited just for going back there and seeing my family and friends. But do I want to deal with what I call a chaotic city? I feel guilty sometimes that as soon as I arrive I complain and say to myself, “I am so glad I don’t live here anymore.” Imagine that. I love my country; most because of the people I love are still there, and having those feelings breaks my heart.
The last time I was there was with my son in 2012. We went there because my grandmother died, and I wanted to be there with all the family celebrating her life for what would have been her birthday. I thought it would be a great idea to travel with my son and show him where I grew up and expose him to another culture and language. That trip was amazing. I not only exposed my son to something totally different, but I also exposed him to the love of an amazing family. For me to see him interact with my aunts, uncles and cousins was priceless. There was no place like home. What a mix feelings for me. So where is home?
As soon as I arrived to Peru with my 4-year-old, he noticed the differences between Colorado and Lima. We took a taxi to get home, and my son kept asking me if we were going the wrong way. I asked him why and he said: “Don’t you listen mommy all the horns?” Very good point! Because I had lived there before, I didn’t realize the amount of noise of the car horns in Lima. Another question was: “Mommy, is something wrong with the car?” With that one I laughed because he was concerned that the car kept moving and jumping because of all the potholes. After a few days in Lima, he confessed to me that he missed the sun, and I just realized that the bright sun of Colorado was not as strong there. The big one for him was missing speaking English and Daddy. So I asked myself, “Do I want to go home?”
Since I love analyzing life, and sometimes I try to look for answers, I have thought about how interesting it is to see these two cultures. In a way, they are the same and in other ways they are not. It is difficult to explain. But then I realize how quiet Colorado is. So, so quiet that it can be depressing sometimes. I even think that because everything is so organized and routine, Colorado can become boring. As human beings, we need adrenaline and chaos in our lives. Why is it that I see more people here in Colorado less joyful if they have such a beautiful, organized place to live? And why is that when I go to Peru I see more joyful people in a chaotic place?
With those ideas in my mind, I started to pay more attention to my life and to my life coaching clients’ lives. What is going on in our heads that where there is not chaos we tend to create it? So I made up my own philosophy, maybe to make myself feel better. I said to myself that human beings need chaos to feel alive; they need sometimes the noise, the fear, and the fight-or-flight mode. So then I remembered my life in Peru when I had to walk to get my car to the garage we rented. Just to walk there I had to be aware of my surroundings. Then, if I decided to drive, to deal with the traffic, the constant stopping even if the light was green, and if the light was red I had to be aware of my surroundings again because someone might break my window to steal something. Driving there was like a competition, and if someone would cut me off, I would put my window down and yell at them and yell at the people crossing the street while I was driving. Or the other scenario was travelling by bus, also a situation to be aware because of the fear of robbery and assault. Because I would spend so much time on the bus because of traffic, I might start talking to whoever was seating next to me. And on the way, I would see kids on the street working and homeless people asking for money and harassing. I had to be aware; my brain was always working at full speed.
When I think about Colorado, I see something different. My car is just in front of my house, so I just get in and drive. Denver is so organized for me that I actually memorize how the traffic lights change, and I really don’t need to be aware. I just stay there staring at the light, and as soon as it changes we keep going. And if by chance I run into traffic (what Americans call traffic), I just call it very organized traffic. Most of the people stay in their lanes, and if you are lucky and someone lets you go in front, you just wave to say thank you and everything is great. If you are to see a homeless guy, you just read their sign and decide if you want to help, no harassing there. Or I can take the bus, and wow are they on time; that is still so new for me. All you have to do is make sure you are on time to the bus stop. My brain is not at full speed as it used to be in Lima.
So seeing these two lifestyles, which one do I like? Very good question. While I super enjoy my organized driving here, not seeing so many homeless people, and not having to deal with robbery here, in a way I feel that my brain needs all that chaotic activity to feel alive.
As I have my obsession with joy and happiness I begin to investigate more and more. What is it that we are looking for? I have seen people getting out of their country because life was not great there. By not great, I mean not making enough money, there is real danger, it is too hectic, or kids do not have a future. Then they come and get good jobs and are paid pretty well; it is not dangerous anymore, so peaceful, and kids have free education and a chance to go to college. And then, their lives look even more miserable than before because they are not happy with all they have achieved. And I ask myself, why? Why? Why? What is wrong with humanity? I am not criticizing my country or this one either. It is just that I am amazed amaze to see the inhabitants of each country reacting very differently from what I expected. Not having much, I assumed people should be sad, and having everything people should be joyful; I found out it was quite the opposite.
Because I see this ambiguity, I decided to live the 2 cultures, to make my brain be more awake without the chaos. So I started to exercise more, to hang out with more people, to go farther in my knowledge of joy, to attend workshops, and to observe and learn. And also to enjoy the peace, the safety and the organized life I have here. And a big one, not to judge.
After years of trying to find my true self and balance that, I realize that being grateful is one of the key things on how people feel, including me too. We take things for granted here in the United States, a very instant gratification life. I want it, I get it; I don’t like it, I throw it out; I hate my job, I quit. This is an interesting concept for me. I remember being so upset at one of my English teachers here in Denver when he made the comment about how in Latin America our commercials are too sexual and how disorganized and unsafe life is. Of course I could not keep myself quiet; I had to say something. So I stood up and told him in front of everybody that it was more pathetic to have such controlled commercials and to have such an organized and safe life and still need antidepressants because you don’t know what to do with your freaking life. Oops! Back then in 2001, I was not that spiritual, so I would react pretty quickly when I took things personally.
What is different now? My perspective about life here and there. I discovered my treatment after so much learning. Happiness was already inside of me. So where is home? Home is everywhere I am. Now it doesn’t matter where you put me because I know who I am. I will thrive wherever I am or in whatever situation I am put. I don’t need to achieve or buy something to feel one way; I just really need to have a closer look inside of me.
Yay!!! I found the solution. But I also realize it was not as easy as I thought. I just have to be aware because there are a thousand distractions around us telling us what we need to feel one way or another. So what I do is take full advantage of everything society gives me but know that not because of that I am someone or feel one way. I just need to be grateful, aware and stay balanced to my true self. If you know someone that might need my help with that, you know where to find me! That’s what I am enjoying about this life coaching job. We are all in this same life dealing with this.