I recently got the chance to visit Mexico for the first time in 15 years. This is the place where I was born, and where I spent the first 10 years of my life. As you can imagine, I was very emotional during this trip.
To get reacquainted with the places and people that used to be part of my life was such a special experience. So many thoughts and emotions (both negative and positive) finally resurfaced. It was overwhelming. Throughout all of this, there was one question on my mind, a question that has been bugging me ever since I set foot in America: was it worth it? Was moving to the US worth leaving behind everything I cherished at the time?
That’s what I’d like to explore with this post.
I remember very clearly the day I left Mexico. I remember because I desperately didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be far away from everything I cherished: my extended family whom I was very close with, my neighborhood which was filled with kids to play with, the Sunday gatherings with my dad’s side of the family, and more.
That night when I arrived in Minnesota, I remember crying myself to sleep. And many nights after that. In those early days, I would have done anything to go back.
But as time passed, I slowly became numb to that desire. I started to forget what Mexico meant to me. Call it a coping mechanism. I also grew accustomed to my new environment and culture. So much so that I eventually started saying “no” to the question, “would you like to go back to Mexico?” I guess I stopped valuing the things I used to value. My 10 year-old self would be very sad about this. And for a long time I felt a great amount of guilt for it.
It’s clear that I’m not the same person I would have been if my parents never took me here. Whether that’s for better or for worse I honestly don’t know. If I stayed, would I still gain an interest in philosophy, or would I be less of a critical thinker? Would I be the shy person that I am today, or would I be more outgoing? Would I still believe in the importance of peaceful parenting, or would I have continued the tradition of threats and violence once I have kids? It’s hard to say whether these things that are core to who I am today would still be here.
Then there’s the question of what kinds of opportunities and freedoms I would or wouldn’t have if I had stayed in Mexico. I think it is safe to say that in those terms I’m better off in America. However, I wouldn’t say it’s by that much. In fact, this visit opened my eyes to the fact that Mexico wasn’t the underdeveloped country I previously thought it was. I was actually surprised at how modern the cities were and how much flourishing is going on.
By the way, I highly recommend visiting Monterrey — the combination of skyscrapers and mountains make for such a beautiful city. I definitely wouldn’t mind living there.
Sure, there may be more poverty in Mexico, and you do have to be more vigilant of thieves, but when I look at the lives that my cousins lead, it is honestly not that bad. In many cases it’s indistinguishable from life in America. As I got to know them, it’s clear that they have a great life ahead of them — one with plenty of opportunities, but more importantly, a great family that they love.
Before this trip I would have said that I was better off living in the US, but after seeing my cousins, and seeing how happy they are to be surrounded by their family, I’m not so sure anymore. If I had to answer the question right now, I’d say that losing the relationship I had with my family was not worth it. And then there’s the fact that I lost the opportunity to see certain family members again before they passed away, something I deeply regret.
I feel sad about the many things I missed out on as a result of my parent’s decision to move and stay in America. No doubt this has shaped me into someone that’s more reserved. But I am happy for the things I’ve learned and the values I hold as a result of this journey. I guess it’s bittersweet. It may not have been worth it in my opinion, but I guess all I can do is make the best of it so that it wasn’t all for nothing.