I may have only been packing for a week in advance, but I had been waiting for the past six years to be reunited in México with my best friend, Andrea De’ Orta. Andrea had become my best friend after living with me to learn English when we were younger; and from that moment on, August 6th, 2016 simply could not come fast enough. Emotional and with overwhelmingly excited tears in my eyes, my ‘three but felt like twenty’ hour, second plane ride had finally landed in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México. As I squirmed to look through the window, the piercing sunlight that escaped the cover from the mountains forced me to jerk my head into my hands, and suddenly I was terrified.
Waiting for my bags only negatively intensified the situation. While a few Americans stood by talking loudly about their suitcase sizes, it hit me: I. Forgot. Everything. I forgot all of my makeup, a coat, pencils, and every single hair product. Trying to stay positive, I picked up my bags and headed for my new family at a sprint. When I finally got to Andrea and her sisters, the excitement that had been building up for six years was gone and all I felt was relief. I spent the car ride home reunited with my new family, who had opened their arms to accept me and my current mess.
As a perfectionist, my early miscalculations began to build extreme anxiety. I thought a rough start here in the heart of México was a good sign, but honestly, things got worse. My first class was scholastically difficult, and it seemed like no one was ever on time. However, as someone who has spent college being picked on for my diligent study ethics, the one thing I simply could not stand is how stupid I felt being unable to communicate basic ideas. It does not matter that some of my peers may think I’m intelligent in the U.S. – here I can barely form basic sentences, and this is all on top of falling victim to the blonde(ish), happy, american-girl, bimbo stereotype I bear. All bottled up with sadness that my perfect, controlled world has been completely ruptured, I was forced to bust. Staying strong to my stubbornness as I harbored anxiety and refused the emotional relief of tears, my body literally “busted,” and I began to bleed internally. This past week I was in the hospital, and now I’m on four different medicines and treatments to fix the physical damage the stress has done to my body.
After the hospital visit, naturally I decided that it was time to reflect. It is pretty simple: my inability to let go of my perfectionism, independence and constant anxiety over unconscious stereotypes regarding México were doing major damage. Every time I stepped out of my house I freaked out because I knew something would not go as I had planned. However, now I see that this is the true treasure that comes from studying abroad. Of course, there will be unexpected twists and turns in the road, but is someone seriously going to stab me in the street? ¡No manches! (No way!) Instead of people pulling knives on me, people pull smiles and stretch out their hands. Mexicans may tend to run late here, but that’s because they so purely and gratefully live in the moment and value the presence of another person. Is this truly something to belittle an entire country for? However, regardless of where I am at now, I thought I was different. I mean come on, my best friend is Mexican! I thought that I knew how (or at last, was good at) identifying and separating my foundational beliefs from uncovered cultural biases wound up and tucked into the corners of my mind that mold my thoughts. However, I was wrong. I too have unconsciously slipped and let the negative, political rhetoric that engulfs México within the United States literally wound me.
An open mind first brought Andrea to America, and open arms then brought me, Molly, to México. Personal reflection has reminded me of exactly what it means for me to be open-minded here in my specific situation – I have to surrender my “Molly-mannerisms” to México. My mentality has been put to the test, and it is time to let the Guadalajara way of life guide me to a new path. From here on out, I will be making sure that I keep my walls down and my heart open.