I was listening to This American Life during my morning walk and the episode I was listening to featured a segment about young Mexicans who grew up in the U.S and had to go back to Mexico for whatever reason. Some “got in some trouble,” others got involved with gangs and another girl had to go back after graduating from college because she was undocumented and couldn’t find a job. The young people in the segment work at call centers in Mexico because their English is so good – often better than their Spanish – and they describe feeling stuck and longing for the U.S, the place they called home for most of their lives. They all hang out together, talk English to each other and spend a lot of their time reminiscing about life in the U.S and missing their families back home. One of the guys even talks about how much he misses Taco Bell despite the fact that he is living in the original land of the taco and burrito.
A lot of people might say that these individuals deserved to be sent back to Mexico because they were undocumented or they got into some sort of legal trouble. I have my own views and I think it’s a little more complicated than that, but I’m not really here to make a political statement or argue a point. What intrigued me most about the segment was that feeling of being stuck and knowing there is little to nothing you can do about it. I’ve sometimes felt restless and unhappy – during my first two years of high school, the last year I was in Colombia, towards the end of relationships – but I’ve always known there’s a way out. Even now, whenever I feel restless, tied down or bored, I know that if I really wanted to, I could get up and go somewhere else, try something new, keep looking for whatever I’m looking for. It might take a little planning and consideration, but there’s some comfort in knowing there’s really nothing concrete holding me back except for the obstacles I put in my own way. One of the perks of being single, childless, mortgage-less and living in a country where such things are possible, I suppose.
As I was listening to this segment I found myself getting kind of sad thinking about people who are somewhere they really don’t want to be, longing for the place they want to be and knowing there is very little they can do about it. Really, they only have two choices: They can surrender, accept their new lives in Mexico and learn to love what they have (one of the women featured has actually gotten to that point) or they can try to cross the border, live in the shadows and deal with the chronic anxiety that comes with knowing that one day they might be sent back. Two options, both difficult, both anxiety-provoking.
So I started thinking about all kinds of lose-lose situations, situations where no matter what you do, it doesn’t feel quite right. For example, say you’re a wife and mother who suddenly discovers you don’t particularly like being a mother or being married. Or a father for that matter. Or you are your parents’ only caretaker in Queens but you really long to be a cowboy in Wyoming. Or you’re a brilliant scientist from Namibia but you’re torn between going back to your country to combat brain drain or taking advantage of all the opportunities for scientists in more developed countries. Or you’re on a dangerous humanitarian mission in Syria and know you’re doing good work that few others are willing to do, but you have a family that needs you and loves you back home. Do you give up the bigger picture to focus on your own personal, smaller picture? Anyway, these could go on forever. I guess the point is that I feel lucky I’ve always had a choice. You can listen to the episode here:
Categories: Serious Stuff