My pace of life is much slower in Tula than it has ever been before. Senior year at Scripps was a busy time, full of going to class, writing thesis, clubs and student organizations, and spending time with friends. Almost every hour of every day was busy with some activity.
I now work about 20 hours a week at the university and dedicate about 15-20 hours on my individual “side project.” Yet I still find myself with so much more free time than I’m used to having. In the fall I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. Like I wasn’t making the most of my Fulbright grant. After talking to some other English Teaching Assistants, I learned that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. Many ETAs are recent college graduates, or are coming from working full-time, so this slowing of life was an adjustment for almost all of us.
This “slowing down” was (and is) one of the most significant cultural adjustments I had to make since moving to Mexico. Many people in the United States are used to living their lives in a constant state of hurry. Get to work, go to this meeting, finish a report, eat lunch at desk (no time to leave the building!), go to the gym, go home, make dinner, sleep, repeat. We like being busy and productive.
The pace of life in Mexico varies by location (e.g. Tula vs. Mexico City) and individual preferences, like it does in the U.S. Based on my experience living in both the U.S. and Mexico, that pace of life is slower in Mexico. People take the time to stop and have a conversation with one another, even when they’re on their way to a meeting, and stopping might make them late. As for taking a lunch break, leaving the office for “comida” is quite common.
There are fewer places I need to be on any given day, and as a result, I have a lot of “me time.” I expected to learn a lot and to grow as a person during my time in Mexico, but I was not expecting to learn so much about myself. I have had a lot of time with my own thoughts and time to think about what I care about, what makes me happy, and what I want to do. Having time to process my own thoughts, to think slowly and carefully, has been one of the best (and unexpected) parts of the past six months.
I have learned to go easy on myself. I practiced a lot of self-care and try to listen to what my mind and body need at any given moment. I read for pleasure (and indulge in Netflix). I go running and listen to a podcast, or practice yoga in my room. I go to the market almost every day to buy fresh produce, because there’s no need to make one big efficient shopping trip. I notice more about my surroundings and appreciate small details. I go to the local bakery, get a coffee and a pan dulce and write in my journal for hours at a time. I know what makes me happy and I try to do those things as much as possible. I will probably never again have this much free time to explore my own interests, and I’m trying to make the most of it, without turning this self-exploration into a chore or task that needs to be completed. Slowing down isn’t easy (I still have a hard time not speed-walking on the sidewalks!) but there are many benefits that I’m just now fully realizing.