Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Gypsy Heart

My name is Sarah and I have a gypsy heart; this blog is about my gypsy path and the steps I am embarking on to make changes to my world. I have dreamt about living and travelling all over the globe with my family for about three years now. It is literally something that I think about daily. There is a small problem, my husband has a dependable job that affords us the life that we have and his work is based in Los Angeles. We live in San Juan Capistrano, a quaint, but bustling part of the suburban sprawl that makes up Orange County, California. I have recently felt trapped by the pressure, the busyness, the consumerism, and the redundancy of our life. By the end of last year, I felt like I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown and so I convinced my husband to move to Mexico and commute to work.

So now, here we are, in a small isolated pueblo in Mexico, some 900 miles south of the Tijuana border. I am currently sitting in a hammock taking a quiet moment for myself and writing. My three and five-year-old just finished their first week of school here. I will be posting about that next! It’s nearly time to make dinner. I can see the distant blue of the ocean to my left and the warm rays of the setting sun are shining through the trees to my right. There is a subtle breeze that make a light cardigan over my sleeveless dress necessary. In the distance I can hear the sound of a car rumbling down a dirt road. The clamor is married with the subtle noise of the trees in the wind and birds twittering. I feel relaxed. I feel like I can breathe and I feel happy. Sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it?

After feeling stressed out beyond human capacity, I chose it because I needed it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s being a mom of young kids in the world of social media in the year of 2017. Or if its feeling trapped by the flurry of living in Southern California for longer than I ever expected or planned. Maybe it was the intensity of the 2016 elections. It might have been the fact that my daughter started kindergarten this year. Or maybe, it was everything combined…but I hit my breaking point in early December of 2016.

I needed a change and I needed it immediately.

A little background on me, I grew up mostly in the Oregon countryside, but I’ve spent a good part of my life in Mexico. It feels like home to me. My mom, and her husband at the time, started traveling in Baja when I was eleven years old. We lived in Oregon and spent the winters across the border, surfing and adventuring the peninsula. Each year we spent a little more time outside of the United States. By the time I was fifteen-years-old we moved to Mexico full time. It wasn’t perfect. Like any typical teen, I thought that I knew everything and would be better at adulting than my mom. I hated my step-dad. I was begrudgingly homeschooled and resented that I took the GED at fifteen, thus missing out on high school. I disliked my mom’s choices, and I grew up quickly in a land that felt somewhat wild and lawless. Being a teenager in Mexico also felt incredibly free and I loved it. It was paradox. A lone American teenage girl. I surfed every day and took in my existence as a fair observer  of life, in a tiny pueblo in the middle of Baja .  



When I was sixteen-years-old, I met my husband, Jesse. I was surfing, alone, at dawn, he paddled out; and it was love at first sight. He was adventurous, fun, had wavy red hair and freckles and adored me. I was done for. We lived in Mexico together for a spell, and then I followed him to Orange County, California. Over a twenty-year span, we built a life there. We both got degrees, we traveled the world, we bought a house and built a beautiful community. My husband became a firefighter, I got a master’s degree in cultural anthropology and then we started a family. It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows, but overall, we have a beautiful life.


But there is this small problem; my gypsy heart and the pressures of living in Southern California.

The thing is; it’s been five and a half years since I became a mom and I feel like I haven’t made a choice for myself in as many years. My kids are amazing, my husband loves me and is dedicated to our family and the three of them are my world. I’ve had a lot of jobs, I have a master’s degree, but no relevant work experience. I’ve dedicated nearly every moment since getting pregnant to making the best choices for my children and family. I’ve taken classes and read an endless stack of books on parenting. I’ve scrambled to excel and be the best mom, friend and wife that I can be. And in December…I tapped out. I found myself giving to everyone. Even people I didn’t know well. Even dropping my kindergartner off to school caused me stress. My three-year-old boy is sweet and  adorable, but also wild and aggressive, and I found myself doing everything I could to manage him  and ward off the subtle judgement of friends and other parents. 

Being a mom in 2017 is no joke. I see social media videos and posts all the time, that are full of nostalgia for what it must have been like to be a mom and kid before the 2000s. And then there are the posts that everyone shares… telling you how to or how not to parent. It’s hard. I feel judged for every choice I make; it feels like no matter what choice I make as a mom, there will be an argument or a judgement against it. Everything feels so competitive. It’s not just with parenting either. I feel pressure to do my best and be successful at everything and it is exhausting. 

It has felt like I somehow accidently signed up for some sort of motherhood/life endurance competition and that I was going and going and going, yet getting nowhere, but overwhelmed. At some point I started feeling like I couldn’t take a full breath. After years of worrying about trying to be the best at everything and feeling like I was mostly disappointing myself, I had to make a change.

We live in such a complicated world these days. It is so hard to slow down, take a deep breath  and be fulfilled in the NOW. It’s even harder when you are worrying about taking care of your kids,  husband, extended family and being a good friend. After experiencing some particular ugliness  relating to politics on Facebook in December, I broke down. They say we all have flight or fight responses to things and all I could think about was getting the heck away. Not just for a vacation, but for a life style change. I wanted to stop stressing, slow down, get quiet and listen to my heart. So late one night, just before Christmas, I texted my husband while he was working at the fire station.

“Hey, babe. What do you think about 
moving down to Baja until next fall
 and enrolling the kids in school down
there? We could rent our
house out, you could move your
your schedule around and commute to work every
couple of weeks. We would simplify life, I
could finish writing my book. We would save
money, the kids would learn Spanish
and we would all surf more. Plus, I know how 
much you love fish tacos.”

I watched the little dots move back and forth as I waited for his response. I chewed my bottom lip in nervousness and then delighted in his answer.

“Let’s do it.”

My father-in-law has a home in the pueblo where Jesse and I met twenty years ago. Jesse was building it when I met him. We were already planning to spend Christmas break with my father-in-law at his house and so we continued as planned. That entire week of our vacation, my husband and I vacillated on whether or not we would really do it. When we got home, we still weren’t entirely sure  we were up for the huge change. But Jesse called his dad and asked him if we could stay in his house and he generously said, “yes”.  

And so here we are in Baja California Sur, in the village of San Juanico. It took five weeks to make it happen. Murphy’s law, the three-year-old got the flu. Poor guy, it slowed everything down. I moved most of our stuff out of our house, we took the kids out of their schools and tied up loose ends. My husband decided to paint the walls and refinish the floors in our home. We rented our place in California to a wonderful friend, who is kindly caring for our cat and chickens. And one week ago today, with our truck packed like the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath, we crossed the border and started on this gypsy path. I want to acknowledge that I am fortunate to have this choice. I am able to take this path because of the life of opportunity that I have been blessed with. My husband has a good job, I was able to work my way through college and grad school, and I have so much.

This blog is to document and share with you this new journey. It’s to celebrate this big change and to see how it will transform our family for the better. I am so excited to write and ponder about simplifying life, about following the heart, about slowing down, about taking risks, and about living and parenting in another culture. I hope you read about our adventures and feel inspired to share them with others. Next, I will be posting about what it was like to leave our preschool and elementary school in California, and how the first week of enrolling at the local school went.

Stay tuned.
Hasta entonces, mas tarde…