Over the 13 years I've been living in Mexico, people often ask "When will you move back? Do you ever want to try life somewhere else? Are you guys "lifers" in Guadalajara?"
And throughout the years my answer (our answer) has gone back and forth with yes, no, maybe, someday, we don't know and we always end up saying something like, "We're super happy here, we really have a solid community and don't see a reason to leave right now." (especially as we look out the window at the blooming Spring trees and the palm trees that surround our house).
Yet I remember when I first moved abroad and one of my biggest fears at the time was "settling down" or "settling somewhere." As a young 21 year old ready to take on the world and teach in as many countries as I could before I turned 35, the thought of staying in one place and putting down roots scared me. I felt like I was going to be settling for a complacent and unfulfilling life.
Fast forward 13 years and I recognize that putting down roots in a place doesn't mean you're settling for less than someone else who lives their life to fill their passport with stamps. In fact, putting down roots in a place gives you the stability to grow taller, become stronger and truly invest in the people around you.
This life in Guadalajara, Mexico is rich and full. The people we've met abroad have shaped us in ways I truly believe would not have happened had we spent our lives globetrotting or staying in my small town of Minnesota. (Though I know that there are people who do that, and I am not judging, simply stating that it's not for us).
My rocky journey into motherhood dealing with a colicky baby, a failing marriage, what I now recognize as bouts of postpartum and a lost sense of identity with who I am as a mom and who I want to be as a career woman, was thankfully overcome because of the tribe I've found in strong, international women who surrounded me in my lowest moments. The roots that we planted when we chose to buy a house, form friendships and be vulnerable with others are what saved our marriage, what saved my sense of purpose and what kept us growing rather than giving up.
People surrounded us in our worst moments when we were in tears, unsure what tomorrow would hold and our friends were on speed dial, ready to come or show up when we needed them.
That testimony of friendship has formed my identity so much. I'm forever grateful for my tribe, for the "Mamacita's" who show up time and time again. I often post pictures about this amazing community and will receive messages from people in my past or people who find me online and say "I'm so happy that you have that community. I've never found one. I'm not that lucky. People aren't as open where I live."
And that makes my heart hurt. Because I know I wouldn't be where I am or who I am today without the beautiful women that make up a part of my life. But I also know that if you're looking for community, start by showing up for others. Stop hiding when you're sad. Don't put on a strong front when you really do need someone to listen. When we're vulnerable, people open up and empathize. I know, it's a double-edged sword at time and we all have stories of vulnerability when someone else took advantage of us or hurt us with their words (or is that just me?). Yet, life is made to be lived in community.
We're here to help one another. We're here to love one another. We're here to let our roots go down, grow on the strength of one another so that we can have fruit to share with others. I stumbled upon this quote and find it so fitting:
“A tree's beauty lies in its branches, but its strength lies in its roots.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo
Life is beautiful when we live in community and when we show up for one another. My fear of "settling" for a life in one place has been altered to no longer fearing that I have settled in Guadalajara. I love the roots we've put down here, the life we've been building and watering over the 13 years we've been at home here.
And I know that as long as I continue learning, investing in others, and pursuing my passions while using my gifts, I'll truly never settle for a life less than my dreams. We may put roots down in a place so that we can grow, taller than we ever imagined.