I met Renato in Guadalajara. He is 28 years old, fresh from med school, got a nice job in the best hospital in Mexico. He is working 16-hour shifts and barely gets to see his friends for a drink. He doesn’t even have time for Netflix.
“Trisha, I dreamt that I died on my desk and it frightens me.”
Death has always been a word I was not afraid of. For me, it’s like menopause or aging gracefully – you need to embrace it and prepare yourself for it. It will happen at one point because that’s how just life is. It’s just something we don’t have control of.
I’ve lost 3 friends from the same group in a span of a year and this instance made me think: what am I doing in my life? Alex and Mindy passed away in June 2018 which was a mini wake up call. But when Rachel’s unexpected passing happened two months ago, it changed me a lot. I stopped surfing. I stopped hiking without proper shoes. I look carefully to the left, right and left again before crossing the road. I’ve become different in many ways I couldn’t imagine.
While I was listening to Renato’s fears, I thought, how do our dreams fit in this busy circle of life? I wanted to tell him to loosen up a bit. I wanted to take him somewhere to enjoy a little. I even proposed that he travels to Cuba with me. But I know Renato is a person who is actually happy with what he’s doing. Overworking is something that brings a spark to his life. 16-hour days make him happy. We both chose different paths in life but I am sure he is not regretting his choice. Through the years, I learned not to tell people that the way I choose to live my life is not always the best form. We admire our friends who left their corporate lives to live simply on some tropical island in Southeast Asia. Some even have high-paying jobs but they didn’t care – they wanted to find their peace. But does that mean that they (we) lead a life that everyone should follow when we all know we can also be happy with our 9-5? It’s all about putting it in perspective: no matter what it is that you are doing, are you doing what you want? Do you believe what you are doing is important?
Renato’s bad dream was just a little bump on the road that he can certainly get over with. I definitely did not drag him to the I-am-in-harmony-in-life-because-of-the-way-I-live kind of talk because I do not believe my life is something that fits his style. As always, “to each his own.”
“When I was young, I wanted to be a barber. It always felt right. But people told me it’s not a BIG dream and that I should change it.” he said.
Renato is from a big Mexican household. He grew up with a sister but have lived most of his childhood in a cramped quarter together with his mother’s sisters who have children his age. Life was hard in the pueblo he grew up in so like many Mexican kids who grew up in a small town, they are raised to get out of that “poverty”. His dream of being a barber in his village is deemed as small so he dreamed bigger – he went after being a doctor. For years, many people in his village, including his family, laughed at his “small” dream.
My head was somewhere else but in Renato’s childhood setting. I was thinking of my mom’s reaction if I told her the same thing. In my head, I imagined saying, “Mom, I want to be a manicurist at the local salon.” I’ve seen her throw a flower vase on the floor when I was 17. My sister joked she’s a lesbian and that she has a girlfriend – a thing we all believed because of her choice of friends and how she dressed up as a teenager. She did not throw it hard but it was kind of a protest. After that, she said, “it’s okay, darling. You can choose whoever you want to love.”
But when she uttered those words, I heard the disagreement, the whys, the hows, the how-can-I-revert-this, the where-did-I-go-wrong-as-a-mother in her breaking voice. When I was young, my mother is still not as informed as many single mothers in the world weren’t. The world was still following a sequence and order of life. I never asked this to my mom friends but I’ll ask now: how would you feel if your child tells you she is a lesbian? Or if the other tells you she wants to be a manicurist? How do your children’s dreams weigh on you?
“How do you feel about people saying your dream was small?” I asked.
Having that environment he grew up in, he felt that was the right path for him and that there’s nothing wrong about it. He told me about their very odd sleeping setting. He told me how a skinny kid he was as he always had to share his meal with his sister. He told me how they survived years just by eating rice and beans every day. Best of all, he told me about being happy with that. He had nothing or no one to compare his life with because everyone was living the same way, hence, they were all happy about it. Yet today, he is earning 6-figures and still feels incomplete.